Monday, March 17, 2008

NCIS: Fictional Science Or Science Fiction?

Have you ever wondered how much of what Agent Gibbs and company do on NCIS is based on real science? While the producers do a superb job of pulling story lines from the headlines, and incorporating real world scenarios, anyone who knows anything about crime solving would call some of NCIS's crime solving techniques science fiction. Not the REAL NCIS, of course. The realities are much more harsh, and of course, crimes are rarely solved within 42 minutes of when they occurred.

So where did I get 42 minutes? If you've ever taped a one-hour show, and cut out the commercials, including the beginning and ending credits, there is about 42 minutes of actual air time. Agent Gibbs, my friends, is the master of solving a crime in 42 minutes. Right up there with Columbo, Kojak, Monk , and generations of one-hour crime dramas we know and love. NCIS silently blurs the lines between fact, fiction, science, and science fiction. OK, you won't hear any other TV critic call NCIS science fiction. Admittedly NCIS has no aliens (non-Earth people), no monsters, no space or time travel, no super secret government plots, No futuristic settings, no doomsday or apocalyptic scenarios. There are no story lines about super-human or unusual abilities.

In fact, each episode is your classic cop story. In the opening scene someone is usually killed. The other 40 minutes are spent investigating it. But it's how they go about solving the crimes and catching the bad guys that so far off but completely imaginable with just the right mix of science and fiction. For example, every piece of technology is right at their fingertips. The best any of them could hope for is they have a halfway decent computer of their desk and it doesn't crash just trying to get their email. And breaking into another network, especially another government agency's network, is a crime. Just to attempt a hack is a crime, the Navy would send their sorry butts to Leavenworth and let them rot.

Then they have the ability right at their fingertips to tap into any traffic camera, trace any phone call - even tell you what cell tower they are connected to. They can drive from the Washington Navy Yard to Quantico, VA in a few minutes, and they never once got on the Capital Beltway or Interstate 95! Also, as far as I can figure, Gibbs must live in the most crime infested neighborhood in Southeast DC. They can call him anytime at home and he's in the office in 5 minutes. (He could have a secret energy/matter transporter, wouldn't be that big a stretch). But that's not science fiction, that's episodic television being unrealistic.

In spite of it's super-scientific ways to solve crimes, NCIS is definitely a show worth watching, It recently went into syndication on The USA Network. NCIS is a spin-off of JAG, which was based stories about the U. S. Navy's Judge Advocate Generals Office.

John Crawford

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