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The Experiments of Walter Bishop

on Wed, 12/29/2010 - 00:00

Dr. Walter Bishop of the FOX drama Fringe is a brilliant scientist with a mind not only capable of expanding upon the scientific achievements of the past but of imagining the seemingly impossible and bending the rules of nature to make them reality as well. “He was part of a classified US Army experimental program called Calvin Genetics,” FBI Agent Olivia Dunham explains in regards to Bishop’s work in the 1970s. “They gave him the resources to do whatever work he wanted, which was primarily in the area called fringe science. Things like mind control, teleportation, astral projection, invisibility, genetic mutation, reincarnation.”

Despite such brilliance and free-reign, Walter Bishop was later confined to a mental institution for seventeen years following an accident at his lab that killed a young assistance. Although his psychological capacity deteriorated while there, many of his experiments were continued by an unknown group intent on using the world as a laboratory and the population-at-large as guinea pigs. Agent Dunham inevitably secures Bishop’s release to assist with the FBI’s investigation of these attacks, setting in motion the main storyline of Fringe. Walter Bishop’s past, however, is just as intriguing as the present and through the course of the greater Fringe narrative, small snippets of dialogue by Bishop reveal the true extent of his research on behalf of the US government.

“The human brain is like a computer,” Walter Bishop explains in regards to accessing the thoughts of a dead person. “The brain just needs electricity to function which the body ceases to produce upon death. In ’75 the FBI asked me to use this procedure. Someone had been murdered. I don’t recall his name. James, I believe, or Jimmy. They wanted to identify his assassin. Union leader, I think. The trouble was he had a shockingly low electro sensitivity. When I turned on the machine, it instantly fried his brain like an egg.”

“Years ago when I worked for the Defense Department, we were tasked to the program designed to cultivate soldiers. Quite literally. Grow them. It was highly theoretical of course. Female eggs were to be fertilized in a lab and given a cocktail of growth hormones. If perfected, a baby was born and within three years aged to be the equivalent of a twenty-one year old male. A soldier in prime condition. The only problem was how to slow the aging process once the subject had reached the desired physical age. Once started, we couldn’t turn the aging off.”

“We posited a spectrum of waves lying outside the range of those already discovered. We hypothesized that these waves could be used to communicate information. The government of course was extremely interested. It was a brilliant idea, a theory but a good one. They wanted to use the network to send the most clandestine information. They called it the ‘ghost network’ but they asked us to take it one step further, to develop a method where they could transmit directly from one person to another. I surmised that I could introduce an iridium-based organelle metallic compound into the subject’s brain.”

“Many years ago I worked on project Thor. The Department of Defense wanted a subterranean torpedo, a missile which could in theory be shot from anywhere in the world through the Earth’s core and hit its target on the other side.”

“The government had asked me if it was possible to make a human being trackable by pigeons. I’m sure it had something to do with the Commies, it always did back then. Regardless, our theory was that human beings are merely highly complex electrical systems. The heart, the brain driven by electrical impulses, and because everyone has a unique electro-magnetic signature, like a fingerprint, then we theorized that properly altered pigeons should be able to hone into that signature. But the human field was too weak so we tried to augment it, make it strong enough for the birds to detect. The side effects negated our plans. There was one test subject, every time she hiccupped the lights would dim.”

“Mind control. Wouldn’t be the first time someone’s attempted it. I told you about my work with the MK-Ultra Project. Of course at that time we supposed that we could do it with LSD and hypnotic suggestion.”

“In the late 70s, the army became obsessed with finding a new way to camouflage soldiers. They started experimenting with electro-magnetic pulses. The eye converts electro-magnetic energy into something the brain can understand. That’s how vision works. The army thought that if they could generate a massive electro-magnetic pulse then they could effectively scramble the optic nerve and, at the right frequency, make the soldiers invisible to the naked eye.”

“Avocado, cucumber and cheese. In 1974, the CIA asked me to develop the best sandwich for clarity of thought. Of course the chips are just because I like foods that crunch.”

The experiments of Walter Bishop extended beyond his work for the government, however, as he and partner William Bell had their own personal agendas and curiosities to go along with their contract work.

“Synaptic transfer system, shared dream state. The human brain generates a quantifiable electric field. I posited in 1976 that it is possible to synchronize the fields of two distinct minds to allow the sharing of information across the unconscious state, like a string between two tin cans. I have used this technique to extract information from a corpse once. You can do that if they haven’t been dead for longer than six hours.”

“I believe we may be dealing with a transgenic species. An animal creation, an organism made up of the genes of multiple species. The best of the best, as it were. Accelerated Darwinism. One would have to solve many problems—incompatible species, massive mutual rejection similar to when a transplant recipient rejects a donor organ. I tried to make it, twenty years ago.”

“I recalled an experiment that Belly and I did where we trained a handful of flatworms to respond to light and then crushed them up and fed them to other worms. It was Belly’s idea. The point is that these other worms, without having been trained, began to respond to light. It seems the first worms transferred their memories to the other worms through ingestion.”

While much of the work of Walter Bishop can obviously be considered morally questionable, his most dangerous discoveries and inventions had to do with his young son, Peter, and the extremes that a parent will go in order to protect their children.

“You nearly died when you were a boy. You started bruising and your kidneys failed. Doctors didn’t know what it was. The closest diagnosis was Hepia. It’s a rare form of bird flu, it hadn’t been around for decades. I became consumed with saving you, conquering the disease. In my research I discovered a doctor, Alfred Gross. Swiss, brilliant physician. He’s the only man who had ever successfully cured a case of Hepia. But there was a problem—he had died in 1936. And so I designed a device intended to reach back into time, to cross the time-space continuum and retrieve Alfred Gross. To bring him back with me to fix you, my dying son.”

Peter’s health also directly led to Walter Bishop’s obsession with an alternative universe that co-existed next to our own, an obsession also shared by William Bell.

“When Belly and I were younger men, we regularly ingested large quantities of LSD. We became convinced what we saw on the drug was real. We believed that we were catching glimpses of another reality, another world just like ours but slightly different. Populated by slightly different versions of ourselves. We all experience it momentarily as deja vu and Belly and I could prolong it with hallucinogenics but the question of course was, how to get there without LSD.”

“Based on our findings we developed a window of sorts, a way of looking into this neighboring world. This window works by capturing errant photons from the universe beside ours. The window essentially stretches the membrane between our worlds and allows us to see their image from our side.”

“Geometry and harmonic vibrations, that’s how we did it, Belly and I. Send Belly’s Monte Carlo from this universe to the other side. As I’ve said before, the two universes vibrate at different frequencies so we set up three harmonic rods arranged as an equilateral triangle and then we activated the rods. When the car began to vibrate at just the right frequency—that’s how we sent Belly’s car to the other side.”

Dr. Walter Bishop is by far one of the greatest scientific minds of the fictitious world of television, a man capable of turning the impossible into the possible. From traveling to alternative dimensions to mind control to talking to the dead, there is nothing that the man has not accomplished. He also personifies the fact that there are moral and ethical limits to scientific research and prices to be paid when they are broken—something Walter Bishop came to realize later in life.

Despite all of his achievements, however, arguably the man’s greatest accomplishment had to do with the fast-food chain known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“It was a Wednesday, 1983, when I happened to identify the last of the eleven secret herbs and spices.”

Unfortunately, seventeen years in a mental institution apparently erased the ingredients from his memory.

Anthony Letizia (December 29, 2010)

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