Monday, April 5, 2010

Ten Interesting Influences on LOST

Getting ready for tomorrow's Desmond episode? According to Damon Lindelof, the next episode is going to totally "change the conversation." Crazy. Before the game gets changed on us, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the various pop culture influences on our favorite show. So, here's a list of ten interesting shows/movies/books or whatever that seem to have been an inspiration for the creators of Lost.


Remember the 1956 Cecil B. Demile version of The Ten Commandments? I do. As I child, it was hard not to be freaked out by that creepy scene where the angel of death comes to take all the Egyptians' firstborn. The monster is a black cloud of smoke, killing all the first born it comes into contact with and passing over the ones with the blood of a sacrificial lamb over their doors. This is obviously the special effects precursor to Smokey. Check out the video here, and scroll ahead to about the 6 minute mark to see the smoke monster's grandpa in action. There's always been a ton of Jewish/Old Testament inspired aspects to Lost, but until I watched this clip again I could never figure out how all the Egyptian imagery on Lost could fit in with anything. Could it have something to do with the Egyptians being the Jewish people's captors during this Biblical period? I don't know, but kind of interesting.


Donnie Darko, the original (and better) cut, was a very mysterious movie that actually required you to do a little research away from the film itself to understand what it was about. When the movie first came out, I spent a lot of time on the Donnie Darko website, which was actually a really well-designed game that gave you more info about the movie the more you dug into it. As you progressed through the game you were rewarded with the excerpts from Roberta Sparrow's book "The Philosophy of Time Travel". After reading the rules of time travel in that book, the plot of Donnie Darko came to light and the movie made much more sense. Donnie was supposed to die as a plane's jet engine crashed into his home, but he avoided that fate and in doing so created an alternate timeline. The very existence of this alternate timeline created an unstable world, that would ultimately lead to the destruction of all time lines (according to facts gleaned in the text of Sparrow's book). So Donnie had to face his fate and travel back in time to die as he was originally intended to, in order to save the world. I think this is a Lost influence that we'll see pay off more as the flash-sideways are explained.


Lost has lifted so much from the great, classic British Sci-Fi series The Prisoner that it's hard to keep track of everything. First, the main character on the island is classified with a number (like our Losties). Number 6 awakes to find himself in an oceanfront Village where he is kept prisoner by unknown forces, and desperately tries to find his way out of the village (ie. off the island). In the pilot episode, a mysterious monster appears (called Rover) that attacks anyone who is trying to fight the system established in the Village. The monster's arrival is announced by an odd sound (not unlike Smokey). The Village itself is surprisingly bright and cheerful, like the Other's Barracks were revealed to be at the beginning of Season 3. In the headquarters of the Village, there's an observatory room that looks a LOT like the inside of the hatch. There's even an episode in the middle of the series where The Prisoner actually escapes the Village way before you expect him to (not unlike when the Ocean Six escaped in Season 3.) In the end, Number 6 is given various injections and is tested by the leaders of the Village, before finally finding away into their inner chambers, which is underground. The scene where Number 6 starts to walk into the inner chambers is identical to the scene where Jack first walks into the Hatch in Season 2. Remember how weird it was at that tense moment, when a Mama Cass song from the late 60s started playing as Jack crept down the hallway of the Hatch? You can thank the Prisoner for that as well, because as Number 6 walks down the rocky hallway toward the reveal of the contents of the inner chambers, "All You Need is Love" ironically plays. Watch the video here, but if you haven't seen the show before, stop it right as they unlock the final door with a key or you're getting some pretty serious spoilers. Now, I will warn you that the show The Prisoner ended SO BADLY that its creator and star Patrick MacGoohan had to leave the country because people were so angry. Hopefully, Damon and Carlton won't have to do the same. That said, The Prisoner is still worth watching as a sometimes frustrating, but always incredible show that was WAY ahead of its time. For the record, the newly made Jim Cavezial/AMC version sucks.


Back in 1984, Marvel Comics released a 12-issue miniseries called Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. In it, a large gathering of heroes and villains find themselves brought to an isolated planet by a cosmic entity known as "The Beyonder" who wants to observe them. The Beyonder tells them: "Slay your enemies and all that you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!" I guarantee you that Damon Lindelof has read this series, but most nerds with street cred have. Anyway, the whole plot of Lost is turning out to be our Losties brought to the island for some kind of cosmic battle of good and evil, so this definitely seems like an influence.


Now, I haven't read all of Steven King's fantasy epic The Gunslinger, but I've read enough to know it involves alternate time lines and a cosmic battle of good and evil. And I know the villain is referred to as "The Man in Black." And I know that the Lost writers are Steven King fans. I read the original version of The Gunslinger way back in the day, like when it came out, and in my recollection it ended that the whole thing was happening inside a droplet of water on a blade of grass. Or something crappy like that. I think King has sense revised that ending to allow the story to evolve into other chapters. Let's hope Lost doesn't end that way. Side note, but did you know the show St. Elsewhere ended with the reveal that the entire show was taking place inside the mind of an Autistic child as he looked into a snow globe? Unbelievable.


While we're on the Steven King kick, it's impossible to ignore Season 6's similarity with The Stand. It starts with an infection that kills 99% of the population on Earth. Those who survive find themselves drawn to two camps, one camp is evil and led by a guy who becomes the embodiment of evil, the other is good and led by an elderly 108-year-old woman who is goodness personified. (108 is the sum of all the Lost numbers combined, by the way). In the end, they stage an epic battle between good and evil, known as The Stand, which determines the fate of the human race. Read more about the similarities here.


Okay, this one's a little bit of a stretch but I love Doctor Who so here goes. Remember the Dharma Orientation film for the Orchid? In it, Pierre Chang is holding a bunny and talking about time travel, when suddenly a second version of that bunny appears, and everyone freaks out. "Don't let them near each other," Pierre yells. Now, on the beloved (by me) original series of Doctor Who, there was a TON of time travel, because that was the whole premise of the show. But the one rule was that you couldn't meet your former self in time travel or the universe would basically explode. I've searched for the reference episode on that, but can't find it. But trust me, that was the rule (even though they found ways to break it quite often.) Not sure if the new (and less good) Doctor Who series carries on that rule, but I thought it was a fun explanation for the bunny scene in this video. I'm also not sure if this influence is intentional or just coincidental, but at least I got to talk about Doctor Who.


In the book Lost Horizon by James Hilton, people crash land in a plane and discover a hidden paradise in the mountains of Tibet. Once they're there, they find peace, love and a sense of purpose... however, they are forbidden to leave. When people enter the secret place, their aging slows. I haven't read it, but heard about the similarities from my friend Robert. Definitely sounds like a close relative of the island. (It also claims to be the first paperback ever made, but apparently that honor actually goes to the Good Earth, at least if you trust Wikipedia.)


Well, this connection is pretty obvious from the title alone, but The Mysterious Island is a book by Jules Verne. In it, men traveling in a hot air balloon (Henry Gale-style) crash onto an island that seems deserted but they soon learn that they're not alone as they find stockloads of guns and other strange signs of life. In the end, the mystery's solution is oddly (SPOILER) that the book is a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and that the people living on the island are Nemo and his crew. Strange, but kinda cool.


In honor of tomorrow's Desmond episode, I saved this one for last. Remember how Desmond kept jumping around in his own timeline, yet he was aware that he was doing it the entire time? That's exactly what happens to Slaughterhouse Five's protagonist Billy Pilgrim, as he finds himself "unstuck in time". He is able to visit various points of his life and even knows how and when he will die (likeDesmond knowing about Charlie's death.) The book also deals with familiar LOST themes of fate vs. free will.

What do you think? Noticed any other influences while watching the show? Put your nerd hat on and leave a comment below.

I should also point out that this list leaves off some references that have been already called out specifically in the show itself, like Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, the Wizard of Oz, and of course all of the other books that have actually appeared on screen. (If you're interested in learning more about the books featured on Lost, check out this site dedicated to them.)

Tomorrow's episode is entitled "Happy Ever After."


Old Man Crews said...

dude, the Marvel series with the Beyonder were my favorite of all time. thanks for making me remember that.

Zach said...

A videogame influence of LOST is the game MYST. Even Jorge Garcia admitted that the creators of the show pulled heavily from this Island-based mystery POV puzzler.

I too appreciate the Beyonder reference.

Angela said...

Coulter sent me a link a while back to a clip of The Seventh Seal, an Ingmar Berman film. She noted the similarities between that movie and lost. I think I remember reading that reference somewhere else, too.

soleado1128 said...

La Jetee, a 1962 french short film, deals with time travel. In it subjects are experimented on with time travel but go insane or die because they can't mentally handle it. They find a man who has a strong connection in his past and he is the one who can finally succeed in the experiment. Seems like the episode, The Constant, draws directly from this fabulous movie.

soleado1128 said...

La Jetee, a 1962 french short film, deals with time travel. In it subjects are experimented on with time travel but go insane or die because they can't mentally handle it. They find a man who has a strong connection in his past and he is the one who can finally succeed in the experiment. Seems like the episode, The Constant, draws directly from this fabulous movie.

soleado1128 said...

La Jetee, a 1962 french short film, deals with time travel. In it subjects are experimented on with time travel but go insane or die because they can't mentally handle it. They find a man who has a strong connection in his past and he is the one who can finally succeed in the experiment. Seems like the episode, The Constant, draws directly from this fabulous movie.