Tag Archives: John Noble

Review: Fringe (2008-2013 TV Series)

Created by: J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, & Alex Kurtzman.

“Endless Impossibilities.” That’s what Fringe (*****) offered, and that’s what it delivered for five straight seasons of programming. If you’re a longtime reader you know of my love for good science fiction, and this series did not disappoint. In fact, it was by far one of my absolute favorite series all the way through its run, and I recently worked through the entire series again so my wife could see it. She loved it as much as I did, so I can confidently tell you that its appeal goes beyond uber-geeks.

Fringe is the spiritual if not actual successor to The X-Files, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have not yet watched all the way through. (Cut me a little slack, I was way too little when it first started! It’s on my to-do list….) In fact, they briefly make reference to the old X-designation” as having been the FBI’s standard practice for dealing with unexplainable phenomena before Fringe Division was created. I’m pretty sure the two mythologies are incompatible, as aliens play little if any role in Fringe, but it was a fun moment nonetheless. Regardless of any ties between the two, the shows have a number of similarities including complicated mythologies. Instead of Scully and Mulder going rogue and investigating things their superiors would rather sweep under the rug, in Fringe the FBI has set up a whole division to investigate “the Pattern,” a series of unexplainable or “fringe” events that have been recently escalating in frequency. To this end, Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assisted in her investigations by Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a proverbial mad scientist who doesn’t believe in the word “impossible”–or that there is any conundrum an acid trip won’t help him unravel. Walter is mentally and emotionally unstable for reasons it will be far more fun for you to discover yourself than for me to reveal to you here, and is only allowed out of the mental institution where he has lived for twenty years because his estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson) has agreed to be responsible for him. Peter is a borderline-genius himself, and once conned his way into MIT–he even managed to get a couple papers published before he was found out. Secondary characters include Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), who usually gets stuck babysitting Walter in the lab; Agent Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick), the head of Fringe Division; Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo), Dunham’s partner and friend; and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), the CEO of the multi-national mega-company Massive Dynamic who always seems to know more than she’s telling (“What do we do here at Massive Dynamic? The better question is, what don’t we do…”). There are a score of wonderful guest appearances as well, from Jared Harris to the legendary Leonard Nimoy. I will also say that the quality of the acting is phenomenal, with several of the castmembers portraying multiple distinct versions of their characters (alternate universes, remember?)

When I watched through this series the first time, I was watching it as it was broadcast over a five-year period. I greatly enjoyed it, but you forget things after that long. Watching it through the second time, knowing where things were headed, I could see so much more depth and interconnectedness. The writers had to have the entire story arc of the show in mind from the beginning, because the entire plot of Season 5 is hinted at and rooted in an episode from Season 1! So watching it the second time and catching all the setup for later things was great. I do wish they would have had longer to set up their endgame–they were kind of forced to just jump into it by the threat of imminent cancelation–but overall it worked out well. Season 1 and to some degree Season 2 are mostly episodic case-of-the-week things, but gradually the show morphs into a serial adventure with most of the cases intimately connected. Major elements involve alternate universes and time travel, which I always find fun.

I jokingly say that one thing I wish they had explored was the origin of the giant floating letters that always set the scene during the show (see example. And no, its not mispelled, that’s how they spell it in the alternate universe….) Another thing I wish had been included was an explanation for how they always manage to get between New York and Boston so quickly. The show bends the laws of physics all the time–just acknowledge the fact and give us a throwaway line!

There are a number of comics based on the show. I reviewed one set of them here, but haven’t managed to get my hands on the rest. I’m a bit sad about this, as the others are by all accounts of a much higher quality than the mediocre ones I did manage to find….

Content: When this was broadcast it was rated TV-14, and I think that’s fair. The show can be fairly violent, and at times quite gruesome with the aftermath of whatever fringe event they are investigating. Mild language, typical for that rating slot. Occasional sexual content, nothing too explicit. This is more prevalent in the first couple episodes….I cynically atribute this to trying to draw people in and grab their attention. They do say sex sells…..

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Review: Wildstorm’s “Fringe Vol. I”

Fringe has been one of my absolute favorite shows for years now, and it recently ended. While the ending was everything I would have hoped for, I wanted more. Which is why I picked up this comic when I found it at the library last week. This particular paperback is a collection of Wildstorm’s six-issue miniseries from 2008, simply entitled Fringe Vol. I (***).

Unfortunately, if you aren’t into the show, you won’t find much to appeal to you here. The characters here really rely on your knowledge of the show for their life. The flip side of this is that longtime fans of the TV show will find much that is familiar here.

The first half of the book details the early relationship between Walter Bishop, portrayed brilliantly in the show by John Noble, and William Bell, played on the screen by Leonard Nimoy. In the seventies they share a lab at Harvard and together are able to bend the very laws of the universe out of shape before Bishop is committed and Bell goes on to found the megacorporation Massive Dynamic. Their adventures here are very fun, and occasionally the writers hit their stride and you can hear John Noble deliver the lines on the page. Other times, it falls flat. Unfortunately, I think this was published before we had actually met Bell in the show (He was missing for a long time) and thus knew he was Leonard Nimoy–the Bell in the book doesn’t really look a thing like him.

The second half of the book details several “Fringe events” occuring within the world of Fringe. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see how things turn out either here or on the show–a number of them are just kind of left unresolved, as if they were setting up for an episode of the show that just never happened. The exception is the story Strangers On A Train–that one was really good. There’s a segment involving mind-swapping, a man trying to reclaim his stolen briefcase with unexpected results, a child who kills whatever he touches, an astronaut on an experimental drug, and a reporter who gets more than she bargained for when she begins investigating Massive Dynamic….

Tom Mandrake’s art throughout the book is consistant, if lackluster. Its not bad, its just not particularly outstanding. The writing, on the other hand, is spotty–either its good or its bad. This inconsistancy is understandable, given the fact that its written by a committee. The Bell And Bishop segment is apparently broken up into chapters with different production teams (these breaks are only apparent on the credits page–the chapter breaks aren’t indicated in the book itself). Writers include Zack Whedon on one segment, Julia Cho, Mike Johnson, Alex Katsnelson, Danielle DiSpaltro, Justin Doble, Matthew Pitts, and Kim Cavyan.

Content-wise, I’m going to say PG-13. Some mild language, a couple characters strip to their underwear to enter a sensory-deprivation tank (fans of the show will understand), and there’s a little violence–not much, but a bit bloody when it does occur. There’s a shot of Hitler’s severed head as he is eaten by a tyrannosaur…..

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