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" gives "NCIS: Sydney - First Episode" a 6."
Written by on 19 November 2023.
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NCIS: Sydney - First Episode

More NCIS? Yes, but slightly different. Not in the United States, but in Australia; not produced by CBS, but by the Australian Network Ten.

This new spin-off is different but the same. We get to know a new team, of mixed NCIS and Australian Federal Police (AFP) agents. On the American side, we have Agent Michelle Mackey (Olivia Swan, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and DeShawn Jackson (Sean Sagar, Fate: The Winx Saga). The Australian side is represented by two AFP agents, Jim ‘JD’ Dempsey (Todd Lasance, Spartacus) and Evie Cooper (Tuuli Narkle, Bad Behaviour), and some supporting staff, most notably medical examiner Dr. Roy Penrose (William McInnes, The Time of Our Lives) and forensic scientist Bluebird ‘Blue’ Gleeson (Mavournee Hazel, Neighbours). This team solves crimes involving US navy personal.

At the start of the first episode, a marine drops dead into the water during a big event to celebrate the presence of a US navy ship in Sydney port. It quickly turns out he died of radiation poisoning. Both the US and Australian government want to know what happened, so they force the two NCIS agents that were aboard the ship to work together with two AFP agents. As is perhaps to be expected, this cooperation does not start off without a hiccup, as the two groups of agents basically start out with a ‘pissing contest’ over who gets jurisdiction and the like. Over the episode, however, they grow closer together.

NCIS: Sydney
© Network Ten


The story then quickly… derails somewhat. I will not spoil too much, but there are cover-ups that are poorly motivated and the episode ends with the combined team stealing (!) a navy helicopter to chase some suspects. It often feels a bit like they tried to cram a bit too many introductions and story (and cool helicopters) into one episode. The pacing is therefore a bit off and the whole things feels rushed and at times a bit illogical. Motivations for many actions remain a bit unclear and vague.

Too many introductions and story (and cool helicopters) in one episode

The first episode also suffers from some other problems. The characters are quite the caricatures; the no-nonsense team leader, the quirky but absurdly brilliant forensic scientist, the old and wise medical examiner, etc. It feels a bit like a copy from the original NCIS at this point. I hope that future episodes will manage to give some more depth and differentiation. Besides this, the number of Australianisms is a bit much as well; they really tried to highlight the cultural differences between the two teams, which also feels a bit forced.

On the other hand, there is some potential here. The characters have the potential to be likable and the actors seem capable enough, some of them having impressive resumes. They also seem to work well together, there is some potential chemistry – I will not say it is there just yet, but definitely potentially on the way. The episode was occasionally funny and a bit lighthearted, which always helps.

There are going to be eight episodes in total. This is both a benefit and a drawback. On the one hand it gives them little time to figure out how to fix the problems. On the other, these shows are generally better with shorter seasons because it forces writers to focus on the important things and leave out filler episodes. And how will they plausibly explain the need for a combined team for much more than eight cases? The Sydney ship will quickly become the most dangerous place in the world (right after Midsomer, the number of deaths has been unusually high there for some time now). We will see where this goes.

The positive thing is that other reviewers who already got to watch the first four episodes say that many of the kinks straighten out in the next few episodes. I am therefore not completely giving up on this show just yet. The first episode, however, is quite disappointing.
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