Fox gave journalists a taste of what Fringe's parallel dimension is like at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in the form of a fictional newspaper called The New York News, similar to the New York Post glimpsed on the table in William Bell's office in the season-one finale. (Check out a comparison of the two papers after the jump.)
The front page, dated May 12, 2009, features stories about the Obamas moving into the new White House—in this dimension, the original White House, not the World Trade Center, was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001— former president John F. Kennedy will address the United Nations, and 1986 draft pick Len Bias hasn't died of a drug overdose but rather becomes the NBA MVP. And inside, we learn that Star Trek is still the number-one movie for the weekend of May 8 (and was presumably still written by Fringe co-creators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman).
That tantalizing glimpse of the parallel universe teases what viewers can expect when Fox's sci-fi series returns in the fall, but Orci says the parallel universe will differ from our own only when it's significant. (Spoilers ahead!)
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"You only want to change something if there's a really good thematic reason to have it be different," Orci said in a group interview Thursday in Pasadena, Calif. "It can't just be 'red is blue' just for fun. Let it really resonate, because it's something major, like what you see in that paper. Things like, 'Oh my God, that's different.' We're trying to have the big events in history altered. So Kennedy's alive, the World Trade Center is standing, some of these things that are hopeful in a way, actually."
Also at the end of last season, we saw Walter Bishop (John Noble) visiting the grave of his son, Peter, who apparently died as a child. The implication is that the adult Peter (Joshua Jackson) from the parallel universe has somehow found his way into our reality. Does that mean there's an alternate-universe Walter whose son has been kidnapped?
"I'd be pissed, right?" Orci said. "So that feels like a juicy train to collide into. That's looming somewhere."
In the parallel dimension—which the writers call Over There among themselves—did the government also assemble a fringe science team to investigate strange phenomena? Are said phenomena even considered strange on that side?
"Nothing we've done yet makes that distinction," Orci said. "Until we determine otherwise, let's try and start with the same laws of physics. But you were right that that's an area to play with, that's very interesting."
Orci also sees an opportunity to comment on today's controversies—President Obama's birth certificate, universal health care, financial bailouts, etc.
"We're playing with those ideas," Orci said. "Part of the benefit of doing something that's sort of genre is that you can disguise it a little bit. We're already sort of turning into it by even featuring the World Trade Center as being around, by even touching on JFK. So we're trying to test the water slowly. That's always been one of our interests. If you're going to have the time on TV to do whatever you want, you might as well make it a little bit challenging, too, in that area as well. We're slowly sticking our toe in there; obviously, you're sensing it."
For at least the early part of season two, FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) will be the only character crossing back and forth between universes. "So far, she's the only one," Orci said. "Gotta play that carefully."
How did Olivia travel from a building in central Manhattan to the World Trade Center in the parallel universe? "We already had teleportation earlier in the season, so it's already out there," Orci said.
While Olivia, and the viewers, will be figuring out the parallel universe, Walter will be having some fun in our world. "Walter is going to explore freedom that maybe he shouldn't have," Orci said.
Fringe returns Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. on Fox.