Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
The producers of "Fringe" are masters of the twist.
Having revealed Peter Bishop, one third of the FBI's fringe science investigatory team, was not from this universe at the end of season one, and then trapping agent Olivia Dunham in that alt-universe at the end of season two (while her evil double is here), "Fringe" producers are offering their grandest twist yet in season three: two different versions of the sci-fi show.
"It is true," exec producer Jeff Pinkner tells BTS. "So what we're really excited about, certainly as this season gets under way and for awhile, is we have left our heroine on the other side, what we refer to as ‘over there,' the alternate universe. Our universe being ‘over here.' We thought that the best way to really, thoroughly tell these stories was to dive into them wholeheartedly. So, an entire episode will take place over there with the alternate fringe team, and then another episode will take place over here.
"Rather than trying to tell an episode that takes place in both universes simultaneously within the same episode, we really wanted to thoroughly explore a fringe case over there and the journey that our heroine is on, and then come back over here because the character that we refer to as ‘Bolivia,' or short for ‘Bad Olivia,' is here embedded in our team. We have point of view characters in both universes, and it seemed to us the perfect opportunity to really explore in a really thorough, fulsome way, the alternate universe."
Each week, a different set of "Fringe" credits will signify which side is featured in that night's episode (white for "over here," red for "over there").
"We just loved the idea and it became apparent to us that we felt that the fans would really appreciate a mythology in two places," says exec producer J.H. Wyman. "That sort of gave us the ability to have two shows about one show, which you never get the chance to do that on television. It just presented itself in such a natural organic way to evolution in our storytelling. Once we got in there we realized that's great; we can have a fantastic, compelling mythology over there, and get people invested in that universe with someone at the heart of it that they absolutely identify with and care about, and then actually come back over on this side and have the mythology carrying out here. So, we're really excited to see what fans say about that, because we believe in it 100 percent, and we think it'll be a really great journey."
Now, if the idea of two shows in one seems complicated, rest assured it's not. Pinkner says this storytelling model will actually make it easier for the audience to follow the action.
"One of the challenges that we've had, the idea of an alternate universe is both heavy and intellectual, but as soon as you start to experience it, you realize that it's really emotional and easy to grasp," he said. "And the way that we realize (it) is that season one sort of acknowledged an alternate universe. Season two we visited it. Season three we really want to spend time there and get to know what the conditions are like over there, which really just reflects on our own society and what life could be like here in our own world, for real, had certain things just gone differently."
Ahead of this week's premiere (Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox), here's a reminder of where "Fringe" left off, and some additional details on the upcoming season.
Peter (Joshua Jackson) discovered he was not from this universe. Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), had "borrowed him" when his own son, "original Peter," died of a curable disease. Walter cured "other Peter," but couldn't bear to send him back.
By crossing over, Walter weakened the core of the alt-verse, and effectively turned his doppelganger, whom he calls "Walternate," on a quest to destroy this universe.
Last season, "Walternate" and his team of n'er do wells crossed over and reclaimed Peter, who was willing to return to his place of birth. Unbeknownst to Peter, however, "Walternate" sought to use him as a weapon against his enemies.
Olivia (Anna Torv) and Walter went after Peter, seeking to convince him he didn't belong there (and disclosing the whole human bomb bit). Following a battle between sides, Olivia was captured and replaced. As season three begins, Walter and Peter are now unwittingly working with "Bolivia."
Pinkner and Wyman have said there is no hurry to swap Olivias. Instead, Olivia will remain "over there" indefinitely, working with a different type of fringe science team. Meanwhile, "Bolivia" will maintain her cover here with Walter and Peter as she continues to work with "Walternate" in tearing down this universe.
How - and why - the two Olivias work with different team members is a central question in the third season.
"Last season was about secrets," Pinkner says. "This season we're really going towards the concepts of duality, the concepts of choice, the concepts of who are we as people. What happens when you make a different choice -- those consequences?
"So, as a blanket theme, I think self-actualization for our characters this year is really where we wanted to go, and when you start to look at two versions of the same person you can really get into some very profound questions and areas that are interesting, because you're going to see someone who is not Olivia dealing with Walter. Somebody who is Olivia dealing with alternate (FBI agent) Broyles. So, you're going to start to be able to see different aspects of people's personalities and how they are. I mean, there's obviously that great tension when it's the quintessential ‘spy on a mission' kind of concept, but we get to do it in a way that, fortunate for us, I think (is) fascinating, because it's the same person."
This issue will loom especially large for Peter, who finally kissed Olivia before the skirmish erupted that left her a prisoner.
"We have one of the most unique potential love triangles in that it's one guy with two different versions of the same girl," Wyman says.
"Fringe" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.