Whenever there are spaces in successful storytelling, someone will come along and try to fill them. Fringe made the mistake of starting late in Walter Bishop’s life, revealing his backstory with William Bell slowly. This book (the first in a trilogy) helpfully fills in some of the gaps, showing the two scientists working together in the ’60s and ’70s, meeting Nina Sharp and developing the ideas for their wonder drug Cortexiphan. Aren’t you glad?
The first time Walter and “Belly” take their new drug together, it opens a doorway to another world and lets someone through – a serial killer on the run from the police. Walter briefly shares minds with the man, Allan Mather, seeing visions of future deaths and carnage, before Allan continues to run and Walter recovers from his trip. Several years later, Allan has become the infamous Zodiac murderer, and Walter and Belly – along with their new friend Nina – must prevent the tragedies Walter saw from occurring.
Even if you did desperately want the Walter/Bell/Nina backstory filled in, this is a clumsy way of doing it. The three geniuses make one idiotic decision after another. Christa Faust makes a reasonable attempt at capturing Walter’s “voice”, but it doesn’t work without John Noble’s delivery, and the clumsy cameos from the series to come seem rather pointless. The trio’s exploration of their new drug – including musings about the potential of using it on younger test subjects – and curiosity about the alternate universe might be more interesting if we didn’t already know exactly where it was all heading.
Rhian Drinkwater twitter.com/rhian82