Was the "Lost" plot arc known from the get go or did the writers make it up as they went along?

Just curious. Never really watched the show, but was always amused when friends that did watch the show would be boggled by this or that bizarre plot twist over the years. Was it ever revealed by the original writer(s) how much of the show’s ultimate plot arc was scripted out in advance, or whether they just kept pulling stuff out of their creative rear ends as they went along?

Seeing as the show’s premise was based on Survivor, I’m guessing that the final conclusion was generically planned since that’s where we ended up. How much of all the middle was planned, however, who knows. It sounds like the two brothers of the island was added later, so possibly they originally intended for Jacob and the Smoke Monster to be the same?


J.J. Abrams, who wrong the pilot with Damon Lindelof, says that at the time he had the general arc of the first season in mind, but no greater understanding of why the weird stuff established by the end of S1 was there, or what it meant

Abrams had little to do with the series after it was picked up – Lindelof ran it with Carlton Cuse joining about a quarter of the way through S1. They say that by the end of S1, they had a general idea of what was behind everything that was going on, which was more fully fleshed out in S2. By S3 they knew where they were going but didn’t know exactly how to get there or how long it would take. In the hiatus between S3 and S4 (or maybe even before the S3 finale) Bad Robot (the production company) and ABC settled on a finite endpoint so they could plan out how long things should take to get to the end, and since then they’ve mostly remained on track.

Obviously we’re still one (super-sized) episode away, but from the perspective of this unabashed fan, it’s clear that they’re tying things up in an anticipated way; I’m convinced that they knew the contours of the end of the story several years ago because of how they set up some things that are now coming to fruition.

That said, it was just the broad strokes. They didn’t have five years of scripts written ahead of time. Some actors and plotlines turned out to be more interesting than they planned and so they expanded. Other actors got tired of living in Hawaii, or their characters didn’t work out as planned, so they left the show. The writers’ strike cut two episodes from S4 and added them to S5 and S6, so the storyline for S4 was somewhat circumscribed. Puberty crashed into one actor like a transcontinental airliner, so his character drifted off scene. And lots of connections and ideas for stories appeared in the process of writing those particular episodes, which were then woven into the narrative.

Bottom line, it was a lot more planned than a certain other show often mentioned in the same breath, which completely fell apart in the last season. But it wasn’t like Babylon 5 in the sense that every detail down to the flight deck extras’ middle names were scrawled on five thousand rolls of toilet paper before the show even got a pilot order.


P.S. As I say in every thread like this – LOST is the bee’s knees. You should totally check it out. BTW, ABC is broadcasting the two-hour pilot this Saturday.

Thanks for info!

Bolding above mine. But such a great Freudian slip!

Forget the haters (they made up all the bullshit as they went along!!) and the apologists (they always had it planned out in detail!).

Here’s the facts as the producers have told us:

  1. The general rule of thumb is: they definitely had an idea of what something meant as of the episode it was introduced. So, for example, they might not have even started thinking of Dharma when the series started, but as of the episode where we discover the hatch window, they came up with a general idea of what was inside the hatch.

  2. They did not have the entire series planned out in detail from the beginning. But, they did have an idea of certain ‘goalposts’ or ‘watershed’ events in the series and an idea of how they wanted to end the show. What happened in between those goalposts would have depended on how long the series lasted.

  3. There came a crucial point (around the Jack’s tattoo episode) where they got to the point where they really need to know, as writers, exactly how long the series would last, or the quality would start to suffer, and that’s when they negotiated with the network to get a definitive end date for the series so that they could pace the writing properly.

  4. While they do want to reveal mysteries, they feel most strongly about solving mysteries that are important to the characters, and they want to avoid exposition dumps. Also, there are one or two mysteries that are limited somewhat by actor availability.

Basically, they want to avoid the “midichlorian” kind of mistake Lucas made in the Phantom Menace. We don’t need the details of how things work like the Force or even the source on the Island.

Having said that, Lucas wrote them a letter to congratulate them on wrapping a great show up. :slight_smile: