Last night was the highly-anticipated premiere of the sixth and final season of Lost, with the two part episode "LA X". As usual with the show, it was very mysterious and at times possibly even confusing. But any fan of Star Trek might have had an advantage in trying to figure it all out.
[LOST SPOILERS below]
Lost goes MWI?
In December I wrote about how it appeared that time travel and alternative universes/timelines seems to a popular growing trend on network TV shows, showing up in shows like Flash Forward, Heroes, Fringe and Lost. Of course these kinds of things are common in Star Trek (and other sci-fi shows). Season 5 of Lost was particularly time-travel heavy with some of the cast members hopping around time for much of the season. And the season ended with the show’s heroes (trapped in the 1970s) on a mission to change time itself. They were going to set of a nuclear bomb in a pocket of electromagnetism (Trek-like technobabble!), which was theorized to change their histories so that the fateful plane crash that launched the series and stranded them all on that island would never happen. Watching the finale last year was reminiscent of episodes of Trek like TNG’s "Yesterday’s Enterprise" or Voyager’s "Year of Hell" where the characters were doing all they can to hit that giant RESET button. The season ended with one of the characters (Juliet) literally banging on the bomb with a rock, doing her best to trigger that reset.
And when you watch the first four minutes of "LA X" (put online before the show aired), it appears that she was successful. Juliet hits bomb, bomb goes boom, and wammo everyone is back on Oceanic flight 815, which doesn’t crash on the island but instead comes into a nice landing at "LAX".
Opening scene of “LA X” hits the reset button, the island is gone and the plane never crashes
So far so good, right? Even if you have a passing familiarity with time travel movies like the Terminator or Back to the Future series, you can probably get what is going on here. But Star Trek’s Damon Lindelof (who co-wrote the episode) isn’t done yet. When we come back from the commercial break we are back on the island — the same island we just saw at the bottom of the ocean, but now very much above sea level. The same people we just saw on the plane are all there, but now brought forward in time (apparently to the present). What is really going on here?
What’s this? The Losties back on the island too? WTF?
The rest of the episode continues to jump back and forth between the island and the plane (and LAX) with the same characters living out two different paths. The folks on the island assume that their plan to hit the reset button has failed (although Juliet sends a message from beyond the grave to her boyfriend Sawyer that "it worked" but he doesn’t seem to understand it). And here is where regular Lost fans start wondering if they missed a scene. Looking at much of the early buzz, some fans were confused by the episode wondering what is the ‘real’ reality. However, if you are a Trekkie, this all seems to be familiar territory. Trekkies probably immediately thought "multiple timelines" or "parallel realities". Star Trek has many examples of this kind of thing, including TOS "Mirror, Mirror", TNG "Parallels", and even the 2009 Star Trek movie.
Final moments from TNG "Parellels" when the universe all meet each other
Essentially Lost appears to now have its own prime timeline (on the island) and an alternative timeline (where the island is toast and characters have landed in LA). Putting that in 2009 Star Trek movie terms, Juliet is Spock Prime (and Nero), the bomb was Red Matter, the pocket of electromagnetism was the Hobus Supernova and the island is the USS Kelvin. The difference on Lost is we now get to see what is happening in both timelines.
Damon Lindelof sits on the Trekkie wing (along with Bob Orci) of the new Star Trek Supreme Court, and he is steeped in time travel and alternative reality lore. He and I discuss both at length in our audio commentary for the time-travel Star Trek movie Star Trek First Contact (from the 2009 re-release). And Lindelof is not shy from borrowing from Trek. The first Lost episode that dipped into the world of time-travel was "The Constant" from Season 4. In a 2008 interview with TrekMovie, Lindelof admitted that episode was their version of TNG’s "All Good Things."
Scene from TNG "Yesterday’s Enterprise" – Guinan knows an alternate timeline when she sees one
So far no one in either of the Lost realities seems to be aware that there are two going on, in other words there is no "Guinan" around saying "this is wrong", but there is much more to go in season six and for all we know this has nothing to do with multiple timelines at all. To date the Lost version of time travel was based around the notion of the predestination paradox, or "what happened, happened" and you cannot change the past. However, the plan with the bomb and the electromagnetism pocket was hatched based on the notion that it was an exception to that rule, and so now the show seems to have adopted the multiple timestreams approach (and gone the quantum physics many worlds interpretation route being adopted by shows like Fringe). Then again, maybe this stuff is all a dream sequence and someone is about to step out of a shower.
One thing is for sure and that is that Lost remains one of the most intriguing and fun shows on television and kicked off its final season with a whole bunch answers along with its own set of new mysteries.
If you missed it, you can watch the full season premiere at abc.go.com.
You can also watch interviews, clips and more at abc.go.com
Here is the promo for next week’s episode (showing images from the island timeline).
and a sneak peak (from the reset timeline)
Damon and Carlton answer questions on Jimmy Kimmel
Lost Executive Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were guests on last night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC and they answered some questions about the season premiere. They also revealed the series finale will be on Sunday May 23rd. You can watch their appearance below (in two parts).