An alien spacecraft that had been detected out in our solar system has broken apart and fragments from it are landing on Earth. Each piece has unique properties and has unforeseen effects on the people who are near it. Scientists and agents, some friendly while others are not, are in search of this wreckage as they hope to find the answers regarding the alien Debris.
This is a TV series that was advertised as being from the creators of the popular science fiction series Fringe. That was enough for me to want to take a look at this new sci-fi series from NBC, but are we looking at lightning striking twice?
The series starts after the alien debris has already crashed all over the Earth and two agents, one American and the other from England, are working together to not only recover what they find but they’re also trying to solve whatever mysteries they encounter, ranging from people coming back from the dead to dimensional portals where time and space have no meaning. The disadvantage here is that the viewer has no idea as to who these two agents are nor what type of agenda each one is working with. Throughout the first few episodes we meet some of the people who have employed them and we learn a little about their past, but this takes a backseat to the plot complication of the episode, namely where is the alien piece and how do we fix any damage it may be causing. The approach in each episode is treated most seriously and told in a manner that sometimes borders on terrifying. It has a starkness and sense of emotional sterility to it. The episodes feel clinical to where some scientists are willing to sacrifice any locals of a town and treat them as collateral damage all for their view of the greater good of retrieving the piece of debris for nothing more than scientific study. Meanwhile, there is a group of foreign spies who are determined to get as much of the debris as possible for what we assume to be nothing more than pure profit, and it is up to our agents to not only work out whatever crisis they are facing as well as thwart any attempts by these spies to steal any of the alien debris. There is plenty of mystery and tension, but there is no emotional investment.
The two big stars for Debris are Jonathan Tucker as US Agent Bryan Beneventi and Riann Steele as the UK Agent Finola Jones. It is most likely that these two characters are written in a way as to make them come off as cold and distant, possibly because they both have some deep secret behind what they’re doing. This does not serve these two actors because they sadly both appear as utterly dull. They both have quite the acting resumé (Steele was in Ant-Man and the Wasp while Tucker was in the HBO series Westworld), and yet their characters could be replaced by cardboard cutouts of them and it wouldn’t change the series in the slightest. Even when Agent Beneventi comes face to face with what appears to be a clone of himself he has little to no emotional response. The only characters who display any sense of humanity are either those who are affected by the alien debris or the foreign spies with their passion for trying to obtain as much of the debris as possible. Sadly, this series does little to give us heroes to root for.
Debris is a slick-looking series that is more focused on tone and atmosphere, but even the popular Fox series X-Files was able to do that and give us intriguing people to follow with Mulder and Scully. Debris could be a very strong science fiction series in the tone of Fringe but instead feels more like a cross between The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, only with recurring people and that is not a good recipe for a series of this type.
After having seen the first three episodes of Debris I feel uncommitted in continuing with this series. I could watch more, or I could stop watching it and I wouldn’t feel any sense of loss.