Note: So the first two episodes of lost are called “Pilot: Part 1” and “Pilot: Part 2” so I guess this is maybe one long ass pilot? However these first two episodes still aired a week apart originally, so I’m calling bullshit and only counting the first episode. It still has to serve all the purposes a pilot does and be good enough to get us to tune in for “Pilot: Part 2.”
Had I seen it before: No.
What IMDb says: The survivors of a plane crash are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island.
Why I picked it: This has a seemingly simple premise: a bunch of people trapped on a desert island. We know this premise. It’s Survivor. It’s Cast Away. It’s Gilligan’s Island. It’s a framework we use for hypothetical questions to determine favorite movies or music. So I suppose a scripted drama series was a long time coming.
But apparently Lost gets really weird and mysterious and is actually a lot more complicated than “so a bunch of people are stranded on a desert island.” And that’s what intrigues me about it. It’s familiar while still being mysterious but I’m also not sure how much of that mystery is set up in the pilot. Did they know just how complex it would end up being or did they start with a basic “stranded on a desert island” concept and introduce the supernatural elements later?
It’s also one of those shows that I kinda feel like you’re expected to know about as a writer, especially if you’re interested in writing any kind of fantasy/mystery project. So here we are.
What I like: Everyone here is reasonably likable and the first scene is a masterclass in how to set up your premise quickly with very little dialog. I mean, it’s not as catchy as the Gilligan’s Island theme song, but you realize right away what’s happened. I might even say it’s one of the best opening scenes I’ve witnessed in any pilot so far.
We start with Dr. Shephard (Not the one from Grey’s Anatomy, this one is spelled with an ‘a’) running around trying to save people. We get a flashback to the plane crash about halfway through the episode. I feel like a lot of writers would want to start with the scene of everyone on the plane and there isn’t really anything wrong with that plan, but it doesn’t give us the immediate intensity that this beginning does. I mentioned in a prior post how starting your script in the middle of the story can work really well and this is a fabulous example.
We also see how there are a lot of smaller conflicts in addition to “let’s get the fuck off this island”. Some people are insisting that a rescue boat is on the way while others are preparing to stay on the island for a while. One woman is pregnant so clearly there’s going to be a child at some point (didn’t think you were supposed to fly eight months pregnant, but what do I know?). One couple insists they will only worry about each other and no one else, so clearly that’s going to lead to some conflict. Shephard is clearly going to assume a leadership position among the group and other people probably won’t be happy about it. There’s some sexual tension between Shephard and Kate. Oh and maybe the island is magic? I don’t know.
What I don’t like: I feel like the pilot kinda halfasses its sci-fi elements. Sure, a few things happen just to let you know there’s some paranormal something happening but the pilot doesn’t really own the fact that it’s sci-fi. None of the conflict stems from these supernatural things, there’s just some characters seeing weird things and then being like “whoa, did you see that?”
Honestly, just being stranded on a desert island is enough to keep me interested for this first episode. I understand that maybe that wouldn’t fully immerse me in the world that this series goes on to create, but I kinda feel like this didn’t either. It’s like if the pilot for Doctor Who featured Rose seeing the T.A.R.D.I.S a few times and saying “oh that’s weird” but then the core story was still about the trials and tribulations of working at a department store (that’s what she did, right?) Hopefully you get the point.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2?: Honestly I feel like if I had watched this when it originally aired, it wouldn’t have been enough to get me to tune in a week later for “Pilot: Part 2” But knowing the legacy the show left behind, I’d be lying if I said I’m not curious about the mysteries of this island. It’s like the pilot wasn’t bad enough to discourage me from watching more, but I’m not sure it’s enough to singlehandedly make me crave more.