While some television series stay far away from intricate plots and storylines that take their sweet time unfolding, "Fringe" is definitely one that embraces them. From the revelation of a parallel universe (complete with alternative versions of most of our heroes); to the subsequent war between our world and "the other side" (including episodes set entirely in said universe); to last season's finale which saw a détente finally achieved - but at the cost of wiping Joshua Jackson's Peter Bishop for existence.
Season four then kicked off last week with Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Walter Bishop (John Noble) and company resuming their investigations into the scientific bugaboos of our world, with the effects of not having Peter in their lives slowly revealing themselves not to mention Peter himself seemingly nibbling around the periphery. Our Jim Halterman had to chance to talk to papa Bishop himself, John Noble, at a recent FOX junket in Beverly Hills where he explained how Walter is a bit more "mad scientist" this season without the memory of his son; the undefined longing his character continues to have; as well as his gig moonlighting as host the Science Channel's "Dark Matters: Twisted But True" series.
Jim Halterman: The series really took yet another big leap at the end of last season and fans were lighting up Twitter and the message boards with concern about where things are going, let alone if we'd lost Josh Jackson forever.
John Noble: Well, I'm glad people are concerned because to me it's fairly important to reset things and, well, we're in our fourth year. There was a great concern because people thought that we lost Josh and we love Josh. You can't lose Josh Jackson! We literally had to meld two universes and then Peter, as a character, was no longer functional. This was a really hard but logical core, which Josh is very much a part of. Now we have to find a way to reintroduce him back into our world and not in the same way. Both the little boys (a young Peter and his alt-version) died instead of one of them surviving and now from another dimension, another consciousness is where Peter is trying to get back to our world but the trouble is that Walter doesn't know him. Olivia (Anna Torv) doesn't know him. It's very strange but quite intriguing, really. You can always trust the writers to come up with something intriguing and they do. They'll take risks. They take the risk and frighten everyone.
JH: I love the flashbacks that the show has done so well in the past three seasons where we see Peter and Olivia as children or we get more backstory into Walter or Walternate. Will we still get more flashbacks in the new season?
JN: I certainly hope so. The last time I spoke with the writers they know that the flashbacks are very popular so they're not going to throw that out provided there's a good reason for us to do it. They're wonderful to film, too, and we have a great time doing them with the decor and everything we do with it. I hope we get to do it again and I'm fairly sure we will. I just don't know how we'll do it. There are things that work on 'Fringe' and that's one of them.
JH: We know that now our world and the other side are linked and co-existing in a way. Can you talk about how the other side will work on the show this season?
JN: I think that's an interesting question because if you now have the two universes linked through time and space and, therefore, able to cooperate, then in a sense that's the end of that as an A story but it makes a fantastic B story. What will probably happen, I think, is that those two worlds in attempting to resolve the issue will be confronted with a common enemy and then they'll have to work together.
JH: It was definitely fun to see viewers - myself included - really get invested in that other world. Was that a surprise?
JN: You know, I remember when we first started talking to people about this time last year and saying we were trying to get our audiences to like the enemy. We thought, can this be done? The first instinct is no but by the end of it we had our fans kind of liking the people on the other side. We achieved it!
JH: I don't think a show has ever pulled that off before.
JN: I don't think so and I don't think they've had success in liking two sets of people. It feels like I'm being disloyal [liking them] but you couldn't help it!
JH: We actually liked Walternate in some way!
JN: I knew there was a challenge and, in fact, there was a huge challenge to humanize Walternate. We were so looking for a bad guy here, a really two-dimensional bad guy but the best we could do was humanize him somehow. There has to be a humanizing factor in there or else we'd just write him off. They did that and even though he still isn't the favorite character he is more human.
JH: So since Peter has disappeared from Walter's memories, how has that effected who Walter is since the series started with Walter and Peter renewing their relationship. Is he a different Walter?
JN: What you'll see is a Walter that is pretty much a product that came out of St. Claire's [mental hospital] and so he's still partially functional. He has some OCD characteristics, he's agoraphobic, he's more erratic and he's more what you could call mad. He has no love in his life, if you will, so we see this man who is still very clever but not too loveable but that will come back in time and that is what will happen as Peter comes back in his life.
JH: And what is the relationship with Olivia based on what you just said about who Walter is now?
JN: Walter has a lovely relationship with Olivia in these new episodes, which I'm very pleased with and, of course, always with Astrid. What we don't know - and this is strange metaphysical stuff - but do you ever think to yourself 'I have everything I want but I have this longing. I don't know what it is but I have a longing.' This kind of longing for these characters is Peter and this is the first time I've said this to anyone else.
JH: Anna told me recently that you're very good at keeping secrets but she is not so good. Is it a challenge to talk about the show since there are so many secrets and twists in the story?
JN: We can only tell you so much for two reasons. One because we don't want to spoil it too much and, two, we don't always know. Anna has a very interesting thing that I've picked up from her. She says there are three versions of the script - there's one from the first time I read it, there's the one that we shoot and then there's the one that's delivered and they're really quite different. There is so much that can change in post-production. Sometimes we say 'Whoa! That's different!'
JH: The show has such a passionate fan base, too.
JN: Do you know the only other time I can remember being fortunate enough for that was with 'Lord of the Rings.' The fans were similar in that they were very knowledgeable and still around the world, I hear from people. It's amazing. I'm quite fortunate to have two of them in my life.
JH: And you're also hosting a show on the Science Channel, "Dark Matters: Twisted But True." How did that come about?
JN: The people from Science got hold of this thing produced in Britain and they wanted to re-voice it and bring it to North America and someone came up with the idea of me. My wife read it first and she said 'John, this is wonderful! Do it! Do it!" I did it and it has gone really well. It's done so well for them and so I think there will be a lot more of those coming.
"Fringe" airs Fridays at 9:00/8:00c on FOX plus look for the season finale of "Dark Matters: Twisted But True" this coming Wednesday, October 5 at 10:00/9:00c on Science.