Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
debris-still
Promotional still for Debris, from IMDB.

Sci-fi Saturday: New NBC X-files Clone “Debris” Feels Disjointed

Perhaps that’s intentional, though many critics aren’t getting it yet

Debris by J. H. Wyman (TV series, 2021, 13 episodes): “Two agents from two different continents, and two different mindsets, must work together to investigate why.”

Debris, J. H. Wyman’s third major foray into science fiction (Fringe, and Almost Human being the others), seems to be getting a cool reception from critics and viewers alike. But maybe it needs time to coalesce. However, time and a forgiving audience are in short supply these days in the crowded entertainment landscape.

The show’s premise is that an alien spacecraft has broken up in our solar system and crashed to earth, creating the “Debris” of the title. Of course, these artifacts cause strange “advanced technology” effects (not magic) and our government agents must find/solve/fix … everything. The formula checkboxes are thus almost audibly ticked, which definitely drains the interest from an otherwise enjoyable pilot episode.

The political tension between the US and Britain is lacklustre. It’s almost as if we aren’t allowed to have global competitors as antagonists, and our characters struggle to play along.

Speaking of the protagonists, Riann Steele is a bright spot in the series, playing the empathetic British agent who believes that the alien technology has a cosmic purpose and should be understood and shared with the world. Jonathan Tucker plays the American agent with PTSD, a foil who focuses on “the mission” and keeping the dangerous debris out of the public consciousness.

In my estimation, Riann carries the pair and I would be happy to see her in future starring roles.

Ultimately, the two clash personally and professionally and viewers are left asking themselves what contact with an alien civilization would truly mean. Would the disruptive technologies heal or destroy the world? Is there a broader, cosmic purpose to our existence?

Sadly, this show seems to be preaching the same aliens-as-salvation identified by Michael Keas in his book Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion. I recommend that source for a full assessment of the philosophy.


You may also wish to read: AI as an emergent religion. Science philosopher Mike Keas’s new book discusses how AI and ET are merging, to create a religion of futurist magic.


David Zeiger

David Zeiger has a B.S. in Biochemistry from UT Dallas and teaches science at a Classical school in North Texas. He has been a lifetime lover of science fact and fiction ever since wearing out his copy of Have Space Suit-Will Travel as a young boy. If Science is the religion of the 21st century, sci-fi authors are its sermonizers, and he believes we should critically examine what they are preaching.

Sci-fi Saturday: New NBC X-files Clone “Debris” Feels Disjointed