'Lost': An Indiana Jones Connection?
Awaiting tonight's Jack flash forward, Doc Jensen explores the show's links to ''Raiders of the Lost Ark,'' ''The X-Files,'' and other forebears
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''THE TEASE!
We begin with some cryptic intel provided by exec producer Damon Lindelof at the request of the author seeking illumination about tonight's 10th episode of Lost's fourth season, ''Something Nice Back Home'' — a flash forward affair focusing on Dr. Jack Shepherd, whose Island-present circumstances are currently marked by a squirmy stomach and shameful despair over trusting these freaky freighter folk...
Sayeth Damon: ''Remember after the finale last season when everyone was asking us why Jack was blathering on about his father in what turned out to be our first flash-forward? It was just the booze and pills talking, right? And hey...why did he start taking pills in the first place?''
Sounds like a case of Physician: Heal thyself!
Special ''Shape of Things to Come'' Edition
If my overstuffed mailbox (JeffJensenEW@aol.com) is any indication, last week's episode may have been one of the show's most theory-sparking, imagination-engaging, question-provoking ever. To wit:
In your recap of ''The Shape of Things to Come,'' you mentioned how the game of Risk played by Locke, Hurley, and Sawyer foreshadowed Ben's risky and failed gambit to save his daughter. But something else that could have much more significance was Hurley's comment: ''Australia is the key to the game.'' Maybe I'm just taking it as more than it is, but I believe it is worth some speculation. Something to do with Mu, perhaps? — Marina
Dear Marina: Excellent point. I was much too busy excavating possible links to the conspicuously dropped date of Ben's flash forward — Oct. 24, 2005 — that I missed many obvious bits of intrigue, especially that Risk business. I'm not sure Hurley's Australia line was a nod to the lost continent of Mu — but it could be more significant than a mere reminder that this entire saga started in Sydney. Remember the season 2 episode called ''S.O.S.,'' in which Bernard and Rose visited a faith healer in the outback? Well, the episode featured a shot of a natural landmark of great significance in mystic/fringe science circles, a butte known as Ayers Rock. The Aborigines consider it a flashpoint of creation energy and entrance into an eternal realm of supernatural synchronicity called ''Dreamtime''; New Agers think it's an electromagnetic hot spot pulsing with mystical energy; and UFO buffs think it's an alien landing pad. (The correct answer, as I will soon prove, is actually...alien landing pad!)
Sci-fi hoo-ha aside, I choose to see the Risk game as an expression of character ideas. For example, the most interesting thing to me about the game was Sawyer's silly, reckless play to put Australia at risk just so he can acquire...Siberia. Now, what do Australia and Siberia have in common? They're both synonymous with being veritable prisons (Australia being a former penal colony; Siberia being the place the Soviets shipped dissidents and other ''Others''). So here was Sawyer, trading one prison country for another. This, to me, mirrors the flash-forward fate of the Oceanic 6, for whom rescue will lead to another, more figurative form of imprisonment, and perhaps serves as literal foreshadowing for what will happen to Sawyer himself.
If Ben can time travel, why doesn't/can't he go back in time to save Alex? — Lisa
Dear Lisa: I think he can't change the past because of ''course correction,'' the Lost idea that changing the past is all but impossible. Yeah, maybe he could alter the form of Alex's death, but Fate wants her dead, so it would just find another way to do it. Further, I don't think Ben would even give it a try, because even though Widmore ''changed the rules,'' I actually think Ben is still playing the game honorably, with respect for the integrity of the cosmos. Sure, he threatened to get tit-for-tat with Widmore by swearing to slay Penelope...but who says he's telling the truth? What if Ben is merely saying as much in order to bait Widmore into making a strategic mistake?
And the Fan Theory of the Week goes to...
Bill Geoghegan, who writes: ''Hi Jeff! After re-watching ''The Shape of Things to Come'' for the third time I had a minor epiphany about Charles Widmore — or should I say Captain Hanso?! Here goes: 'That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.' When Widmore makes his claim to the Island during the bedroom scene with Ben, it's frustratingly vague, leaving so much unsaid. It hints at a history that may stretch back ...well...further than would seem natural. Like the ageless Mr. Alpert, Charles Widmore may be a man whose appearance might seem downright youthful when given his real age. Exactly what is Widmore's connection to the Island and when did he come to call it his own? Drawing a conclusion based on the clues we have right now, I'd say that Widmore's real identity is...Magnus Hanso! Yep, Captain of the Black Rock. He found the Island by accident, shipwrecked maybe, but eventually he mastered its secrets. For a time he ruled it as his own, but ultimately, somehow, got expelled from its life-preserving shores. Can't you just see him on the deck of some old English freighter, barking out orders to the sailors? And a slave trader, no less — just the type of occupation you'd expect of this sneering, grizzled old buzzard. Besides the perfect personality match, there's an even bigger clue: his bidding on the journal from the Black Rock. Obviously, he knows something of this ship and its connection to the Island. But how? And lastly, there's his sponsoring of the sailing competition that Desmond entered. If Widmore was once a seafaring man himself, it would be natural that he'd take pleasure in the epic challenges of men crossing the high seas.''
Dear Bill: Your grasp of Lost arcana — gleaned from the blast-door map and ''The Lost Experience'' (in case any ''non-cultists'' out there feel...well, lost) — dazzles me, so much so that your hypothesis is my new default Charles Widmore theory. A no prize to you!
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!Toward an extraterrestrial and Egypt-y theory of Lost — in which Doc Jensen converses with the only normal person he knows: Himself!
JEFF JENSEN: Hey Doc!DOC JENSEN: Hey Jeff! How are you?
Swell! Listen, some of my ''non-cultist'' Lost friends have a question about last week's episode, ''The Shape of Things to Come,'' and they wanted to know if you had any insight. Do you have a moment? Sure. Let me just put down by Bible concordance and complete collection of Carmine Infantino Flash comics and I can be mentally present with you. [THUMP!]
So you really watch the show with that stuff? Nah. I watch — and appreciate — the show just like everyone else. I don't consult that stuff until days later, either for fun to write my Doc Jensen columns, which, to be clear, is fun, too.
Interesting. You know, most obsessed fans express their fandom by, say, buying Jimmy Choo shoes. But you, like, read books. You're weird! I know! Anyway, you had a question?
Oh, yes. Okay, you know that secret room in Ben's house, and that wall or door with all those hieroglyphics carved in it? Yes.
Ummm...what was that? It is further proof that the ancient civilization that once lived on the Island — the society responsible for the four-toed statue and the ruins where Ben tried to get Locke to kill his dad — was actually a very advanced civilization from another planet.
[Silence]You look puzzled.
Well, yeah. Are you suggesting...aliens? On the Island? Yes.
How do you figure that? Because the glyphs are Egyptian. And as everyone knows, the aliens built the pyramids.
I think you're going to have to give me a little more proof than a nutty conspiracy theory. What clues do you see in Lost that suggest aliens? You mean, besides the conspicuous dropping of Philip K. Dick's book Valis earlier this season?
Sure. Besides that. Well, according to Koobie at DocArzt.com, the simplest translation of those Egyptian hieroglyphics on the door is: ''to summon protection.''
JEFF JENSEN: Interesting: That's valuable info to ponder, even if this alien theory of yours doesn't add up. DOC JENSEN: Good point. Consider it pondered. Now, let's assume as correct the conventional wisdom that ''to summon protection'' is a reference to Smokey the Monster — i.e. ''the Island's security system,'' to quote the late, lamented Rousseau.
Okay. Now, there's an Egyptian deity named Khonsu, or Khonshu, a lunar God, who functioned as a bloodthirsty avenging angel for pharaohs and protector to night travelers. Sounds kinda like Smokey, killing freighter mercs for King Ben and providing safe passage for the castaways as they escaped into the evening. Think of Smokey as the Island's superhero — like the Dark Knight himself, Batman, or better yet, Moon Knight, a Marvel superhero who gets his powers from — you guessed it — the lunar god Khonshu!
Okay, a couple things. First, I didn't guess, and would never have guessed that in a thousand years. Second, those connections could be pure coincidence. You can't honestly tell me that this ''Khonsu'' really has anything to do with Lost.No? According to Wikipedia, Khonsu was also known to ''increase male virility'' (see: Jin's increased sperm count on the Island) and ''aid in healing'' (see: Locke, Rose, Patchy). He also was a deity of childbirth (see: Island fertility issues). Khonsu's father, by the way, was the sun god Amun, whose name means ''hidden.'' Bookmark this idea: We're coming back to it in a few weeks. From this word, we get ''cornu ammonis,'' which refers to a region of the brain that governs two faculties of extreme importance to Lost: long-term memory and spatial reasoning. In other words: time and space.
Doc, you're lapsing into crazy talk again. Give me something solid I can take back to my friends. Even if Lost is intentionally nodding to this Khonsu dude, how does it connect further to aliens? Because of Indiana Jones.
WHAT?! Khonsu — along with his parents — was the guardian deities of the Egyptian city of Tanis, a crucial location in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's where Indy found the Well of Souls (not a bad way to think of the Island) and, later, the Ark of the Covenant itself, which contains the protective power of God, who in the Old Testament took the form of...a wandering dark cloud (think: Smokey). Tanis is also the site of a major ''necropolis,'' or Egyptian city of the dead. Now, remember those Egyptian hieroglyphics in the Hatch?
[Headshaking bewilderment]They translated into ''underworld,'' which —
YOU'RE EVADING THE ISSUE HERE, WHICH IS ALIENS. THERE ARE NO ALIENS IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!But there are supposed to be aliens in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in theaters May 22. Or have you not read EW's recent article on the movie in the magazine's Summer Movie Preview? Apparently, the Indiana Jones franchise is about to make a big leap from mystical fantasy into alien-oriented sci-fi. Is Lost about to make the same leap? [Indeed, my editor, Mr. Joshua ''I just got engaged, woo-hoo!'' Rich, is so taken by this connection, he adds the following: ''Lost and Raiders of the Lost Ark do share an important word in their titles. In fact, what does 'Lost' mean in the Raiders title? The Ark wasn't really 'lost,' per se — it was hidden, tucked away, placed somewhere so that people couldn't find it, somewhere that required all sorts of supernatural trickery in order to get to. BY SOMEONE. FOR A REASON.]
Okay, you're just being silly here. I'll grant you, you've made some nifty connections between Smokey and this Khonsu fellow, but dragging Indiana Jones into your insanity via this flimsy connection to Tanis and the climactic scene of Raiders en route to proving your theory that extraterrestrials play a key role in the Island mythology of Lost is just plain poppycock! Okay. But what about The X-Files?
What about it? Surely you've noticed the enormous number of analogous elements between Lost and The X-Files, a TV show practically synonymous with aliens?
No, I haven't, but I'm sure you're going to tell me. Yes, I am. Let's forget for a moment that the mythology of The X-Files also forged links between aliens and ancient civilizations, including glyph-happy cultures like the Mayans, Egyptians, and others —
JEFF JENSEN: Okay, let's forget that.DOC JENSEN: There's at least three undeniable parallels. (1) A debate between reason and faith embodied by two main, rival characters. In Lost, it's Jack and Locke; in The X-Files, it's Scully and Mulder. (2) A tragic villain who possesses forbidden knowledge and enormous manipulative powers. In Lost, it's Ben, who had a cancerous tumor on his spine; in The X-Files, it's Cigarette Smoking Man, also known as Cancer Man. (3) Both shows have some kind of elemental black substance imbued with sentient consciousness. In Lost, it's Smokey; in The X-Files, it's the black oil, which, as it turned out, was a repository for alien life seeking to recombine with a more traditional body. Do you see where I'm going with this?
Are you trying to suggest that Smokey might also be a vehicle for a disembodied alien mind? I'm thinking that it's a possibility. Like, what if to cheat death, the alien culture that was once on the Island downloaded the massive electrical current of their collective consciousness into a medium or vehicle that could sustain it? You know: Twister meets Being John Malkovich.
So if Smokey is E.T., then would Ben be its Elliott? Ha! That's pretty funny. Actually, I was going to suggest that Ben might be trying to help Smokey ''phone home,'' if you will. Like, what if Smokey's spaceship crashed on the Island a loooong time ago, and the destruction of the vessel's warp engines ruptured reality and created the time-space phenomenon around the Island, and ever since, Smokey has been waiting for the day that our civilization catches up to its civilization so we can create technology that could either summon a rescue vessel or even repair its own spaceship (which is buried deep below the Island) and go home? In a sense, Smokey could be a castaway, too; he's...lost.
But how does Ben fit into that theory? You said he was helping Smokey? Right, well you know that part about the ship's warp drive rupturing reality and creating that time-space phenomenon?
Yeah? Well, what's happened is that, ever since, people have been coming to the Island and trying to figure out how to exploit that anomaly for their advantage.
How so? The anomaly can be harnessed for time travel. Smokey has a problem with that, because he doesn't want the timeline screwed around with in any way that could prevent human civilization from becoming sophisticated enough to fix his ship. Ben has been helping Smokey in that effort.
Why? I don't know. Like I said: I was going to suggest this theory, but I decided against it.
Because it's totally stupid? No, because I'm not totally convinced Ben really has the kind of monster-in-the-closet rapport with Smokey like everyone else is currently theorizing.
It looked pretty obvious to me. He sicced Smokey on those freighter freaks like a bloodthirsty pit bull! Actually, we don't know if he did that at all. We're just assuming he did, based on the appearance of cause and effect. But like Desmond David Hume's philosopher namesake always insisted, you can't always trust the appearance of cause and effect. For example, consider this scenario: What if Ben didn't go to Smokey's hideaway but instead got into a time machine, projected his consciousness ahead in time an hour or later, and learned about Smokey's attack on New Otherton, then zipped back and planned an escape plan around such a plan?
Yeah, I buy that. But I'm not buying your alien crap or Smokey-is-an-E.T. nonsense. It's easier for me to believe that Smokey is a supernatural entity, like that ''Jinn'' thing you mentioned a couple weeks back in your wormhole/time-travel theory. Okay. But just remember what the late, great Arthur C. Clarke said.
And what did he say? ''Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.''
You know, it's amazing to me more people don't find you annoying. I don't know why I even put up with you. You and me both.
Tomorrow: my recap of ''Something Nice Back Home.''
Next week: therapy.