Fringe returns Tuesday with an all-new episode (9 pm/ET, Fox), and guess what? We still have a lot of burning questions about Olivia & Co. for executive producer Jeff Pinkner, so many that we had to split them into two stories. In this first part, he answers our questions about The Observer, Astrid Farnsworth and William Bell. The conversation is, of course, illuminating, frustrating, humorous and confusing. (Come back tomorrow for Pinkner's thoughts on the Bishop family, Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic.)
TVGuide.com: First topic of conversation: The Observer... Is he human? Alien? Something else? Does it matter?
Jeff Pinkner: Of course it matters. He's not an alien. I think X-Files covered aliens really well. When we set out to do Fringe, we said, "No aliens." Everything will be grounded in observable or at least theoretical science. Though there are many paranormal theorists out there that believe that aliens exist, without proof we didn't want to touch it.
TVGuide.com: So now we know that The Observer has been on the scene of every Fringe case. Was the actor actually there or was that just digital magic?
Pinkner: No, he has actually been there. He's a part of our family.
TVGuide.com: Is The Observer following Olivia and her team or is it that Olivia has caught on to what he's doing?
Pinkner: That's a very astute question. The Observer's presence at these sites and/or crime scenes and/or curiosities predates Olivia's participation in the world of Fringe. It also begs the question: Is there only one Observer? He seems to be in multiple places at the same time. It makes you wonder how he gets around and why nobody appears to have seen him.
TVGuide.com: What about his special language? Is he using some sort of code?
Pinkner: He's either using code or he's using a language that he and his colleagues use, one that we're just not familiar with. There are a lot of dead languages out there.
TVGuide.com: How was Olivia able to "touch" Agent Scott? Up until now, we've been able to dismiss his presence as a dream or hallucination.
Pinkner: If you recall, in the pilot, their brains were linked in the tank. Walter tells Olivia that portions of his memories are still in her head. It's essentially like a waking dream. If I took the contents of my computer and downloaded them into your computer, my computer would be residing in your hard drive. John is still residing in Olivia's brain.
TVGuide.com: Why did Astrid return to the lab after Walter drugged her?
Pinkner: She wasn't happy about it, but I think she recognizes what her job is. Walter is crazy and not always nice. I think she understands that he was doing what he thought was necessary. It's her job; she's a good soldier.
TVGuide.com: But does she have a vested interest in seeing Walter's work completed?
Pinkner: I think all our characters have a vested interest there. They are loyal.
TVGuide.com: But is it personal for her?
Pinkner: We haven't explored that on the show yet. We haven't revealed how that may be the case yet.
TVGuide.com: Will Peter's unethical past ever catch up with him, or are we to assume that the government has intervened on his behalf and resolved things?
Pinkner: No, I think his past will catch up with him.
TVGuide.com: What are we to make of all these online accompaniments to the show? How should we use them?
Pinkner: It was our intention that you wouldn't need any of them to watch the show. There are many Easter eggs, several of which have yet to be discovered by anybody — either on the show or out there on the Internet. There's a clue in every episode that tells you what the next episode will be about. [Editor's note: Remember the guy who submitted himself to medical testing and then survived that elevator crash? In the episode before that, the ad he answered is seen posted on a telephone pole.] They'll become more overt as we go along. In our estimation, in the age of the Internet or eBay, everything has become so easy. The easier the effort gets, the more diminished the reward is. If I were a kid and I knew that there was a secret hint on every episode of a television show I loved about what the next one would be, I would have a lot of fun looking for it. It's not as if there are any big secrets. "Nina Sharp is Peter Bishop's father" is never going to be spelled out in Easter eggs.
TVGuide.com: When will we meet William Bell? J.J. said it would be before the end of the first season; is that still true?
Pinkner: Most likely.
TVGuide.com: Have we already met William Bell?
TVGuide.com: When I spoke with executive producer Bob Orci earlier in the season, he mentioned that the actor who is going to play William Bell doesn't even know that they're William Bell. Does that mean you have an actor on standby?
TVGuide.com: Does he think he's going to be on Lost?
Pinkner: He may have already been on Lost.
Check back for Part 2 tomorrow!
Watch full episodes of Fringe in our Online Video Guide