I’ve been liking the alternate universe storyline on ‘Fringe’ this season a lot, especially the way that episodes bounce back and forth between those set in our world and those set in the other side. It puts an interesting spin on the formula, and helps build an underlying mythology that was only tenuously sketched in the first two seasons. However, one aspect of it that I don’t care for is the bit about the doomsday weapon made from ancient technology, which reminds me too much of the later (really awful) seasons of ‘Alias’. Unfortunately, last week’s episode delves deeply into that particular plot thread, and seems to indicate that it may be a big part of the rest of the season.
The episode, ‘6995 kHz’, is set in our normal world. It actually begins promisingly. A number of conspiracy nuts from various cities simultaneously tune into a ham radio broadcast from a “number station,” hoping to crack the code. What happens instead is that they all get their memories completely wiped. Walter investigates, and determines that the broadcast had a powerful pulse code buried in the signal that screwed up the listeners’ brainwaves. He theorizes that they must have gotten too close to cracking the code, and someone had to stop them.
Sounds intriguing so far. Well, that whole plotline gets dropped pretty quickly after we discover that the numbers were being transmitted by a man named Gemini (Kevin Weisman, who not-at-all-coincidentally played Marshall on ‘Alias’). He’s a shapeshifter from the alternate universe, and his plan all along is to trick the Fringe team into investigating the case and breaking the code themselves, so that it can lead them on a convoluted trail to learn about the “First People,” an alleged race of ancient beings who predated humanity on Earth and who were completely wiped off the planet before the dinosaurs. These First People had a doomsday weapon called “The Vacuum.” (Seriously? We’re supposed to find an antique Dustbuster ominous?)
Shocker! This Vacuum thing is the exact same doomsday weapon that Walternate has been trying to build on the other side – the one that requires Peter’s DNA to work. By setting them on this path, Walternate plans to fool our Walter and Peter into constructing the weapon and setting it off on our side. That sneaky bastard.
And where does the team find the first piece of this ancient technology from the time before time began? In New Jersey, of course. It’s buried underground, at least. But not terribly far. You’d expect that they’d have to drill down miles below the Earth’s crust or something, right? Nope, it’s about as deep as a building foundation, and can be pulled out with a steamshovel. Sure is lucky that nobody happened to dig in that exact spot in all the millennia of human history.
In the final scene, the episode flips over to the alternate universe, where Olivia is still having visions of Annoying Dream Peter, who tells her that, “You have to go home.”
I hate to say it, but I’m disappointed in the series for going down this route. I hoped for better from the season, and can’t foresee this storyline leading anywhere interesting. Maybe I’ll eat my words later, but for now I’m pessimistic.
One thing I did like in the episode, however, was that Astrid cracked the mystery code. We expect Walter to be the genius, and she rarely has much to do.