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Fringe: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

fringeS1

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: VC-1
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbps)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: ABC (region-free)
  • Discs: 5
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • Release Date: September 8, 2009
  • List Price: $79.98
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Overall
rating4
The Series
rating4
Video Quality
rating4-5
Audio Quality
rating3-5
Supplemental Materials
rating4

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

More Screen Captures (22 Total)

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG and thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

rating4

From the mind of executive producer J. J. Abrams, the man responsible for reinventing television with such dramas as Alias and Lost, comes Fox’s new paranormal sc-fi series Fringe.  With obvious heavy doses of The X-Files as its main influence, Fringe casts Australian actress Anna Torv in the role of Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent investigating what is known as the Pattern: worldwide occurrences of weird, paranormal phenomena. Helping her in her quest to discover the mystery behind the occurrences is the mad fringe-scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), recently released from a mental institution where he was locked away for seventeen years and Walter’s reluctant and skeptical son Peter (Joshua Jackson, Dawson’s Creek).

Like it predecessors and Abrams’ previous series, Fringe is multilayered, despite Abrams’ promise that the show would be more straightforward and easier to follow than Lost .  There are conspiracies behind the conspiracies, so to speak. Blair Brown (Altered States, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) plays Nina Sharp, COE of Massive Dynamic, an ominous technology company that has their hands in all of the odd occurrences related to the Pattern. There’s also a terrorist group known as ZFT, which may be responsible for the Pattern that may be funded by Global Dynamic’s founder and Chairman, William Bell (Leonard Nimoy).

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The creators of Fringe do well to tie all the characters together and a surprising amount of details are revealed over the course of Fringe’s first season. After a lackluster pilot that may as well have been lifted straight out of one of The X-Files first five seasons, Fringe gains steadily in momentum and thumbs its nose at the critics who panned it based solely on that first episode.

The creators are to be commended for crafting a sci-fi drama that takes some often far-out scenarios and infusing them with a sense of believability, humanity, and real world drama thanks to the brilliant casting and acting, most notably by John Noble as the mad-scientist Walter Bishop. Noble takes a part that could easily have lapsed into typical sci-fi goofiness, but instead makes it intensely believable and downright Shakespearean. Joshua Jackson also offers up some strong, wry support to Anna Torv’s stoic interpretation. Given time, this is the sort of cast that can click with perfect chemistry.

With Lost going into its final season, there will be a definite void that will need to filled on television for a series with intense drama, odd occurrences and a deep mythos. Lost occupies its own universe, much as The X-Files did, no show can replace or copy it, just as every show that tried to copy or replace The X-Files failed miserably. Fringe may finally be that worthy successor to The X-Files kind of drama while fulfilling the need for those who miss Lost as well.

Video Quality

rating4

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Fringe arrives with its twenty episodes spread across a healthy five dual-layer BD50 discs from Warner. The high definition 1080p/24 VC-1 encoding is solid straight through, with deep, obsidian blacks, natural flesh tones, and strong detail in clothing and skin. There are some moments where background detail softens just a touch and the show’s 35mm grain structure jumps with three-dimensionality flattening slightly, but overall, Fringe’s glossy production and atmospheric lighting looks very strong on this Blu-ray set.

Audio Quality

rating3-5

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Fringe: The Complete Fourth Season comes with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbs) lossy soundtrack as its sole audio option.  The show’s sound design is quite good, with creepy ambient sound effects populating the surround channels, clean dialogue and some occasionally extended low frequencies. It’s unfortunate that Warner did not allow this surprisingly engaging television sound-mix to shine out from under the veil of a Dolby Digital encoding and with a lossless codec like TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio instead.

Supplemental Materials

rating4

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Fringe comes with a hefty selection of supplements from Warner, but despite the packaging’s bold proclamation of “Special Features in High Definition” all but one of the features provided on Fringe: The Complete First Season is in standard definition.

The supplements available on this release are:

Disc 1:

Behind the Story

  • “Pilot”
    • Commentary by Alex Kutzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams
    • The Massive Undertaking (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:12.11) — The two-hour pilot
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:02.17) — Makeup on actor for pilot
  • “The Same Old Story”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.50) — Prosthetic eyeball makeup for the episode.
  • “The Ghost Network”
    • Commentary by J.R. Orci, David Goodman and Bryan Burk
    • The Massive Undertaking (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:02.09) —  The logistics of filming on location in Manhattan near the UN.
    • Dissected Files (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:01.54):
      • Sc. 81: I Believe He’d Want You to Have This — A deleted scene from this episode.
  • “The Arrival”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.53) — The scene in the cemetery and the special effects for the energy gun and cylinder.
    • Dissected Files
      • Sc. 36: More Things in Heaven and Earth (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:00.39)

Disc 2:

Behind the Story

  • “Power Hungry”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.31)
    • Dissected Files (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:02.09)
      • Sc. 39: The Man With the Birds
  • “The Cure”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.34) — Practical effects of someone’s head exploding.
  • “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.34)  — A creature growing a man’s heart.
  • “The Equation”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.50)
    • Dissected Files (1.33:1; 480i/60)
      • Sc. 9: Circadian Rhythms
      • Sc. 39: Tastes Like Construction Paper

Disc 3:

Behind the Story

  • “The Dreamscape”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.58) — Butterflies with razor wings
  • “Safe”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.40)  — Car chase in a Lincoln Navigator.
  • “Bound”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.46) — A Spinal tap on Agent Dunham
  • “The No-Brainer”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.38)

Disc 4:

Behind the Story

  • “The Transformation”
    • The Massive Undertaking (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:02.43) — The practical makeup effects of transforming an actor into a beast.
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.44)
  • “Ability”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.44)
    • Dissected Files
      • Sc. 4/5: Late-Night Questioning (1.33.1; 480i/60; 0:02.53)
  • “Inner Child”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.31)
  • “Unleashed”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0;01.56)

Extras

  • Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe — Warning: Spoiler Alert! (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:09.07) — The creators of Fringe discuss the evolution of Fringe and its characters.
  • Behind the Real Science of Fringe — Warning: Spoiler Alert! (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:10.28) – The creators and science consultants discuss the various episodes’ cases and their grounding in real theoretical science.
  • The Casting of Fringe — Warning: Spoiler Alert! (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:09.21) — The show’s creators discuss putting together the cast of Fringe, whilst offering glimpses of the actors’ audition tapes.

Disc 5:

Behind the Story

  • “Bad Dreams”
    • Commentary by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinker
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:02.11)
  • “Midnight”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:1.48)
  • “The Road Not Taken”
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.39) — Simulating spontaneous human combustion.
  • “There’s More than One of Everything”
    • The Massive Undertaking (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:03.17) — The making of the Fringe finale, with Leonard Nimoy as William Bell.
    • Fringe: Deciphering the Scene (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:01.37)

Extras

  • Robert Orci’s Production Diary (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:13.06) — Robert Orci, one of the show’s writers and creators, gives an account of the production of the Pilot in Toronto.
  • Fringe Visual Effects — Warning: Spoiler Alert! (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:15.16) — The creators discuss the visual effects of the series.
  • Unusual Side Effects (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:04.32) — Blooper reel.
  • Gene the Cow (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:02.46)
  • Fringe Pattern Analysis (1.78:1; 1080p/24)
  • BD-Live

The Definitive Word

Overall:

rating4

BDDefinitionfringes1-s1080

Despite a slow start and its heavy X-Files influence, Fringe ended its first season with major promise, intriguing characters populated by great actors and stories that suck viewers in. Fox, unusually for the network, stood behind the series and is bringing it back for a second go. If Fringe doesn’t lose the plot, jump the shark, and any other cliché one can think of, it could go on to finally be the worthy successor to The X-Files, filling the void left by that series that many have tried to fill and failed so miserably doing.

Warner has provided a solid Blu-ray release of Fringe’s first season with numerous bonus features. Despite the studio’s stubborn insistence on providing their television releases with no more than lossy Dolby Digital audio, Fringe is a winner on Blu.

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