Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One Timeline or Two?

Okay, fellow Lost theorists, I'm stuck in a speculative loop and am turning to the collective consciousness for help. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the flash forward in S3E22 depicted an alternate timeline where Christian is now alive. Is that timeline "alternate" in the sense that somewhere else in the spacetime continuum there's a separate reality where Christian is still dead? Or is it simply "alternate" insofar as a single common timeline has been altered (e.g., by Desmond's trip into the past) resulting in a very different future? In this post, I'd like to expand a bit on both of these scenarios and get your feedback concerning each.

Let's begin with the former possibility that there are two (or more) mirror timelines. That's the premise of my theory When Alternate Realities Collide, in which I suggest that the Island is basically a conduit between two realities, light and dark. Under this theory, the first Incident could have involved scientists making mental contact with their "twins" in the mirror reality. The analogy here is to Desmond, who may have crossed minds with his twin in an alternate time-line during S3E8, much like the son in the film Frequency makes radio contact with his father in an alternate timeline. In the case of the Incident, the Swan scientists made psychic contact with their mirror reality twins, drawing them to the Island.

One of the first may have been Dr. Mark Wickmund's counterpart, Marvin Candle, who landed on the Island and lost his arm in a confrontation with the Cerberus security system. After some confusion, the scientists realized that the two timelines were beginning to merge via the Island conduit. In an effort to preserve both realities, Dharma became an experiment in whether people drawn literally from different worlds could co-exist harmoniously. The Linuses were among the first of these test subjects, though it's possible that some of the people who arrived with them had twins who were already present. This could explain why, as a poster named Dark UFO notes, some of the same people seen exiting from the submarine are glimpsed shortly thereafter in the Barracks Orientation Video.

To prevent further incidents, the Island was quarantined out of phase with both realities. Swan Station was redesigned to plug the leak from the electromagnetic anomaly, thus preventing the Island from reaching the critical energy level of "42." To deter one timeline from exploiting the anomaly to alter or destroy its counterpart, Swan was staffed by representatives of each reality. The containment device itself was sealed behind a thick concrete barrier to discourage tampering. The Numbers protocol was the ultimate insurance policy, offering both sides powerful incentive to continue staffing the Swan. Every 108 minutes, someone had to manually enter the code or the resulting implosion would destroy both worlds simultaneously. Think of the Doomsday Device in Dr. Strangelove...

So what about the possibility of a single timeline? Under this theory, the first Incident may have hurtled the Swan scientists temporarily back through time like Desmond following activation of the Fail Safe. Though the scientists made only slight changes, their cumulative effect on the timeline was still profound. The analogy here is to the Ray Bradbury short story A Sound of Thunder, wherein the destruction of a single prehistoric butterfly alters the future dramatically for the worse. The story is meant to represent the so-called Butterfly Effect -- i.e., the notion that some systems are so sensitive that even minor variations in initial conditions can yield major differences in outcomes over the long term. As a poster named Lostmommy notes, the butterflies displayed on Ben's desk during S3E13 may well be a reference to the Butterfly Effect.

My guess is that the Island is somehow insulated from such alterations to the timeline. As with Desmond and the survivors of Oceanic 815, the Swan scientists may not have realized that the the outside world had changed until visitors showed up on the Island. My guess is that a delegation from the Hanso Group landed led by none other than Dr. Marvin Candle, who was previously known as Mark Wickmund before the Incident changed history. Tragically, the Cerberus security system failed to recognize Dr. Candle and attacked his delegation. This could explain why, as a poster named Mike NY notes, the Blast Door Map refers to "5 fatalities" near the Swan. Once everyone realized what had happened, the nature and purpose of Dharma shifted.

To prevent further alterations to the timeline (e.g., for personal reasons) Swan became a containment device that limited the Island's effect on past, present, and future. Dharma devoted itself to creating the kind of human being who could manipulate history responsibly. The hope was that some day, someone worthy would turn the Fail-Safe key, sacrificing himself to save everyone -- i.e., the Dr. Manhattan Project. I like this particular angle because it resonates with the themes of heroism that the writers have taken pains to emphasize of late. It also explains the elements of a psychological experiment that permeate so many of the Stations. It's entirely possible the whole purpose of the Pearl and Swan was to trigger another Incident, giving a true hero the power to save the world.

So that's my dilemma, fellow Lost theorists, and I'm eager to eat, er, pick your brains. If the choice is between mirror Spock or A Sound of Thunder, which do you favor, one timeline or two?


Jay said...

I think it's gotta be two, or at least one that's malleable. I like the dual (or multiple) universe theory - it simply explains many things we've seen. Plus it ties in well to the Dark Tower too - how so many things from the "real" universe are there, but slightly altered: Christian's dad is still alive, Juliet's sister doesn't have cancer and has a child, Nozz-a-la Cola exists, etc.

The Candle/Wickmund thought was great one.

hatchling23 said...

I always assumed the Swan Station to be a containment device to harness the islands magnetic power also. However, as the station was in operation for less than 20 years, it would not really have much if any effect in the long term.

Turning the failsafe key might have released the pent up energy that was being control released, but it would only restore the status quo from before Dharma.

How do you see Desmond as having sacrificed himself?

The puzzle for me is why there aren't more people/shipwrecks/air crashes on this island.

Surely when the sky turned purple that would have sucked in at least one more airliner, if not a ship in the region.

To answer your question, I think one timeline, in flux and changing constantly, without the inhabitants even realizing the change is happening. Tyme Safari?


Bigmouth said...

Jay: LOL! Thanks but which of those two possibilities do you find more plausible? I like the Dark Tower analogy, which other posters have mentioned. That would tend to point towards two (or more) parallel realities with the Island as a nexus.

hatchling: I'm most intrigued by your comment about restoring "the status quo from before Dharma." Could you expand on that a bit? I ask because I'm struggling with what may be a similar question. My operative theory is that the Island is "in phase" with reality (or realities) when it reaches a certain energy state represented by the six Numbers. At that point, the Island is accessible to the outside world(s) and people on the Island can influence the timeline(s). Swan prevented this access and influence by keeping the Island from reaching "42." My question is just how much of the timeline(s) can be accessed when the Island is in that state. Is it just the present, or also the past and future?

Regarding Desmond's sacrifice, I think he assumed he was going to die when he activated the Fail-Safe. Basically, he believed he was sacrificing himself to save the world.

As for the Fail-Safe sucking in another ship or plane, I think the key is that the Island is either permanently in phase, or cycling regularly in and out of phase, with reality. As a result, people can access the Island normally, at least while it's in the right energy state. I suspect, for example, that helicopters from Naomi's freighter will land normally on the Island. All of which is to say, I think we're going to see a lot more people arriving on the Island from now on...

I'm leaning towards Tyme Safari, too, for simplicity's sake. Still, a part of me isn't quite ready to give up on mirror Spock. I could see a great scene where Jack meets his bearded and drugged out future self. Would make for another excellent South Park reference...

Bigmouth said...

PS: Weird little factoid I learned from reading the wiki on A Sound of Thunder. The short story actually predates Edward Lorenz's use of the term Butterfly Effect!

Jay said...

Hmmm... I guess didn't answer the question, did I?

At the end of THLG, my general feeling was that they were showing us a possible future, one Desmond would eventually warn them of with his flashes and they would try and alter ala "Days of Future Past." Thus, one timeline.

But the Christian Shepherd thing bothers me. Now it's possible that he is still alive in our timeline - that he faked his own death and wasn't in the coffin on the plane. But the alternate timeline a very tempting theory, especially with the Wickmund/Candle idea as well.

And then there's the idea of the island being a nexus, which would also fit in well with the Magic Box being able to draw things from other realities (again, like the Dark Tower).

But taking 24 hours to ponder this, Occam's razor seems to suggest the one (malleable) timeline theory as being more plausible. But the Dark Tower-phile in me just WANTS the multiple reality scenario. :)

hatchling23 said...

Sorry it took me awhile to answer, I was updating my blog and I am deep into the mystery of Mikhail right now.

As far a Jack running into another version of himself, Hmmm. I think the other (reality) version of Jack is at the bottom of the ocean in the other Flight 815. I don't believe any of the losties could meet their other selves.

Even before Dharma arrived on the scene, this island must have been phasing in and out of our reality on it's own. So 20 years of putting a cap on the magnet wouldn't have made that much difference in the long run. There would probably be some type of regular cycle ( years, decades, whatever) where the island would line up to the outside world.

However, before they built the Swan, there had to be a way to make regular visits. You couldn't get that much equipment onto the island via submarine. That's what I meant about the Status Quo, even without the Swan, there had to be a way to come and go.

My other comment was not necessarily after the turn of the failsafe key but just before, when the alarms were going off and "system failure" was displayed ( this went on for a lot longer than when Desmond killed Kelvin and got back late to the Swan). That time was enough to bring down 815, I would have thought the second time would have been just as effective in bringing down something else.

Remember they had to sell this show to network executives, not exactly the sharpest minds on the planet, so usually simple ideas work best.

I am curious about your take on the whispers, what do you think? worth a column?

Anyway, I'm not the deep theorist you are, I'm more of a generalist.
If you get a chance, check out my blog and if it's okay with you I would like to put a link on my site to your blog. I've enjoyed reading your theories and postings all season.

Bigmouth said...

Jay: You've summarized my own thought process perfectly, as well -- credo nos in fluctu eodem esse. One timeline seems more plausible but two (or more) would be so much fun!

Hatchling: Interesting point about mirror Jack maybe being at the bottom of the ocean. Darlton have implied in podcasts that the second Oceanic 815 was part of a cover-up ala Capricorn 1. But that doesn't mean the architects of the cover-up didn't use some of our Losties' twins to stage the crash.

Regarding the status quo before Dharma, I tend to agree that the Island must have been accessible at least part of the time before the scientists plugged the leak. My guess is that it was (and is) either permanently in phase, or cycling regularly in and out of phase as a result of the Island's electromagnetic fluctuations. As for why more planes haven't crashed, perhaps they must be right above the Island when it happens?

My original take on the whispers was that they were a Chorus of the Dead (i.e., the ghosts of people who have died on the Island). I still think there's an element of truth to that insofar as one set of whisperers may indeed be dead. But at least some of the whispers sound to me like astral projections of some of the Others. What do you think?

I'd love to be a link on your blog, on one condition: you grant me the same privilege!

cool_freeze said...

Something has bothered me about what Charlie said. He told everyone that he was a champion swimmer in the episode Greatest Hits. But back in a previous season whenever a girl was drowning he was screaming "I can't swim, I can't swim!"......I just don't understand why the writers would have Charlie say this and, in a sense, die on a lie.....I just don't know. This doesn't tie into time travel....yet alternate timelines it could.

ME said...

I am thinking it might be a case of both theories blending into one
time bending causes big brain hurty thingy to happen :)

I posted this on another BB ;)

Des got a glimpse of what would happen if he saved Charlie. He also got a glimpse of what would happen if he did not save Charlie.
They will , from my point of view, become a time convergence.
Because it does not actually happen till Des makes the choice to save Charlie.
Desmond gets flashes of possible futures. Since we have free will there are many possible futures. It is like coming to a path that splits off into a lot of different forks in the road.
Des gets glimpses of what is down those paths. As he makes his choices, the paths narrow down till there is only one, the one he is standing on. In this case the one were Charlie is alive.
But He has seen the alternate possibilities that do not solidify
till Des makes his choice and then they all converge into the present.

But after seeing the future that we saw with Kate and Jack, can the losties go back to some point where the road forked and chose a different rout? If so, I guess it would lend it self more to the Butterfly affect.
My thoughts are it's necessary for both theories to be part of the equation. They also need to happen in a specific order for this to take place (like some mathematical equations have to be a specific order to work out properly )
The question is can all the losties make course corrections or just Des.

AAA... big brain hurty thingy...big brain hurty!!

lux said...

bigmouth, thanks for another post! aaahh, my grimy life as a hopeless addict...

cool_freeze: maybe the explanation for Charlie's double act on the swimming is simply that he wanted to convince everyone to let him be the one to go down to the Looking Glass station? he doesn't really have the physique of a champion swimmer...

naive question: how does Naomi get to the island? my understanding is that you need either a break in the failsafe or possibly a syncing of wavelengths between different worlds. neither appears to have happened right?

hatchling23 said...

I appreciate that you let me link and I hope you like my site and add a link too, Thanks

I honestly haven't formulated a complete theory on the whispers yet, but when I do I will post an article on my site.

I am currently working on my own time travel theory and will post sometime this weekend.


Bigmouth said...

CF: I know exactly the scene you're referring to and have wondered myself if it's significant. To clarify, Charlie actually said "I don't swim," and the general consensus seems to be that he was making an excuse so he wouldn't get his heroin stash wet. Shortly after the episode aired, Javi suggested that it probably wasn't an important detail. Still, like you, I can't help wondering if this inconsistency might be a clue that Charlie's past has been changed. The analogy that occurred to me was to Alan Moore's revisionist take on a superhero called Supreme. Here's a description from the wiki:

In Moore's first issue, Supreme returned to Earth from space and discovered that not only was he living in the most recent "revision" of reality, as it is an ever-changing story, but that there had been many previous versions of himself. Retired Supremes lived in another reality, dubbed the "Supremacy" by its inhabitants, an afterlife for characters whose stories had come to an end. Supreme first suffered from amnesia, but quickly learned that his returning memories were "backstory" that was gradually being filled in. As Supreme himself mused while visiting the site where he first gained his powers: "Maybe I really did just pop into existence a few weeks ago [...], but standing in that hole I felt something. I felt a long, peculiar life well up around me, and even if my life is a tale the Universe wrote only yesterday, it started right there, in that ditch." As Supreme's memories "returned," the flashback sequences to Supreme's childhood and previous adventures were told in the style of different periods from comics history.

The problem with this scenario is that it assumed peoples' memories are being rewritten on the Island, as well. My assumption is that the Island is somehow insulated from these changes. Then again, Charlie's change occurred after activation of the Fail-Safe, meaning the Island may no longer be fully removed from reality. The problem with that is Jack's memories of his father's death weren't similarly rewritten, so it's tough to say. Either way, good catch!

Me: I really like your description of Desmond's visions as being glimpses of possible futures. A poster named Hearing Voices describes this phenomenon as the "fuzzyverse," which strikes me as quite apt. I note, as well, that whispers say "the future is settled" when Des throws the ring in the river, which could be further indication of this effect. Like you, however, I feel like the flash forward in the S3 finale represents something more definite than the possible futures that Desmond glimpsed. That doesn't mean it can't be changed, but it does strike me as "real" in a way Desmond's visions don't, if that makes any sense.

Lux: Actually, your question is a good one, because it confirms that the Island isn't permanently in phase with reality, despite activation of the Fail-Safe. That means Naomi arrived either during a period when the Island was visible, or she used one of the "back doors" (i.e., points of natural instability) -- e.g., for food drops. Another back door may be whatever portal that the submarine utilized to access the Island for all those years.

Hatchling: Done! A poster named MikeNY has a really interesting speculation that whispers of varying speeds represent observers who are on different wavelengths or frequencies, so to speak. Another astral projection analogy that occurs to me is when Eddie and Jake go Todash in the Dark Tower series. Can't wait to read you theory!

Jay said...

Question: So if the island is phasing in and out in time is that how the Black Rock ended up in the middle of the jungle? It just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and *poof* it was landlocked?

The BR is something that's always bothered me, but that seems to be a very plausible explanation. :)

Adam said...

bigmouth, as always, thank you for another interesting and thought-provoking entry. I think I can speak for a lot of people in saying that you help us get through the work-day with these blog-posts, so thank you.

Do you think about anything else as much as you do Lost?? I'd love to read your thoughts on whatever else you have going through your mind! :)

All kidding aside, I really think you've made a good point about the island phasing in and out of timelines.

I've often thought that maybe the island wavers back and forth between parallel universes. The four-toed statue could possibly be an indication of a separate universe where humans evolved to the point of only having four-toes and extraordinarily long-lives.

Has Richard Alpert been seen without shoes yet?

And I'm still convinced that Locke is just Jacob in another dimension, FYI. Jacob's full name is probably Jacob Safe or Jacob Keymaker - which leads me to...

This next idea is far fetched, but it's just a thought I had. Just for argument's sake, say Marvin Candle and Mark Wickmund are counterparts in parallel universes. They could be a significant hint that the Butterfly Effect does play into the show.
Their last names (even though they're probably fake) are obviously quite similar - Candle / Wickmund (Wickman?). Say their ancestry involved candle/wax manipulation/creation, okay? But somewhere along the line some small effect caused the change in the last name, but not the idea behind the family name? In one universe, the name remains as "Wickmund/Wickman" wherein the alternate universe, the effect modifies the last name to "Candle"?

Maybe a small hint?

cool_freeze said...

Good point, Bigmouth. Lately I have convinced myself though, that the history of the island is KEY to what is happening now. It just seems out of place for the island not to be found and civilized all these yearss. I have a whole 2 articles about what I mean in my blog.

The island coming in and out of time?? That is a good thought as well.


Bigmouth said...

Jay: That's an awesome speculation! I could certainly see the Island suddenly materializing suddenly under the Black Rock, though that raises the question of the skeletons in the hold. I was thinking shipwreck, which is consistent with the tales of Desmond and Danielle. Then again, no other boats appear to have crashed so far inland...

Adam: LOL! I've blogged before about politics and popular culture but I get the best response to my posts about Lost -- esp. after Doc Jensen was so kind as to mention my blog in his column. The most successful blogs, moreover, tend to focus on one subject. That's actually the brilliance of Lost -- it lets me tackle a wide range of topics that interest me through the common lens of the show. Anyway, now that Lost is on hiatus, and I've built up some readership over here, I may begin posting more on my other blog, the Big Mouth. I'm especially fascinated by some of the cultural differences I've encountered since moving from NY to LA. Stay tuned!

Regarding the Fourtoes, my speculation is that long ago one of their kind crashed on the Island. It genetically enhanced humanity, which worshiped it as a god. At some point, however, the Fourtoe began experimenting with inter-dimensional travel in hopes of returning home. During one disastrous test, it literally split the fabric of spacetime, creating two alternate realities and throwing the Island out of phase with each. The shock of this division triggered massive earthquakes and tsunamis in both worlds, and caused a massive volcanic eruption on the Island that buried Demiurge's temples like Vesuvius did Herculaneum and Pompeii.

I believe that Jacob is actually Magnus Hanso, who was a descendant of Demiurge's enhanced "children." I do, however, dig your suggestion that Jacob is Locke from another dimension. Another plausible candidate for such a relationship is Jack Shepherd, who Bai Ling told us was some kind of great leader. I sometimes wonder if the end game of the show will involve Jack somehow fighting with Locke to take Jacob's place. Either way, I totally dig your analysis of Drs. Candle and Wickmund! Whether the explanation is two mirror realities or a single changing timeline, I think you've nailed the basic butterfly dynamic.

On that point, I've been revisiting Stephen King's Dark Tower series at other posters' urging. I'll be posting a more detailed comparison shortly because the similarities to Lost are staggering, esp. where the Wolves of Calla is concerned. Your comment about Candle and Wickmund, however, reminds me of a key premise, which is that many worlds exist side-by-side but with subtle differences. In our world, Fort Lee lies on the other side of the George Washington Bridge. In another, the town goes by Leabrook, Coca Cola is known as Nozz-a-la Cola, and people drive Takuro Spirits, etc. I could easily see the writers of Lost embracing alternate realities as a nod to the King...

CF: I quite agree that the history of the Island is key -- see my response above to Adam. Javi once suggested that its secret was in the Hanso family for centuries. My suspicion is that this secret was handed down by the survivors of the calamity mentioned previously.

Synchromystic Librarian said...




synchromystic lostie librarian

Bigmouth said...

SM I dig it! Are you familiar with the anime classic Serial Experiments Lain ("SEL")? Sort of a precursor to the Matrix. Here's the link to the wiki:

I've long wondered if the Apple Computer in the Swan Station was a nod somehow to SEL. Would certainly explain the prohibition against using the computer for anything besides entering the code. I thought of the analogy again recently when pondering Ben's reference to an implant. Implants are the key to brain-computer interfaces in real life.

mg659er said...

did you see the video on abc !!! oh man your theory is right on those lines, the Asian doc speaks about the casimir effect... check it out!!!