I had the great honor of doing the only Fringe series post mortem with writer/producers Alison Schapker and David Fury for SFX Magazine Issue 234 (buy it here). Even with a nice multi-page spread I had a lot of leftover material and my lovely editors (Rich Edwards and Nick Setchfield) gave me the thumbs up to post everything we couldn’t fit into the magazine right here. There’s some great insight into the writing of the last season, answers to some fan questions and more.
Please DO NOT excerpt from this article without direct linking back to this story and DO NOT reproduce the interview on your site in its entirety. Thank you and enjoy….
Tara: As writers, what did you want to explore in S5 – either emotionally or mythology based?
David Fury: I think part of the challenge and the fun was finding opportunity to pay off so many things that had been built into the show’s mythology from the first season. In 13 episodes, we somehow had to sum up the entire series. Even though we were in this new world, we had to fold in the past. It was sort of fun but then it became a puzzle to think about which pieces of the past we felt we wanted to give more clarity to, or pay off, or take something dangling and acknowledge it. It’s a pleasure for fans when the past is brought back in, whether it’s old characters, old props, old ideas or old Fringe events; it becomes nostalgic and finding places for that to happen was probably the most fun we had.
Alison Schapker: I agree. It became so important: what was Olivia’s journey over the series, what was Peter and Walter’s journey, so we were very conscious of tying into the past, staying true to the past and finding satisfying conclusions of character. Hope, redemption, what it means to be human and why we spent five years on a journey with them, so we really wanted to pay that off for the audience and for ourselves.
It’s an embarrassment of riches to write for all of the actors and give the characters enough space to tell their stories. It was always a balancing act. We did our best to service all of our characters. It was tricky but our jobs. I always tried to honor Olivia and her position in the series. I think in season five while there were some places where Peter’s arc was in the fore, or Walter’s arc was in the fore, Olivia was always the rock of the family throughout.
Tara: How much of a headache was it writing all the various timeline arcs?
DF: The challenge of [seasons] four and five was each [year] it became undone and rebuilt again. Alison got to write the great season three stuff that really landed and me, I got to write things like, “Who are you?” “I’m Peter.” “I don’t know you!” That was tough. [Laughs]
Tara: How did you arc out season five and what were some key plots for your team?
AS: The shape of the season was laid out from very early on. Joel (Wyman) laid out the road map and in the second to the last episode we knew we were going to bring the characters from the alt-universe back. It was such an important piece and we loved those characters, so I knew that last hurrah was coming.
DF: I think Alison, in the course of the last 13, was always keeping track of Olivia. The season was broken up into three suites. Everybody had their own suite. Etta was sort of the first suite. We also knew that somewhere Olivia needed to be given her due, and thankfully when Alison wrote “Liberty” Olivia got to kick-ass like the character everyone loved.
Tara: Did it a surprise to either of you that the Observers turned out not to be benign, nice dudes?
DF: It certainly threw me quite a bit when we read “Letters of Transit” as it was our first experience with the Observers as anything but fairly benign. We had to rationalize and justify and supply the reasons for the Observers we knew on the show, and for the Observers that invaded. The distinction that made sense to us was that the Observers we had seen, to that point, were scientists from the future who were there to strictly observe, but we were being used – unbeknownst to them – as the reconnaissance party to provide information that allowed them to decide when they would invade. They were being used but weren’t aware they were being used. It also made sense that this was the way the scientists thought of us but there are more Observers than 12 scientists. And certainly with their world dying, it was the perfect opportunity to start in an earlier age and affect time without jeopardizing their own existence. So it was a transition, but eventually as we thought about it, it all made sense. Later when Joel hit upon the idea that emotions snuck into all of them, we said that September was somehow infected, but we showed that others were infected. December was developing feelings and Windmark developed hate and August helped get us there anyway.
Tara: Alison – what was your favorite season five script?
AS: I loved the episodes I got to write in season five. I also felt incredibly lucky because Joel, David and [writer/producer] Graham (Roland) would always build these great episodes. I have to say after a couple of years of not always getting that it was so much fun! In “The Bullet that Saved the World,” it was devastating to have Etta die but it turned the entire story so that episode was super special to me. Georgina Haig was great and getting to play that intensity of emotion was awesome.
Oliva’s soul-searching episode,’ The Human Kind” with the seer Simone (Jill Scott), was incredibly interesting. How do you deal with grief if you are Olivia when she has such a hard time believing?
And then my writing partner [Monica Breen] and I started in season three and the first episode we wrote was “The Plateau” where we really got to flesh out the characters of (B)Olivia and Lincoln, so a couple years later in “Liberty” writing the last time we peek in on those characters was also a blast. What I’m going to take from season five was the opportunity to write some of the pivotal episodes.
Tara: So there was no choosing episodes in the last season?
AS: No, it was only the four of us in the last season. We had our schedule shut down from an eight day shoot to a seven day shoot so turnaround was incredibly tight. It really became a group effort. Although we knew which episodes would have our names on it, every single episode we all contributed to, and wrote. It really was a collaborative effort. I had as much fun helping other writers with their episodes. It was probably the most collaborative staff I had ever been on.
Tara: David what was your favorite season five episode?
DF: To be perfectly honest, this last season I relied much more heavily on the other writers. I didn’t write a lot of my episodes. We gang-banged a bunch of episodes but in mine, I didn’t bring most to the table and I’m grateful for that. I will say in “Through the Looking Glass and Walter Found There” it was a story that didn’t come from the mapped out season but more out of a morbid desire of what I wanted to do in terms of being more playful and breaking the mold of the treasure hunt for the tapes. Part of the engineering of season five was that we were going to shoot a lot of things on video because our budget had been slashed but the tapes proved very difficult to find the opportunities except for Walter explaining things in one scene or one act. We needed more so constructing an episode with the desire of shooting Walter wandering around with a video camera throughout most of the episode was something I helped carry, and helped conceive, and got to a place where it was a very fun episode in a season that wasn’t always very fun. I felt I could play a little bit. I also appreciated being part of the writing of the death of Nina later. It was very powerful. We knew she was dying and something we mapped out very early, so I wasn’t surprised. I’m proud I got to be part of that and gave Blair (Brown) this great finale for her character.
Tara: A fan asked “If the Observers could get “Over There” pretty easily, why didn’t invade them?”
AS: I think the Observers considered multiple universes and timelines in terms of when would be the optimal time to attack and succeed. I think the understanding I was working under was that they had specifically chosen the timeline and Over There were lucky for whatever reason, maybe their technology was more advanced so they would be able to fight off the Observers, etc.
DF: You are absolutely right and I’ll just take it one step further. We only show two universes on Fringe but the whole premise is that we live in an infinite multi-verse. My belief is the Observers did take over many, many universes, they just didn’t take over the one we have been visiting. I’m imagining they took over our universe and others that they felt were vulnerable but in this particular case, Over There, the Observers felt they would have more push back and would have a harder time maintaining their hold.
Tara: Another fan asked, “Was Henrietta’s name Peter’s way of honoring his erased son?”
DF: It should be understood that Henrietta’s name was created outside of our purview. I think the thinking was that Peter learned in season four from September from going through his mind that he had a child named Henry. In this timeline that is unrelated and Henry doesn’t exist, but I guess he wanted to honor the memory that he had another child. When he was having a daughter he thought about the name Henrietta. It’s how I see it but our dear showrunners may have another idea.
Tara: A fan wanted to know “Where was Olivia’s wedding ring?” in season five.
AS: I wish we had that level of control. But in some degree the actors are interpreting their characters and what they would do, wear and not wear. I know Josh (Jackson) has specific ideas about how the wedding ring was functioning for his character, and Anna (Torv) had hers. I don’t have another answer to that except on that level.
DF: I agree, it really fell to the actors to recognize they should be wearing their rings. I know Josh did, and I’m sure Anna did at some point decide on when to take it off. What she had in mind, she didn’t necessarily share with us but she made decisions. At one point, we also played around with Peter and Olivia having great difficulty and being a little bit estranged. We went away from that but I don’t know if any of that came into play and whether that came into plays with the rings.
It’s been an amazing few months with the Fringe fans coming out in force to support Paul Terry and I’s companion guide. A HUGE thanks to everyone that bought a copy. While we don’t get residuals on companion books, robust pre-orders and sales prove there’s a market for niche books like this one and keeps the door open for unique titles for us to work on in the future. So thank you again to everyone that picked up a copy, recommended it, tweeted it, tumbled it or just talked about it anywhere in any universe.
We’re incredibly proud of all the positive press for the book and I’ve collected much of it here:
- WB and Fringe Announce a Publishing First with September’s Notebook featured in “The Boy Who Lived”
- Los Angeles Times Blog “Hero Complex” – Jan 11, 2013
- SFX Online review of episode with the book image
Exclusive Book Excerpts and Spreads
- SFX Magazine: March 1 “…so gorgeous your eyes may actually pop out.”
- Fringenuity (Blog): March 8: “This book is overflowing with little goodies and extras from the series. Be prepared to be delighted by various pieces of cool reproduced “ephemera” from the show. . . .”
- JollyGoodShow: March 6, 2013: “The best thing about this release is it’s very intelligent and well thought out layout… The sheer amount of detail that went into this release is mind-boggling. It really looks like a diary that somebody has put together themselves… The writers really deserve a pat on the back for their incredible work here.”
- Examiner.com: March 12, 2013: “Authors Tara Bennett and Paul Terry did an impeccable job working with Wyman and Pinkner, as well as the show’s art department to create factually accurate re-tellings, but to also design a visually stunning look for each section.”
- ParkaBlog: March 12, 2013: “This is an incredible book for all fans of Fringe. I’m one, and I’m thrilled by it. This book is packed with an amazing amount of information and pictures… stuff you don’t get from just watching the show. Highly recommended.”
- Mania.com: March 18, 2013.: “September’s Notebook looks and feels like a labor of love, and fans of the series will eat it up like Walter Bishop slurping a milkshake. . . September’s Notebook is a wonderful, bittersweet trip down Fringe memory lane. It makes a worthy companion to the series, and presents itself as the show’s final statement rather elegantly. It set me in mind to watch the entire series again, this time with September’s notebook in hand.”
- NerdLikeYou.com (UK): March 15, 2013: “Owning this book is like owning a part of the Fringe universe. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who misses the show and wants to delve a little deeper into some of the mysteries. The obvious nods to the fans and the lavish attention to detail make this a perfect companion book to a great show.”
- Digital Spinster: April 7, 2013: “J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner promised the book would be a piece of the show, and authors/compilers Tara Bennett and Paul Terry pulled it off brilliantly… A personal archive in-universe, you can imagine September methodically putting all these stories together…”
- GeekDad: April 29, 2013: “I can’t imagine any fan of Fringe not being completely engrossed by this book – in any universe.”
- CultBox: May 8, 2013: “The mere concept of this book isn’t the only element of it that justifies praise. Impressively, it confidently pulls off the ambitious conceit… This book is absolutely designed with the fans in mind.”
Interviews and Podcasts about Fringe: September’s Notebook
- Fictional Frontiers Podcast
- The Fringe Podcast
- WormholeRiders Interview
- Huffington Post: March 12, 2013 with Maureen Ryan
- EW.com: March 12, 2013. Jeff Jensen for “Inside TV” section: ‘Fringe secrets revealed: ‘September’s Notebook’ authors discuss making the ultimate companion book’
- Examiner “On Writing” Feature Interview
- Forces of Geek Author Interview
SFX’s A-Z of Sci-Fi TV is now archived but for it, I did a huge chat with executive producer and season 5 showrunner Joel Wyman about the evolution of Fringe. Our website is now hosting the story if you didn’t pick up the magazine so if you love the show, here’s your chance to learn more about how they wrote it.
The Walking Dead Magazine Issue #3 drops on March 5th with the Dixon brothers as the co-cover boys. I had a really insightful talk with Norman Reedus about playing the ever-evolving Daryl Dixon and his complex relationship with Rick and Meryl in Season 3. Always frank, funny and interesting, you won’t want to miss what Norman has to say.
I also talk to Robert Kirkman in our regular column and if you ever wanted to see what I look like as an authentic walker – I get to recount my amazing transformation in my feature “How to Be a Zombie The Walking Dead style”
The latest issue of Total Film is out now and inside I talked to Jason Statham about Parker for the Total Film Q&A. He was quite charming in his navy button down sweater as we chatted on a freezing NYC day talking about his film career, what he’s aspiring to do in the future and the upcoming Hummingbird which he calls his best work.
Check out the print copy or a digital copy of Total Film!
Just in time for the holidays, SFX Magazine has a brand-new special featuring a most unique coverage of sci-fi TV – the A to Z of everything geeky on the small screen.
For the issue, I had the pleasure of talking in-depth with J.H. Wyman about the entire five year arc of FRINGE.It’s really fascinating stuff and you can get some material that didn’t fit in my SFX new online feature with Joel Wyman here.
I also chatted with a plethora of showrunners from Wyman to BEING HUMAN US’s Anna Fricke, THE MIDDLEMAN’S Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the new showrunners of COMMUNITY and Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz from ONCE UPON A TIME about what it takes to make a genre TV show today. Last but not least, I talked to THE BIG BANG THEORY executive producers and COMMUNITY’s David Guarascio and Moses Port about writing geek comedy.
SFX magazine Issue #229 is available today in stores and digitally. Check out the cover, Hobbit fans
Inside, I’ve also got an exclusive with Supernatural EP Jeremy Carver about what’s going down this season, a Star Turn with Haven’s Emily Rose, and my first look at the upcoming Evil Dead and Carrie reboots.
Support fantastic sci-fi journalism and pick up a copy – we swear it’s worth it.
Can it possibly be 10 years since Joss Whedon’s Firefly debuted in Fox’s bastard basement Friday night death slot? Shocking, but true. However, gratefully the most shocking truth is not that Fox didn’t even give Firefly a full season before they cancelled it, but that audiences are still finding and obsessing over this special little space Western a decade later. Joss even got to do a big screen adventure with Serenity.
I was incredibly lucky to be included as a contributor for all three of Titan Book’s Firefly Companion books. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, Titan has compiled all three books and a mess of special new materials into one handsome tome called Firefly – Celebration that makes me smile. Pick it up now wherever you do your book buyin’ and let’s hope there’s a brand new, bound celebration in another decade.
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, SCI FI Magazine has some cover goodness to share in our new October Issue with Matt Smith gracing the cover.
Inside, I’ve got an exclusive interview with Rian Johnson, the director of the September sci-fi release, Looper. It stars Joe Gordon-Levitt (remember when he was that kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun?) and Bruce Willis playing the same character that face each other in a paradoxical “uh, oh” moment in the future. Rian is a smart filmmaker and I’m excited to see this twisty treat live up to my expectations.
Also inside, my second Page to Screen Column featuring three more sci-fi books heading to screens soon (and I go for some classics this time).
SCI FI Magazine is available in all good book stores in the Entertainment section of the magazine area. Support sci-fi journalism – pick up a copy!
It’s the official companion guide to the beloved Fox drama, Fringe. Unlike other companion guides, this one isn’t just a breakdown of episodes, rather it’s a telling of the whole Fringe-verse from the perspective of the Observer known as September.
It’s been a real passion project for PT and I. We’ve got the full support of J.H. Wyman, Jeff Pinkner, Bad Robot and the incredible crew who makes the show in Vancouver so fans are really in for a treat. There is so much we can’t wait to share!
In case you were wondering, yes, the book covers the entire run of the series so it will be released right after the series finale airs (still pending).
For news about the book, a contest to get your name included in the book, and eventual page previews and other sneak peeks please LIKE the book’s Facebook page and follow myself, Paul Terry and Insight Editions on Twitter.
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- hiddley: #and finally the rightful stark will sit on the iron... May 15, 2013
- I had a lot of outtakes from my SFX Fringe Post Mortem Interview... May 11, 2013
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