Tomorrow night (well, technically, in the early hours of Saturday morning), after 5 seasons, we bid a fond farewell to J J Abrams ‘Fringe’. It’s a show for which i’ve had a huge amount of affection, with it’s fearless writing and it’s unashamed sci-fi storytelling, it’s a great example of what a sci-fi drama should be… But before we get into that, for the uninitiated among you, let me give you a little background.
Fringe started out looking like it was going to be a sort of updated ‘X-Files’. A small team, working for a government inter-agency task force, investigating strange events which fall into the category of ‘fringe science’. The series begins with a ‘monster of the week’ procedural template, and the stories all being fairly self contained. The show has young, strong male and female leads, in the form of Australian actress Anna Torv as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, and Joshua Jackson (best know for being Pacey in Dawson’s Creek up until that point) as Peter Bishop, a somewhat shady character whom Olivia blackmails into helping her gain access to the 3rd main star of the show, Walter Bishop, brilliantly played by John Noble.
When Olivia’s partner (who also happens to be her lover) is injured by a mysterious chemical during their investigation, she discovers Walter may hold the answer to a cure. However, Walter has spent the last 20 years locked in a mental institution, after his experiments with ‘fringe science’ caused the death of his lab assistant, and he was deemed mentally unfit for trial. With Peter’s begrudging help, Olivia gets Walter released into Peters care, tying the 3 of them together for the foreseeable future.
Supporting the 3 leads are a brilliant regular cast. Jasika Nicole as Astrid Farnsworth, a junior FBI agent who basically becomes Walter’s lab assistant. There’s so much affection between these 2 characters, not that Walter can ever remember her name (Asterix, Asprin, Astro…), but she still clearly cares about the crazy old coot. Head of Fringe Division Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) delivers some level of sanity, whilst Nina Sharp, Executive Director of tech company Massive Dynamic (Blair Brown) gives the team a wonderful bunch of sci-fi toys to play with. There’s also Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel), who first appears at the end of season 2 as a kick ass Fringe Agent in an alternative universe. Only later do we meet his rather stiffer ‘prime universe’ counterpart in season 3. There were of course, some notable guest appearances, most prominently from Lenard Nimoy as William Bell, Walter’s old associate, and founder of Massive Dynamic.
As season 1 progresses, an underlying plot starts to emerge. I’m trying not to be too spoilery here (look away now if you don’t want to know!), but it’s fair to say, what starts out as a solid ‘mystery of the week’ procedural sci-fi show, begins to morph into an epic sci-fi tale of alternative realities, future evolution, and general bat sh*t craziness! I can think of no other show that would have the balls to introduce an entire alternative version of the cast, not just for a one off episode, but spend ENTIRE seasons, jumping back and forth between 2 versions of reality! Whats even more impressive, is they manage to do it in such a way that it doesn’t get confusing for the viewer. But what to do after that… I know, we’ll reset time, ‘delete’ one of the lead characters, and alter everyone’s back story! So… what next? Humm, how about, we jump the show 20 years into the future… Again, not for 1 episode, but for the entire season! One of the things that strikes me about this show, is it must have been, not only a blast to write, but an incredible experience for the actors, enabling to explore their characters from every possible angle!
As we near the end, I really just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci for creating a show that was never afraid to throw the rule book out of the window, and take the story in directions most wouldn’t dare. Thank you to Fox, both for sticking by Fringe (despite it’s sometimes less than stellar ratings), and for giving them a final season to finish the story properly. And thank you to the wonderful cast and crew that breathed life and depth into multiple universes on a weekly basis.
Farewell Fringe, you mad, glorious manic. May you inspire others to the same great heights of creativity.
The season finale of Fringe airs on Saturday 19 January at 1.10am as a simulcast with the US East Coast broadcast, but will also air in the show’s regular slot on Wednesday 23 January at 10pm.