Fringe: “Pilot”

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.

11 replies on “Fringe: “Pilot””

  1. Trik says:

    The Pattern
    this is going to be about the emerging singularity
    Treating it as if it is an event in progress

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: The Pattern

      this is going to be about the emerging singularity
      Treating it as if it is an event in progress

      The reference to Vinge was fairly obvious, but given that Abrams recently gave an interview in which he indicated that the show would jump the shark often, apparently believing that shark jump="weird twists" instead of "crippling suckitude," I shudder to think of what they’ll make of the singularity.

      However, it was one of the few things that I found hopeful in this pilot.

      My head reels thinking of how many good shows could have been made for the money they spent on this one episode.

  2. hossman says:

    If you have to ask the question…

    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?

    Yes.

    • bluestrain says:

      Re: If you have to ask the question…

      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?

      Yes.

      And there was at least one shot that looked like it was taken behind the giant geography label. Just to really prove it was there!

      • J_W_W says:

        Re: If you have to ask the question…

        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?

        Yes.

        And there was at least one shot that looked like it was taken behind the giant geography label. Just to really prove it was there!

        I thought that was interesting, but stupid. The labels are there to convey information, they’re not setpieces.

  3. sjaskow says:

    Wait and See
    I’ll give it a few weeks. I think the biggest issue with TV shows today (especially SciFi/Fantasy ones) is that if they don’t reach out and grab the viewer by the throat for ratings in the first week or two, they get canceled.

    And am I the only one to find it interesting that Blair Brown is now in a TV show where an isolation tank appears to be a major plot point after she was in Altered States almost 30 years ago?

  4. J_W_W says:

    Villian Contrivance
    I really hate stories that have our hero doing everything they can to save someone, only to then have that person turn out to be the villian . Oh and extra points lost on that for doing it IN THE FIRST EPISODE!

    Instead of this having the shock value intended, these kind of moves just turn me off.

  5. hossman says:

    gathering the characters

    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.

    i watched the pilot a few months ago, and when i read this review i agreed with you about a lot of things being contrived … but on watching the broadcast version yesterday i found it not as bad as you helped me remember it.

    "the boss" (whatever his name is) made it clear when she first suggested questioning Dr. Bishop that he wasn’t going to go to go out of his way to violate the MA State court order about visitors just on her hunch. So she found his son, and got the interview. The Feds also didn’t "let him out" the hospital turned him over to his family (not that unusual given his advanced age and that he was never convicted of a crime).

    The Feds only stepped in after her interviews with him demonstrated he really did understand this stuff and was coherient enough to help them. so she requested the Lab and the equipment from her boss, and he came through — which although a little wacky probably wasn’t all that hard. it’s not like Harvard had to kick anybody out, and the equipment they were using didn’t seem that state of the art (the equipment in the hospital: yes, in he basement lap: no)

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: gathering the characters
      And I maintain they would have just given someone the authority to interview him rather than send an agent halfway across the world to find his son.

      The hospital turned him over to his son, yes, but we’re supposed to believe he’s been allowed no visitors, so letting him free seems odd.

      I might accept your explanations, but I just found far too many things like that in the story. They tended to overwhelm the story, at least for me, and I didn’t see nearly enough to make me want to overlook the flaws. YMMV, of course.

  6. joe__gee says:

    I’ll watch it again, a few times …
    to see if it improves, but the only thing high end about this show was its budget. I found the pilot to be derivative and oddly unabsorbing. The set for the lab looked like the painter’s apartment from Heroes, but the feel reminded me of Torchwood?

    Wasn’t it nice of the uni to keep all of the equipment in place?

    Kudos: REAL snow. It’s not often you see REAL snow in a production.

    -Joe

  7. Trekkie says:

    My Thoughts
    I finally got to watching it come Sunday. I’d not put it in the priority due to comments from friends & co-workers on how disappointed they were with it.

    On one hand, It wasn’t terrible. I mean there have been shows I actually stop halfway or sooner through and delete. I finished.

    On the other hand this appears to be another ‘evil corporation bound and determined to destroy the world’ with some plucky band of people with dark forces working against them show, which gets old.

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