With Season 5 firmly entrenched as “the time travel season” of LOST, I keep seeing reference to an old interview where the show’s producers said “there is no time travel” on the show. People end up calling them liars and claim we can’t trust any hints they give regarding what may or may not be happening, and feel this is proof that they make it up as they go along.
Let’s look at the full quote in proper context:
“We’re still trying to be … firmly ensconced in the world of science fact. I don’t think we’ve shown anything on the show yet … that has no rational explanation in the real world that we all function within. We certainly hint at psychic phenomena, happenstance and … things being in a place where they probably shouldn’t be. But nothing is flat-out impossible. There are no spaceships. There isn’t any time travel.” — Damon Lindelof
This oft-cited quote is from an interview given during the first season. A few things to pay attention to regarding the wording used:
“We’re still trying to be…”
The words “trying to be” seem important. By definition, to try is to attempt to do something. Lindelof is saying they are “still trying” to be grounded in science fact. But since the answers aren’t all grounded in that world, they have to make a conscious effort — to try — to keep things reasonable in the early going.
This “trying to be” may have been ordered by ABC. Ex-writer David Fury said in an interview that the first draft of Rousseau’s debut in the episode “Solitary” contained a line where she said her research team was studying “time” but the network asked to have it removed. That episode predates this “no time travel” interview by 2 months.
“I don’t think we’ve shown anything on the show yet … that has no rational explanation…”
In this sentence he makes it a point to say “yet,” meaning “at the present time.” To paraphrase: We haven’t shown anything yet (during season 1) with no rational explanation, but in future seasons we might…
Even more curious are the specific examples he gives to support his statement of what they have not yet shown:
“There are no spaceships. There isn’t any time travel.”
This was not in response to a direct question. Nobody asked “Is the show about aliens?” or “Is the show about time travel?” Had that been the case I wouldn’t be surprised if he skirted the issue or told a white lie to protect the secrets. But here he’s outright volunteering it in what may be a clever hint dropping fashion. Keep in mind that this comes from a guy who called the secret code name for the ending of Season 4 “the frozen donkey wheel” and claimed the code word was needed so nobody would figure it out. He hid the real answer in plain sight, as nobody suspected an actual frozen donkey wheel!
To paraphrase the original quote again: “We’re trying to stay in the world of science fact this season. There are no spaceships and there isn’t any time travel…yet.”
If Damon was planting seeds for something that would happen years later, it’s brilliant. But it does leave one question.
When will the spaceship show up?