The non-science of Fringe: Same Old Story

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 2: “Same Old Story”

Walter pushes the boundaries of photography.

Walter pushes the boundaries of photography.

We found out last episode that you can extract information from a dead person so long as they’ve only been dead for less than six hours – after that (arbitrary?) time limit, you need lasers! In this post, I’ll be making the usual comments about how much suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the show.

This episode is debunked at Popular Mechanics, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

It isn’t that hard to accept the possibility of rapidly accelerated ageing, or even the blithe “it’s the hormones!” explanation. What had me wincing at the screen was the fact that Loraine and Christopher’s baby grew from newborn to adult without eating anything. Even if we assume that Loraine’s body provided the sustenance for the egg-to-baby stage, that’s still around 65 kg of unaccounted-for mass. I thought that Walter might have posited an offhand “dark matter” explanation, but perhaps they’re saving that for later.

While we’re on the topic of ageing, it’s worth observing what happens when Christopher fails to get his recommended five-a-day pituitary glands. His hair turns grey without growing much (is he a chameleon too?), yet he doesn’t grow a beard and his fingernails stay the same. We shall leave aside the prospect of compressing 50 years worth of bowel movements into the space of 5 minutes.

I get the feeling that Fringe is going to take the term deus ex machina a little too literally – this episode, the day is saved by an “electronic pulse camera”, a high-tech piece of “laser optic hardware”. Time to goggle up! That is, until something interesting is discovered. The goggles are then wantonly discarded (the better to see those reaction shots), with the laser still firing right next to everyone. Is the DHS above H&S? Probably – shortly afterwards, Peter manages to reverse an anaesthetic overdose by kludging a defibrillator out of some unidentified machine parts. Even though he places the paddles incorrectly, it works!

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