Debris, Science-Fiction, Television

Will Fringe Showrunner’s Debris Rise Above Disposable Television?

J.J. Abrams-produced Fringe ran for 5 seasons, from September 2008 until January 2013. It was an attempt to bring an X-Files-esque television show into the 21st century. Though it had its problems and was uneven in its overall storytelling and driving mythology, it still holds up and stands as one of my personal favorite television series.

J.H. Wyman served as both writer and showrunner for Fringe. Now, he has turned his creative eye toward another series that feels, in part, like a fusion of Fringe with the X-Files. The premise, so far, for Debris is that an alien spacecraft was discovered to be breaking apart approximately three years prior to the initial events taking place in the show. Debris from that craft has begun raining down across earth and two agents (one from the CIA and one from MI6) have been tasked with tracking down and retrieving said artifacts, which have varied, bizarre effects on those humans who happen to come into contact with them.

Pilots are always problematic, especially when only given the standard 1 hour (more like 43 minutes with commercials) in a drama series to introduce characters and set the scene for the series. Debris is intriguing, but it will take several more episodes to decide whether it is worth sticking with. The leads have no real chemistry. Viewers are unlikely to be drawn to either immediately. They are not even dim echoes of Mulder and Scully or Peter and Olivia (not to mention the lack of the likes of a Walter Bishop—one of the greatest single characters created for television). Then there is the debris of the eponymous title. Having come from a once intact spacecraft, why do they react the way they do when coming into contact with humans? Why would individual pieces of a vessel behave in this manner, from resurrecting a loved one from grief-fueled memories of a mother to allowing individuals to phase through solid materials?

There is, of course, the underlying driving conspiracy of the clandestine attempt to rebuild the craft from its constituent parts as they are found. But for what purpose? We do not know from where the craft has come or how it arrived in our solar system. Or if the crew of the craft (assuming one existed) was on some mission having to do with earth and what the craft’s destruction might mean for that mission.

Debris looks and feels like Fringe. I wondered if alumni from the latter were part of the creative team for the former within the first ten minutes of the show. Fringe started out strong. The first episode of Debris has its moments but ultimately falls a bit flat. Already, though, it is far better than NBC’s other sci-fi show, Manifest. If I never hear about the callings or death dates again, I will count myself quite lucky.

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