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I didn’t want to like "Fringe." I even refused to watch it at first.
Because the premise of the Fox show appealed to me, I gave it a try during its first season and I just wasn't impressed. Back then, "Fringe," an "X-Files"-esque sci-fi cop show, reminded me of every other boring crime serial on TV. I just didn’t get what was so special about it. Plus, I thought the lead female character, Olivia Dunham, was as one-dimensional as every other woman on television.
I also never really got "Alias" or even (yes, shocking!) “Lost,” producer JJ Abrams’ other big TV hits. I figured to avoid some couch rants in the future, I should avoid his newest series.
Then, one late Friday night about a year ago, when I was sitting at home flipping through the channels, I happened upon the Season 3 episode, The Abducted.
What I didn’t realize until the end of that episode, when my mouth was gaping open, was that the whole thing had taken place in Fringe’s alternate “Red” universe, which is sort of like "our" universe but not. From the "Red" universe FBI Special Agent Olivia Duhnam, played by Anna Torv, managed with much difficulty, to get a message back to her genius lover Peter (who I was still calling "Pacey" in my head) in “our” universe where she was being impersonated by her sorta-kinda-evil alternative universe self, also portrayed by Torv. Did you get all that?
So yeah, I changed my mind about the show. I got my hot little hands on the first two seasons, got caught up over the next week in a marathon watching-spree and became a devoted Cortexifan.
I've come full circle on Olivia. In fact at some point in the middle of season 1, I had to break down and admit that I didn’t like Olivia initially because I actually related to her too much. She feels deeply, wants to do the right thing, is sad under the surface, a workaholic and is afraid to connect. All things I recognize in myself. And I appreciate that the writers and producers make Olivia's character the human center, both in this universe and the alt-universe. She’s a badass, but she’s also flawed. She’s not a machine.
At the same time, I adore John Noble’s eccentric, brilliant and somewhat-cuddly Walter, but not his alter-Universe Walter-nate. Astrid (or Astro) played by Jasika Nicole is awesome and needs more to do. I also have a crush on Lincoln Lee played by Seth Gabel and am psyched to see him more this season.
On the website Science of Fringe, FOX and the Science Olympiad have developed lesson plans to accompany episodes in order to illustrate the scientific concepts depicted in the show. On the other hand, Popular Mechanics Magazine’s FringeBusters seeks to debunk the way the science is shown when they think the writers and producers have taken it too far. It’s just an all-around smart show that doesn’t sell its audience short. And of course that’s why it might not be around for much longer. But more on that later.
What I most love about Fringe is how it not only continues, but elevates the sci-fi tradition of taking kernels of scientific truths and spinning them into tales that can be frightening, sweet, suspenseful and always chock-full of imaginative possibility.
A few weeks ago, I attended a screening of an episode of PBS series The Fabric of the Cosmos at The Paley Center for Media. It was followed by an in-person discussion with the series' narrator, theoretical physicist Dr. Brian Greene by one of my favorite radio hosts, Ira Flatow of NPR’s Science Friday. The subject of the episode was how, in physics, the idea that we exist as part of multiple, parallell or alternative universes is coming to be more and more acceptable. ( Alt-Rana would probably rather play sports and go out than watch Sherlock and Doctor Who and look at Benedict Cumberbatch posts on Tumblr at night.)
If it’s often said that we tell stories to make sense of real life; maybe science fiction is the story we tell to make sense of science.
Fringe returned from hiatus last Friday the 13th, but its future doesn’t look so bright. Because of low ratings, it continues to be in danger of cancellation. Earlier this month Fox even announced at the Television Critics Association meeting that the network is losing money by continuing to air Fringe although a final decision hasn’t been made about the show's renewal. A dark cloud has lingered over my head since I heard this news and I'm sure Alt-Rana feels the same way.
Where are all my Cortexifans at? Can we marshall the power of all our mulitple universes to make sure Fringe stays on the air?