Dharma Stations 4: The Pearl

In a similar vein to The Swan Station, The Pearl has an initially confounding duality as both genuine, working Dharma facility and functioning psychological experiment. The Pearl Station is, on the surface, a monitoring station. Situated deep underground, the main room (with en suite!) features nine monitors. As Nikki observed, "All these TVs - this guy says that there's 6 stations - maybe some of these TVs are connected to the other hatches." (Sharp intake of breath at the use of the term "hatches" for Dharma Stations, and relax.)

It initially makes sense. 9 televisions. Apparently 6 Dharma Stations (the Orientation films had The Swan as Station 3 of 6, The Pearl as Station 5 of 6). 9 screens. 6 Stations. This suggests there are either multiple feeds from certain Stations, or that there are links to other Stations (there are more than 6 after all!). It beggars belief that, having got a feed to The Flame working (where Mikhail was first spotted) Sayid gave up and didn't bother trying to make the rest work. . . And why is The Pearl number 5 of 6 anyway? If the place was designed to view the other Stations you'd have thought it would come last, no?

It makes sense that The Pearl was denoted by a big question mark on the Blast Door Map. This baby is more of a mystery than first appearances suggest. And the plot thickens.

The narrator of The Pearl Orientation film called himself Mark Wickmund. Unless you believe this is not the same guy that was Marvin Candle in the Swan Orientation film (for the record, I do) the clear difference between the two is that Mark Wickmund has two working arms and Marvin Candle has only one. Point is, the Swan Orientation film was made after the Pearl Orientation film. That gives us a real chicken before the egg situation.

To clarify, let's look at the man himself and analyse his speech in the Pearl Orientation film. (The following has been edited for brevity.)

"Hello, I'm Dr. Mark Wickmund, and this is the orientation film for Station 5 of DHARMA Initiative. Station 5, or the Pearl, is a monitoring station where the activities of participants in DHARMA Initiative projects can be observed and recorded (Note here the use of "projects", plural.) . . . for the ongoing refinement of the Initiative (I believe this little statement to be the true crux of the matter; a point I shall expand upon later.). . . Your tour of duty will last 3 weeks and during this time you and your partner will observe a psychological experiment in progress. Your duty is to observe team members at another station on the island. (Note the singular use of "station"; it would appear that each 'team' of observers are limited only to observing one experiment at a time.) These team members are not aware that they are under surveillance, or that they are the subjects of an experiment (Oh the irony!). . . What is the nature of the experiment, you might ask? What do these subjects believe they are accomplishing as they struggle to fulfil their tasks? You, as the observer, don't need to know. All you need to know is the subjects believe their job is of the utmost importance. (Doesn't this feel like speech linking directly to the Swan and only the Swan?) Remember, everything that occurs, no matter how minute or seemingly unimportant, must be recorded. Each time a notebook is filled with the fruits of your diligent observation, roll it up [audio/video problem] containers provided. (Where the "fruits of your diligent observation" will be shot out of a tube in the middle of nowhere.)

What I think is the Pearl Station was never a bona fide monitoring station. The Pearl was pure experiment. The reveal of the pneumatic tube that went nowhere is the big giveaway, but it's also worth remembering the ironic line from above. ". . . team members are not aware they are under surveillance. . ." There is a camera in the Pearl Station! The monitoring station was being watched! The original Dharma guinea pigs would not have known about the camera in the Pearl; when Locke and Mr. Eko found the Station the camera was visible because someone had ripped the casing apart and exposed it.

Of course I'm compelled to ask, Why? Why watch the watchers? Perhaps it was just a psychological experiment to understand the nature of observation. Perhaps it was just a psychological experiment to see if people would do it. Or maybe it was a study of Observer Effect (a theory tackled in more dramatic fashion with Desmond and his influence on his own observations/flashes); a sort of study on the effect that observation of a study can have on the study - "for the ongoing refinement of the Initiative". That's trippy on all kinds of levels but nothing would much surprise me when it comes to those ker-azy Dharma kids!

So that's how I think The Pearl was originally set-up. The watchers watched and the observers made notes and posted them into a tube that went nowhere. Probably a Dharma van - maybe driven by Roger Linus on occasion - collected the notebooks routinely. And so it went. But I believe 'the incident' at the Swan Station changed the importance of the Pearl Station.

Before 'the incident', I can imagine there was a different Swan Orientation film. . . one where 'Marvin Candle' had two working arms. . . But after 'the incident' a new Swan Orientation film was made about the importance of inputting the code. The Pearl Station became a fundamental means of monitoring the Swan (again, Dharma's perverse scientific nature retained the experiment in progress despite the genuine importance). A computer with printouts of the Swan Station computer's output was installed, and maybe that camera in the Pearl - the one that was observing the Dharma guinea pigs - also kept an eye on the Swan Station so Dharma could react should it appear that the button, for whatever reason, wasn't going to get pushed. . .

That's how I envisage things went in the Pearl for quite some time. And then there was 'the purge'. Oh dear. Whichever two hapless Dharma guinea pigs were in the Pearl at the time no doubt found themselves left down there - though given the lack of supplies and living conditions there's no way two people could have remained down there for long before they stuck their heads out of 'the hatch' and wondered what was going on. When their relief never appeared, maybe they tore the Pearl apart and found the hidden camera and realised they were part of an experiment. Naturally, they'd stop making notes in their notebooks, and so we have to assume that the large pile of notebooks Jack, Kate, etc found had been building up before 'the purge' - Dharma had perhaps stopped collecting for some time, for reasons unknown. (How the notebooks managed to remain undamaged by rain I simply cannot comprehend - all manner of elaborations can be extrapolated out of this query!)

So, as in the Swan Station, post-Purge Dharma workers were left on their own to survive as best they could. I recall the skeleton found in the bear cave was wearing a Pearl Station outfit and it makes me wonder if this was not the ultimate fate of one such unfortunate Pearl Dharma worker. . . And that's where my thinking concludes for the Pearl. Except one last point. On the Blast Door Map the Pearl Station was symbolised by a great big question mark so I feel it would be fitting to end this post on an open question.

There was a camera in the Pearl Station, the presence of which begs the question: who was watching the watchers, and is there anyone watching the Pearl Station now. . .?


twillight said...

Pearl was Station 5, not Station 4.

AngeloComet said...

Twilight - Paragraph 2 did note that The Pearl was Station 5 of 6, as stated in the orientation video for it.

The reason the title of the post was Dharma Station 4 was purely as these were written in the order that the Stations appeared in the show.