“Fringe” executive producers share their goals for Season 4

By Stacey Harrison

Last season, the writers and producers of Fringe sought to do no less than introduce an entirely new universe of characters and get viewers to care about them as much as they did the regular characters. Not only that, the show had to withstand a move to a Friday time slot, which traditionally has been written off as a TV dead zone. But Fringe endured and is back with a new season starting tonight at 9 on FOX, but the challenge this time out may be even greater. After having essentially rebooted the series’ premise — with Joshua Jackson’s character, Peter Bishop, being erased from existence in an effort to save both universes — the trick is to establish a new mythology while finding a way to bring Jackson back.

Executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman spoke with reporters this week to talk about what’s new, what’s the same and how they go about putting the many worlds of Fringe together:

On Joshua Jackson’s involvement this season: (Wyman) “Peter is part of the DNA of the show and we’ve done some pretty crazy things in the past that people were always like, ‘Well, wait a minute. Why are they doing that? What’s going on?’ I mean hopefully in Season 4 people will trust us enough to realize that we are doing things for a reason. To sort of have Fringe without Peter in some way, shape or form is really not Fringe. So, while we can’t really comment … he’s part of the show. He’s part of the language of our show and a very big part of it. So, there are kind of two things that we want to get across without really ruining anything and that is, number one, yes, Peter is part of the DNA and he’ll always be that. Number two is that just because he doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that the three years that we’ve all invested in and watched does not exist; it didn’t happen. It really did happen and it’ll unfold itself for you to understand in what context I’m speaking of. But, yes, people shouldn’t worry. We love Peter and we know how much everybody loves Peter. We both can’t imagine telling the series and the story without him.”

On the significance of the color used in this season’s opening title sequence: (Pinkner) “There’s always been a significance to the titles. The episodes that take place over a year were always blue and then over that was red. There are a couple of episodes we’ve had that took place in 1985 that had a 1985 style title sequence in them and the one episode that took place largely in the future was black. [This year] it’s orange. … The significance of the color is simply just to put out the notion of this is the universe without Peter in it.”

 On the show’s ability to generate a rabid following: (Pinkner) “I think they’re just fans of adventurous storytelling and I think that they’re fans as much as the geeks are people that are willing to jump onboard a story and really follow it. The truth is they’re sort of treated as this outsider element of fandom when the truth is they’re wildly passionate about the stories they like. What sort of separates them is their willingness to sort of really, really invest and make stories an important part of their lives. We have always said that one of the things that appeals to us about this show is our ability to go deep both with our characters and with our themes. And, as we’ve said often, to us, the best form of like both ongoing television and certainly scientific fiction is when it really speaks about characters and the human condition and what it means to be alive at this moment in history. These are hopefully things, certainly things that we try to touch on and hopefully things that people are appreciating. We’ve also said that not everybody likes licorice.  But, the people that do like licorice tend to really, really like licorice and we’re happy to be making licorice.”

On the two universes coming into contact: (Pinkner) “Unlike last year where we were bouncing back and forth, this year there will definitely be stories where the two universes have to work together. Certainly there’s an implication that Walternate, despite to all promises to the contrary, is still a bad guy manipulating things behind the scenes. So, that’s also a story that we’re going to be delving in.”

On what Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) will add to the show: (Pinkner) “What he does is he brings us a certain thematic element that we really need in order to tell the big picture this year. Him coming in and being displaced and a lot of the things that his character will be going through are going to be sort of — they’re going to help tell our story here thematically. One of the major themes that we’re really interested in getting into this year is the impact that we have on each others’ lives, that what does it mean if life is valued by the connections that we make and we are defined by who we know and who defines us and how we define other people. So, we’re kind of in love with that theme and having this guy sort of come in and have to go into a very strange world and have to sort of figure out things about existence and figure out everything that he thought was true is no longer valid. And how he’s going to start to put back together the psyche that has been sort of fractured by this knowledge that he really shouldn’t have, it’ll really help us in how he sort of connects with people. That’s why he’s really important to the program.”

On getting new viewers up to speed: (Pinkner) “We’re actually doing a couple of things. One, our friends and colleagues at FOX have put up a Fringe past, present and future series of all you need to know or ever needed to know about Fringe, sort of small pieces on the web. … But, as this season sort of starts, because of the nature of the storytelling, because Peter has disappeared, the season sort of starts fresh and if you’ve never seen the show before … this is a great place to dive in because everything is new. If you have been watching the show, now you’re watching with the eye towards everything is new and different and it’s making you question or re-imagine what you’ve seen in the past. If you’ve never seen the show before, it’s a great place to dive in.”

On past episodes linking to the new ones: (Pinkner) “It’s fair to say that all the shows in Season 3 and maybe even in Season 2 and 1, but mostly 2 and 3 I think will definitely — it’ll be valuable to brush up. I think that if you don’t brush up that’s OK, too; it’ll still make sense, but I think that the fun for the viewer will definitely be like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I saw that case. For instance, imagine there’s a case that happens and you’ve seen it and you’re like, ‘Of course, I know how it ends’ and it doesn’t end that way. It ends in a completely different way and that has repercussions to something else and so on and so on. So, that is the journey that we really want the fans to go on because ultimately it’ll reveal itself as that is actually the thematic point that we’re trying to make this season. Now look, if you didn’t remember, it’s fine, but when you realize it, you just realize she built a world. In that same way, hopefully we have and are continuing to build a world and as Joel said, do you really need to brush up? No, of course not. We’re not trying to alienate anybody, but when you see these things and they always play as little Easter eggs, not hidden, but sort of like — and you all may know. There’s Easter eggs in every show. Every episode has a little hint of what the next one will be about. The observers are in every episode whether mentioned or not. These are things that we do because, again, we’re fans of this kind of storytelling. We’re fans of the little hidden things in the margins metaphorically, that if you realize that they’re there, it just makes a little bit more poppy, a little bit more fun.”


  1. dear theresa, i have had nothing but bad luck when it comes to love and health! doyou see any change in this any time soon in my future?? i am about to make a big move in my life hoping this will be a positive change for me?? any feed back positive or negative would be appreciated , thank you …kelly

  2. I find the “thematic” elements are quite ok – however it just is not the same without Peter, and while trying to follow the story line you just find yourself so wrapped up in “Walter’s loss” or his feeling of insanity more than you watch the story line unfold.

  3. Read what you have just written (above). Confused? I am. The show was great when it started but has gotten harder and harder to follow the story line. My friends gave up last year. I give up too.

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