Sunday July 29, 2012
Science is golden
By MUMTAJ BEGUM and EVELYN TEO
An A-to-Z guide of what’s what and who’s who in the Fringe universe.
Co-created by J. J. Abrams, Fringe is a sci-fi series that aired in the United States in 2008, and is scheduled to conclude its saga next year. Because of this, Fox will be airing Season One of the series every weeknight from tomorrow. Subsequent seasons will also be aired, although the screening dates and times have yet to be confirmed.
The series revolves around characters from a division of the FBI, whose very purpose are to investigate any fringe science-related events. Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) leads each case with the help of a scientist named Walter Bishop (John Noble), and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson).
It must be said that every episode of Fringe challenges both the mind and the funny bone of the viewers. Well, sometimes the stomach, too, because Walter is always talking about eating something delicious.
Astrid Farnsworth: An FBI agent, played by Jasika Nicole, assigned to assist Dr Walter Bishop in his laboratory. Walter, however, is unable to remember her name, hence he changes it to “Astro”, “Asterisk”, “Asteroid”, “Aspirin” ... you get the idea.
Bald men: In every episode, a bald man wearing a dark suit and a fedora stands in the background looking at something. Go on, try spotting them.
Cortexiphan: A drug administered to Olivia Dunham when she was a child, designed to increase mental ability and enhance her sense of perception.
Double: There’s more than one of everything. And in Fringe, seeing double is a fantastic problem.
Experiments: For Walter, life is an experiment. And experimentation is something he does quite gleefully especially when recreational drugs and his favourite food items are in the mix. The not-so-nice kind of experiments are mind control, teleportation, invisibility, genetic mutation and reanimation.
Fringe Division: Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) heads the division which mainly consists of FBI agents Olivia and Astrid plus civilian consultants Walter and Peter. They were specially assembled to investigate strange goings-on that involve fringe science, i.e. outside mainstream scientific theories. Thinking outside the box is definitely a critical requirement.
Gene: She’s a cow – no, we’re serious. Gene lives in Walter’s lab and from time to time, provides milk for consumption and is Walter’s silent partner (you know, whenever he needs a sounding board).
Harvard University: Walter’s lab is set up in the basement of the Ivy League university located in Boston, Massachusetts. It stores all kinds of unusual equipment (like a sensory-deprivation tank and a micro-organism detector) that comes in handy for the extraordinary cases the team works on.
Ideas and Imagination: The show utilises a lot of very real big ideas (from nano technology to cloning) and stretches the imagination of its viewers to fantastical proportions.
It’s hard not to see science in a whole new light when you watch Fringe.
Jones (Mr): A high-risk criminal, portrayed by Jared Harris, with a background in biotechnology and an affinity for genetic weaponry. He proves to be quite an adversary for the Fringe team.
Kurtzman and Orci: Fringe co-creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who also write and serve as executive producers on the show, were called “Hollywood’s Secret Weapons” by Forbes magazine last year as they were responsible for more than US$3bil (RM9bil) in box office receipts.
They have the uncanny ability to write scripts that appeal to audiences and studio heads alike. Together, they have written blockbusters such as Transformers, Mission Impossible III and Star Trek as well as worked on hit shows Alias and Hawaii 5-0.
Lincoln Lee: An FBI agent, portrayed by Seth Gabel, is part of the Fringe team. We only see him after the first season but he quickly proves to be an appealing and grounded supporting character we can’t get enough of.
Massive Dynamic: An ominous building with an ominous purpose. The people there say they are working for the “betterment of medical, communications, energy, transportation, and entertainment technology”, but, there’s definitely something suspicious going on in that building.
Nina Sharp: She heads Massive Dynamic. Do we need to say more? Oh OK, Nina (Blair Brown) also worked closely with William Bell (founder of Massive Dynamic) and has a robotic arm. Her intentions (for good or bad) are not immediately apparent.
Olivia Dunham: A sombre FBI agent both in nature and in her choice of clothing – she wears a lot of grey suits. But we dig her kick-a** attitude and she’s fiercely protective of her friends/colleagues/family members.
Peter Bishop: Walter’s son who inherited his father’s IQ and affinity for science. His role may have started out with just signing out his father from the mental institution for the FBI, but it turns out Peter has to be the parent in the relationship – resulting in some of the funniest exchanges on the show.
Quirky and Queasy: It goes without saying that experimentation gone wrong, inside or outside the confines of a lab, can result in rather gruesome outcomes (take your pick – exploding heads, spontaneous combustion, the list goes on!) and for the weak-stomached, a rather queasy feeling. But there are times when the quirkiness of it all is just mind-bendingly fascinating.
Root Beer Float: Saying Walter loves food is an insult. He is obsessed with food. One particular item he loves is root beer float, which he describes as “Heavenly. And earthly at the same time.”
Science: With Walter at the helm, science is much more intriguing than we remember it in school. His passion for it is etched on his expressive face and it is his belief that science has no price tag.
Theme: Want to know what the episode is about? There are clues in the opening sequence as well as in the glyphs (those strange pictures that appear right before the commercial breaks). Fringe writers love throwing in clues for their loyal viewers.
Universe: There is more than one. And we get to see more than just a glimpse of at least one parallel universe.
Violent deaths: Think of the worst case scenario, and Fringe has gone there – to the dark side of science. A beautiful woman develops the final stage of skin cancer after a touch, two people’s bodies get rearranged awkwardly into one mangled mess and human testing on a person’s emotional state. They all have one thing in common. All resulting in, yes, a violent death.
Walter Bishop and William Bell: In their younger days, these scientists realised radical science theories that crossed moral boundaries. While William has seemingly disappeared, Walter spent some 17 years in a mental institution. Now, the mild-mannered “mad scientist” works with the FBI to solve science-based cases that seem to have a connection to his experiments with William.
X traterrestrial: There is no X-file and no aliens to blame or credit here. Everything is rooted on Earth, specifically, science.
Yellow: Specifically, amber. Whenever you see people trapped in amber, a yellowish chemical substance that solidifies, you can bet it’s not a good sign.
Zeppelin: The rigid airship filled with gas that transports passengers. Yes, it pops up now and then in the series.
■ Fringe Season One kicks off tomorrow at 9.50pm on Fox (Astro Ch 710). The series will be showing every weeknight until Aug 24.