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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
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Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tempest Lost

Posted by Adam Roberts on 05/03/07 at 06:26 AM

It’s late in the televisual day for this, of course, and it’s probably true that my sister and I are the only two humans in the Western world still watching Lost on a regular basis; but I feel I should register in this place my belated realisation that the show is a version of the Tempest.  It’s obvious, I know.  I’m stupid not to have realised it before, I know.  Everybody else in the world sees it.  Even Wikipedia says so:

The television series Lost (2004-) appears to be influenced by Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”, which is also about a group of people wrecked on an island in a rather mystic fashion for unknown reasons.

“People wrecked on an island in a rather mystic fashion for unknown reasons” isn’t a very good summary of Shakespeare’s play, but you see what they’re getting at.  There’s even a whole entry on the subject at the cringeworthily-named Lostpedia.  Go, see.

So, does this mean that the final final twist will reveal that the whole series has been a version of the Tempest from the point of view of the shipwreck-survivors?  Like the Tempest survivors, the group are split up on different sides of the island.  Presumably Prospero (the mysterious Jacob, whom we have yet to meet) will emerge at some subsequent point to pair off Ferdinand (Jack) with his daughter (presumably Juliet), to punish Caliban (the evil-natured and physically unprepossessing Henry Gale, the only person actually to have been born on the island) and generally put everything to rights.

No, on reflection, that doesn’t sound right.  OK, how about this: Lost is not based on The Tempest, but is instead based on a text that is based on The Tempest, namely Forbidden Planet, or as I prefer to call it Forbidden Planet Amazing!

I’m especially struck by the way the robot’s legs are so akimbo there.  It doesn’t look comfy.  And then there’s the way those shreddy alien clouds in the background make it look as though steam is pouring from his backplate, presumably as he overheats with sheer cybernetic lust.  Anyway.

In the film, strange alien technology allows people to make real and actual anything they think of (like the ‘box’ or room to which Henry Gale recently took Locke, and in which Locke had somehow magically conjured his evil father in real, physical form).  The technology in the FP film, of course, inevitably unleashes ‘Monsters! Monsters! From! The! Id!’, which in Lost take the form of the strange smoke monster that lurks about the island, occasionally killing people.  Of course, this is not to igmore the possibility that Lost is based on a text that is based on a text that is based on The Tempest, and that 1950s rock and roll might not play an important role in the future development of the storyline.  Perchance the recursions go even deeper than that.

Anyway, some predictions.  These are Lostblog’s best guesses as to what will happen:

• Locke’s father, Anthony Cooper, is the real Sawyer.
• Desmond is the most important character of them all.
• Adam and Eve will turn out to be Jack and Kate, or possibly Desmond and Penny.
• Jacob will turn out to be someone we have seen before.
• Juliet won’t be able to go through with whatever plans Ben had when he sent her to the beach.
• The island is or was protected by a sphere-like electromagnetic shield and is either hidden in Antarctica or is constantly moving.

Which is to say:

• Ferdinand’s father, Ferdinand senior, is the real Alonso.
• Ariel is the most important character of them all.
• Adam and Eve will turn out to be Ferdinand and Miranda, or possibly the Boatswain and Sycorax.
• Prospero will turn out to be someone we have seen before.
• Gonzalo won’t be able to go through with whatever plans Caliban had when he sent him to the beach.
• The island is or was protected by a sphere-like electromagnetic shield and is either hidden in Antarctica or is constantly moving.

As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free from this insane televisual addiction that makes it impossible for me to miss a single episode of damn, ridiculous Lost.


Comments

My guess: they’re in/on Purgatory.  Why do I think this?  That novel tie-in, Bad Twin was authored by a fictional guy named “Gary Troup.” When that episode aired, I’d been putting myself to sleep playing this game, so when I saw the name, I naturally—by which I mean, “after having trained my brain”—reordered the letters and Voila! Series solved.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/03/07 at 10:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hey!  What happened to the lovely image of the Forbidden Planet poster?  It was there a moment ago, now all that’s there is a box that says IMPAWARDS.COM.  Is this part of some Lost conspiracy?

By Adam Roberts on 05/03/07 at 10:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Your reasoning is compelling, my friend; however, the purgatory theory has been dismissed by the head writer.

By Adam Roberts on 05/03/07 at 10:46 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hello Adam

You and your sister are almost certainly the only people watching Lost on a regular basis (which suggests Sky - how on earth do you get anything done what with pimping rides and yet another polished-to-within-an-inch-of-a-Golden-Globe cop show from the States?). I’d say you have it sussed were it not for a decent Ariel figure in Lost, and the Patrick Stewart-starring RSC production of The Tempest I recently saw (and loved), made it clear that Ariel is the headline act. (As much as Locke might ask his father, ‘Do you love me, Master?’, the response is hardly ‘dearly’).
I reckon it’s time for sci-fi to move on to Coriolanus as The Tempest bit is getting hideously convoluted: Forbidden Planet, Lost, PS as ProSpero, David Tennant giving the name Sycorax to 1599’s Will. Do I dimly recall an episode of TNG in which Data performs Propsero/Shakespeare’s farewell to the audience (and yes, I know the author’s dead, but the rough magic here abjured/I’m retiring business is so very seductive, for which see Gaiman’s Sandman take on the business).

By on 05/03/07 at 11:15 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Disregard the above comment (though SF’s abandoning of the good ship Tempest is overdue); in my smugness at having recently learned to love Ariel (who, in my previous estimation, came a cropper beside Puck’s girdle around the earth, which means he could take on The Flash in A Chariots of Fire-style one-on-one), I passed over the insightful notion that Desmond is Ariel. Of course he is. Like, duh. Sorry.

By on 05/03/07 at 05:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Apologies in advance for my enthusiasm:

Lost is my religion—so you and your sister might have a chance at salvation if you keep watching!  I think the similarities to Shakespeare’s The Tempest might be interesting, but keeping that framework in mind may unnecessarily limit a viewer’s perceptive imagination.

My current “theory:” the writers know that you’ll resist genuinely sympathizing with these people now that they might possibly be “dead.” After all, it’s self-evident that we’re all alive and not dreaming, right? But how better to bring Buddhist ontology to life than by showing us a bunch of walking dead people before making it clear that we’re in exactly the same situation that they are—nothing but questions until you realize what the Buddha’ Fire Sermon really meant.

But not really Buddhism either.  More like Pascal’s skepticism, where principles cannot be trusted because Nature itself is the subject of inquiry. 

The show’s not really my religion—but it will be if the writers can find a way to end this without telling us “what’s really going on.”

Anyone for Melville’s Confidence-Man?  Time for a revisit, maybe…

By Casey on 05/03/07 at 05:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

yeah, but what about all the postcolonial Tempests?

By The Constructivist on 05/03/07 at 06:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Anthony, sci-fi already did Coriolanus, in the third Star Wars prequel.

By David Moles on 05/04/07 at 12:55 AM | Permanent link to this comment

David, it’s a matter of no small pride on my part that I didn’t make it to the third prequel after the second, but I’ll take you at your word. What I meant to suggest is that The Tempest has been overdone, that for SF it’s just a tad too obvious.

Why hasn’t Dr Faustus been referenced and pilfered from to the same extent? Faustus is more recognisably a scientist that Prospero, and where Prospero meets the Renaissance audience’s expectation that the magician will renounce his art (though he isn’t ravish’d by it as Faustus, he lay claim to necromancy, which is to say the diabolical; ‘graves at my command have waked their sleepers’), Faustus does so too late to be redeemed - surely a more interesting proposition?

By on 05/04/07 at 06:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, I really don’t think the guilty pleasure rhetoric here is called for. It’s a conceptually innovative, generally intelligent, and often highly entertaining show.

I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that The Invention of Morel provides the key, largely in the hope that some adjutant at ABC will pass along a plot summary to a writer who’ll think that it provides a way to wrap everything up.

The definitive Lostpedia entry is “Naive Realism", by the way.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 05/04/07 at 10:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Shakespearean metaphors can never be lost...only assimilated. All the world can do is reinvent the greats!

BlueRectangle Books

By on 05/05/07 at 05:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam--you and your sister are not the only ones left watching this show. I am beyond addicted to this show, and have even been thinking about ways to use it as a metaphor for what the humanities could use right now in a serious way: to be stranded somewhere and under attack by mysterious “others.”

By Eileen A. Joy on 05/05/07 at 08:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

David Horowitz isn’t really all that mysterious.

By David Moles on 05/06/07 at 05:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hopefully the poster-image is back in the middle of this post now.

By Adam Roberts on 05/11/07 at 09:17 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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