The non-science of Fringe: Safe

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 10: “Safe”

Walter examines the latest death.

Walter examines the latest death.

Walls? What walls? If we can’t walk through them we’ll just teleport. 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 Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Walter said that the time limit for getting information from a dead body was six hours. So why is John still (perfectly preserved) over at Massive Dynamic? “Well Ma’am, the reason we couldn’t get that information you keep pushing us for is that the guy is really dead.”

Walking through walls

Of course, the elephant in the room this week (it walked through the wall!) is the newly-discovered ability to turn solid matter into some kind of dense gel. No explanation is given for how this is supposed to work, other than the vibrating sleeves and Walter muttering about “quantum mechanics”. The writers have seemingly conflated two in-current-use sci-fi explanations – quantum tunnelling (explained in Popular Mechanics) and vibrations at some resonant frequency (as employed by Kitty Pryde in X-Men). Of course, both are preposterous enough to be embarrassing.

When the team are entering the vault, they use a magnetic grapple to pull themselves through the wall. On their way out, the other end of the rope is attached to a rather small tripod – if the wall is still so dense as to require assistance to get through it, the force they exert on the rope would certainly have pulled the tripod over. Of course, it could be very heavy or bolted to the floor – but this would make it difficult to carry in and/or leave tell-tale marks.


In all honesty, I hadn’t expected Fringe to stray so far into outright preposterousness. Even the most outlandish pseudoscience can be dressed with some plausible-sounding technobabble , but the teleportation really was indefensible. Still, now that they have the technology I’m expecting to see a sharp drop in the number of car chases.


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