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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 15 Season 3, Subject 13

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 26, 2011

A Mostly Blue, 80’s Episode

As always, an episode synopsis will be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent.

Plan Vs Improv?

Am I the only one who thinks the writers changed their minds about why Peter wasn’t returned to the Alterverse?  I got the impression in episode 15 of season 2, Peter, that the reason why Peter wasn’t returned was that Walter’s wife couldn’t stand losing Peter a second time, and Walter couldn’t bear causing his wife to lose their son a second time.  Now we see that they want to return Peter, but have been unable to do so.  It seems like the writers decided this works better for the overall story arch.  I’m not really complaining, but I’m curious if anyone else has the same impression.

Periodic Anachronisms

The regular periodic table on the wall in the Walter’s office was wrong for the years 1985 and 1986.  (I am assuming it may be 1986, since this is 6 months after the Peter episode set in 1985)  The regular table went up to element 117, with the elements up to 111 having their current, official names.  The circular table was also wrong, going upto elemnt 118, with elements up to 109 having their current, official names.  The names for elements 104-109 were not finalized until 1997.  Bohrium would not be shown as Bohrium on any periodic table in 1986, as the proposed name at the time was Neilsbohrium.  The name Bohrium was not proposed until 1994.  The name for the element 108 was not proposed until 1994, and element 109 was not even discovered/ synthesized until 1994, so there couldn’t have even been a proposed name for it yet.  It’s not important to the plot, but it’s a glaring error by the showmakers.

A Toy Store For the Ages

The original Battlestar Galactica aired from 1978-1979 and was cancelled after one season.  The Battlestar Galactica board game was put out by Parker Brothers in 1978, and it would not have been on the shelves of a toy store in our universe in 1985 or later.

The Real Ghostbusters cartoon ran from 1986-1991, so those toys are OK.

The Rubik’s Cube was introduced to the toy market in 1980.  I remember it having a pretty long run at being in toy stores, but 1986 is probably a little late for it to be so prominently featured in a toy store.

The game console being played was an Atari 5200, recognized by its distinctive controller.  By 1986, the video game industry was in a slump, and the 5200 had been discontinued back in May 1984, and it would not have been in toy stores in ’86.

CORRECTION PROMPTED BY  COMMENT BY DeRa1s:  The video game controller is for either a 2600 Junior or 7800 and not a 5200 as stated above.  The game box leaning on the side of the TV was for the 2600 version of Joust, and not the 5200 or 7800 versions.  The cartridges in front of the TV were 2600 cartridges, which would be consistent with either an Atari 2600 Junior or Atari 7800, as the 7800 could play 2600 cartridges.  The graphics were clearly not that of the 2600 version, though.  It could be either the 5200 version or the 7800 version, but Joust was not released for the 7800 until 1987.  An Atari 2600 Junior or 7800 would not be anachronistic in 1986, but the version of Joust on the screen would be.

No Necessarily Anachronistic

The Betamax VCR format was introduced by Sony in 1975, and by 1980, had been completely overtaken by its rival, JVC’s VHS format, which controlled 70% of the North American market.  However, Betamax retained a following as it has slightly superior picture quality and resolution compared to VHS.  It’s not unlikely that someone like Walter would have continued to use Betamax in 1986, or that he would obtain a new Betamax setup in that year.  It seems though, that the writers are implying Walters Betamax is new as a technology, which would be incorrect.

Anachronistic Displays

The readouts on the green, monochrome CRTs were way too sophisticated for 1986.

Did Peter Bring Some Board Games with Him From the Alterverse?

Quizzard was released in 1988 in our universe; Peter has a copy in our universe in 1986.

Aren’t You Supposed to Be Dead?

Strange that it never occurred to Walternate and his wife that Peter might be dead already.  He was deathly ill the last time they saw him, and they knew he didn’t have long to live.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that 6 months later, he might not still be alive, regardless of who kidnapped him.

Bishop Dynamic, Home of Broken Windows and Deaf or Dead Employees

I recently took a tour of Cape Canaveral, and from what I have been told, Bishop Dynamic is way too close to the shuttle launch pad to be safe.  At that distance, windows would shatter, cars would flip over, and people would probably be killed by a shuttle launch.  I was at a location about twice as far away where I was told NASA had a large generator flung about 50 feet by a launch.

Battleship Amana

My parents had the same Amana Radarange microwave oven that the Bishops had in their kitchen.  The thing weighed about a ton, and had more chrome than a 57 Chevy.

Unanswered Question

Why did Olivia and Peter have no recollection of each other or the events portrayed in this episode when they first met?

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12 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 15 Season 3, Subject 13”

  1. JediVulcan said

    I thought it was interesting that Walternate was part of the Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative) in the 1980s. The episode setup some of the ground work on how Walternate basically ascended to Secretary of Defense by the time of present day.

    I also found it interesting that there is an alternate Massive Dynamic under the form of Bishop Dynamic.

    There were also some differences between Walter and Walternate’s different offices… I was wondering which computer “our” Walter had. Walternate had a generic looking PC CRT.

    Found it off that there was a Mac in Alternate Universe Peter’s room. If they had Motorola Razor… with LCD screens, you’d think they’d have flat screens in the 80s over there as well.

    Speculation: I think the big twist at the end of the season is going to be a third universe… which is why the Peter and Olivia we’ve been following have no recollection of their first encounter with each other in Jacksonville, FL.

  2. [...] This week’s Fringe cipher was: SWITCH. A list of all previous Fringe reviews is available here. Karl ’s has more to say, particularly about the anachronisms, over at his blog. [...]

  3. bros said

    About the BetaMax, it is rather reasonable that Walter was using one, as the Betamax could store higher quality video/audio at the beginning of the VHS’ life. That is why it was used in the AV industry throughout the 80s

  4. Tom said

    A third universe is an interesting theory — my understanding was that Peter, Walter, and Olivia have all lost or repressed most of their memories from that time in their lives, and so flashbacks and memories come in bits and pieces, filtered through the lens of the characters’ perceptions at the time.
    Peter has said he can’t remember his childhood, and that lived without any dreams from childhood to adulthood. He has also said that Walter used to hook his head up to a car battery to give him jolts of electricity, so it could be that Walter purposefully wiped Peter’s memory, just as Walter taught Peter self-hypnosis to rid himself of nightmares and memory dreams.
    Olivia didn’t even remember Walter, or remember that she was enrolled in the Cortexiphan studies, even though she looks like she was about seven or eight (just a year before she shot her stepfather, an event she does remember) when this past episode takes place.
    Walter of course is guessing and confabulating about his past (for a long while, he didn’t even seem to remember that Peter was from the other side) since he had parts of his brain removed.

    My questions:
    Didn’t Olivia start the Cortexiphan treatments when she was three? Has she been in that same day-care that whole time?
    In earlier episodes, we’ve seen a video showing Walter (or possibly William Bell — she knew him as “Willum” from the experiments) talking to Olivia and telling her it’s OK as she’s huddled in a corner after torching a room via pyrokinesis. She looks younger in that episode than she did in this one, so it looks like the experiments involving fear went on for quite some time.

    And also– Where is Olivia’s mother during all of this? What happened to Olivia’s mother, in the end? What happened to Olivia’s natural father? Where did Rachel come in — is she the child of Olivia’s stepfather? When was she born? She doesn’t look more than seven years younger than Olivia… And — did Walter’s experiments on Olivia have anything to do with the fact the the hypnagogic green-green-green-red circles on Olivia’s uncle’s kayak?

  5. Daedalus said

    The computer on Walter-A’s desk in 1986 was a Commodore Pet. Strange but true.

  6. Dennis said

    RE: Plan vs. Improv

    I don’t think anything has changed. Elizabeth (Peter’s mom) wanted to keep him at first. It’s a good thing that they did, because it seems only later did Walter realize that taking him back would further damage the fabric of the universe.

    However, Peter has been complaining for six months since he knows he was stolen. She wants to send him back because of the guilt she feels constantly having to lie to him. (which will eventually lead her to suicide. )

    I wonder what would have happened if they just told Peter the truth – yes, we stole you, but you were going to die. We wanted to send you back, but we don’t know how, although we’re working on it…

  7. DeRa1s said

    @Dennis: That was my impression, too: At first they couldn’t bear to return Peter, later they realized that they could neither keep lying to him nor were they able to convince him that he was really their son.

    RE: A Toy Store for the Ages

    I didn’t get a good look at the controller, but the Atari 2600 Jr. – introduced in ’84 with a production run lasting well into the 90s – had a controller that looked pretty much like the 5200′s sans the keypad.

  8. Karl Withakay said

    I seem to remember the graphics being too advanced to be a 2600, but I will not trust my recall, and I’ll re-watch the scene when I get home this evening after work to search for definitive clues on the console’s identity.

  9. Karl Withakay said

    Please see the edited Toy Store for the Ages section above that reflects my new research on the console being played.

  10. Justin Fisher said

    “Why did Olivia and Peter have no recollection of each other or the events portrayed in this episode when they first met? ”

    Ya, this was the biggest question I had. This episode didn’t quite make any sense to me unless it’s setting up something else later on.
    This episode seems to contradict a lot of earlier explanations of the past.

    Also, one thing that drove me nuts was the whole thing was out of focus. Just because it was the 80′s doesn’t mean they didn’t know how to focus cameras. Bad cinematography choice.

  11. [...] episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. [...]

  12. My biggest question was why in the Walternate universe, was Walternate even in Jacksonville if in fact he never did the cortexiphan trials??

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