Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Dharma Video/Pierre Chang: Analysis & Theories

I realize that by posting my theories about this video more than 24 hours after watching it live at Comic-Con, I'm certainly not the first or most original. However, I haven't had time to read analysis of it since I've been traveling all day, so it's still relevant and relatively fresh to me. Frankly, when it debuted during the panel yesterday, I was so focused on holding the camera without shaking...that I didn't fully enjoy or absorb the video itself until a second and third viewing online later.

While awaiting my flight this morning, I attempted to decipher the name Pierre Cheng as a possible anagram, with mixed results: Greener Chip, Rich Gene Rep, etc. I was leaning toward Greener Chip as a possible reference to The Orchid and Rich Gene Rep as a nod to the bunny duplication, but those weren't very exciting. So I moved on. (update: I now know it is Change, not Cheng; disregard the anagrams!)

The Name: Dr. Pierre Cheng

I believe it is significant that his real name does not relate to flame/fire, as did his three pseudonyms: Marvin CANDLE, Edgar HalliWAX, Mark WICKmund. The following are my thoughts about the origination of those names, and how they might relate to this new video:

The Flame station

It was the central communications center for the entire island, as well as for underwater (Looking Glass) and off island contact. It seems unlikely that Dr. Cheng would have been stationed there, given that he was an astrophysicist. However, there were cows (and a cat) on the premises with Mikhail, which to me indicates that The Flame may have doubled as a storage facility for animals that were accidentally replicated in the Vault (see: the Casimir effect & Cheng in the Orchid orientation film). Random aside: It has always bothered me that The Flame was not located in a more logical position on the island for reception purposes; why station it in a valley instead of further up the mountain?

The security code to warn of Hostile encroachment near The Flame was 77, which is the atomic number for Iridium; a chemical that is believed to have determined the extinction of dinosaurs via asteroid impact. Now, before your head starts spinning off its axis, allow me to further elaborate down this road. Cheng was an astrophysicist - this chemical would have been in his wheelhouse, so to speak. [There are also reports that Iridium is of volcanic origin, and not only was there a vague reference to a volcano on the island (in young Ben's Dharma class), there was a line of volcanic ash surround Jacob's cabin. None of which relates to Cheng, but is quite fascinating.]

In addition, Bea Klugh was so loyal to the cause that when she was captured by Sayid & co., she insisted Mikhail shoot her rather than disclose any information. Keep in mind that Ben and the Others made a point to never kill anyone, so that was a rather monumental moment that has not truly been addressed since.

We also see Cheng (as Candle) on a recorded computer message when Locke wins a chess game at The Flame. He notes that communications and sonar are out of order, and he is wearing a Flame labcoat (as opposed to the other orientation films; his coats feature the Swan logo).

Given the obvious astrological symbolism in the new Dharma Initiative/Octagon Global Recruiting ARG, I must also mention the Flame Nebula, which is in the constellation Orion. Hey look, more astronomy. Paging Dr. Cheng...


The Dharma Initiative created New Otherton and built the Barracks, including Ben's secret spy Black Smoke Monster-unleashing room. Obviously Smokey has been around for some time; thus, the Barracks (which appears to be the only successful tool to repel Smokey). Cheng was probably living/working there at the time and perhaps encountered our strange, polymorphous friend. I venture to guess that Cheng eventually loses his left arm after said unpleasant meeting. And why he referred to the security system as one which protects from 'wildlife' on the island.

Moving on, once again...

The Baby

We only hear but do not see a baby crying in the background. Cheng speaks to an off-camera woman named Jennifer as well. We shouldn't assume that this is his wife; he has never worn a wedding ring on camera. I believe that the baby is Charlotte and Jennifer is her mother. If this is true, could it be that Charlotte is the first and only child to have been conceived and born on the island, and live to tell about it? Of course that brings up a plethora of other questions, such as...does she not remember because she brainwashed before leaving the island (in Room 23 perhaps)? Did she start to research her history, leading her to the Dharma collar in Tunisia? How did she leave the island, and did her family perish in The Purge?

The Man Behind the Camera

It will be a common assumption that Daniel Faraday was the one videotaping Cheng in the Swan.

  • Cheng and Faraday are both professors; Faraday speaks his language.
  • Faraday's experience with time travel, and Cheng's attempts in the Orchid.
  • The chalkboard in Faraday's Oxford office featured the Kerr metric, which Cheng mentioned was his area of study on the island.
  • Damon and Carlton confirmed the importance of the information in Faraday's notebook of island and science secrets.
  • Faraday could be another ageless wonder, a la Richard Alpert. He looks exactly the same in 2008 as he did in 1996 when he was a professor at Oxford.
  • He may have been recruited by Abaddon for the mission with the other Freighter Folk specifically because of his previous experience on the island and inside knowledge of Dharma (even if Faraday himself doesn't recall due to his memory loss issues).
  • Cheng's statement that "time is not just of the essence, it IS the essence."
  • It seems unlikely that Faraday would risk his life to travel back in time via the machine he created, the one which killed his rat Eloise when he proved that he could make her consciousness travel in time.
  • The man videotaping Cheng appears to be a reluctant accomplice, and not one who traveled back in time to urge someone to create a warning message before his impending death.
  • Although his age is unclear, if he's not ageless, Faraday would have been far too young at the time that this tape was created.
If Faraday was indeed the man behind the camera, his blast to the past would have had to occur between 1996 and 2008 before he departed for the island (because Desmond is his Constant and anchor for his consciousness). At what point did Faraday learn of The Purge and how? Was it in his notebook?

A Clue From the DVD Extras?

Perhaps I'm reading far too much into this (too late?), but during the Season 4 DvD segment about The Freighter Folk (link courtesy of Watch with Kristin) which aired during yesterday's Lost panel, L. Scott Caldwell (Rose) jokingly inquired why Faraday would wear a tie on the beach. Sam Anderson (Bernard) answered with: "I think he's lived in that necktie for the last 30 years." Cheng videotaped that message 30 years ago. Coincidence? Never, in the Lost world.
I have more, but after 4 days in San Diego, I need to peel myself away from the laptop and enjoy being home.

I'm sure that this won't be the last you hear from me about this particular video, nor do I imagine the debate to remain simply inside my own head. So, your thoughts?


King Tuesday said...

If they are going to use some degree of science to explain time travel and whatnot, Einstein claims traveling to the future would be possible, (which would explain Ben), however backwards would be impossible.

If Faraday was sent back in time it would create a lot of paradoxes which Darlton seem to be trying to avoid.

It could suggest that he's like Alpert though I personally dislike this thought.

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar theory!! You can check it out...

BTW, when I was watching the Lost panel, and I heard that dude ask your Bentham question, I was like, hey! That wasn't your question!
Seriously, what's the point? He already had the answer, and anyone cool enough to think it's a good question would have been cool enough to listen to the EW panel and give credit to you. w/e

good question :)

Capcom said...

Great post! And thanks for the reminder about Dan's chalkboard, I definitely have to go back and check that out again. :-)