On its surface Fringe is highly imaginative, what iffing TV at its best. The kind I like best. It makes me think, while grossing me out and insisting that Walter desperately needs a hug. That’s quite a lot for an hour (give or take a few thousand commercials) of entertainment in tightly pixelated form.

However.

While it’s always had its darkside, Fringe has taken a decidedly darker turn. It’s slipping down the carefully graded slope into deep dystopia. The Observer invasion and occupation has again turned what we thought we knew on its head. I’m good with that…even as it scares the crap out of me.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have possibly too much imagination. Present practically from birth, it makes me mentally time travel in historical settings, and of course sets me off into adventures in other lives lived in my head. Uh, talking about writing and screenwriting here, not mental illness! Sometimes the distinction is too easily blurred from the outside.

This überimagination can keep me awake at night, when it collides with a concept like The Observers. What iffing turns the inside of my head into its own pondered dystopia. What the heck if ideas generated by our incessant need to be entertained someday come to pass for real?

The Observers don’t bother me as a real possibility, so much as set me off into wondering what it would be like to have our entire world overtaken by something so chillingly other? The changes it would cause to our world, our lives, and quite likely our very humanity.

Another series scared me so much, in a subtle kind of way, that it literally did keep me awake at night.  I loved Alien Nation. First the movie, then the TV series. The blending of species and cultures and hearts. Slaves tasting forbidden freedom, while some of their hosts embraced them as others dredged up old prejudices and gave them a futuristic twist.

Then there were those few who in the age old double whammy of greed and power grabs decide it’s a good idea to sell out the former slaves, call out across the stars, and bring down the Overseers on the world’s collective head. How foolish can the quest for money and the soul crushing power it often drags in its wake make the human spirit? Very apparently, if you’re inclined to believe history.

That alone is scary enough, but it got me thinking about what would happen if we were discovered by  galactic slave traders for real. It couldn’t possibly turn out as relatively well as Princess Leia’s barely there bikini and potential life on a leash. There are no guarantees it would end in lifeless life oblivian encased in bronze like Han. No. Such a what if would most likely lead to a lifeless life of misery and pain. An eventual longing for the utopia called freedom, long reduced to vague genetic memory.

So, yeah, I thought about all that too much. The temporary obsession led to one of my Writers of the Future Quarter-Finalist stories, and eventually worked its way to the back of my mind. The place reserved for BEMs, things that go bump in the night, and the fear that Snooki clones will take over the known universe.

It became a mere whispery what if that gathered mental dust bunnies, until not so long ago when Stephen Hawking voiced the biggest what if dampener in recent history and brought it all back out into the light.
The man considered to possess the greatest mind of our time issued a warning.

He said it wasn’t wise to poke the sleeping giant with a stick. That’s the gist. It’s naive to believe there’s no other intelligent life. Out there. It’s even more naive to believe they’re all benevolent. The other evolent is the same one that’s worried me for so long.

Malevolence on a cosmic scale could be so much worse than Overseers and Observers. It could be on a scale we can’t even comprehend. And every time we send out a new invitation like Voyager and the ever more powerful signals we use to reach out toward deep, black, mysterious space, the bell can’t be unrung.

Do I think we should unring it if we could? Stop ringing it altogether?  That’s where I start trying to sweep the dustbunnies back into their designated mind corner. I do not know.

How do we decide to cut ourselves off from what could be unimaginable marvels? Or to continue to risk bringing down the dregs of the universe on our heads? The thing is that I don’t think there will ever be a decision to be made. Human nature demands that we reach. Outward. Inward. Everywhere there’s a question that won’t leave us alone.

Whether we acknowledge its importance or ignore it the fact is that we are seekers. If we think the truth really is out there, we won’t rest until we find it. If it brings joy and enlightenment, we’ll embrace it. Danger and loathing…we’ll fight it.

To. The. Death.

That’s who we are as sentient beings. It gave us Star Wars and Star Trek, the ISS and Hubble, Voyager and SETI. It gives us hope and courage and the indomitable spirit that sets us apart from the amoebas.

And it gives me the Observers and Overseers that terrify me in the dark of night and serve as counterparts to the Spocks and Luke Skywalkers that make me long for those shiny lights up in the darkness of space, and want with everything I am to explore them for myself.

That’s the power we really wield. The good kind. It lives in the place where Fringe and Stephen Hawking can collide and set off imaginings and fears and dreams. It comes from the most mighty machine in existence on this earth.

The human brain.

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