Dharma Stations Part 3: The Staff (Redux)

The Staff Station Dharma logo takes a departure from other Station logos in that it uses red rather than being restricted to black and white. However, before I press on about the Staff Station, I feel this note I unearthed about 'the caduceus' (the name of the symbol within the logo) is worth pointing out.

'The caduceus is sometimes inaccurately used as a symbol for medicine, especially in North America, but the traditional medical symbol is the rod of Asclepius with only a single snake and no wings.'

‘The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today, although sometimes the caduceus, or staff with two snakes, is mistakenly used instead.

Did Dharma (or the creative designers on the show) realise the caduceus symbol they used for the Staff Station was inaccurate in pertaining to the medical profession? Maybe.

The caduceus symbol, as carried by the Roman God Mercury as a symbol for thieves, liars, and potentially a guide for the dead, certainly possesses parallels with Dharma. Are they not liars? Have they not stolen the Island for their own purposes? And as for the dead. . .! In misappropriating the symbol as faux-medical Station and correct sub-textual symbolism, the use of the caduceus within the Staff logo holds hidden depths.

Still, let us press forward with our true agenda. My chief purpose here is to work out what Dharma originally intended the Staff Station for. As of the end of Season 3, the last views we had of The Staff was with the reveal of the secret vault that Juliet showed to Sun. Here, at least, there was working pregnancy equipment verifying it was not a place that had been adjusted and refurbished to accommodate Claire after her kidnap; other pregnant women had been there before her. As Juliet pointed, out they all died there, too.

The Others, then, appropriated The Staff as base for their issues with pregnancy-fatality on the Island. The vault that Juliet showed to Sun had been appropriated as a form of ‘hospice’ for the mothers that would certainly die. And I think there is a temptation to leave the thought process there. The Staff Station is a medical station, we tell ourselves. The Others brought pregnant women there for medical treatment, we tell ourselves. It makes sense. Except ending with that line of thinking does not answer this: What did Dharma build the Staff Station for?

It’s instinctive to consider The Staff Station the medical facility for Dharma – but even before Season 5 that seemed strange: it was located far from The Barracks in the middle of the jungle and buried underground. Not exactly convenient in an emergency. During Season 5 we saw Dharma had their own medical facilities based at The Barracks, like when Young Ben had been shot and Juliet was trying to save him.

Proof if proof were needed: The Staff Station was not the Dharma equivalent of a regular hospital. They already had such bases close to The Barracks, as would be expected.

During Season 3, The Man Behind The Curtain, we saw Dharma workers sporting the Staff logo on their overalls administering vaccine to new arrivals.

The vaccine and The Staff Station are linked, except in The Swan where bottles of vaccine don’t have a logo on them – but I can provide plausible explanation for this inconsistency.

The purpose of the vaccine is, yet again, another Lost mystery currently open-ended. My own feeling is that it is both a system of control and a genuine drug. For the system of control consider how Desmond remarked to Claire he believed it was entirely useless. Note he used the Swan vaccine. I would venture this was a placebo, a powerless drug. The reason it was used in The Swan was to maintain the illusion of a Quarantine for the occupants pressing the button, making them believe they would meet harm should they venture outside. They were given a harmless, ineffectual drug to inject themselves with, itself disguised as a genuine drug they used in The Staff.

But why inoculate new arrivals to the Island? This drug, the drug used by the Staff Station workers, may have been a drug used to try and counter the inability of the people on the Island to conceive a successful birth. We are certainly inclined to believe that since we saw The Others using this drug within a fertility basis. . .

. . . but there’s a real sticking point with this line of thinking: When Dharma were on the Island, at least at the time when Ben arrived there, it was possible for women to give birth!

Ethan is born on the Island naturally to be there in later life using drugs to achieve the same effect! Oh the irony. But there is a simpler line of thinking. The fact about Island pregnancy is that conception on the Island will result in the death of both parent and unborn baby. We could therefore consider the idea that Horace and Amy conceived little baby Ethan off-Island. Problem solved.

Feels a bit cheap, though.

Let’s take a step back and consider this again. I don’t get the impression that Horace and Amy did conceive Ethan off-Island. We are informed in passing that the usual practice for Dharma is to have their women give birth off-Island, which gives the impression a) this kind of thing happens regularly, and b) off-Island trips are special occasions. I can’t imagine Dharma workers were going off the Island regularly just to go and have unprotected sex on the off-chance they might conceive! So I am willing to state that during Dharma’s time on the Island, at least before ‘the incident’, there was nothing stopping people from conceiving and giving birth on the Island, and Horace and Amy did as much, but the usual practice was to give birth off-Island. Therefore, during the time of Dharma in the 1970s, it was accepted that people could conceive and give birth on the Island. Agreed? OK then.

What was the vaccine for then? My guess is it was used as a stabilising antidote to the effects that could potentially be experienced from entering the Island area; the madness and the time-displacement some of The Freighter crew exhibited. Nothing to do with pregnancy at all – but that will come later.

New arrivals to the Island were given this drug, perhaps as a precautionary measure. Most people wouldn’t get sick (due to traveling underwater in the sub?) but it was there just in case. Potentially, with The Others, this same drug was used but given to people before they journeyed to the Island. Remember the orange juice that Juliet was made to drink before Alpert and Ethan took her to the Island? Maybe the drug was in that, along with something to knock her unconscious.

Hold on to the time-displacement vaccine use for now, but let’s get back to The Staff and the question of what Dharma did there. When Claire returned to The Staff, with Kate and Danielle, the place was emptied and abandoned, seemingly in a rush (presumably because, since Claire had escaped, The Others fled fearing she would tell her people where she had been). There was one enormously intriguing element that probably took your interest at first and you've since forgotten about. ‘Escape hatch’. There was an escape hatch in the Staff Station, presumably put there by Dharma. For me, that raises more questions than anything else seen in The Staff so far.

Whoever heard of a medical station requiring an ‘escape hatch’?

Before The Others, before ‘the purge’, something happened concerning The Staff Station that’s thoroughly deserving of our attention. On the Blast Door Map, close to the The Staff, the following notation. ‘Caduceus Station believed to have been abandoned due to AH/MDG incident of 1985 - or - possible catastrophic malfunction of Cerberus system.’

Let's just hold up for a second and take that in.

Caduceus Station believed to have been abandoned due to AH/MDG incident of 1985.

"AH" probably stands for Alvar Hanso. "MDG"? The DG part could be De Groot, the M could be Mittelwerk (as in Thomas Mittelwerk – from The Lost Experience: check out Lostpedia if you wish to know more about all of these people, but they don’t serve my purpose here).

Possible catastrophic malfunction of Cerberus system.

Easily the most eye-catching notation. Cerberus probably being Dharma’s name for the Black Smoke, we have the suggestion here that the Staff Station was directly involved with it. The fact that the Cerberus SYSTEM had a MALFUNCTION is an interesting choice of words. If it hadn’t been for images such as this. . .

. . . I would have been strongly considering the notion that Dharma had a direct hand in the marauding Black Smoke that currently resides on the Island. However, it seems apparent that the Black Smoke has been on the Island for considerably longer than Dharma ever were – but maybe their “Cerberus System” was some means by which they controlled (or tried to control) ‘the monster’. Studies such as that, you can see why they’d need an ‘escape hatch’ for when ‘incidents’ happened. But what kind of study could have been going on? Well, it is here I’ll have to make quite a reach, because it’s all to do with a certain four-toed statue. . .

The statue is of the Egyptian Goddess, Taweret. Very much associated with fertility and eternal life, it should be observed that the statue is carrying an Ankh. This same Ankh symbol was found on a necklace that Amy – mother of Ethan – took from her dead husband, Paul. I’m not suggesting that the only reason Amy survived to give birth to Ethan was because of this symbol, but what I am latching onto is the deliberate link between childbirth and this Ankh symbol held by the four-toed Taweret statue that used to watch the horizon of the Island like a guardian.

So imagine a long time past, the ancient civilization on the Island perhaps found fertility an issue for themselves. They erected this enormous statue to ‘protect’ them and allow for such fertility. That’s reasonably far-reaching (at least the notion that it would work), but not unheard of. More far-reaching? That the Black Smoke, this entity that feeds off sin and moral corruption, is somehow directly responsible for the childbirth issue. I consider the hieroglyph above – of the statue fronting up to ‘the monster’ – and it’s like it’s countering the effects. Without the statue’s presence the Black Smoke (or whatever larger force it is a part of) can create an Island environment where human conception is fatal.

Of course, the statue eventually, somehow, ended up like this:

The Goddess Taweret no longer presided over the Island, no protection given. And maybe this was fine, for a while, but when something bad happened, like. . .

. . . suddenly the Island was plunged into a place where fertility was no longer viable. Taweret was no longer present to afford protection for sin and moral corruption, and the penalty was mortality, as adjudicated by the unquenched Black Smoke.

Hey, when I said it was far-reaching I wasn’t kidding around.

But perhaps that’s the kind of study Dharma were conducting at The Staff. Study into this strange phenomenon they termed ‘Cerberus’ and the power and effect it had over the Island. They wanted to understand it, perhaps learn how to tame it or control it or counter it themselves. Maybe they got pregnant women there and tried to control the effects of ‘Cerberus’ in a scientific way. The mind boggles, but then we’re dealing with a dark cloud that can scan people’s brains and slam them against trees so the outlandish is probably applicable. Unfortunately, whatever Dharma were doing, they failed.

If the vaccine really does serve as a kind of balancing agent that prevents the effects of time displacement on the Island from having serious consequences on a person, The Staff was used to develop this drug, to study these effects. And then there was ‘the incident’ at The Swan, which we believe took place in 1977.

The incident at The Staff Station, as mentioned on the Blast Door Map, was stated to have occurred in 1985. Perhaps ‘the incident’ at The Swan, and whatever time dilations and ruptures and strangeness that ensued, caused Dharma to step up their studies into the vaccine. Maybe it was ‘the incident’ at The Swan that disrupted the Island so much that pregnancy became an issue – something to do with time displacement reverberating around the Island being fatal to the growth development of an unborn infant with fatal results. Potentially, Dharma thought their vaccine might hold the cure for this condition with further research.

That seems slightly less crazy than blaming it all on the Black Smoke, but not by much when you really consider it.

It’s certainly true The Others seemed to believe the vaccine would have some benefit for unborn babies, given Ethan was administering it to Claire when he had captured her. Perhaps this is a rare case of The Others, rather than just appropriating Dharma facilities for their own purposes or abandoning them completely, picking up their work and trying to continue it. After all, Alpert and Ethan went out, posing as Mittelos Bioscience, and sought out a specialist fertility doctor they hoped would resolve what Dharma, and their Staff Station, could not. . .


Andre said...

Wow! Loved the first part, have re-read the second part to even start to understand it. A lot of food for thought.

Never noticed the escape hatch. Thought Juliet and Sun had entered by a hidden main door.

Liars and thieves - would apply to Jolly fake-beard Tom himself. He is neck deep in deception and mystery and steals Walt.

Juliet is into a deep game of deception with both the 815 survivors and Ben when she brings Sun to the Staff.

Ethan steals Claire and puts on a whole show of deception while he is treating her. He is also not supposed to be doing that, we are later told.

A lot of double dealing goes on at Staff. By the time of the 815 crash I would guess the Staff has been closed for awhile, research having been moved to Hydra island for whatever reason. Ben basically uses it as a forward base to spy and intimidate the 815 survivors, the way Dharma used Arrow to spy on the Hostiles.

As to the serum, I would agree with your speculation that it is a time displacement antidote or vaccine. It helps people stay in the proper frame of mind without having recourse to a complicated 'constant' (a concept Dharma or Ben would not have access to).

The unborn babies would receive a dose and it would theoretically protect them from time displacement syndrome. New arrivals would receive an inoculation (we never find out if they have to be inoculated several times or regularly).

You may be going too deep into the Cerberus system. There is something about 1985 (three years before the scenes with Jin and Danielle Rousseau) that we are not yet privy to. A malfunction connected not to Dharma, but to the mythology relating to the temple complex. Smokey is never alluded to directly in 1977 by Sawyer or the others.

The Sonic fence is in place, but was it really built to keep Smokey away?

What if Smokey was confined until 1985 and some incident broke the lock and let him out of his dungeon?

You have given us lots of food for thought.

As you can see I am wild about this new series of redux posts. Looking forward to the next one!

Fred said...

Okay, so far so good, but how do you explain Richard and Locke's little chat on the hillside (Season 3, The Brig). Richard told Locke everyone was very excited when they heard about someone who could walk after spending years with a broken back. Then he made the interesting comment, that Ben was wasting their time with fertility experiments. It seems that if the island was working properly, there would be no need for doctors, or fertility experts like Juliet. But it was Ben's plan to pursue these experiments, or so we have been led to believe.

I do like your raising the question about what Dharma used the clinic for.

So what could the AH/MDG incident of 1985 be? Could the Caduceus station have been a preparation place for timetravelers? The link then would not be with the Swan, but with the Orchid. Something went wrong, like the 2 bunny rabbits meeting? Perhaps 2 forms of AH or MDG were brought into the Caduceus station and they interacted with devestating results. This is all just guessing.

There is also no certainty that Cerberus is the smoke monster. Perhaps Cerberus refers to the sonic fencing surrounding the barracks. A catastrophic malfunction could lead to a retreat of the Dharma from outlying stations.

glf said...

Thanks, great how you’ve brought it all together and reminding us of the Blast Door Map notation. Yes it is a mystery as to why it’s so far from the barracks if it’s a medical station and good idea that it’s yet another DI station disguised as something that it isn’t.

Yet why during Juliet’s time did they bring pregnant women in their 2nd trimester so far from the barracks, across the island on rough terrain. No wonder they miscarried! (Note to self - just put it down as S4 writers strike inconsistencies.)

BTW Note to Lost writers – it’s not a FERTILITY problem as women are having no problem getting pregnant, it’s a GYNAECOLOGICAL problem.

PS It’s weird how Ben (and Richard) clearly don’t know why baby problem has happened especially how they would have lived through the changeover. Surely there’s some dots they could have joined? If it’s four toed statue/rise of Smokey/Swan incident (EMG release)/whatever – then Ben persisting with Juliet’s fertility research seems way off the track doesn’t it.
(Note to self – this is a fantasy TV show, meant to be a bit of fun and not necessarily logical Captain).

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Chetcsturgil although the writers like to include religious imagery I don't think that they will ever come out and explicitly identify, say Jacob as a biblical character.

And yes Chetcsturgil, I haven't been keeping up with the spoilers but I am very interested to see if Pierre Chang(actor François Chau) has a permanent role in the upcoming season. This will almost certainly mean the gap from 1977 to when the Danielle Rousseau team showed up in the early 80's will be explained. Also, I think that Danielle was the earliest lost character we have seen encounter the smoke monster.So it will be very interesting to see if something occurred in this period to 'unleash the beast!!'.