Fringe: The Complete First Season

Fringe: The Complete First Season
It seems that at the moment, everything J.J. Abrams touches turns to gold. With the success of his Star Trek reboot and the return to form of Lost, it must have been really easy to convince Fox that his new sci-fi show, Fringe, was a good idea. Thankfully, it turns out it actually was a really good idea. Taking its cues from The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, it tells of a special division of the FBI that investigates cases involving "fringe science" ― the kind of unorthodox stuff that doesn't show up on Law & Order but makes the occasional episode of CSI, if they want to add a really unexpected twist. Anchoring the unit is Olivia Dunham (played by Australian actress Anna Torv), an incredibly driven agent who seeks out Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a scientist hospitalized in an asylum for conducting the kind of research that gets someone locked up for 20 years. Olivia realises that Walter's previous experiences with this fringe science is the key to solving cases, but she also has to recruit his son, Peter (Joshua Jackson, finally shaking off the ghost of Dawson's Creek), to help manage Walter's erratic behaviour. Naturally, it isn't a smooth ride and there are plenty of people who want to stop the Fringe unit for one reason or another. Fringe arrived on the scene as a very well-formed show, and while it did take some time and episodes for the bigger story arcs to be revealed and coalesce, the majority of the standalone episodes are wonderfully entertaining television. They tend to follow a similar template as early day The X-Files, with "monster of the week" stories, but it never gets dull thanks to the show's dark sense of humour. Plus, the surprisingly high level of gore doesn't hurt. The show finds just the right balance between answering the inevitable questions and keeping secrets. There are clues hidden throughout the series that suggest an overall master plan yet it feels accessible to casual viewers. Ultimately, Fringe works because of the great cast, especially John Noble, who's absolutely hypnotic whenever onscreen. The first season gets stronger and stronger as it progresses, something that bodes well for season two and beyond. The set has a very generous collection of extras spread over seven discs, with the majority attached to the appropriate episode. That translates into the usual mixture of commentary tracks, deleted scenes ("Dissected Files") and behind the scenes featurettes ("The Massive Undertaking" and "Deciphering The Scene") for most episodes. In addition, there are some more general features, with the most interesting talking to scientists about just how plausible some of the ideas in the show are. The answer? Truer than you would ever imagine. (Warner)