Dharma Stations Part 8: The Orchid (Redux)
As no doubt all are aware, The Orchid Station was introduced via a rough edit of an Orientation film (it doesn't have Dharma music, or a title card). The story goes that the film was discovered in a building in Norway. We are shown the familiar Dharma narrator (Pierre Chang, here working under the name Edgar Halowax - continuing the Candle/Wick collectivism for all things candle-related in his naming convention) holding a rabbit with a number ‘15’ on its back. He tells the intended audience of the video that The Orchid is Station 6 of the Dharma Initiative and that they had been misled into believing it was a biological station. Then another rabbit, with a number 15 on it, appears on a high shelf behind him. Small-scale chaos ensues with Halowax panicking about keeping the rabbits apart. And that's pretty much it.
So let me make an assumption. The two rabbits that featured are one and the same otherwise why bother having the two be number 15? So, taking that idea as a given – that a rabbit in a man’s arms could suddenly appear, duplicated, in close proximity – we then come to the pertinent question: How?
Edgar Halowax: "The unique properties of this Island created a kind of Casimir effect..."
Ah yes, the Casimir Effect. A familiar term to many Lost theorists but let me not take it for granted that you know about it (or have become misconstrued into thinking it's something it's not). In simple terms, the Casimir Effect is the force between one object and another object, and how that force acts on both. Seriously, that's it.
This force takes place at a particle level, so you're forgiven for not noticing! Understanding of this Casimir Effect is important in the real world as things get smaller. Smaller circuit boards, nanotechnology – these become concerned with the interaction of objects at a particle level and how they will influence the construction and function of sophisticated technologies. This doesn't quite explain why one rabbit turns up in the same room as itself, though, does it? Well, no, it doesn’t. But then no science on the show really can – because The Orchid is about engineering the manipulation of time and space: teleportation and time travel.
In Season 4, in The Orchid, Locke found a videotape containing the official version of the Orientation film for that Station. We can assume that, despite the near-disaster the duplicating rabbits created, Dharma went back and set themselves up to re-shoot the film the way they intended. The duplicating rabbit version of The Orchid Orientation is, therefore, to be considered an out-take, but the version Locke inserted into the video player was the official, finished product.
Pierre Chang: “In our first demonstration, we will attempt to shift the test subject 100 milliseconds ahead in four-dimensional space. For the briefest of moments the animal will seem to disappear, but in reality. . .”
Cue inexplicable tape reversal for which I cannot provide any sensible rationale. But what now seems clear, and what Pierre Chang was set to demonstrate, was the projection of the rabbit from one point in space-time to another point in space-time. The same way Sawyer and Juliet and Locke and the rest all appeared to ‘disappear’ when they were bouncing around through time on the Island, really they were ‘simply’ skipping periods of time, times they were not present to witness and experience, to arrive at other points. Same goes for the rabbit. This explains Chang’s urgency at keeping them apart – the same way it was paramount that, say, Sawyer didn’t walk into the moment where Claire was giving birth.
We saw this scene in Season One, and Sawyer never turned up there, so for him to go back in time and then emerge out of the jungle in front of Claire and Kate would disrupt the original timeline. Whatever happened, happened, right? Same goes for the rabbits – where a future rabbit could not possibly be allowed to tamper with its own previous self. (Not sure what the ramifications of that would be, particularly, but Doc Brown from Back To The Future would fret about a collapse in the space-time continuum. Dharma, and Chang, worried about the same thing or similar.) Yet it would seem the rabbit was purely for demonstration purposes – Dharma had bigger fish to fry. . .
Swap one small white furry animal for one large white furry animal. That, it seems, is what Dharma did when conducting their experiments at The Orchid. I am certainly not about to attempt to labour the pseudo-science posited to legitimise the phenomena (it’s a lot of jargon about negative shifts), all we need to do is accept what we’ve seen flash before our eyes.
Ben and Locke were both here. . .
. . . and wound up in the middle of the desert, like a polar bear did. . .
They went from one point in space (the Island) to another (the desert) and, furthermore, moved from one point in time to one in the future. Therefore it is validated: the strange energy located at that particular point in the Island facilitates space-time travel and Dharma, via The Orchid, were looking to harness and manipulate that power. And they used polar bears to do it, at least as a test.
There have been spurious theories concerning the idea that Dharma trained the polar bears to turn the frozen donkey wheel. Personally I find that rather absurd. It seems to me that the donkey wheel was there long before Dharma, used by whoever inhabited the Island in times long past. These same people dug a well directly down to the source.
Did this well once function properly? Did it provide water straight from this energy source that, perhaps, altered a person’s capacity to exist in space and time? Did someone we know potentially drink from that well. . .? Is that the cause of his apparent agelessness?
I’m getting a little sidetracked from Dharma here, but I thought it was an amusing and potentially worthwhile diversion. Dharma ignored the source and instead drilled down to near the source and there built The Orchid, blocking off the cavern of the frozen donkey wheel, apparently more interested in using ‘the vault’ as their method of testing.
Pierre Chang: “This is the vault, constructed adjacent to a pocket of what we believe to be negatively charged ‘exotic matter’. Great care must be taken to avoid leaving inorganic materials inside the chamber. The electromagnetic energy within the Island can be highly volatile and unpredictable.”
I’ll be honest, that Vault doesn’t look big enough to hold a polar bear. Perhaps the bear was already dead, which is possible but perhaps not very useful to determine if a living thing can survive the trip so more like it was heavily-sedated and had a hell of a wake-up call in the hot sand!) Possibly they just conducted tests on polar bears elsewhere, or it was something they did earlier before they refined the Orchid Station and its practices. Point is they definitely did do it because there's skeletal remains of a polar bear in the desert to prove it.
Really, then, The Orchid Station is a rather simple facility to grasp. Dharma discovered a peculiar and powerful source of energy at this particular point at the Island, and through investigation, apparently lead by Pierre Chang, they learned that it could be used to manipulate time. They no doubt moved to make this secret, and so created the greenhouse above it, a fake botanical station, as a cover – hence it’s name: The Orchid.
The only thing really left to ponder is what Dharma intended to use their research at The Orchid for. You would have to assume they expected to find something like this (The Lamp Post basically found the Island via this space-time warping electromagnetic energy) but it’s hard to affirm what their intention for it was. How far do you want to go with this idea?
You can go all out and tie it in with the Valenzetti Equation. That is, Dharma were aware of an equation that calculated the end of mankind and either realized that the Island and its properties were central to this doom, or were the very means of averting it. The capacity to manipulate space-time, to potentially buck the ‘whatever happened, happened’ mentality and change history to save the future, maybe that was the crusade Dharma were on.
There again, they may have just been a bunch of hippy, freeloving scientists that happened across the most amazing place on Earth for scientific discovery and revelation, tried to contain and control it, and things got out of hand.
The latter notion seems the more likely. Right at the very beginning, back when they were experimenting on white rabbits, they tampered and tested and flirted with disaster when one bunny almost arrived back in time to meet itself. Messing around with the properties of space-time is a tricky business and, for Dharma, I get the feeling it cost them dearly. The full repercussions of their work are set to reverberate into Season 6 where we may get to see the extent of the damage. . .