QUICKIE REVIEW: NBC’s “Debris”

If you’re a sci-fi fan and you’re not watching Debris, you’re missing out on a fun show. Debris is one of those weird experiments in how little exposition a show can get away with giving. The pilot episode drops viewers in the middle of the action, with Brian and Finola having been tracking debris for several weeks already. It’s a gutsy way to start such a high-concept series, for sure. But it’s honestly a breath of fresh air in a genre that usually spends an unwieldy amount of time setting premises up before anything interesting happens. It’s nice getting right to the action, especially when the action involves a new piece of Debris each week that lets the writers explore a multitude of science fiction ideas. Want a story about clones? Check out episode two. Want something involving wormholes? Episode three’s your bet. Want to see an episode where old people can become young again? Watch episode six. I’m not always the biggest fan of procedural shows, but Debris offers a nice balance between fun cases of the week and an intriguing ongoing mystery—there’s some kind of terrorist group trying to find the pieces of debris before the various governments can and they seem to be up to no good. The mystery needs some development, but it’s enough to keep you coming back each week to see the newest strange case.

The character development could also use some work. While I adore the fact that the pilot skipped a lot of the normal exposition found in shows like this, it did result in Brian and Finola feeling a bit thinly sketched. Over the six episodes that have aired, they’ve slowly been developed, but we’re not quite there yet. Jonathan Tucker and Riann Steele have a nice rapport together, with each of them pushing and pulling against the other. But their backstories are still a little vague—especially Brian’s. Plus, there’s been this sort of artificially created tension where both of them know a secret about Finola’s father, but neither of them mentions it to the other for way too long. They do finally talk about this elephant in the room in episode six, but it maybe took an episode or two too long. I’d also like a bit more development on whatever Maddox (Brian’s CIA boss) is up to. It seems like he (and the CIA) are trying to rebuild the spaceship, but he’s being very shady about it. I suppose that only adds to the mystery, but the show should probably be a little careful with how many mysteries it’s juggling. On the whole, the characters could use some fleshing out, but we’re off to a pretty solid start so far.

Still, I love a good sci-fi show and Debris is scratching that itch quite well. It’s not a perfect show, but I love the way it’s exploring different sci-fi ideas with each piece of debris that falls and I am captivated enough by the central mystery to keep returning for more. I’m hoping the show doesn’t get canceled before it can bring itself to some kind of an ending; it just seems like the kind of high concept show that’s destined to get canceled on a network like NBC. Still, it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of this kind of stuff. They do a lot of cool tricks with the editing (particularly when it comes to the transitions between locations) that gives the show a unique identity that separates it from most everything else on TV. At the end of the day, I’m enjoying Debris a lot and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

4 out of 5 wands.

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