The concept of an FBI agent searching for the truth amidst situations that seem slightly paranormal is not new for television-watching science fiction fans. However, Fox’s new show Fringe, positioned itself to go in a different direction from the familiar X-Files by focusing more on the science than on the supernatural.
When a plane lands in Boston with all the passengers melted by some sort of chemical terrorism, FBI agent Olivia Dunham, played by Anna Torv, was called in to assist in the investigation. As she followed her leads, Dunham was forced to partner with a mentally unstable scientist, Dr. Walter Bishop, played by John Noble. To gain access to Bishop’s knowledge of “fringe science,” Dunham also had to collaborate with Bishop’s skeptical son Peter, played by Joshua Jackson.
The pilot of Fringe succeeds in being a thrilling show, mainly because of the creator J.J. Abrams’ concept, the special effects and Jackson’s acting. The approximately 82 minute pilot at first glance appeared to be a movie rather than a television show because of the stylistic atmosphere and suspenseful action sequences, enhanced by the numerous special effects. The effects, following the lead of The Sarah Conner Chronicles, seemed very elaborate and technical considering they were for a single episode.
One of the more surprising aspects of the show is Jackson’s character Peter, who is initially introduced as a genius who can’t apply himself to anything long enough to be a success. However, Peter soon becomes a voice of reason, the voice the skeptics in the audience can relate to. If his character development continues in this direction, he will be the element in the show that will keep it from becoming pointlessly unrealistic.
The main problems with the concept of Fringe are how simple it would be for the plotlines to become repetitive echoes of the X-Files and how easily it could become focused around ridiculously unlikely aspects of science. The show already demands a rather high suspension of disbelief from its audience, which means that viewership may go down if things become to unrealistic or too repetitive.
Assuming Fringe can stay away from the extraterrestrial to avoid X-Files comparisons, keep the plotlines based around a more scientific background, and use the impressive special effects to their benefit, the show will easily become a science fiction obsession. It may even manage to claim fans of Lost, another Abrams creation, and those who miss the X-Files.