Posted by: movieotaku | December 14, 2008

Review: FRINGE

So Fox and J. J. Abrams: together again.  And what do they give us? A story about an initially skeptical FBI agent teamed up with a cooky believer investigating aliens and the paranormal.

Yes, the X-Files is back, people.

The episodes try to deal with the “fringes” of science and technology.  So you have things like communicating with the dead, sonic drill heads, etc.

The Paranormal Stuff

Technically speaking, it isn’t paranormal—it’s all “science” in Fringe—but one of the recurring themes is that one can communicate with the dead.  It seems like another brain can “tune” into another brain’s activity and make sense of it.  This is far beyond anything we know, but from what I gather, simply trying to trasmit the brain activity from one person to another doesn’t have that effect.

The Biology Stuff

This stuff grosses me out.  I mean it really grosses me out (shudder). It’s gut churning stuff they deal with, but I’m not sure how plausible some of the stuff they are talking about.  Parasites as weapons, retro-viruses, etc.  I do give credit to them in the pilot for not falling into the instant effect error.  The recovery does take time, and the after effects were visible on the victim for some time afterward.  But the rest of the biology in the show seems very suspect.  From using a human being as a walking EMP device to being a walking microwave, it all seems far too hard to believe.

The Physics Stuff

The transporter stuff aside, there was one bit that was almost believable: Project Thor.  In the episode, Arrival, a warhead burrows through the Earth’s interior to deliver a payload from underground.  There has been ideas like that bandied about, but the energy required is enormous.  Not to mention the ability to withstand heat and vibrations from the sonic drilling mechanism.  But considering the episode suggests this might be alien technology, I can’t exactly just call it a blunder.  It’s on the fringe, for certain.

The vibrating through the wall trick, though, isn’t entirely a blunder—it’s extreme speculation.  It’s been a staple of science fiction for years that one could vibrate their atoms and walk through solid matter—The Flash could do it.    But the problem is that what keeps you from walking through a wall is the electrical fields of the electrons.

When the electrons surrounding the atoms in you body come close to the electrons surrounding the atoms of the wall, it’s the electrons that push back and keep you from walking through.  Now, in theory, electrons can tunnel through this, but for most of the uncountable electrons in your body to do this?  I’m gonna say: not gonna happen.  But what if they use technology?

In this case, the suggestion was that the grid they placed over the wall somehow vibrated the particles in the wall apart such that one could walk through it.  It’s really hard to imagine suspending the electromagnetic interaction of the particles and the wall still staying in one piece.  It’s kind of incredible, but considering how many hard SF writers have used this plot device, I have a hard time calling it a blunder.

A Mediocre Fantasy Show

The problem is this show is really a fantasy show.  There is a “magic science” at work, and they want to convey the idea that this science is so advanced that it’s practically magic.  One can hardly hold such a show to strong rigour of scientific plausibility.  There’s always some magical/technical item at work to make the events happen, and since those devices are beyond our current level of knowledge, one can’t just go “Impossible! Can never happen!”  All one can say is, “As far as we understand the Universe, that doesn’t seem likely.”

The show itself is actually pretty mediocre.  They try to write for the characters and their relationships, but the characters and their actions seem very forced.  It’s hard to watch at times, the show is so forced.  But oh well, it could be worse.


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