16 September 2009

bad science, great faces

possible SPOILERS if you watch Fringe

watching Fringe is such a pleasure. I could quite happily just gaze at Anna Torv's face for the whole hour, with the other characters simply being voices from off screen, so it's a bonus that she brings acting skill to the role of Agent Olivia Dunham, and that several of the other actors are also greatly gaze-worthy (and good actors).

John Noble's sweetly craggy features are perfect for his mad-scientist role, the lovely, loony Walter Bishop. I do hope, however, that the scriptwriters ease up on the running gag of Walter's 'important requests', which made me laugh the first few times: Do you need anything while you conduct this experiment, Walter? Yes, I must have some cotton candy; blue, not pink. At the crime scene (a diner) Fed: What do you need? Walter: Could I have a bowl of this onion soup? Oh, and bring these two bodies back to my lab. now that I'm expecting each appearance of the gag it's a little less amusing.

and there's Kirk Acevedo, with an awful haircut (excusable I suppose by his character being FBI) detracting only slightly from his watchability. he looks just fine, even without the dashing, self-inflicted scar that he had slashed across his cheek as Miguel Alvarez in Oz. I do wish he'd smile more, though.

Joshua Jackson is reassuringly 'normal' looking as Walter's son Peter, Lance Reddick does a great 'serious' look as Olivia's boss Agent Broyles, and Jasika Nicole is very cute as the hapless (but probably very competent when she's not being co-opted as assistant to a mad scientist) Asterisk - sorry, Astrid.

the stories are a nice mix of conspiracy theories, emotive rescues of helpless victims, and really nasty bad guys, with some weird and wonderful 'science' thrown in.

sometimes it's the little things that irk me the most, not the outrageously bizarre 'stuff' that is the flabotnum (sp? phlibotnem? that word that Joss Whedon & his writing team used when talking about Buffy and Angel, meaning the hi-tech gizmo, spell, or alien force that did whatever they needed it to do as a plot device, without needing any annoying exposition) of the episode.

tonight's episode featured women who'd been abducted (oh, what a surprise! occasionally it's a man, sometimes a child, but most often women who are abducted) and injected with some drug that would interact with medical treatment they were having to make them highly radioactive and turn their heads into killer microwave ovens that could slaughter a roomful of people. I'm happy to go with that - reading SF since I was a kid has given me a high tolerance for weird science, as long as it has internal consistency.

the bits that bugged me where when evil scientist #2 (a pretty Asian American woman who we first saw wearing full hazchem/radioactivity-proof suit, who then revealed her feminine beauty by taking off the ugly great protective helmet/mask/hood thingy and shaking out her lovely long hair) was about to inject the 'bad stuff' into a drip solution that was feeding into the poor abducted woman. evil scientist #2 held up the syringe and flicked it to get the air bubbles out before injecting it into the drip solution - but the 'bad stuff' was about a centimetre below the top of the syringe! there was no point flicking to get tiny air bubbles out when she hadn't yet pushed the plunger far enough to get the liquid up to the needle. silly evil scientist!
(it was probably so that we could see there was some brightly coloured bad stuff in the syringe, it wasn't just a groovy red syringe with nothing in it)

the other bit that bugged me (and I'm probably just being picky here) was when the 'good stuff' cooked up by our lovely mad scientist saved the second abducted woman by massively reducing the level of radioactivity in her body within a second or so. a bit unfair of me, really - it did make for a lovely dramatic denouement, and if I'm going to buy the delayed release radiotherapy nano-capsules the women were being treated with, and Walter's mad genius overall, then why not accept an anti-radioactivity drug that acts faster than Narcan?

I did feel sorry for the poor little bald rat who was used to test the second abducted woman's killer microwaves. at least they blew its head up while it was hiding under her medical gown - Fringe is tactful like that, we see exploding heads only indirectly, even when it's a rat's head.

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