Oct. 23, 2013
Previously on “Get” Lost:
I once told you about the plot of “One of Our Aircraft Is Empty”, an episode of Department S.
...you can shut me up for $6.4 million.
You haven't forked over the dough, so....
My recollection of Dept. S (the correct spelling of the show's title) was so dim that I mangled its plot in that first entry of “Get” Lost, but now thanks to the miracle of Internet piracy I've had a chance to review many of its episodes, and I find that the aforementioned episode was just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks in large part to that series' recycling of its own plots, “variations on a theme” if we want to be more charitable, a large number of its episodes were shouted out to on Lost:
“Six Days”, in which an airline flight arrives that late. Evidence is discovered of most of the passengers' having been KOd chemically and one of them, the foreign minister, mentally manipulated. (Hilarious satire when you realize something's up when the British foreign minister cites moral concerns for a policy decision!)
“One of Our Aircraft Is Empty”, in which the airliner arrives seemingly that way. The passengers were hiding out willingly on an island (hey, Ireland is one) in a plot made to cover up the death of an important person.
“The Man in the Elegant Room”, in which a room was copied to make its occupant believe he was in the space it was a copy of.
“Black Out”, wherein someone wakes up unaccountably in the desert.
“The Double Death of Charlie Crippen”, the name given by an investigator to a dummy assassinated in place of the real target, who had already faked his own death once. Subsequently he has to withstand an assault by revolutionaries from a blue VW minibus. Or was that “Dead Men Die Twice”? Easy to confuse these. Jason King's interrogation of the dummy is recalled by Benry's colloquy with the empty chair.
“A Perfect Operation”, in which one neurosurgeon substitutes for another during surgery, to keep the patient's secret.
“The Bones of Byrom Blain”, another plot of substitution of persons, though on a larger scale, and with another mock-up setting and mind manipulation.
“The Duplicated Man”, which I've saved for last because it's practically Lost in miniature.
I prefer the German title of that last one, “Doppelt Oder Nichts”: “Double Or Nothing”. In it, someone had for many years made himself valuable as a double agent by affecting the persona of someone else he strongly resembled, and living a double life. The other person was a cripple as a result of an injury as a parachutist, so the double wore a nail in his shoe for years to simulate the other one's limp. The double lived on after the person he was modeling died. He was discovered, however, and was put on a small airplane by someone who carried a gun to make sure he got on that plane, which would fly him to his eventual doom. However, the double short circuited the operation by blowing up the plane in flight as witnessed by passengers on a ferry boat. He parachuted to the ground safely, which of course “he” “couldn't” do because of “his”injury, having killed that troublesome identity. (Seems Lost might've had one Charlie who was a champion swimmer and another who couldn't swim.) “I am dead [but I'm here].” But he was still discovered, leading to a great scene that ended when he jumped off a roof to his second death. The only thing Locke (or his double) was missing was a comparable interest to this character's in antiques; but then, Locke was missing Mr. Clean's earring and mop too.
So we now know where Charlie's “DS” signet ring comes from. Clearly he consciously modeled his machinations on those of Dept. S, and even got up the band Drive Shaft in imitation of the British New Wave band Department S, which was named for the TV series of a decade earlier, which is in turn widely believed to have gotten its initials from producer Dennis Spooner. Of course we already knew Charlie was getting a laugh that way with his lyrics about “acting like those stupid people”. And speaking of music, Mr. Giacchino got in his own gag by making the first four notes or half-bar of the opening scene music of Lost match those of the Dept. S theme.
Meanwhile, every adaptation I've gotten of “The Lost Special” has had features that leave their signature on Lost. It's like you were saying you'd been there, because you knew I would get there eventually. Last time I mentioned the peculiarities reflected from the Suspense and Escape radio adaptations. The more recent one for Radio Mystery Theater, alternately titled “The Mysterious Rochdale Special” (which I may have heard when it aired, but have now obtained via a curator), contained the little detail about the possibility of an engine explosion. A still more recent radio adaptation was too late to have influenced Lost, but brought out a detail which you may have considered implicit in the original, which was that the secret being kept was of vital interest not only as concerned Important Persons in France, but also in world affairs. But it was the movie serial (which turned out to be easily obtained on DVD) that had the most laughs of recognition:
the 3-piece breakup of the train (which might be thought implicit in the original)
replacing the weeds where track was temporarily relaid (as possible with the Black Rock)
a post-auto-wreck shot that recalls Claire's
the rope-and-knife torture (Boone's)
the Tank Room (“We don't know why, but the previous occupants built a room that could be flooded.”)
the fight affecting the controls of the Tank Room
the cut from the dancing ladies to the back room at The Red Lantern (à la “Exposé”)
“We'll have to keep this out of the news.” (“We're going to have to lie.”)
I have every reason to think the pattern will be repeated from August Darleth's Solar Pons version and Ellery Queen's “The Lost Locomotive” (or “A Snowball in July”), because you seem thorough. And now I see how funny you could think “Lost on Gilligan's Island” was when it made out Lost as having been the shortened title, because it was from that of “The Lost Special”.
But the real find was the most fundamental of all: the realization that Jane Slater in Watchmen was an allusion to engineer John Slater in “The Lost Special”. They were both innocents killed to help maintain a secret, and the name resemblance is too much to be a coincidence in view of how Alan Moore says he steals from A.C. Doyle. So is this really what Lost was all about: your way of telling Alan Moore, “I saw what you did there.”? That you saw that he expected someone to discover that Watchmen is an adaptation of “The Lost Special”, considering he put in such a big clue, and so you did the same with Lost, including allusions to Watchmen, expecting him and possibly one of your father's fanatic friends to discover that too?
Yet your trail of allusions doesn't move in only the “vertical” direction with adaptations of A.C. Doyle's original (which trail probably begins earlier with the real world Engine 115). It also extends “horizontally” into other stories collected in Tales of Terror and Mystery:
From “The Horror of the Heights” came the Smoke Monster, whose “serpent-like coil came from behind and caught me round the waist, dragging me out of the fuselage.”
Also from that story came the unusual deflection of the magnetic compass.
From “The Curse of Lady Sannox” came the phony Muslim I believe Saïd to have been.
From that same story, the brilliant and philandering surgeon induced to operate under false pretenses.
Finally from that story, the credulity of persons regarding the alleged properties of mysterious poisons and infections.
“The Brazilian Cat” was among your sources for the theme of usurpation of inheritance or succession.
From that same story came “the acclimatization of foreign creatures”. You doubly reversed this from the black cat to the polar bears, and the acclimatization going from Brazil to England to going from the polar region to the tropics, but the escape from the deadly animal remained the theme.
Maybe even the struggle with a windlass was an intended allusion to “The Brazilian Cat”.
The title says all as to the relationship between Lost and “The Man With the Watches”.
From “The Black Doctor” came the idea of doubling for a dead person. There is therefore no need to invoke Seconds, Suture, Dept. S, or other sources for anything more than possible refinements of the theme. So the entire “DS” course of allusions was apparently inserted as clues to a basic element you'd already decided to base Lost on.
The name Dr. Aloysius Lana from that story may have been alluded to by those of Ilana and Ana-Lucia.
Bad things in dreams are too common a literary trope to connect Lost to “The Leather Funnel”. Likewise being trapped underground and “The New Catacomb” or for that matter “The Terror of Blue John Gap”, the latter of which seems more a precursor to Bubba Ho-Tep. If you say these connections were intended, fine, but in that case I don't think I should lose points for doubting they were, unless I'm missing details that would draw them closer.
So what do we have now for the plot of Lost in brief? One way of putting it is as if characters from “The Lost Special” and The Seconds came together for what they thought was their mutual benefit. Some people had a Big Secret. To keep it, they plotted to kill those who held it and replace them with doubles. The evidence is strong that some, but not all, of the doubles were brainwashed using a technology that we saw some versions of in use on the show. However, some of the originals who were to have been killed got wind of that plot and avoided getting on the airliner that wound up being put in the deepest part of the ocean, where it was believed nobody would find it. These originals then made it to Bioko, where the doubles had been staging. “Why would they try to infiltrate us? [When we're trying to infiltrate them?]” (As in one of your Pop's favorite movies, The Conversation.) Hijinks ensued as each tried to pick out the real from the phony. At least some of them were familiar with “The Lost Special” and were following the path of M. Lernac toward Gain[e]sville by collecting “soil samples”, i.e. blackmail, for at least their survival, if not big bucks.
I still haven't reviewed season 6, because research on Lost's predecessors has been more interesting. I've turned up the Roc Noir which has been mentioned in connection with an element of the Priory of Sion hoax. But as to season 7, we know all of Lost was seasons of zombies: the “dead” brought to life in service of someone else.