Monday, March 28, 2011

X-Files vs. Fringe


I was a big fan of the X-Files in its day. The Truth Is Out There! The first episode I saw was Squeeze (thanks to my friend Monte telling me there was a show I just had to see).

Many years have passed, and now I've become a big fan of Fringe. I mean, come on; coretexiphan!

Recently I started re-watching the X-Files. Granted, the pacing is slower than modern shows, but it was appropriate to the era. Most of the shows stand up just fine. I'm really enjoying the experience, and it's a good way to pass the time on the elliptical machine.

As I finished the X-files first season and moved onto the second, I was struck by a realization: A philosophical difference exists between the two shows. These differences influence a given plot in a noticeable, characteristic fashion (though of course outliers exist*).

Both shows deal with unexplained, odd, and unlikely phenomena. In fact, I'd say it's obvious that the X-Files was a big influence on Fringe.

In the X-Files, many episodes are devoted the idea that society can't or won't accept the Truth that Is Out There. Villains are many times scientists working in secret labs or in government facilities. Or, if scientists are not outright villains, then they are part of an uncaring establishment, hidebound in its dogmatic acceptance of the world. In fact, at one point the FBI agent Dana Scully goes so far as to tell her partner Mulder that she's always accepted the facts that "science" has taught her, and is unwilling to accept that things might be different (which is an odd way to look at science).

In Fringe, one of the main characters is a scientist. All the crazy phenomena and odd occurrences that threaten the world in Fringe are dealt with and mediated by science and the application of reason. Sure, reason in the form of Walter Bishop, but back off man, he's a scientist.

Thus my comparison: The X-Files was slightly suspicious of the scientific method, while Fringe is more apt to embrace it. The X-files is more likely to reject that science can solve the problems that beset us (problems like killer insects escaped the Pleistocene and aliens who live in black goo, granted), while Fringe usually holds that only science can save us (from parallel-dimension shape shifters and collapsing universes, sure). On the X-Files, scientists are more likely part of a conspiracy, while on Fringe, scientists are more likely to show us how things really are.

I think you can probably guess--though I love both of these shows--which one I prefer.


*Note that I tried to stay away from using absolute language, like 'fundamental difference' and 'always this way.' Mainly, I think I've pegged that both these shows lie on a continuum, and those points are in different locations between 'embrace science' and 'suspect science.'
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