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January 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST

From Gene the cow to the Transilience Thought-Unifier Model-11, props were a big part of the mythology of Fringe. 

Property master Rob Smith — whose previous work includes The Outer LimitsDark Angel and the 4400 — told EW where he found some of his most bizarre building materials, why the show’s version of 2036 didn’t include flying cars or the iPhone 25, and more details on creating Fringe‘s many memorable (and a few forgettable) sci-fi gadgets.

1. Even though he didn’t create it, the neurostimulator is one of Smith’s favorite Fringe props

Smith joined the show’s prop department for the show’s second season, which meant he had to get up to speed on all of the gadgets introduced in season 1. “I think it was about the 4th episode of season 2, and in the script they called for the neurostimulator, and I didn’t really know the episodes well enough to say, ‘Oh, ok, that’s exactly what it is.’ So I talked to the director, who had been on season 1, and he goes, ‘Oh, I don’t know, it’s just something that goes on the guy’s head,'” Smith remembered. “When I finally realized what it was, I [found out] it was actually a rental piece that they had returned. So I had to re-make it over a weekend, which was a little bit stressful.”

Why was the prop so important to the plot? “The neurostimulator defined the way that Walter works. He’s this mad scientist who takes conventional science and then puts his own twist on it, as it were. And then the thing that struck me about that one was that it made me uncomfortable to look at it,” Smith explains. “It’s one of those things that people love and hate about Fringe, it puts your out of your comfort zone. That’s sort of what I was trying to say about Walter… there’s kind of a bird’s nest of wires everywhere, and then they end up on the guy’s head, and from that he can tell what the guy’s thinking. It’s quite cool.”

Next: Time crunch

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Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, and John Noble star in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama
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