This week, the first season of J.J. Abrams' terrific television series Fringe comes to DVD, and if you haven't seen it yet, well, this is a great chance to catch up on what you missed before the new season starts on Sept. 17. The most intriguing character on the show is Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), once a brilliant, acclaimed scientist whose work in the area of "fringe science" made him the father of any number of ethically questionable, highly dangerous, and flat-out weird innovations that now seem to be popping up all over the place. In the tradition of the great mad scientists of literature and film, Bishop's brilliance and the nature of his work drove him bugnuts crazy, leading to his being institutionalized for 17 years.
Going back to Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Caligari and Dr. Mabuse, science has long been a force that drives gifted men insane, often with violent consequences. The underlying message is that we mere humans shouldn't play God, and the mad-science industry really boomed once we started testing atomic warheads in the 1940s. The later crop of science-based masterminds, like James Bond's nemesis Dr. No, Buckaroo Banzai's Dr. Emilio Lizardo, and Wild, Wild West's Dr. Loveless, were more interested in global domination than the usual areas of obsession like genetic mutation, robotics and bringing the dead back to life. But deep down inside, they're all mad scientists, and here are just a small handful of favorites: