Are you interested in time-travel? Parallel universes? Telekinesis? Mysterious phenomena? Was The X-Files one of your favourite T.V. series? Do you enjoy detective stories?
If the answer to most of these is ‘yes’, then surely Fringe is the T.V. series for you.
The title Fringe in fact refers to the Fringe Division – a small unit within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I) created secretly to investigate unknown or strange phenomena, much like the X-Files in fact. Unlike the X-Files however, the phenomena encountered have nothing to do with supernatural forces or alien beings, which several other series at this point have already tackled and almost milked dry.
The series concerns what is commonly known as Fringe Science, that is, fields of study which depart from mainstream theories, and which are considered to be questionable. These could range from hypothesis to speculative science to pseudoscience.
Fringe ran from 2008 to 2013, and spans five seasons and a hundred episodes, which are approximately 45 minutes each in length. The main plot line focuses on the Fringe Division and its members, which include a funny but slightly deranged scientist, his genius son, and the main character – a good looking blonde and plucky agent who, we later discover, has unusual powers. The first season begins when the F.B.I starts to encounter a number of strange phenomena and accidents which cause disruption and a number of strange deaths. These, we learn, have been happening all over the world and are commonly referred to as The Pattern.
Olivia Dunham, an F.B.I agent, identifies a brilliant scientist who could shed light on this. However, this scientist happens to be locked up in a mental institution. She searches for and locates his son, Peter Bishop, a university drop-out and genius in his own right, in order for him to get his father out of the asylum. The three of them, together with another Agent, Astrid Farnsworth, make up the Fringe Division.
A mysterious biotechnological multi-million company called Massive Dynamic starts to appear in many cases in different ways, and the members of the Fringe team realise that something serious is going on. The cases relating to The Pattern form the main story which over-arches all the seasons, which like The X-Files are also made up of different monsters of the week. The suave and emotionless-looking figures known as the Observers – albino-like bald men all wearing identical black suits and carrying slim briefcases – are noted to be present within almost every case. They make no contact with anyone, and just watch all that happens… at first.
I liked Fringe in that it was very different from most of the other T.V. series out there. It didn’t take the easy way out and try to explain the inexplicable using supernatural or magical reasons. It didn’t waste time trying to hook viewers with gratuitous displays of titillation, or portray the main characters as being all-powerful indomitable heroes; they are real people with their own idiosyncrasies and fallible intellect who make mistakes and get hurt just like everyone else.
The series itself started in a very interesting way and continued to get even better in the second and third seasons. Unfortunately however, it seems like the writers didn’t know how to follow up the climatic moments of the fourth season. Season 5, I felt, was too stretched out, a bit boring, and if truth be told, kind of lame. Each episode seemed to waste a lot of time on a number of emotional soulful pep-talks between characters, who kept repeating the same things and having the same flashbacks over and over again.
If this had happened just once or twice in order to show the viewer that the main characters had been hurt by their past, it would’ve been fine, but frankly, facing it twice or three times during each and every episode just boosted my theory that they were only trying to fill in airing time. Thankfully, the last season was very short – only 13 episodes long – while the other seasons were made up of 20 – 23 episodes each.
All in all, I’d still recommend those who like science fiction, investigative stories, and mysterious phenomena to watch this series. Although the last few episodes were not that great, in this case the journey itself was more important and enjoyable than the actual destination, and that’s fine. There were some really great ideas throughout, as well as a number of funny moments which made it totally worth it. Of a special note were the fabulous performances of Leonard Nemoy (the original Star Trek’s Mr Spock) as Dr William Bell, and John Noble as Dr Walter Bishop.