Thursday, January 03, 2008

Time Travel Questions

I rewatched Flashes Before Your Eyes and I'm more confused than ever. So I'm putting out the call for you readers to explain to me what is going on with Desmond and time travel which Damon has said actually occurred.

Now obviously Desmond's 2004 body didn't travel back to his late 90's London apartment as evidenced by his beard in 2004

and his non-beard in the 90s.

Instead it seems to be the case that the consciousness of Desmond in the 90s "remembers" so to speak things he has done in the future, at least up to and including turning the failsafe key. Right? He also makes several references to things in the future or the present happening before. So is there a time loop? If so, where does it start and stop? Obviously it extends beyond turning the key if what we watched in Season 3 is to be believed. Are there even multiple loops? Loops that run from head injury to head injury since it seemed that's what started and ended Desmond's London loop? Will Desmond time travel again because Charlie whacked him with the oar?

As you can tell, I'm very confused when it comes to time travel and Desmond and that's without even beginning the whole course correcting conundrum. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

As a sidenote, maybe the next time Desmond flashes back to England, he'll visit this site.


trevor mcfur said...

I agree that it's somehow Dez's consciousness that went back in time in 'FBYE'. But that doesn't really seem like what happens with his island flashes; when he's saving Charlie's life, he gets a flash about what's gonna happen, and he acts on it. Then when he changes the future, he has a new flash of Charlie dying in some different way (seeing the future instead of going back into the past). Unless ... FBYE was supposed to represent Dez living in the past and having flashes to his future on the island.

But how does the jewelry shop owner and the other brother fit into the picture? It really is very confusing.

There's some theories out there that Dez changing time somehow explains Charlie being able to swim, etc. I really hate that theory, and hope that they don't use Dez's time travel to explain some of the show's inconsistencies (I'd expect that out of Heroes, not Lost).

That sign is great ... where's that from? There's a real guy who claims to have invented time travel who also just happens to be named Jacob?!?!?!

capcom said...

I think that on these problems we will just have to wait and see what TPTB's creative intentions are concerning the details of beards, physical vs. mental travel, and head-whacking. Hopefully they will make more sense then how in Kill Bill Kiddo's hair keeps changing length all the time with no continuity, even within the same time period and she wasn't even time-traveling! >:-|

Funny about Hogflume. Have you ever heard of John Titor?

capcom said...

P.S. we both did posts on the failsafe and time travel, but mine is goofy and not serious. :o)

memphish said...

I found the time travel picture on some link on my Google home page called Funny Pictures or something like that.

I've never heard of Titor or Hogflume. And I would hardly call this post too serious Capcom. :-)

Everytime I try to think too much about this whole time travel thing it makes my head cramp.

andrew. said...

In my rewatch, "Flashes Before Your Eyes" really felt like a Twilight Zone episode crammed into the middle of the season. I love the Twilight Zone so that's not an insult, but it really did stick out.

When watching the episode during the season, it felt like a game changing revelation, like we'd learned new rules about the way the Lost universe works. Now i'm seeing that it really was a very isolated occurence, and very strictly related to Desmond and no one else.

I think Desmond's time travel follows a sort of Dickensian model (which is obviously fitting). He only time travels in relation to his own life, and even though he interacts with people in his past, where Scrooge was only an observer, Desmond doesn't really effect the past. In the episode, Desmond not changing the past seems to be his own free will, bourne out of his amnesiac state in which he wasn't able to fully suss out what was happening to him. But was he really in a position to alter the past? He had experienced the meeting with Mr. Widmore before, but it still ended with the same rejection. More directly, when he goes to purchase the ring, he's confronted by Ms. Hawking.
But, like Scrooge, Desmond is able to change his actions in the present based on what he sees in the future. He can overcome his cowardice to be a hero for Charlie and the losties, because he can clearly see the outcome of his hiding from the situation on the island and idly drinking himself to death.
The story seemed
Desmond's condition doesn't seem to truly expand the nature of the Lost mystery for any character except Desmond. He didn't, for instance, go back in time to stop Kate from killing her dad, or Ben from murdering the Dharma Initiative, or stop Locke from destroying the Swan station computer.
I take from his conversation with Charlie ('any flashes?' 'no, none') to be a sign that Desmond's future seeing stint is over.

- If Desmond hadn't mixed up the nights at the pub and knew for certain that he truly was reliving the past, what actions would he have taken to alter the history? What final outcome would he be shooting for? Ultimately he wanted to be with Penny, but knowing that his future involves him pushing the button and 'saving the world', would he then have taken up a quest to get to the island on his own accord? Could he be happily married to Penny knowing that the world would shortly end?

- Why did Desmond decide to buy the ring this time around? Presumably all of the course of events are the same this time, except that Desmond has a nagging idea about the future. Have his experiences on the island truly altered who he is as a person, so that even when he has no real memory, his future character can alter the way he acts, and give him the courage to marry Penny?

-If Charlie's fate was to die earlier, and, therefor, not turn off the Looking Glass, would the losties have called the freighter? would the universe have course corrected a way to make that happen without Desmond's efforts? I think no. I think the entire point of Desmond's prophetic condition was to remind him that even when he tries to opt out of taking part in the world, his actions/inactions still have consequences. The future isn't written like the past.

sorry so long. The Desmond story line was one of my favorites of season 3, but partly because i kept wondering how it jived with the rest of the Lost mythology. My short answer is that it didn't, and i wouldn't be surprised if it was pretty much dismissed from this point on.

trevor mcfur said...

I've wondered too if Dez actually changes the 'big picture' of the future too. With Charlie dying, they make a pretty big argument that he can't, because no matter how many times he saves him, Charlie still dies in the end. But by saving Charlie over and over, Charlie was able to do something that led to a major event, contact with the freighter. But let's be honest, if Charlie was dead, someone else would have gone down there (probably Dez alone). Could anyone besides Charlie have figured out Good Vibrations? Who knows. But I think, still, that even if Charlie had died before, that events still would have played out the same.

I also wonder too, when Charlie asked Dez about the flashes, if he REALLY hadn't had any more ... or if he saw Charlie's dead body floating there and didn't want to tell him.

capcom said...

Well, I mean pertinent then, Memphish. :o)

Great ideas everyone!

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

Memphish, you've stolen my upcoming post! I bet you traveled in time to see what I was gonna do so you could beat me to the punch. Well, tell your little friend Ms. Hawking I've got some time warp tricks of my own . . .

Seriously though, this is a great post. It sounds like we've both been experiencing the brain melting conundrum that is trying to understand time travel on LOST. I do think there is some type of time loop going on, though I suspect it extends in both directions beyond Desmond turning the key. If you notice, Desmond's friend Donovan mentions to his colleague that if you "run the same experiment ten times, you get ten different outcomes." I wonder if that's a bit of a clue right there. Also, maybe Desmond is seeing the future because he's already lived the future, multiple times. Perhaps all of Charlie's deaths were ways that Charlie died previously. I mean, if Desmond can relive the past, why can't he relive the future? (In a drunken stupor last night I totally remembered other lines which suggest the time loop thing, but in today's sober state I have completely forgotten them!).

It's certainly implied in "Catch 22" that Des had another mysterious blackout, followed by an intervention from Brother Campbell. I think this is evidence of Desmond repeatedly jumping around in his own timeline. Now, obviously he didn't physically time travel, as there would be two Desmonds and future Des would have to avoid past Des. But since it's been confirmed that his time travel wasn't just in his head, either, I think this indicates Desmond's consciousness, his being, is somehow unglued from a fixed perspective in spacetime. Hence, he can remember the future, and he can relive his past.

Andrew, I do agree with you about both the TWILIGHT ZONE aspect of the episode as well as the Dickensian feel. However, I don't agree that Des didn't affect that past, or that this doesn't connect to the major mythology of the series. Now, I do think FBYE is a unique episode, but I also suspect it fits into the big picture in a big way. I know Lindelof confirmed that Des actually did change the bigger picture by doing certain things differently (such as getting hit with the cricket bat instead of the bartender), and that those changes would resonate on a larger scale down the road. It also sounded like Des was on his way back to Penny when he got smacked in the head; what happened to him afterwards? Obviously he wasn't just magically transported back to the island. So did his life continue as normal or is there something goofy we're not seeing? I think one of the reasons it might feel as if this episode doesn't connect with the mythology as a whole is because, by only having Desmond's consciousness travel through time, it gets to be both sort of in Desmond's head and also sort of about actual time travel. It really walks that line.

Now, what I completely don't understand is this course correcting thing. For instance, if the universe corrects our paths, why the need for Ms. Hawking to intervene? It seems she course corrected Des, not the Universe. According to her, isn't Des going to wind up on the island no matter what he does? But if that's the case, how could Jack and everyone leave the island if they weren't meant to do so? The producers have been no help in this issue. They have said both that Desmond changed the bigger picture by reliving the past, and that Ms. Hawking's rules of time travel are the rules of the series (they also commented that the flashforwards are set in stone and cannot be avoided). So, which is it? The first statement implies there is still choice and free will, the second implies that we're all moved ultimately by fate and destiny. I understand the free will vs. fate argument is core to the show, and that there is no way to provide a simple answer. FBYE itself is a wonderful examination of this dilemma, but as for how these things play into the grand scheme of the show, it sounds as if the producers are telling us two contradictory things.

memphish said...

Sorry PAA. I guess this makes us even for you outposting me on Smokey some time this summer. :-D

Thanks for all the great, insightful comments everyone. I think you sum up the problem for me PAA when you say that TPTB are telling us inconsistent things. That's why I didn't even start in on the course correction. The time travel alone confuses me enough.

Nice Dickens take Andrew. I like the idea that knowing a future could make Desmond make different choices in the present to prevent that future. If that's the case then Mrs. Hawking is definitely course correcting Desmond for her own ends. I don't think I'm buying what she's selling anymore. I think they all have free will and that in fact Desmond needs to have the balls to change the future. After all he didn't turn his back on Charlie even given his flashes. He still tried to save him and Charlie even knew he would which is why he locked the hatch in the communications room.

trevor mcfur said...

Good post, paula. I had some similar thoughts about Dez maybe having lived all of these potential futures at some point. That would mean that his 'flashes' aren't actually visions of the future, but instead memories of a future that he's already experienced (memories of the future ... sounds like a Philip K. Dick story). But, does he live one path, and then, if he changes something, suddenly black out and live the next possible path? And how far ahead does he go?

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

Well if he's actually experiencing nonlinear time, then time could be constantly rearranging itself because of him. I've considered the idea that he chooses which version of events will happen, and the blacking out would totally make sense with that. I completely agree with you that the "flashes" are actually memories . . . I was trying to say that in my post but I think I talked myself in circles, haha. Man, it really does sound like a Philip K. Dick story. I always knew LOST would kind of touch on his style at some point . . .

Good point about Charlie, Memphish. Desmond and Charlie both seemed to choose that particular fate. Des knew it would be presented beforehand, but it was their choice to allow it to happen.

trevor mcfur said...

Just because Mrs. Hawkins says that the universe course corrects (implying that things can't be changed) doesn't necessarily mean that she's telling the truth. I think that she's actually one of the biggest mysteries of the show ... who she is, who she's working for. Who knows what her motivations are, and why she wants Desmond on the island. Is she somehow working to try and manipulate time for some reason? I think that somehow Desmond is going to find a way to break free of his flashes and actually change the future in some real, substantial way, and I think that him doing so is going to be a major plot point in the endgame of the series.

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

I think a good question raised by this issue is, Does Ms Hawking want Desmond on the island so he can turn the key and save the world, or does she want him to turn the key because she's with the freighter people?

capcom said...

That's the big question to me PAA, who is Mrs.H with?! It must really matter!

Now, if you want to be even more confused, here is something from the Wiki entry about that John Titor, supposed time traveling guy:
"Titor claimed that the "Everett-Wheeler model of quantum physics" was correct. This model, better known as the many-worlds interpretation, posits that every possible outcome of a quantum decision actually occurs in a separate "universe". Titor stated that this was the reason the grandfather paradox would not occur, following the logic of the argument, Titor would be killing someone else's grandfather in another timeline, not his own."

The grandfather paradox is about going back in time and killing your grandfather before you were born, which would mean that you couldn't be born, etc. Much like that great episdoe of Futurama where Phillip Fry becomes his own grandfather, or something like that. :o) But, I digress as usual. So I think that this means that if we change time, the "thread" of this timeline branches or splits off into another timeline creating an additional furture timeline. So the timeline of Charlie dying the first time, forks off into a future where Charlie dies another time, parallel to the one where Charlie dies the first time?? Ow, brain-pain.

memphish said...

I'm pretty sure Damon has said we aren't looking at a multiverse scenario which I have to say I'm pleased with. Multiverses would be the ultimate out because you could literally argue every single episode took place in a different -verse.

capcom said...

I agree. So they have to have another explanation for the bearded and not-bearded traveling Desmonds. :-) And, for how many different futures could have been possible according to how many times Charlie almost died. And, also possibly how Charlie once could not, and then could, swim like a fish. Discounting him telling lies, of course. :o)

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

I believe Lindelof said they weren't fans of the multiple timelines idea in relation to the flashforwards; that doesn't entirely preclude the concept in general. But I do think that if they choose to touch upon the idea, it won't be so overused that it becomes a copout.

memphish said...

Just to refresh the memories, this is from the Official Lost Podcast of this past September.

Daphne: Oh, my next question was, as far as the fast forward goes that we saw at the end of Season 3, is that a definite occurrence that takes place? Or is that something that is one possible future that could very possibly be changed, if Jack makes it back to the Island, to maybe be able to change whatever happened?

Carlton Cuse: You know, we're not big fans of the idea of sort of multiple futures, and...

Daphne: Okay. [Chuckles]

Carlton Cuse: ...I think that it kind of robs the story of its stakes, in a certain way. So, you know, we're working very hard to kind of, basically, maintain "the future is the future", and it's not... we're not gonna go back and sort of recast the future by affecting events in the past, and then all of a sudden having a completely different future.

Damon Lindelof: ... but, you know, basically the future is fixed and...

Carlton Cuse: And not... and not parallel futures.

So that's what they have most recently said. For what it's worth.

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

That's what I was referring to, as well. To me, they're just saying that the flashforwards need to definitely happen or else they won't really be dramatically effective. You know, what's the point of seeing Jack so despondent if it doesn't actually eventually happen to the present day Jack? So I think they mean they won't be presenting multiple timelines in terms of things such as flashbacks and flashforwards, because it lets the air out of the tires as far as the dramatic arcs of the characters, but in the broader scope I still think we could see something along those lines. The reason I don't entirely buy their statement that nothing can be changed is because they themselves have hinted that certain things have been changed. I'm actually getting tired of their endless contradictory statements regarding this topic. It's like, "Yes, there is time travel on LOST! Desmond changed the bigger picture! But the future can't be changed, either, so stop thinking about time travel!" I don't really know what they're talking about at this point.

Lost 2010 said...

I've never had the nerve to rewatch FBYE. The whole time travel thing is just a little too much for me. I mean, if you get do-overs doesn't everyone else get them too? If you go back and fix things right, can't the bad guy just go back two minutes before you and shoot you in the head every time?

Maybe that's where Carlton and Damon were going - too much time travel unravels your story. If it exists it has to be pretty limited and have some definite limitations on it or you have no story left.

capcom said...

I agree Lost2010, if your story is not specifically about time travel, it's a very brave thing to do to bring it in as a part or extra thread of the main story!