Despite protestations to the contrary, I persist in believing that the Fringe PR team deliberately leaked the spooky science show's 90 minute pilot a couple of months ago. Just so they could say things like, "The transmitted version of the pilot is totally different — you'll have to see how great it is now." No one knows how many of us saw the leaked pilot, but the ratings for last night's premiere are in and they are pretty meh. 9 million tuned in to learn all about the "pattern" and what it looks like to watch people melt (which was pretty cool actually). So how did the transmitted version stack up to the leaked version? We watched them side-by-side, and have the differences for you below. Spoilers ahead. So as you may have surmised from hints we've dropped already, there really weren't that many differences between the two pilots at all. After all the blather from the Fringe folks about how "different" it was, I was actually quite surprised to see that by "different" they meant things like scenes being cut to be 2 seconds shorter, or shots being reversed, or (and this is a real mystery), the user interface on the mad science lab computer being changed. Yes, dear readers, this was the sort of big change they meant. Here is the UI from the leaked pilot:
And here is the UI from the transmitted pilot:
I guess they wanted to smudge it up and make it look more 1970s? It boggles the mind that this was the kind of change the creators of the show thought would really make it pop when it aired. For those of you who didn't get a chance to see the pilot, but would like a quick introduction to the show, here's all you need to know. Agent Olivia Dunham is some kind of vaguely-defined inter-agency intelligence operative. She's called in on this weird incident involving a bunch of people who melted on a plane (ewww). Then her lameass boyfriend, also a Vague Agent, gets infected too. So now It's Personal. She goes out on a limb and decides the only guy who can help her is the mad Dr. Walter Bishop, a fringe scientist who has been in a mental institution for decades. To get to him, she needs his son Peter's help. So Olivia gets Peter to help by pretending she'll hand him over to the guys he owes gambling money to, and then she gets Walter out of the hospital, and somehow manages to set them up in a basement lab at Harvard full of sensory deprivation tanks and a cow. (Apparently Harvard is known for having empty lab space just waiting to be used by mad scientists.) To track down the origin of the melty virus, Olivia has to take off her clothes, communicate psychically with lameass boyfriend, and get some information from a vaguely-defined terrorist. Also, she tries to get information from Massive Dynamic, a Genentech-style company that is run by Walter's old roommate. Turns out Massive Dynamic is basically like Creepy Tech Central (even though they don't own a satellite or invent new browsers and cell phone operating systems, which is like weird). OK, you got that? Well by the end, turns out lameass boyfriend is actually part of some stupid conspiracy called the Pattern, which Massive Dynamic is also part of. Luckily, lameass dies. And now Olivia is stuck with her mad scientist buddies solving crap every week. Since she's the super-cool Vague Agent, you'd think she'd be the one who would do all the awesome interrogating, right? Wrong. Last night's episode featured a very special EXTRA scene added after the leaked pilot zoomed around the interwebs. And that scene explained that the main role for Pacey, I mean Peter, will be "thug who can beat the shit out of suspects because he's not a Vague Agent." So this added scene establishes that Fringe will go where 24 has gone before: Straight to the torture zone. Who gives a shit about prisoner rights when we have melty viruses and the Pattern to worry about? An extra added scene of torture just for the transmitted version: Want to know the other giant amazing thing that got added to the end of the transmitted pilot of Fringe, just so PR people could tell you the ending is different? Yup, they added about 5 seconds of a picture of a door with a floaty leaf next to it. Here is the leaked pilot ending (with glamorous Italian subtitles): And here is the transmitted ending (with leaf!): Wow, that totally changes everything! I'm so glad they revamped this pilot after all the advance bad reviews it got when people watched the leaked version and pounded their faces into their keyboards. Here's the thing: I love the idea of fringe science. I love melty viruses, and I love Anna Torv as Olivia. But I'm not loving the mad scientists in Fringe at all. I don't want a mad scientist who tortures people, and I don't want their lab to be so preposterously inconceivable that even I with my love of mad science cannot suspend disbelief. I think if the show were basically Olivia vs. Massive Dynamic, with geekier scientists on her side, then I'd come back for more. As it is, I'll keep watching but my interest is waning fast.