With the threat of a potential strike looming over Hollywood, the networks have all ramped up their development efforts for next season, with many projects--like FOX's The Oaks and others--already garnering series commitments from broadcasters.
While these scripts have been trickling in, the one pilot script that I've been desperate to get my hands on has got to be Fringe, the new supernatural drama from executive producer J.J. Abrams and written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Alias), who co-wrote recent box office behemoths Mission: Impossible 3 and Transformers and penned the script for J.J. Abrams' upcoming relaunch of Star Trek.
So imagine my zeal when the script for Fringe, which has a thirteen-episode commitment from FOX, literally fell right into my lap. After all, this is a pilot script that reportedly has a $10 million budget and is already one of the highest anticipated entries for the 2008-09 season.
With Fringe, from Warner Bros. Television and Abrams' Bad Robot shingle, the dynamic duo of Kurtzman and Orci have created what can only be described as a millennial take on that seminal FOX series The X-Files, albeit with an added dose of humor and a taut mythology that serves as an undercurrent for this supernatural/crime procedural.
So what's Fringe's pilot script about? Good question. The teaser, in true Lost fashion, opens with a turbulent passenger flight from Hamburg, Germany to Boston. But lest you think that the plane crashes onto a deserted and possibly haunted island in the middle of nowhere, something else just as terrifying occurs. One passenger--referred to in the script as "Troubled"--injects himself with an insulin syringe pen and within seconds, his entire body begins to liquify. The contagion quickly spreads among the entire cabin as both passengers and crew members' bodies begin to melt. The plane itself lands safely at Logan Airport under radio silence. Cut to a cheap hotel where FBI Agent Olivia Warren finishes a tryst with her secret lover and fellow agent, John Scott. They're summoned to the airport to await CDC inspectors as the plane shows no sign of life and the windows are caked in blood.
Pretty ominous, no? Things just get weirder from there. A suspicious exchange between two Middle Eastern men and a white guy out at a storage facility right after the plane landed is called in to the FBI and Olivia and John are sent to investigate. There they discover a lab filled with chemical equipment, canisters of unknown gas, jars of mutated animals and other horror movie detritus. Olivia goes to call for a chemical transport team when John spies a man inside the lab. A man who happens to look just like "Troubled." He gives chase, Troubled pulls out his mobile phone, punches in a few keys and detonates the lab. John is enveloped in a cloud of chemicals while Olivia is thrown backwards by the blast.
When she comes to, she's in the hospital and John is clinging to life. His entire body has become almost crystalline, his skin almost like glass, translucent and diamond-hard. Quickly losing hope that she'll lose the man she loves, Olivia tracks down the only person who could possibly help, a genius scientist named Dr. Walter Bishop (think Patrick Stewart), who engaged in research in the 1970s and 1980s that involved substances similar to that which caused John's condition. One problem: he's been in a mental hospital for the last seventeen years. Second problem: he's not allowed any visitors other than family... and his only family is his estranged son Peter, a genius misfit and nomad currently working in Baghdad. Olivia tracks down Peter, coerces him into helping her (there are some dangerous people looking for him), and gets Walter released. Together, this troika must work together to figure out a way to save John, track down the killer, uncover his link to Bishop's experiments, and prevent this from happening again.
I won't reveal anymore (sorry, spoiler junkies!) but suffice it to say, the above description is only the first two acts of a labyrinthine two-hour pilot. Along the way, there are car chases, explosions, secret cabals, shady mega-corporations, and things extraordinary, inexplicable, and unbelievably cool. As for the title? It refers to Walter Bishop's specialty: Fringe Science. Before his incarceration (there's a mystery there, BTW), Bishop investigated things like teleportation, astral projection, mutation, mind control. Otherwise known as things that conventional science can't explain. But one thing is for sure. Events like what happened aboard that plane in the pilot's opener are happening with a greater frequency and the world's governments have noticed this alarming trend, even coining a term for these anomalies: The Pattern.
I read Fringe's pilot script with a feverish passion, devouring each and every plot twist and turn. This is a hugely ambitious project and smacks of Kevin Reilly's positive influence over FOX: it's intelligent, controversial, and populist at the same time, filled with memorably abrasive characters, gruesome horror, and tongue-in-cheek humor. It's House meets The X-Files with The Twilight Zone and some of the British series Eleventh Hour thrown into the mix.
While there hasn't even been any casting announced on Fringe, I'm already eagerly anticipating the second episode. Too bad we'll have to wait until next fall for that...
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