The Many Names of Astrid Farnsworth


Agent Astrid Farnsworth

Once you notice the running conceit in Fringe where the Mad Scientist Walter Bishop consistently reinvents and varies Agent Farnsworth’s name, you mat find yourself wondering, “Why?”

Some people think it’s because Walter cannot remember Astrid’s name and this is how Walter expresses his profound affection for his infinitely patient, kind and compassionate  sidekick/caretaker/friend and mother hen. I, however, suspect that this little gag reflects is a voluntary affectation that the writers use to reiterate Astrid’s marginality and inescapably ancillary role in the story. For, you see, regardless of how brilliant, resourceful, the writers of Fringe want to remind us that POC characters only exist to serve at the pleasure and convenience of the white characters. One need only pay attention to how, in the first few episodes of the first season, Olivia herself apparently has no problem ordering her [very black] boss around and sending on errands — that is, as opposed to simply asking for the resources she needs. This particularly cringey dynamic gets someone corrected in later episodes when, presumably, someone reminds the writers that Agent Broyles is in fact not only Olivia’s supervisor as the Head of Fringe Division he is actually a regional director Special Agent-in-Charge with the Department of Homeland Security, Once they remember this, they frame Olivia’s newly-discovered civility as a sign of her growing personal regard for him because now she can trust him and he has become her friend.

Sadly, Astrid — a computer science genius who knows Latin well enough to extemporaneously translate it and immensely talented and decrypting obscure cyphers — never enjoys any such growth in regard, remaining the babysitting errand girl for Walter and everyone who works in his lab. So among Walter’s onomastic gems for his beloved Watson we find:

Asterisk – in conversation (The Cure)

Astro – in conversation (In Which We Meet Mr. Jones), during an urgent request (Inner Child), during lab work (White Tulip), on an access roster (Do Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep?), preparing to transfer Bell’s soul into a brain dead man(Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)

Asteroid – in conversation (In Which We Meet Mr. Jones)

Astringent – in the Lab Notes (The Dreamscape)

Astral – in conversation (Bad Dreams) as the first part of ‘astral…projection’ Walter appeared to be baiting her, suggesting that he knows about his failures, or that they are intentional.

Aspirin – in conversation (Midnight), rushing to leave for the market (The Box)

Asterix – in conversation and quickly corrected (A New Day In The Old Town). Knowingly, or not, the legendary Asterix is a diminutive, fearless, cunning warrior, always eager for new adventures… not unlike Agent Farnsworth

Astricks – during lab busy work (Of Human Action), during congratulations (Johari Window)

Ostrich – being summoned to confirm the color of blood (The Bishop Revival), while helping Walter up after a lightning strike(The Last Sam Weiss)

Esther Figglesworth – as part of the elaborate fable Walter imagines while entertaining Ella (Brown Betty)

Ashram – summoned by Walter to retrieve ingredients for a strawberry milkshake (The Firefly)

Claire – asked to tend to the cameras in the lab shortly after Walter learns he may be returning to Saint Claire‘s. (Subject 9).

Aphid – when summoned to bring Agent Lee more bacon to feed his transformation hungers. – (Nothing As It Seems).

Ascot – in his exuberance to see Peter and Olivia as a couple. – (The Consultant).

Athos – looking for a knife to dissect his lemon cake – pig brain cupcake. – (Brave New World, Part 1).

Alex – when he is explaining his plan to go to find Bell at the A-1 Imports. – (Brave New World, Part 1).


This entry was posted in literature, narrative, query, rhetoric. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply