This is unbearable! This is insane!
–Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson)

J. J. Abrams’ new horror/drama/mystery series premiered tonight. Will it be the new X-Files, or the next Threshold?

Cast and Crew

Director: Alex Graves
Writers: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham
Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop
John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop
Mark Valley as John Scott
Kirk Acevedo as Charlie Francis
Blair Brown as Nina Sharp
Lance Reddick as Philip Broyles
Jaskika Nicole as Astrid Farnsworth

Complete cast and crew may be found at the imdb

Synopsis

A strange contagion on a plane reduces people to boney corpses. This event brings out the Department of Homeland Security and a pair of star-crossed FBI agents. When exposure causes the male agent to transform into the Visible Man, the female must work with a mad scientist and his rogue son to save her partner’s life and uncover the secret of “the Pattern.”

High Point

The episode features a creepy opening with appropriate atmosphere.

The show ends with some grim twists, and a peak at other unexplained, unclassifiable cases that could be interesting. Abrams could have an interesting set-up if he can account for how these various mysteries connect to “the Pattern.”

Low Points

In order to get the information from the comatose man, they need to strip the female star as naked as network television will allow, shoot her up with drugs, and then patch her through to her man using state-of-the-art computer equipment which, fortunately, the mad scientist who has been incarcerated for seventeen years can use perfectly, and with no obvious ill effects on the subjects. And of course, they need to do this in a basement that hasn’t been dusted in two decades and has a cow it. This show either needs to tone down the comic-book science, or push it comically over the edge.

The obtrusive identifiers of location: was that to differentiate them from the file label ones used in The X-Files, or to make them resemble the comic book ones used in Heroes?

The Scores

Originality: 2 out of 6. It is absolutely impossible to discuss this show without referencing others. It’s a bit of Lost, a bit of Heroes, and a lot of The X-Files, with a credit sequence reminiscent of the commercials for Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown book series.

Effects: 5/6. The robotic arm looks very CGI, but the effects generally work, and the episode had some dramatic if conventional use of light and darkness.

Story: 3/6. The story shows potential, but it’s far too contrived. The script handles the kind of relationship tensions and backstory clues with the kind of ham-handedness that characterized the short-lived Threshold. My favourite of many excesses: criminally-insane Walter Bishop can only be visited by immediate family, but they’ll let him free the moment one shows up. The U.S. government won’t bend the rules to let him out, but once he’s out, they’ll give him whatever he needs to advance the plot.

Acting: 4/6 Generally, quite average. Olivia and John make the most convincing romantic couple in SF since Amidela and Anakin.

Production: 5/6

Emotional response: 3/6. The episode created in me the intense desire to not watch future episodes. The ending,I concede, mitigated this somewhat.

Overall: 3/6.

The Fringe pilot receives twenty-five out of forty-two.