Dharma Stations Part 7: The Looking Glass

Arguably a candidate for most flawed Dharma Station, The Looking Glass sits offshore on the ocean floor, elevated on a series of supports. This elevation creates capacity for a moon pool at its centre which appears to be the only access point. I claim The Looking Glass to be flawed primarily because of design characteristics and some troublesome events. For example:

Did you know that if Charlie hadn't locked the door when the Looking Glass Station window was blown up by Mikhail both he and Desmond would have been fine? The pressure inside the Station was stronger than the pressure exerted on the outside, and so the moon pool water would have risen up and flooded the interior, pushing air out through the window in displacement. Apparently the water would not have filled up the Station (wouldn't go higher than the hole) so Charlie and Des could have survived in this air pocket for some time. Hydrostatic pressure, it's called. The things you learn, eh? But this kind of business is not what I am here to discuss. Here I am concerned with what Dharma used The Looking Glass for and, on a positive note, it's perhaps the most important Station of them all. . .

I think we're all agreed that the Lost Island, for whatever reason, is a tricky place to get to. Yeah, sure, you might stumble upon it if you happen to be travelling from Sydney to L.A. on a plane that goes 1,000 miles off course and gets caught in the wrong air-space at the wrong time to coincide with an electromagnetic anomaly not being properly averted. If you manage to survive being on a plane that splits into three pieces and hurtles to the ground then, yeah, you're there! More prudent travellers may wish to consider other means.

This is where The Looking Glass comes in. It emits a sonar ping that guides in submersible vehicles to the Island. Don't ask me how that works. The best metaphor I can conjure is of a person stumbling through a vast, dark space being guided by a single pinprick of light - without the light the person would stumble blindly interminably. That's one chief function of the Station; to allow people to 'find' (or return to) the Island. Like I said, don't ask me how that works, but it makes me figure that the reason the Island is difficult to find, or reach, is potentially man-made. I'll try to explain why.

Imagine a room with an invisible door. The door is closed and invisible from both inside and outside. It has no handle. The only way to find and open the door is by a special remote control. You press a button and the invisible door lights up and a handle appears allowing you to open it. Inside the room is a man who has this remote control and can exit and enter the room at will. The man built the remote control himself. You with me so far? Now if you were to meet this man you'd have to ask: How did you work out that you needed to build a remote control to open the invisible door? The obvious answer is because the man was the person that built the door in the first place - thus he knew how to build the thing that opened it.

The alternative idea would be that the man knew all about invisible doors and, thus, when he found himself in a room with one he understood how to get the thing open. In terms of the Island, Dharma either knew beforehand, or they engineered the Island's 'cloaked' capacity once they were there. Either way, it was deliberate. I won't stretch that idea further. It is literally a stand-alone thought that, once we learn more about how accessible the Island is, may collapse completely. But I figured it was worth airing.

The Looking Glass logo is a white rabbit. This won't be news to the majority, I'm sure, but 'looking glass' and white rabbit are lifted from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland. In the book you could look through the looking glass (Victorian term for a mirror) without being seen from the other side. Take that concept and apply as you wish. I should also mention that on the Looking Glass schematic Sayid took from The Flame, the rabbit logo has a black spot (rabbit hole, anyone?) with a clock face on it. This 'clock' does not appear on the actual Station logo. The clock's hands point to 8:15. Take that concept and apply as you wish.

Before I plunge into my final, deep and meaningful point I'd like to anchor things down with more practical tidings. (All ocean and depth-related puns in that sentence were intentional.) The Looking Glass on a day-to-day basis functioned as observation facility (probably for whatever experiments were being performed on sharks and dolphins). Desmond got his hands on a spear gun which was perhaps once a Dharma-owned spear gun that Dharma scuba divers used to capture sharks and dolphins with. There's also an enormous cable connected to the Looking Glass on one end, and to the Island on the other (the cable that Sayid found). We don't know where or what on the Island this cable is connected to - it might be a power source controlling both sonar ping and the sonar fence, it might be a simple utility feed for power, oxygen, communications, etc, or it might be something altogether more meaningful. I can't believe no one's bothered to look.

The other major function of The Looking Glass besides the sonar ping is to jam (or, potentially, control) signals to and from the Island. There's a problem here in that radio waves don't go well through water. And by "don't go well" I mean REALLY don't go well. I researched it a bit and hit phrases like 'low attenuation' and 'ionospheric radio wave propagation' and figured there's a level of information I don't need to know. Point is: radio waves and water don't mix. That's good enough for me. We can put this down to an oversight on the creators' behalf in the same way they didn't know about hydrostatic pressure with moon pools. I can forgive them.

Sticking with jamming outbound signals, though, raises an extremely important point. Think of the Radio Tower and the looped message playing. Before Rousseau recorded her distress call this message recited the 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers. Dharma, naturally, must have built the Radio Tower and set up this broadcast. So isn't it bizarre that they built a Looking Glass Station that can block signals off the Island? I mean, if you don't want to transmit off-Island, don't build a Radio Tower! And if you do want to transmit off-Island, don't build a Looking Glass jammer! Unless, of course, the purpose of the Looking Glass is to maintain the Radio Tower broadcast for the Island. . .

As with most of these Dharma Station essays, the Valenzetti equation invariably crops up. 4 8 15 16 23 42. Why would Dharma want this equation broadcast constantly on the Island? (I am presuming here that, post-Purge, The Others took control of the Looking Glass and turned off the jammer thereby allowing the likes of Rousseau's science team to pick up the transmission off-Island.) I've got an idea to conclude with about this very thing. Here goes.

The Dharma Initiative came to the Island to study the Valenzetti equation. For those in the dark, the Valenzetti equation (4 8 15 16 23 42) apparently predicts the end of mankind. So Dharma, in a bid to resolve the equation, begin studies. They get on an Island. They isolate it from the world. They experiment. However, in order to know if their studies are effective they require some form of gauge or sign of progress. So they broadcast the numbers. The equation they hope to resolve is broadcast across the Island and, thanks to The Looking Glass, restricted from going any further. Like how if you were studying a dangerous virus you wouldn't want it escaping from the laboratory. On a loop, the numbers play. 4 8 15 16 23 42. Over and over.

Until, perhaps, one fateful day, there's a breakthrough. The Dharma Initiative resolve the equation. The numbers change. Or maybe they stop. At that moment, The Looking Glass Station can be switched off. The Island results can be exported to the real world. The Dharma Initiative succeeded. Mankind is saved. Welcome to Wonderland, people. . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the TV series was too much of a schlep, thought this WWW may enlighten me. Well I got halfway through which was enough to tell me I was right not to bother with the TV series, it really was a load of 'cliffhanger' manipulation. That is the only basis that the author deservers any credit for. A good formula for week on week advertising revenue, having very little real entertainment value. In fact I think the author of this WWW deserver a medal for wading through the whole sorry mess of pottage and translating it so that those of us who did watch the first few episodes can rest easy in our beds knowing we made the right decision.