FRINGE Season One Blu-Ray Review

     September 8, 2009

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A dashing eccentric man with swagger and charm.  A buttoned-down female agent.  Sound familiar?  Let’s face it, it’s a formula that works in science fiction television and Fringe employs it wonderfully.  But can this series fill the void left in our hearts from our long-departed X-Files?  In a word: yes.  More after the jump.

Fringe Season One DVD Lenticular.jpgJJ Abrams continues to deliver must-see television.  Between Fringe, Lost and Star Trek (theatrical), he has placed himself as not only a creative powerhouse, but a firm supporter of SF.

For those out of the loop, Fringe follows the exploits of Olivia Dunham who has the world of fringe science collide head-on with her work as an FBI agent.  In an effort to save another agent and her lover, Olivia seeks out the help of eccentric genius Walter Bishop.  Unfortunately, he’s been locked away in a padded room and the only people allowed to visit are relatives.  Olivia tracks down his son Peter Bishop and together they approach Walter.  In short order, the trio get the band back together and set up Walter’s old Harvard University lab, confronting the current dilemma of the deteriorating boyfriend and finding that together they create a good synergy.

Initial exploit accomplished, Olivia finds herself too far down the rabbit hole to simply walk away and teams up with the two Bishops to take on the weird which is referred to as “the Pattern” for Phillip Broyles.  The ongoing mystery they confront during season one includes Walter’s former lab partner William Bell and his organization Massive Dynamic’s role in the Pattern. Some interesting oddities that occur over the course of the first season include: deadly experimental lab animals and exploding women, a man who controls electric fields, tapping into the dead and comatose, a parasite that chokes the heart, teleportation, a very deadly computer virus and, oh yeah, parallel worlds.

fringe_tv_show_image_joshua_jackson.jpgAnna Torv (BBC’s Mistresses) plays Olivia Dunham, the straight-laced FBI agent cast into the world of the weird.  John Noble’s (All Saints, Home and Away) work as Dr. Walter Bishop is nothing short of brilliant.  Walter’s vacillation between real and surreal could have been played in any number of ways, but Noble finds the perfect manner and mannerisms to convey the disjointed man beneath the genius.  Joshua Jackson (Dawson‘s Creek, The Mighty Ducks) plays Peter Bishop, a man nearly as smart as his father but with significantly less quirk and drastically more interpersonal experience. This is a big step towards establishing himself as an adult actor.

Lance Reddick (Lost, The Wire) brings Phillip Broyles, the man behind the Fringe Division, to the screen with Kirk Acevedo (The Black Donnellys, Law & Order: Trial by Jury) as Charlie Francis, his number two.  Reddick’s creepy factor (this may just be the Lostie in me talking, though) is off-set by Acevedo’s everyman quality.  Jasika Nicole plays Astrid Farnsworth, the junior agent assigned to the Fringe trio.  Mark Valley (Boston Legal, Keen Eddie) plays Olivia’s once lover and foil John Scott.  Blair Brown (The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) plays Nina Sharp, figurehead of Massive Dynamic.  Science fiction fans can rejoice at the end of the season when William Bell appears played by none other than Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), with a promise of more appearances in the upcoming second season.

AUDIO/VIDEO/EXTRAS

fringe_tv_show_image_joshua_jackson_and_anna_torv.jpgThe entire first season comes packaged on five Blu-Ray discs.  The language track is limited to English with optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired.

Special features on the five discs are generally split into three categories: The Massive Undertaking, Deciphering the Scene and Dissected FilesDissected Files are the easiest to describe as they are deleted scenes.  The Massive Undertaking and Deciphering the Scene are very similar to each other, but Undertaking seems to be holistic take while Deciphering tends to be more particular.

(WARNING: DISCUSSES EPISODE ELEMENTS)  My personal highlights from the extras would include the Undertaking and Deciphering for the Pilot which go through both the setup of the plane frame as well as the effects used (both make up and visual effects) to create the process of the disappearing skin.  I also enjoyed the duo of featurettes on The Ghost Network which detail both shutting down a tunnel in Manhattan as well as creating the effect of trapping the bus passengers in a solidified gas.  Ultimately, I have to also mention the Deciphering extra on The Equation as it details the girl fight.

My three favorite Deciphering the Scenes, however, are those of The Dreamscape, The No Brainer and AbilityThe Dreamscape featurette takes you through setting up the sequence where a man attacked by razor-winged butterflies dives out of a skyscraper window to escape.  With The No Brainer, we go through the creation of a sequence where a cyber virus melts a victim’s brain and also the use of the “freakishly long arm” which comes through the monitor to apparently physically attack them.  In the Deciphering the Scene: Ability featurette, the crew details the FBI raid wherein an agent touches a two dollar bill and proceeds to have his eyes, nose, mouth and ears close shut and even the life-saving attempted tracheotomy seals itself over.

fringe_tv_show_image_joshua_jackson_and_anna_torv__2_.jpgDisc One:
The Pilot — Commentary by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and JJ Abrams.
The Massive Undertaking: The Pilot
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Pilot
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Same Old Story
The Ghost Network —
Commentary by JR Orci, David Goodman and Bryan Burk.
The Massive Undertaking: The Ghost Network
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Ghost Network
Dissected Files: Sc. 81: He’d Want You to Have This
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Arrival
The Arrival — Dissected Files: Sc. 36: More Things in Heaven and Earth

Disc Two:
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Power Hungry
Power Hungry — Dissected Files: Sc. 39: The Man with the Birds

Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Cure
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Equation
The Equation — Dissected Files Sc. 9: Circadian Rhythms
and Sc. 39: Tastes Like Construction Paper

Disc Three:
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Dreamscape
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Safe
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Bound
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The No Brainer

Disc Four
The Massive Undertaking: The Transformation
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Transformation
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Ability
Ability — Dissected Files: Sc. 4/5: Late-Night Questioning
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Inner Child
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Unleashed

The following three special features come with a spoiler alert:
Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe — The creators of the show discuss how Fringe unfolded and the qualities that make the series so unique.

Behind the Real Science of Fringe — From teleportation to re-animation, Fringe incorporates recent discoveries in science and how much is possible.

fringe_tv_show_image_joshua_jackson_and_anna_torv__3_.jpgThe Casting of Fringe — The story, as told by producers and cast of how Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and others came to be cast in the series.  Illustrated with unique, raw footage of their auditions!

Disc Five
Bad Dreams — Commentary by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Bad Dreams
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: Midnight
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: The Road Not Taken
Fringe: Deciphering the Scene: There’s More Than One of Everything
The Massive Undertaking: There’s More Than One of Everything

Roberto Orci’s Production Diary

Fringe Visual Effects – a look at the visual effects behind the season including Unusual Side Effects and Gene the Cow. This special feature also features the spoiler warning.

fringe_tv_show_image_joshua_jackson_and_anna_torv__1_.jpgFringe Pattern Analysis — You chance to look at six scenes from episodes:
The Ghost Network, Power Hungry, The Equation, Safe, The Transformation and Unleashed dissected by experts through notes, photos and diagrams.

FINAL WORDS

Just as the series delivers on the promise to give you a thrill ride through the fringes of science (both science fiction and science fact), this Blu-Ray collection delivers not only crystal clarity but also a hearty dose of behind-the-scenes extras.  Step out of the way, X-Files, you’ve been replaced in my heart by a little series named Fringe.  Come on, how can I say no to something with Parallel Universes and Leonard Nimoy?

FINAL GRADE: A+

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