LOST – Tabula Rasa

Written by Damon Lindelof
Directed by Jack Bender

Which One Is It? The first character-centric story in which a character faces conflict in the present and remembers something from his or her past. Beyond this, the one that shows why Kate was in Australia and Jack discovers she is a fugitive.

Winning the award for most pointless action figure accessory....

What Does the Title Mean? Tabula Rasa, the words themselves mean “blank slate”. It is a philosophical idea popularized by John Locke (the philosopher, not our character), which posits that people are born as a blank slate. We bring nothing to the table, and our experiences determine our development. This is basically favoring the nurture side of the nurture / nature debate. He believed that even those experiences that seem innate to all humans are actually conferred at a young age, even in the womb. In the context of the episode, I think it means something slightly different. Toward the end of the episode, Jack tells Kate that when the plane crashed, everyone essentially died. It doesn’t matter who they were before. They essentially get a blank slate. I’ll address this in more detail later.

Get offa my land!

Flashbacks Many of the flashbacks in this first season address why our characters were in Australia and why they were on Flight 815. Kate was in Australia because she has been on the run from the law. I don’t quite recall if we find out later why she had chosen Australia in particular. Perhaps it was just the next stop in a line of running. She finds room, board, and work on a widower’s farm. His name is Ray. He is a nice man who lost his wife less than a year ago. She left him with a lot of chores and “one hell of a mortgage.” Ray’s right arm is prosthetic. This won’t be the first time we deal with prosthetics or missing appendages / facial features.

Revelations As mentioned before, Kate is a fugitive, although in this episode we don’t know what she did. Boone is a well-meaning idiot, but we could probably have seen this hinted in the earlier pilot.

Analysis After the unsuccessful attempt to send a radio broadcast, Sayid suggests a conspiracy of silence, where the characters lie about what happened. He feels that the survivors need hope, and by not telling about the French transmission, the survivors would feel there is still a chance that they can get a signal. Even when they return to camp, Sayid starts to organize different groups to ration food and medicine, gather electrical equipment so he can boost the radio signal, and start water-gathering procedures. He arises as a potential leader, however his leadership qualities seem to be rooted not in charisma, but technical competence. This is linked to his military background.

There are two major conflicts in this episode. First, we have Kate’s story. It was hinted in the previous episode that she was a fugitive, and this episode confirms that without a doubt when the U.S. Marshal gives Jack Kate’s mug-shot. The narrative then uses the revelation to build tension. We, the audience, know Kate is a fugitive, but the majority of the characters don’t. Thus, when those on the “radio quest” vote to give Kate the only gun, we are tempted to protest. Fascinatingly, despite having more information than the characters, we still don’t have enough information to make a judgment about Kate. The episode plays on our expectations. Skipping ahead a great deal, we know that Kate is not evil. Her initial crime was the murder of her father. He was a violent, abusive drunkard. Kate put up with him for a long time, believing that he was her step father, but she eventually found out he was her biological father. In anger and shame, she killed him. Every crime she has committed since then has been to avoid capture. Again, Kate is not evil. We see this play out in her interactions with Ray. She genuinely cares for him, to the point that she pulls him from the burning wreckage of his truck at the risk of being captured. She understands that Ray was only going to turn her in because he desperately needed the money. Even though it was at her expense, she wanted Ray to get the reward money. She holds no grudges. She forgives him. These are not the actions of a villain.

This type of reckless behavior may play some role in The Marshal's inability to capture Kate.

The U.S. Marshal, however, is portrayed more morally ambiguous. Even within the context of the show, we don’t know a lot about him, but his pursuit of Kate seems beyond the border of obsession. Perhaps, in chasing her for years, he developed an Ahab-like insanity. His reckless driving was what endangered Ray and Kate to begin with (although Kate didn’t help matters by trying to run him off the road). The Marshal is portrayed as cruel, patronizing, and just a bit sinister. He warns Jack to not trust her. There is an interesting moment where he tells Jack, “no matter how she makes you feel, don’t trust her.” Either The Marshal knows the signs of someone Kate is charming, or he has been charmed by her in the past. In some ways, his obsession with Kate seems to go beyond just chasing a fugitive. This case probably got too personal for him.

Sawyer exposes his pragmatism to Jack.

The second conflict is euthanasia. The subject is first brought up when Jack is searching the fuselage for more antibiotics. He encounters Sawyer, who is looting. Sawyer questions Jack about the best use of the medicine. The Marshal is most-likely going to die, so why waste the medicine on him when there are plenty of living people who could need it soon. It is a valid concern, if delivered in a baiting way. This is actually one of the differences between Sawyer and Jack. Jack is more idealistic, while Sawyer is more pragmatic. As he says in the episode, “You’re still living in civilization….I’m in the wild.” This also signposts Sawyer’s leadership potential. He can measure a situation and act upon it. In Season 5, Jack and Sawyer will butt heads over leadership in a big way.

Exhibiting one of his recurring traits, Jack cannot let go. He cannot let The Marshal die. Even when it becomes apparent there is no way to save the man and his agonized moans and screams start to unnerve the camp, Jack cannot give up. Kate adds her voice to the euthanasia camp, as does Sayid, in a non-confrontation, non-contradictory way. Sayid already defers to Jack, but he will question and advise him. Even The Marshal wants to die. Kate, as you’ll remember, has the gun. There is only one bullet left, so she gives the gun to Sawyer since she can’t pull the trigger herself. Unfortunately, Sawyer doesn’t make a kill shot, puncturing a lung rather than the heart. Since this is television, The Marshal dies soon after, but not before Jack has developed a sizeable grudge toward Sawyer.
This entire situation has rattled Jack. The first person he started to trust on The Island has turned out to be a fugitive, and on top of that, she turned against him with regard to the fate of The Marshal. Throughout the episode we can see him starting to develop emotional barriers against Kate. Hurley questions him about the Kate situation, and Jack

I promise I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ask about your past.

continually insists that it isn’t his business and it doesn’t matter. He is lying. Kate eventually goes to Jack, willing to confess what she did. Jack, in attempting to comfort her, insists that everyone on The Island has a second chance. He means well, and it ends the episode in a nice sort of way, but we will spend the next six years seeing that this isn’t true at all. Second chances require more than a change of location, they require a great amount of personal will and motivation. Every situation, crime, or personal defeat that our characters have suffered have shaped personalities and defense mechanisms for times of stress. As their lives will grow increasingly stressful on The Island, we will see that Jack’s tabula rasa speech is well-meaning, but will crumble soon. He can’t even make it through the rest of the season before reneging on his promise to Kate that her past doesn’t matter.

Other Character Developments
Charlie and Claire. Charlie helps her with luggage, jokes with her, and fishes for information on her relationship status.

Michael and Walt. Michael grows concerned that Walt is spending so much time with John Locke. Locke seems to be developing the type of relationship with Walt that he wants to have. This antagonism will return, despite the fact that Locke finds Vincent and lets Michael take credit. Michael also has an uncomfortable moment where he stumbles upon Sun as she is bathing.

John Locke. Throughout the episode, we see Locke making a whistle. In the end, we find it is a dog whistle, which he uses to call Vincent. Off and on through the season we will see Locke attempting to solve problems in his own way. He will often work behind the scenes to do nice things for people. However, there will be more to him than just being a nice guy. This episode ends with him looking particularly sinister, ominous music playing over the shot. I can’t tell if this is an attempt at foreshadowing, or just something to evoke a cliffhanger feel.

Jack. After all he went through, Jack is last seen staring at the ocean as he processes the episode’s events. In season six, Jacob will have the wonderful quote: “Sometimes you can hop in the back of someone’s cab and tell them what they’re supposed to do. Other times, you have to let them look out at the ocean for a while.” Jack and I share this trait.

Dude Count. 9

Sawyer’s Nicknames. Abdul, Freckles, Al Jazeera, Brother, Doc, The Hero

Other Information
-On the season 3 commentary, Carlton Cuse reveals that the writers decided to make Sawyer hyperopic to explain how he missed the shot.

LOST – Part 2 Addendum

In the following episode, we begin the typical Lost storytelling device of the flashback. We have seen a few examples of this so far, but from here on, the majorities of episodes will focus on a central character (also known as “character-centric”). However, even though one character may be drawn to the fore, this is a large cast and they often have their own moments of revelation or characterization. Thus, I will be attempting to keep track of what we learn in each episode. So, we will have a character section in each analysis. Here is an example, using “Pilot Part 2”

Jack. Jack, is a surgeon, something established in the previous episode. In this one, he spends much of his time working on the U.S. Marshal that was transporting Kate to the U.S. He also learns that one of the survivors (a female) is a fugitive.

Hurley. Drafted to help Jack with removing the shrapnel from the marshal, we learn Hurley doesn’t handle blood well. He passes out on the marshal.

Sawyer. Has a letter that he keeps reading. It causes him a lot of pain whenever he reads it. Like any man would, he thinks it is cool that he shot a bear. He is prone to fits of anger, but he is also quite mischievous, in a dangerous way.

Kate. What is interesting about this episode is that it establishes the second part of the love triangle. Kate and Jack worked almost exclusively in part one. Here, Kate spends much of her time with Sawyer. His knowledge of her “type” amuses him, and he is drawn to her. So, between the first two episodes, we have already paired Kate with the two men she will be flitting between from here on out.

Michael and Walt. Michael is still looking for Walt’s dog Vincent. Jack suggests Michael look in the jungle, since he saw a dog shortly after waking up on the island. Walt also spends time looking through a comic book starring members of The Justice League. The comic is in Spanish. We will later learn that Michael was an artist a long time ago. This is a way he could connect to Walt. He blows it, however, by saying he will get Walt a new dog if they can’t find Vincent.

Boone and Shannon. Still arguing with one another, Boone accuses Shannon of being useless and not attempting to do something productive to help everyone. Shannon volunteers to go on the mission to find a radio signal, primarily to heap scorn on Boone. They seem to have a lot of contempt for one another, while Boone seems to spend a lot of time nagging her. Also, Shannon speaks French.

Charlie. Back to chasing the dragon.

Sayid. Already off on the wrong foot with Sawyer. What makes Sayid interesting in this episode is we are told he was part of the Republican Guard in Iraq. However, this isn’t nearly as straightforward as we may initially think. We find out that a few years passed between leaving the guard and ending up on The Island.

The Island. We have seen the beach, a bamboo grove, jungle (which is where the cockpit landed), and there are some highlands as well. The survivors were unable to send a message because a message was already being broadcast from The Island, which means there is a source, which implies buildings and technology somewhere on The Island. It is odd that the rest of the season will not see the survivors trying to explore. Granted, there is the monster in the jungle and they will soon have to deal with this Ethan guy, but if a radio message is blocking their attempt to send an SOS, then wouldn’t it be a good idea to try to find where the French message is originating and possibly use that equipment? On second thought, Sayid does set out to try this in a future episode. As we will see, he gets interrupted.

LOST – Pilot Part 2

Teleplay by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof
Story by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Shannon stares at dead bodies on the beach. She's such a cheery person.

Which one is it? The one with the polar bear.

Current Dude Count 5

The Numbers: The French transmission has been transmitting for 16 years.

Sawyer’s Nicknames: Lardo, Doc, Sweetheart, Sweetcheeks, Chief

1. Charlie remembers going into a heroine withdrawal while on the plane. The stewardess suspects him of something due to his odd behavior. He rushes to the bathroom for a quick fix, and drops the bag in the toilet, prepared to give up the drugs. Before he can commit, the turbulence hits.
2. Kate sits next to the man with the shrapnel on the plane. It is revealed that he was a U.S. Marshall and Kate was his prisoner. Kate was about to make a request before the turbulence hit. The Marshall is hit by a suitcase, knocking him out. Kate puts the oxygen mask on the Marshall, effectively prolonging his life.

From the flashbacks, we know that Kate was a fugitive and Charlie is a junkie.


I seem to be incapable of hearing someone ask a pregnant woman “Do you know what it is?” without yelling “IT’S A BABY!” That is one thing I’ve learned from this episode.

I am struck by how different the show feels. By the time the series concluded, Lost had become a mythologically complex science fiction show. We had mysticism, we had smoke monsters, we had electromagnetic disturbances that could cause time travel. There is nothing that hints at what is to come. In this second hour of Lost, we have the lingering mystery of the monster in the jungle, a mystery that is less compelling with the introduction of the polar bear, and the radio broadcast that is emanating from The Island.

I think, in some way, the polar bear is a good red herring. With the mysterious noises and death from above that part one introduced, speculation ranged from an island inhabited by dinosaurs to government experiments gone horribly wrong. Later, Hurley even posits that the monster is a pissed off giraffe. While we know that the polar bear couldn’t have been responsible for the tree-destroying, pilot-killing creature from the previous episode, it does bring the promise of an unusual, yet plausible, resolution to the mystery. This show appears to be rooted in plausibility with no indication at this point of just how weird things are about to become. Even the radio transmission, while tantalizing due to the implication of a source of the French broadcast, could be quite mundane compared to mystical, god-like brothers engaged in a feud that puts the Hatfields and McCoys to shame. The only indication we have at this point of something bigger lurking behind the scenes is a brief interaction between Locke and Walt.

Walt, in one of his many attempts to avoid his father, comes across John Locke setting up a

If Locke had crashed with a game of Settlers of Catan, then Jacob and MiB probably would have been fighting over grain and ore.

backgammon board. Walt is naturally curious, as many children are when the possibility of play is presented. Locke gives a bit of history of the game, telling how backgammon was nearly 5000 years old. He then gives a distillation of both the objective of the game and the ultimate plot of the show. “Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark.” When I first saw this episode, I knew this scene had meaning. The way it was scripted and shot had too much weight. However, I was expecting a more mundane, Lord of the Flies style descent into chaos. This show was extremely character driven at this point, and I thought we would see people going on journeys that would eventually drive them to one side or another, to Jack or to Locke. You see, I had always expected John Locke to become the representation of all evil on the show (and I was partially correct). Way back when I first heard of the show, I saw an interview with Damon Lindelof on the Ain’t it Cool News site and he mentioned that John Locke was the Randall Flagg of Lost. For those unfamiliar with the reference, Randall Flagg is a recurring character in Stephen King novels, often playing the trickster character. He has appeared in The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Dark Tower series, and in many novels using pseudonyms. He isn’t quite the devil, but he is very reminiscent of the devil. He is an agent of evil, not necessarily evil itself. So, when I read this interview, my mind exploded with possibilities. When I finally saw the show, I expected John Locke to be evil and I filled every look and every line with an ominous intent. Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be so sympathetic. John Locke is not Randall Flagg. But that does not mean there isn’t a representation of evil on the show. As we will see much later, The Man in Black (also a pseudonym of Randall Flagg) will take on the appearance of John Locke, and TMiB is much more evil than John could ever be.

The chemistry between Kate and Sawyer starts here. When Kate takes the gun away from

Yes, I can name every character on this page. Don't judge me!

Sawyer, she pretends to not know how to eject the clip and the round in the chamber. Sayid walks her through the process but, as Sawyer sees, her hand is much too steady and her eyes are too resolute. He can read her like a book and knows that in an instant that she was the fugitive on the plane. He doesn’t give away her secret, however. I think he is much too amused. Besides, it never hurts to have compromising information on someone.

What do we know about the French transmission? Rousseau set it up sixteen years ago to keep other people from being lured to The Island by the previous transmission, the mysterious numbers. I can’t quite remember why the numbers were being broadcast. Was it some poor soul from The Hatch? Why is the transmission there to begin with? We know The Others were on The Island and they were using the old Dharma facilities. Why

In six years you'll be BEGGING me to unbutton this, Mister!

didn’t they disable the transmissions? Or did the signal just not get out? Mikhail monitored all transmissions to and from The Island at The Flame Station, so did not matter? Maybe the radio of the Oceanic Survivors was the only radio that could pick up the signal and nothing off-Island could receive it. This is certainly possible. Imagine The Island is a bubble. All communication in the bubble could only be received by equipment in the bubble, but special equipment would be necessary to penetrate the bubble and broadcast outside. Given the unique properties of The Island, this is possible. It’s hard to speculate at this point, however, since it has been so long since I’ve seen the show. Hopefully I’ll have more to go on as I progress.

At this point, what did you think the show was going to be about?

LOST – Pilot Part 1

Teleplay by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof
Story by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams

If you build your planes from leaves, they will crash.

I have to start by saying if you want to avoid spoilers, you should not read this post or any post that follows. There will be no attempt to review this episode or any others without bringing in references to things that will come later. This is your final warning.

Quick Synopsis: A plane has crashed on an island. There are a few survivors. There is a mysterious creature in the jungle that is yet unseen.

The first thing that strikes me, watching this episode for the first time in probably three years, is how little happens. Seriously, compared to revelations and mysteries that will come in later season, the fact that a monster lives in the jungle seems positively mundane. Monster aside, this episode is a 42 minute establishing shot. It is really impressive, when you think about it, just how much this one episode accomplishes. By its very nature, a television pilot is supposed to introduce the basic premise and characters. A pilot is usually shot months in advance from primary filming. Network executives then determine whether or not to order a season or reject the show outright. The pilot for Lost was expensive, but I wouldn’t say this was a waste. It really looks good. I typically hate pilot episodes, but this one is near perfect. Yes, we establish the plane crash, which is important, but even more so is the establishment of every major character for the season.

It is said that we truly see what a person is made from during a crisis, and that is what we have here. Jack is, of course, the hero. The opening shot is his eye, the bamboo grove reflected in his pupil. He is disoriented, but soon gets over that and stumbles out to the beach, discovering the crash. After a few seconds where he gathers his resolve, he sets out to help people, to rescue them. He directs, he commands, he uses all his skills as a doctor. Jack saves peoples lives in these chaotic moments. Until he arrived, people were wandering in a daze or screaming. No one was moving to help anyone else. Well, that’s not exactly true. Boone is an attractive young man with the best eyes granted to an actor since Jeff Fahey, which is fitting since Fahey will join the cast in a few years. Boone is quickly established as well-meaning but slightly incompetent. He wants to do the right thing, he wants to be a hero, he just doesn’t quite know how.

Among the chaos, we also have Hurley, a man of both Hispanic descent and girth. He is reliable and follows Jack’s orders without question, even though he may be a bit shaken by what is being asked. In this case, Jack orders Hurley to watch after Claire, who is established to be pregnant. Last in these opening moments, we have Michael, a man who is searching the wreckage for Walt, who we will later find out is his son.

A loose order being restored, Jack raids luggage for sewing supplies to take care of a particularly nasty gash in his side. He gets away from the other survivors, going a bit into the jungle for this. He meets Kate, a woman just a few years younger than him. She is rubbing her wrists, a bit of foreshadowing here. Unable to sew himself up due to the gash’s placement in his side, Jack asks Kate for help.

“Have you ever sewn before,” he asks her.

“I made the curtains in my apartment,” she replies. Knowing Kate’s past, I can’t help but wonder if this was a lie. We see later that Kate has been a fugitive for years. When was she settled in an apartment long enough to make curtains? This could be the first point in the series where she lies to Jack. There will be many more.

Lots of people use this image. I may as well do it too.

In the aftermath of the crash, we get a few more characters established. Sawyer is seen lighting a cigarette and looking a bit pensive. Sayid is building a fire. He gets help from Charlie, who will take a larger role later in the episode. Locke sits on the beach, staring into the ocean. We get very little from John Locke in this episode, just a few enigmatic moments that are tinged with euphoria and just a bit off-putting. The shot of Locke sitting on the beach, wrecked airplane and survivors behind him, will be recreated in season five. Only, it won’t be Locke.

As night falls, we round out the cast. Shannon is seen painting her toenails. She was screaming in the midst of the wreckage earlier, but has now found other things to focus upon. Boone is her brother, and he brings her chocolate to eat, stating the rescue may be a while. Shannon insists it won’t and she will eat later. This not only sets up the conflict between the two characters, but shows her unwillingness to accept her situation.

Sun and Jin are a Korean couple. Jin is shown to be over-protective and dominant, controlling. Sun is show to be submissive. All their dialogue is in Korean, establishing that they do not speak English. Well, sort of. More on that later. Also in this episode, we see violent rainfall. Jin refuses to let anyone other than Sun into their shelter. This establishes his desire to be set apart from the rest of the group. We are not yet a happy family on this show. But then, do we ever really become one?

These are our characters for the season. Again, this pilot masterfully sets up each character in some subtle ways. We become familiar with their appearances, even if we don’t quite know them at this point. Characterization is given, even in small establishing shots. The rest of the episode is spent introducing two mysteries. First, the creature in the jungle which seems to be able to rip down trees. Second, where is The Island.

Rose, a woman who sat next to Jack on the plane, says the noises from the jungle sound familiar to her. She then says she is from The Bronx. This dialogue is delivered in the

Surely there is more to this dog than meets the eye.

background, so I’m not sure how relevant it is to the identity of the creature. Knowing that it is not so much a monster but a very powerful man, I wonder why this exchange is present. In all likelihood, it is an in-joke. The noises made by the monster were from a variety of sources, one of which being the sound of a taxi printer. This would be a common sound from The Bronx. This could be a bit of joke dialogue. However, given what we know about The Smoke Monster from later seasons, could there perhaps be a deeper meaning. Since Smokey can change appearance, becoming someone familiar to our characters, perhaps he can also mimic sounds. Maybe, among all the sounds heard that night on the beach, were individual sounds that were meaningful to different characters. Rose heard a taxi receipt printer. Maybe Jack heard medical electronics and Charlie guitar feedback. Nothing really supports this, but the speculation is fun.

As Jack and Kate compare notes of their experiences of the crash, they determine that the plane split into three pieces. The main cabin crashed on the beach. Kate saw smoke from the jungle, presumably the cockpit. Where is the tail? They decide to mount the first LOST expedition to find the cockpit and a transceiver. Charlie accompanies them for, I believe, two reasons. First, his drugs are in the bathroom near the cockpit. He’s a heroine addict, which will further established later. Second, he doesn’t like to be forgotten. Charlie is an ex-rock star from a one-hit wonder band named Drive Shaft. One-hit wonders are often forgotten or ignored beyond their hit song. Twice in this episode, Charlie makes sarcastic comments when Jack checks on Kate or Kate calls for Jack. Each time, Charlie is ignored.

At the cockpit, Jack finds the transceiver and discovers the pilot is still alive. He remains alive long enough to impart the information that the plane was off course when it crashed. It had also gone off radar due to an electronic malfunction. Thus, search parties won’t know where to look for the survivors. The pilot is then ripped from the cockpit by the unseen monster. Jack, Kate, and Charlie flee into the jungle, get separated, but finally come back together, only to find the body of the pilot resting on some branches high above the ground.

Okay, I said not much happened, but then proved that a lot did. But it was subtle. That’s one of the amazing things about Lost, the ability to convey a lot of information through subtle directing and acting. It is a well-crafted show, and that trend was established by the pilot, which does just as much to excite me about the show that follows. It still works and my disappointment with the ending does nothing to temper the thrill that comes from watching this episode. I was afraid this re-watching the show would be a chore, but it looks like the opposite will be true. I’m really excited about it.

Prescient Quote
SAYID: You’d think they would have come by now.
SAYID: Anyone.

In the premiere of season three, as Ben Linus and The Others watch Oceanic 815 break-up in the skies over The Island, Ben sends Goodwin to find the tail section and Ethan to find the wreckage on the beach. So yes, Sayid. Someone is indeed coming.

The first flashback of the series belongs to Jack as he is seen meeting Rose just before the crash. He meets Cindy the flight attendant, who gives him alcohol.

The Numbers
Jack’s row on the plane is 23

Hurley’s Dude Count

Fun Fact
The pilot for Lost was the most expensive television pilot ever produced up to this point.

What Could Have Been
Jack Shephard was originally to die at the end of this episode. The role was offered to Michael Keaton. As near as I can tell, it would have unfolded similarly, just with Jack dying

Is it Michael Keaton?

instead of the pilot. Kate would then move to the role of show hero. There are elements of this still present, in particular is Jack’s coaching of Kate on how to deal with fear. Jack tells the story about performing surgery on a young girl, and accidentally ripping her dural sack, spilling her nerves. This probably isn’t the best story to tell a squeamish woman who is sewing up your wounds. Regardless, Jack tells Kate he counted to five, and while he counted, he let the fear have him. Once he finished counting, he put the fear aside and did what needed to be done. Kate later does this when being chased by the monster. She hides, counts to five, then leaves her hiding place to find Jack. Originally, she would have found his body. This would have served to effectively shock the audience, showing that Lost would be an unpredictable viewing experience. Michael Keaton was willing to take the role, but only if it was part of the pilot episode. When the part was expanded, he dropped out, and Matthew Fox was eventually cast as our hero.

Question for Discussion
Why was Smokey making such a ruckus after the crash? He didn’t appear to anyone (presumably), so what were his intentions?

Paradigm Shift

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated in a while.  Yeah, sorry.  I can’t stand not updating every weekday.

The good news is that The Gunfighters comes out soon.  The bad news is that I’m not finding as much free time in my schedule to read at a brisk pace.  How sad is life when a guy can’t get through a TARGET novelization in less than a week?  But, sparing you the details of my work situation, I’m going to institute a new policy.

For about six years I was a fan of LOST.  I enjoyed discussing it with my wife.  I shared it with friends.  I defended it against detractors.  In the end, while I enjoyed nearly every moment of my six year journey with the show, I felt the ending wasn’t a good payoff.  There were many questions still left unanswered, and while I don’t believe every question needs to be answered, I felt essential ones were not.  But I also couldn’t shake that perhaps the answers were planted along the way, but we had missed them.  Thus, I want to wade through every episode of LOST and develop a second, hopefully more positive, opinion.  Initially I had started this as a separate blog called The Long Con, but I have now decided to merge the two.  So, I will start republishing early entries here tomorrow.  There will be a shift in format after the first few entries because I realized  that I had stifled myself by using this format.  I was trying too hard to imitate Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles’ About Time books, only adapting the format for LOST.  Sometimes formats are a good thing, such as with poetry or fiction, but this is a review/analysis blog and I just don’t want to do the little bits of trivia any more.  I want to focus primarily on analysis.  Thus, I hope to continue under this new paradigm.  However, there is one major rule that I must follow.  Doctor Who is the priority.  I have 32 seasons to review, and I need to remain steady and disciplined, not distracted.  Since every episode has not yet been released on DVD, I will resume reviewing LOST as I come to these gaps in Doctor Who.

With this new scope for The Edwardian Adventurer, I hope to bring in other contributors to focus on genre fiction and shows.  Doctor Who is my main priority, and LOST in the interim, but I hope to post further topics along the way, either by myself or others.  If you want to contribute reviews or essays, just get in touch with me and we will talk.  Again, I want to focus on science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even mystery.  Books, television, movies, and comics are all fair game.

So, I hope fans of Doctor Who and LOST will be eager to keep reading.  If you have been curious about LOST, then watch and read along (although take it as a given that there WILL be spoilers).  And if you are not interested in LOST, then I hope to see you again shortly after The Gunfighters is released on DVD in North America.

Billy will be back. I promise.

Target Review 002: Doctor Who in An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks

Written by David Whitaker

Note: This review is based on the Doctor Who and The Daleks audio book release by BBC Audio.  It was wonderfully read by William Russell

From the box:  Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright travel with the mysterious Doctor Who and his granddaughter, Susan, to the planet of Skaro in the space-time machine, the TARDIS.  There they strive to save the peace-loving Thals from the evil intentions of the hideous Daleks.  Can they succeed?  And, what is more important, will they ever see their native Earth again?

Opening Line:  “I stopped the car at last and let the fog close in around me.”

The first and most obvious thing about this story is that it provides a different introduction to Ian, Barbara, Susan, and The Doctor.  While Ian and Barbara are still school teachers, they do not know each other before this story begins.  They actually meet when Ian finds Barbara in the fog on Barnes Commons.  She had been taking Susan home when they collided with a lorry.  This is a rather suspenseful introduction, and while it lacks much of the intrigue of An Unearthly Child, I think I prefer The Doctor’s first adventure to be The Daleks.  Every hero needs a nemesis, and The Doctor’s most-identifiable ones are The Daleks.  In some way, it fits that they would be the first antagonists, the ones that were present when his grand journey began.  This is actually rather similar to what Tim Burton did in his first Batman movie.  Jack Napier created Batman by killing Bruce Wayne’s parents.  Batman created The Joker when he couldn’t save Napier from falling into toxic waste.  There is a satisfying irony in this, even if it does go against comic continuity.  So while An Unearthly Child has a rather symbolic juxtaposition of primitive vs. advanced society, Doctor Who and The Daleks creates an action-packed starting point for our Edwardian Adventurer.  I’m also quite biased as I prefer David Whitaker’s writing to Terrance Dicks’.

It is generally thought that the best way to introduce new people to Doctor Who is to write a story in which the companion discovers The Doctor through mysterious circumstances.  An Unearthly Child does this, introducing us to Ian and Barbara as they attempt to unravel the mystery of Susan.  Rose had the titular character be rescued by The Doctor when she was attacked by Autons.  David Whitaker has done this in his novel, but he goes a step further by using the first-person narrative with Ian Chesterton being the POV character.  I honestly think this was a great move because it adds a new layer to the original story.  While the same events occur, we get more than a recitation of these events.  We get Ian’s perspective.  Likewise, any action in which he is not present must be related to him.  These exposition-laden passages can potentially be dull, but they are brief enough to not break the narrative flow too much.  As Ian is the “action” character, this also serves to keep us in the middle of the action and skip over many of the slower scenes from the original script.

According to the interview material at the end of the audio book, overt attempts to portray Ian and Barbara romantically linked were generally nixed in the show.  The strength of these two characters and the chemistry of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill caused such suggestions to be present in the performances if not the scripts.  In the novel, however, no such restrictions are present.  Whitaker makes it quite clear that Barbara falls for Ian and that Ian hopes that this relationship will grow in further TARDIS adventures.  While I think many fans take it as writ that Ian and Barbara fell in love in their travels, it is nice to have a book, written by the original script editor of Doctor Who, confirm this.  I almost wonder if this was Whitaker’s initial plan for the characters.

In all, I think this was a great adaptation.  It was not a straight adaptation of the original episode, it provided interesting insights and variations to the characters, and it was a compelling read.  Certainly one of my favorites.  It is quite exciting that the book is not only available on CD or MP3, fittingly read by William Russell, but that the BBC is re-releasing the book this year.  Highly recommended.

Prescient Chapter Title: The Power of The Daleks

Girl Talk: “Alydon is about six foot four and perfectly proportioned and he has long, fair hair.  The scaly thing I’d caught a glimpse of is the cloak he wears.” She glanced at Barbara again.  “I’ll come back to Alydon later, if you like,” and Barbara raised her eyebrows to agree to a future and secret conversation.

The new release of the novel can be ordered at Amazon.

The audio version can be purchased on CD from Amazon or on digital audio from Audible.

6.07 – A Good Man Goes to War

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Peter Hoar

The Doctor and Rory gather an army as they search for Amy Pond.

Bow ties aren't cool. Rory is cool.

“I hope one day to meet you in the glory of battle where I shall stomp the life from your worthless, human form.  Now get some rest. “

I realize that everyone and his mum are podcasting about Doctor Who these days, but this week was one in which I regret not doing so myself.  My wife and I were on fire as we discussed this episode and I know that my attempts to recapture the conversation will be a pale comparison.  She has, however, told me to price the equipment and we’ll consider it.

But by way of reviewing this episode, we were somewhat split.  She really enjoyed it, I thought it was good enough with caveats.  I’ll start with the positives.

We both really enjoyed the supporting characters.  While my wife took the admittedly optimistic view that Moffat is populating the Doctor Who universe with compelling characters that future writers could craft episodes around, I was a bit more apprehensive, feeling that the back stories of any of these characters would have been an interesting story, but they were merely used for humor and expediency in submission to Moffat’s arc.  There is something almost Holmesian (as in Robert not Sherlock) in how Moffat brings in these characters with little proper introduction, being instead fodder for fanfiction or licensed material.  In fact, this aspect of the episode felt quite a bit like the opening scenes in The Pandorica Opens, where characters we met over the preceding season picked up on a threat to The Doctor.  Only in this case, we didn’t meet the majority of these characters until this episode.  So, while we have only had about half a season so far, this episode felt like the culmination of an entire season worth of stories.  And yet despite this, it still felt half-formed, like the conclusion to a two-parter.  More on that in a moment.

And the costumes have to be really cheap!

The Headless Monks are an interesting idea that I would like to see fleshed out somewhere else.  They make a great image, but I hope Moffat doesn’t just leave it at that.  As my wife pointed out, The Weeping Angels worked just fine in Blink and they didn’t need to return, but they did.  The Headless Monks are a striking image and more interesting concept so they have to come back.  There just isn’t enough motivation for them.

And there’s the rub for me on much of this episode: motivation.  I don’t buy that this entire operation, the kidnapping of Amy, the abduction of Melody to be raised as a weapon against The Doctor, is formed merely out of fear of The Doctor.  Yes, in the real world fear can motivate atrocities and war, but in storytelling and drama, we need to see that in a personal way.  Armies are formed out of the prejudices and fears of a group of individuals, indeed The Doctor’s army in this story was formed at his and Rory’s behest.  Somewhere behind Madam Kovarian and Colonel Montan is a small group (and make no mistake, Madam Kovarian may be a part of this group) that either fears or hates The Doctor.  Demon’s Run and the abduction are a reaction to The Doctor, but not merely to his legend.  They are a response to his actions and actions are personal.  So, either Moffat is showing us the effect prior to the cause (again), or we have already seen a part of what The Doctor has done to make people afraid of him.  Is it possible that The Silence are behind this?  We still don’t know why The Doctor ordered genocide.  Perhaps they felt they were wrongly persecuted.  However, if the regenerating girl from the opening two-parter is truly River Song, then does that make any sense.  This would make a causal loop, and while Moffat isn’t beyond this type of time travel trope, I’m not entirely sure it would hold up to much scrutiny.  So for the moment, I’ll wait and see.

Wait and see.  I’m beginning to wonder if this is a theme for the Moffat era.  I find this story somewhat hard to review in part because if feels like a type of linking material, concluding a min-arc, while advancing the overall arc half a step.  So we know who River Song is.  While this reveal fits the clues we were given and is satisfying overall, I’m not convinced it changes much yet.  Sure, River is Amy and Rory’s daughter . . . but she was also kidnapped to turn into a weapon.  She may have been in the hands of The Silence for a period of time.  How much can we trust a woman who is, admittedly, a weapon?  I think part of me still wants to hold on to the idea that River has become an unreliable narrator to The Doctor’s future and one reason why she refuses to reveal “spoilers” is more self-preservation than Doctor-preservation.

Wait and see.  But if River is not unreliable, there is something gratifying to this classic series fan in hearing River chew-out The Doctor over his reputation, his legend.  I can’t help but wonder if Moffat is moving toward dealing with this problem.  He has said before that The Doctor has defeated his enemies so many times that at some point they must merely admit “Bugger it all, The Doctor is here.  Let’s pack it up and go home.”  And while Moffat would certainly be justified in ignoring the apotheosis of The Doctor during the RTD era (an apotheosis that did advance quite a bit in some of Moffat’s stories), he has chosen not to do that.  Doctor Who has always played fast and loose with continuity, so ignoring swaths of the RTD era or Cartmel Master Plan would certainly fit tradition, but Cymru-Who does not exist in the same television environment as pre-JNT Doctor Who, and these days the science fiction audience loves its continuity.  Moffat understands this (and Doctor Who fans can be a particularly pedantic lot), and I think (or hope) he is working his way toward dealing with The Doctor as legend and bringing that reputation to a close so one day we can go back to smaller scale stories.  But this may all be wishful thinking on my part.  We won’t know until the Moffat era comes to a close.

I mentioned earlier that A Good Man Goes to War feels half-formed, like a conclusion to a two-parter.  I think this is due to the pacing in the episode.  It was wall-to-wall adrenalin.  And yet, I’m having difficulty with the urgency in this episode compared with how leisurely the season unfolded.  It makes perfect sense to me that Curse of the Black Spot would be placed in this half of the season, but after A Good Man Goes to War, it certainly feels like Curse of the Black Spot, and to a degree The Doctor’s Wife, are inappropriate interludes.  Yes, the TARDIS takes The Doctor where he needs to go in-universe, but the real driving force behind where The Doctor lands is Steven Moffat and his commissioned writers.  If Moffat is making modern serialized Doctor Who, then I almost feel that the stories explored in Curse and Wife would have been better suited toward setting up A Good Man Goes to War.  As it is, they don’t.  They merely provide rests in the cacophony.  The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People did advance the arc, sacrificing their own conclusion to do so.  Curse and Wife add nothing more to the arc than a brief appearance by Captain Avery and a cryptic clue from Idris that wasn’t really necessary.

The Doctor finally cracks under the weight of the arc.

In the end, my wife came away from the episode more optimistic than I.  She likes seeing all the plot threads and where they could potentially go.  I admit to being a bit pessimistic.  I’m not sure that the threads will go where she hopes.  And in truth, pinning my previously mentioned hopes on Moffat is unfair to him.  He is telling a story on his terms and in his own way.  If everything in his era is contingent on his final episode, the final pieces of the arc being revealed and put into place, then I can’t be too critical until I have all the pieces I need.  Only then can I evaluate whether or not it truly works.

Doctor Who and Setting

Last night my wife and I mused over The Almost People once again last night.  By way of information, I thought it was good enough (for the most part), but my wife was a bit disappointed, especially where the cliffhanger occurred.  Both of us agreed, however, that The Rebel Flesh was a stronger episode than The Almost People.  Part one set up a lot of interesting ideas that were let down a bit by part two.  And as discussed yesterday, part two was overshadowed by the cliffhanger.  This prompted my wife to ask, “Why are we not getting more good stories?”  Doctor Who has better production values than ever before, the writers are rather good and certainly capable, and we generally have great performances.  And while there can be many charges leveled at why Cymru Who seems to have more mediocre or average episodes than great episodes, I submit that the starting point isn’t a good monster or even a mind-blowing concept.  No, I think the first key to great Doctor Who is getting the right setting.

Think about the basic concept of the show:  an alien who travels through time and space.  Even though he sometimes travels for exploration, sometimes for fun, sometimes to experience things anew through the eyes of his companions, the basic idea is that the show can go anywhere and any when.  Thus, location cannot be treated as arbitrary.  I think with Doctor Who, the plot and setting must be so intricately intertwined that you cannot separate them.  By way of example, in the classic series, Robots of Death is a fan favorite.  At it’s heart, the story is a murder mystery, but the setting dictates much of the story.  The spaces are confined.  The time period is established strongly through the attitudes of the workers and the treatment and operation of the robots.  While elements of the plot can be altered to fit different locations, the story would ultimately become unrecognizable if the setting was changed.  In The Talons of Weng-Chiang, we have the convergence of great characters and a great setting.  Victorian London adds the air of menace and dread, especially as this takes place shortly after the Jack the Ripper killings.  The setting, thus, adds atmosphere.  The setting also dictates the attitudes and portrayals of the characters, something that is key for Jago and Lightfoot.  In Cymru Who, setting is just as important.  Midnight‘s intensity is increased due to the cramped conditions of the shuttle and the characters’ isolation.  Amy’s Choice uses setting to give characterization to both Rory and Amy in their reactions to Upper Leadworth.  Ultimately, I think if you look at all the strongest episodes of Doctor Who from either series, you will find that setting is just as important to the plot as any other element, be it monster or characters.

Daleks in WWII. Practically writes itself, don't it?

Episodes where setting is inconsequential.  In Victory of The Daleks, the story didn’t have any real need to be set in World War II.  World War II was a mere backdrop, but The Daleks could have put their plan into motion in whatever period of time they landed.  Setting, in this case, didn’t help dictate plot developments.  Plot occurred regardless of setting.  The Impossible Astronaut and Day of The Moon, likewise, didn’t need to be set in 1960s America, unless tapping in to United States mythology was part of the point.  Even if that was the point, that doesn’t mean the plot is strong, it merely means the gimmick dictates the setting and the plot.  Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, while being fun rides, also didn’t need to be set during Roman occupation of Britain or at Stonehenge.  This setting was likely chosen for visual identification, but not because it made any dictates on the plot.  It could have easily taken place in Mongolia or St. Petersburg.  The location was inconsequential.  And The Library didn’t make any dictates on the plot of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead.  Nothing about the story needed that location.  The virtual world could have been shunted to another futuristic society that was abandoned.  Likewise, the Vashta Nerada could have come from any place that had a lot of wood (this sentence typed as I eye my hardwood floors and piano with particular suspicion).  

I can't figure out if he supports my theory or proves me wrong.

Certainly, we can’t say that setting is the only factor in writing a good Doctor Who story, but it should definitely be treated as extremely important.  Setting is essential for good world-building, something the classic series did better than the new series (but let’s also be honest: the classic series had more time to world build).  The setting helps establish motivation and limitations in character perceptions (see Tltoxl and Autloc in The Aztecs), limitations in how obstacles can be overcome (see pretty much any base under siege story), often it provides the very danger that threatens the characters (House is both a monster and setting in The Doctor’s Wife, also see the desert episodes in Marco Polo, Platform One in End of the World, and everything in The Mind Robber).  Having a detailed, complex, or at the very least interesting, setting, one that aids or hinders the characters, is a great starting point to writing a good story for Dcotor Who

Lots of light . . very few shadows . . looks safe enough.

6.06 – The Almost People

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Julian Simpson

Ganger Jennifer continues to rally the other Gangers to revolt against the humans.  The Doctor learns to work with his Ganger and must confront some prejudices from Amy.

“Reverse the jellybaby of the neutron flow.”

Sorry about the delay.  Living in North America, I was made to wait until BBC America aired The Almost People.  I understand their decision, although I must say that with the advent of TiVo and DVR, it may have not been the most ideal decision from the fan perspective.  But, I am now only a week behind the rest of the Who-viewing world.  Although, since the mid-series finale just aired in Britain, this means another week of avoiding most Doctor Who sites.

I almost feel as if I have less to say about this episode than the previous.  I liked The Rebel Flesh and I liked The Almost People.  However, I think that the conclusion of the incident at the mining facility (I can’t quite bring myself to say this episode was a conclusion of the story) is rather overshadowed by the revelation that Amy was a ganger.  Immediately the mind races to process what was just revealed and what it says about all the preceding episodes.  I am left with more question and find myself working hard to appreciate The Almost People for what it is.

Don't mind this. We just pile the story filler in the corner. Hey, wait until you get to the end of the episode!

My biggest fear when the announcement was made that the season would be split into two parts, a fear heightened when Moffat said this would help to eliminate ‘filler’, was that the arc would become more important than individual stories.  To me, the attitude Moffat expressed seemed to support the idea that the season arc is what Cymru Who is all about, and individual, stand-alone stories are the fugue between big ideas and revelations.   This attitude bothers me because I want to see each story succeed or fail on its own merits, not in how it is connected to the season arc.  I have been getting a long-time friend caught up on the Matt Smith era because he liked The Eleventh Hour and because a girl he knows loves Doctor Who.  This past week we watched Victory of The Daleks, and while I defended the episode in my review, I couldn’t deny how incredibly dull and uninteresting the story is.  I considered not subjecting my friend to the story because I rightly intuited that he wouldn’t care for it, but Churchill and Bracewell reappeared in The Pandorica Opens, and that would have been mildly confusing.  On top of that, it was the explanation for the Dalek redesign.  It is irritating that such a mediocre story is actually quite important to the mythology of the Moffat era.  I can only hope that Gatiss’ next contribution to The Eleventh Doctor, to air later this year, will be a vast improvement.  Gatiss can be rather hit or miss with me, and he seems to be stacking up the misses lately (at least where Who is concerned.  I’m loving most of his non-Who work.)  I’m a bit concerned for the future because I can’t be the only one who thinks Gatiss is the heir apparent to Moffat’s throne.

Apologies.  Back to the topic at hand.  I must say that the moral compass of this episode seems a bit off.  That and the pacing.  We spent much of this story being told that The Flesh were sentient, they were just as human as the humans.  They are important.  Then, The Doctor seems to kill Ganger Amy.  While perusing various review sites, it seems I may have missed a bit of dialogue about The Gangers being connected to their original subjects and if that connection was severed, then they would lose their form.  I’m assuming that was the gist of it.  If this was the case, then perhaps that line wasn’t made entirely clear.  My wife didn’t catch it either, and it seems other people missed it as well.  Especially when Ganger Jennifer continued to function quite well (and psychotically) when the real Jennifer died.  Are we to assume that the Ganger connection with the original continues after death?  And yet, we have every indication that Ganger Amy had a psychic connection with the original, so are these two separate connections?  We are also told that the TARDIS somehow stabilized the forms of the remaining Gangers.  So this works until the Sonic Screwdriver cancels out the effect, I suppose.

I guess I would say that the resolution was a bit too tidy for me, then grossly overshadowed by the cliffhanger.  The pace that I enjoyed so much in the previous episode was completely turned on its head in this one as it tried to get a lot of material in to the story.  Ultimately, I think I just come away from it thinking that it wasn’t bad and it certainly tried hard and came close to succeeding, but in the end I wish it had been better.  I suppose I’m blaming the cliffhanger.  And the more I think about it, the cliffhanger comes completely out of nowhere.  About the only “clue” I can find that Amy was a Ganger was in her complete prejudice against Gangers, sort of a “she doth protest too much” vibe.  But in reality, the reveal was sudden.  In that regard, it feels a bit like a trick, and while that works for some people, how much better if we were able to figure it out for ourselves?  The Doctor knew Amy was a Ganger and it seems Rory may have known as well.  This means the entire season had our characters knowing more than we do.  But in general, the audience likes to know more than the characters.  The audience likes to figure things out before the characters.  The best surprise reveal Cymru Who has done to this point was the revelation that Professor Yana was The Master.  This worked for two reasons.  First, the elements were introduced in a separate story, and that story was allowed to breathe and function on its own.  Human Nature / Family Blood was a good story and rather self-contained.  It had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.  The second reason the reveal worked was because it became apparent about half-way through Utopia that Yana had a secret.  Then we see the fob watch.  The audience figures out the reveal before it happens.  Neither of these things happened in The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People.  These two episodes were not allowed to really work on their own merits, submitting instead to the cliffhanger.  The cliffhanger was not something that had distinct clues to help the audience figure it out beforehand.  Instead, it was a trick played on the audience and the story serviced the reveal.  No wonder Moffat was so upset about spoilers.  If these reveals are the major points of his story, if we take away the lure of the spoiler, is there anything left?