Last week two shows created by J.J. Abrams centered heavily on the idea of an alternate universe. On Lost, the show introduced an altverse where the bomb blew up the Island and Oceanic 815 landed safely in Los Angeles. On Fringe, the team got one step closer to tracking down the man trying to bring down the walls between two parallel universes.
But which altverse is superior? Which show handles the idea of an alternate universe more realistically, more dramatically and more compellingly? It’s the ultimate J.J. showdown between his former series and his current one.
LOST PRO: Details and Characters
The altverse on Lost is extensive and viewers actually get a chance to see it. While it’s sometimes tricky to figure out everything that’s going on, those mysteries are part of the fun. Also, since we already know all of these characters, seeing them act different is an interesting theoretical exercise.
FRINGE PRO: Plot Relevance
The best part of Fringe is that it’s all about the two universes. Both sides are aware of each other and the fundamental conflict of the series is all about trying to prevent the two sides from colliding. Characters have gone back and forth between the two sides, and we learned, not to anyone’s surprise, that Peter is actually from the other universe, most likely kidnapped by Walter after the real Peter drowned.
LOST CON: No Crossover
The main problem with Lost is the lack of obvious crossover between the two universes. The characters in both universes are completely unaware that the other side exists, making them two independent stories. Without a tangible connection between the two, it’s all just hypothetical.
FRINGE CON: The Mystery of the Other Side
While Lost offers plenty of time in the altverse to explore the differences, we’ve seen very little of the other side of Fringe. We know the World Trade Center is still standing and that the terrorists attacked the White House on 9/11, but what else is different? What is the origin of the separation?
The story is even more frustrating if you’re a casual viewer. To help publicize the series, FOX sent critics a fake newspaper from the parallel universe on Fringe seen briefly in an episode. It showed how deep and interesting the world is. John F. Kennedy is the United Nations ambassador, John Lennon is reuniting with the Beatles and Star Trek was the highest grossing film at the box office. These little nuggets existed for critics, but anyone watching at home would have no idea how interesting this other world might be.
WHICH SHOW’S ALTVERSE IS BETTER?
In the end, this question could have different answers for different fans. If you’re a sci-fi purist who is truly interested in the concept of alternate universes, Fringe is for you. If you’re a casual fan or more interested in the characters and stories than the sci-fi, then Lost‘s altverse is the place to be.
For me, I fall into the sci-fi geek category and therefore think Fringe has the superior take on alternate universes. But the more important point is that both shows can improve. Lost can start connecting and crossing over the two universes while Fringe can spend more time in its other world, showing it to us.
If both Lost and Fringe manage to fine tune their alternate universes, the world of science fiction television will get a lot better and a lot more fun.
(Images courtesy of FOX and ABC)