Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


FRINGE (2008 - current Fox television series). Co-creator: J. J. Abrams.

Fringe, like The X Files and the more recent Eleventh Hour, is about people investigating weird happenings. Fringe has a special hook that reminds me of old comic books: the alternate Earth or parallel universe. Way back in the late fifties and sixties DC Comics re-invented many of its canceled golden age heroes such as The Flash and Green Lantern, and when they became popular, decided to bring back the original versions, saying they lived on a parallel Earth they called Earth-2. Well Fringe has its very own Earth-2, which is more scientifically advanced than our own Earth, but has its own unique problems -- and they're huge. [There are comic book references sprinkled throughout the series.]

Years ago Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) discovered that this alternate universe existed. When his young son Peter died, Bishop took grave risks in traveling to this other-Earth and bringing back the Peter of that universe. Bishop saved Peter-2's life, but never told him [until the most recent episodes] where he really came from. He, in essence, kidnapped the boy from his real family. Worse, by crossing over to and back from the other-Earth, he caused massive disruptions in the space-time continuum -- or something along those lines -- resulting in whole zones and even cities [and all the people in them] in that parallel Earth becoming, well, frozen in time and effectively dead.

Bishop worked with young children who had special qualities or powers [possibly caused by a drug], then wound up in an institution for many years. Now he's out, working with his son (Joshua Jackson) and FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), to investigate odd phenomenon, some of it caused by his messing on the Other-Earth. One episode dealt with a plague on the loose in an office building; another was about a man who passed along a severe form of cancer to everyone he encountered. A particularly good episode guest-starred Peter Weller as a scientist who keeps trying to go back in time to save the life of the woman he loved, causing deaths every time he does so. On one show a building from the alternate dimension merged with one on our own earth and the results were horrendous. Periodically the Other-Earth sends agents who can metamorphose into anyone they choose, and there's another scientist named William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) whose motives are questionable.

In the two-part season finale, the regular cast members traveled to the parallel world where they encountered their own duplicates. Now it appears that the Olivia from the other world has taken the place of the "real" Olivia. We'll have to see what happens next.

Although imperfect, Fringe is an intriguing and quirky series. John Noble is a fine, expressive actor -- even if his character is a little annoying -- and Anna Torv matches him in intensity. [Torv seemed to have fun playing her sexier, more relaxed duplicate on the finale.] Up against these two Joshua Jackson is a bit of a lightweight as Peter, but he's certainly not bad. Blair Brown has a supporting role on the series as Nina and is fine.

Verdict: Keep watching. ***.

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