Like Doctor Strange 2? Now Watch This Sci-Fi Show With The Same Basic Plot

(Warning: the following contains major SPOILERS for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" and "Fringe.")

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" offered some exciting twists and turns involving parallel worlds and parental longing — not unlike a certain sci-fi TV show from the 2010s. The Sam Raimi movie is the director's first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it features his signature style; the horror elements are at the forefront, mixed with a healthy dose of humor. And of course, it wouldn't be a Raimi film without an appearance by Bruce Campbell, who plays an ill-fated Pizza Poppa.

Surprisingly, the multiverse did not appear much in the MCU movie, unlike in "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse," which found ways to incorporate its multiverse concept into the main story, or "Everything Everywhere All at Once," which revels in showing off bizarre and memorable different worlds. Still, the idea of the MCU multiverse is the key to the story in "Multiverse of Madness," with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) desperately seeking out America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) to gain access to other worlds. Why? So she can steal her sons, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne) Maximoff, from a universe where they exist. 

If you really enjoyed the weirder elements of "Multiverse of Madness" — the brutality, the parallel worlds, the repercussions for breaking natural laws, and the drama of a grieving parent making unethical choices out of desperation — well then, do I have a series for you!

Fringe: a totally unique sci-fi serial

Fans of the show "Fringe" might find the plot of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" familiar. That's because it parallels the overarching plot of the first few seasons. On the surface, the properties couldn't be more different: The Fox TV series was a sci-fi serial about the investigations of the FBI's "Fringe Division," while the MCU movie is about Stephen Strange trying to prevent the magic-using Scarlet Witch from killing a portal-creating teenage girl. However, when you look at the main story beats, there are some surprising similarities.

Now available to stream on HBO Max, "Fringe" is addictive sci-fi TV at its best. It began as a mystery-of-the-week series about FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) joining the Fringe Division of the bureau. She enlists the help of scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) when she realizes his unorthodox research could help with her case. However, he's mentally unstable — he's actually been institutionalized for years — necessitating the assistance of Walter's estranged son, Peter (Joshua Jackson). With the help of Olivia's assistant, the FBI Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), the group investigates paranormal activity like spontaneous combustion, bizarre parasites, and an internet video that literally melts the viewer's brain. It's a fun series that often nods to "The X-Files" as inspiration (without the aliens), while also being willing to wade even deeper into conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and metaphysics. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness echoes Fringe

Unlike "The X-Files," which sprinkled in its overarching mythology sparingly across its run, "Fringe" season 1 was built around the central mystery of "The Pattern." This builds up to a number of shocking reveals (I'll spoil as little as possible here), including the revelation of parallel worlds. What's worse, in season 2 viewers learn a gateway had previously been opened to another timeline, deemed Earth-2, and now the barrier between the universes is corroding as a result. If the two worlds are to collide, it would be devastating as different objects, animals, people, etc., would be forced to occupy the same space at the same time, with catastrophic and unpredictable results.

Although it deals in magic and not fringe science, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" presents similar stakes: Those who dared to futz around in other universes (really, only alternate versions of Stephen Strange, corrupted by the Darkhold) had caused their own world to collapse — a phenomenon known as an "incursion." It's not exactly the same, but definitely similar, and both the TV show and the MCU movie use the opportunity to show off visually with some fantastic special effects.

Same threats, powerful performances

In another striking similarity, the threat to the parallel Earths in "Fringe" is also the result of a parent longing for a child. In "Multiverse of Madness," Wanda is desperate to reunite with Billy and Tommy after the events in "WandaVision," and she realizes that stealing them from a reality where they exist is the most effective (if undeniably evil — you are a monster, Wanda!) way to make that happen. In "Fringe," the drama is not so clear cut: Walter opened the original portal to Earth-2 after his son Peter died of an illness, but he had never intended to take Peter for himself. He found solace in watching another version of himself trying to find a cure; however, due to unforeseen events, Earth-2 Walter (or "Walternate") made a mistake in his research. Walter crossed over to cure Peter-2, but — again due to unforeseen events — was forced to bring Peter to Earth-1 and cure him there, and then was unable to make the journey back. Walternate was, understandably, none too pleased when he worked out what had happened.

"Fringe" is a bit of a mixed bag, and it's not for everyone (a bit like "Multiverse of Madness"). But it has a fascinating mythology driving the show, and the relationships between Walter, Peter, and Olivia are compelling. Walter is easily one of my all-time favorite TV characters; he's funny, quirky, and charming, yet also deeply tragic. Like Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, John Noble gives a captivating performance in the role(s) — sometimes villain (as Walternate), sometimes hero, but always interesting to watch. Although there are some similarities between "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" and "Fringe," both are highly imaginative, entertaining stories. So if you haven't experienced the sci-fi series yet, you should definitely go give it a watch.