Harcourt's Deconstruction Project

For those of you who may have missed this, on the Day of Disappointment for thousands of hard SF buffs the world over, Harcourt posted this on his User Page.

It is a suggestion for a what he calls a deconstruction, but what I would call a re-interpretation of Lost, that what we see on screen is a 'fiction through the eyes of the participants', and that everything which happens actually has an underlying, rational explanation, rooted in real phenomena, and can be explained using known scientific principles, even if those principles invoke things which are only partially understood, or speculative. In other words, whatever went on during the 121 episodes of Lost, can be incorporated within the canon of 'hard' science fiction. (See here for a definition of 'Hard Sci Fi', or alternatively the start of this entry in Wikipedia).

At first, I rejected Harcourt's suggestion, as I thought that there were too many anomalies to make it work, and I was in mourning for my favourite show, and for what it could have been, I could only feel anger and grief. In addition, I believed that the way Lost had been written was consistent with one interpretation only, a purely 'spiritual' journey, and that any pretence at SciFi was a writerly device simply to draw rational-minded viewers into a world where science was challenged, and failed to provide answers - leaving the only interpretation as a 'spiritual' one. However, this post has stuck in my mind, and today I went to visit the page again. Very few people have added to it, and those who have seem to have agreed with my analysis that it was not possible, and we should all 'move on' (bit of irony doesn't go amiss, I find).

However, before I give up this idea completely, I thought that I would blog about this, just to see whether anyone thinks it is remotely feasible. I have been thinking a lot about this over the past three days, and I can offer rational scientific explanations for almost anything that has occurred in Lost, provided that I ignore what the writers have said, in their podcasts and interviews, and I am allowed the luxury of claiming that when the characters say something, they are simply saying it on the basis of their limited understandings of what might be the case.

I have a clear rationale for ignoring the writers:

  1. They have been contradictory in what they have said before, about Lost not being about purgatory, no time travel etc., so any of their statements can be subject to negotiation.
  2. It is clear from reports via actors, that decisions about plot lines, characters etc., evolved and therefore changed from their initial conceptions. This means that there is no single correct interpretation.
  3. The show is now complete; it has left the writers' hands and is no longer their "property". It is now in the public domain and belongs to all of us. The writers deliberately left the show open to multiple interpretations, and this simply is one which many SF fans could relate to, and if, successful, could reposition the show back into the SF genre where it started out.

However I have a lot of misgivings about the project. Firstly, I mused in a blog yesterday that there are so many inconsistencies and contradictions in the plotlines and mysteries, that it is looking like far more than sloppiness and carelessness on the part of the writers, that these contradictions are so invasive that one begins to wonder whether they may have been part of a pre-emptive strike, a deliberate attempt by the writers to sabotage such a project as this, and to ensure that no scientific approach to Lost could ever work. Secondly, in order to find a plausible SciFi interpretation, it is not good enough that we find 'theories' for events, objects and scenarios which offer credible explanations of how each arose, but that these theories are part of an overarching and consistent global meta theory of the Lost Universe. Finally, I am not convinced that the writers and/or the production company and/or the parent corporation will be able to resist the lure of the big dollar sign in the sky, heralding the creation of spin off movies and other TV shows. If such things are subsequently created, they may well present total and flat out contradictions with any scientific-based theory which is currently consistent with all 121 existing episodes.

While I am drawn to this project, I feel it is a very tall order. I can offer a good explanation of what the island is, I can offer a good explanation of how the smoke monster works, and I can even provide a rational explanation for the FS and the scene in the church at the end. However, none of these would fit into an overarching narrative of the story. They are simply disparate attempts to explain separate pieces in isolation. Looking back, this is what has been the problem all along; if there had been an overarching narrative to Lost which explained everything at a stroke, we would have discovered it long ago (perhaps we did, the writers saw it, and changed direction: who knows?). I have said as much as this to friends; given the collective minds on Lostpedia, if there had been a solution, someone, somewhere, sometime would have blogged it, and we would all have gone "of course". The fact that we didn't should have told us that no such thing exists. It's exactly like the argument that there are no aliens, and no time travellers If there were, why haven't we seen them?

So, my question below is aimed at all the people who, like me have been expressing anger and disappointment over the past few days. It is a call to arms if you like, a last ditch effort to resurrect a fitting memorial to a once loved friend, who, like Sayid, became infected with a disease, and passed out of our sight.

First of all, is this project even feasible?

Secondly, if it is possible, should we take it on, or should we just all forget Lost, never watch it again, and get on with the rest of our lives?

Thirdly, if we do take it on, how do we solve the following problems?

  1. The island will need a coherent back story to account for its creation AND its history up to 2004.
  2. The 'source' is clearly NOT electromagnetism; electromagnetic energy would not account for any of the phenomena that we have seen. Therefore this needs to be rethought. Any ideas?
  3. Time travelling needs a consistent set of rules, a mechanism for it, and these all need to be consistent within the narrative.
  4. The existence of the FS poses to me one of the biggest problems: Trying to provide a a framework of understanding of how it was created, how memories from 2007 could possibly 'bleed through' into a 2004 timeline, and the quasimessianic scene at the end will need some hard thinking.


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