While this post is about the "Lost" finale (ABC, 9 p.m.), I'm also discussing elements of "Star Trek" and "Fringe," so if you haven't seen those two things yet, skip to the end.
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So a lot of people I know have felt that while "Lost" has been enjoyable and at its creative best this season, the time travel element to the plot has been a giant headache.
I kind of think that JJ Abrams and Team Darlton wants us to have that migraine, since the characters themselves are asking many of the same questions that we are.
I find it interesting that Abrams, who admittedly isn't as involved in the day-to-day operations of "Lost," is exploring one element of time travel -- the pre-destination paradox -- while taking different tacks with his two other main projects right now. Both "Star Trek" and "Fringe" are looking at time travel through quantum theory, which allows for multiple outcomes and parallel universes.
Certainly that was behind last night's killer twist on "Fringe," both with the shocker about Peter (never saw that one coming) and meeting William Bell at the end. Bell apparently has been living in the parallel Earth for quite some time, where things have gone quite differently. (No 9/11, for one). It gives the "Fringe" writers a whole new angle to explore next season.
(BTW, how cool would it have been to have Nimoy show up from the parallel Earth last night and have a goatee, a' la Evil Spock from the Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror?" It would have been the best Easter Egg ever.)
Abrams and "Trek" writers Alex Kurtzmann and Roberto Orci take that theory to the next level in the "Trek" movie, creating a new timeline after Nero and Old Spock return to about 50 years in the past, changing elements of the "Star Trek" timeline, yet preserving what happened in the original series.
For purists who were worried that the producers would mess up the previous 43 years of "Trek" continuity, they got the best of both world: Thanks to the plot device in the movie, the original "Trek" canon is preserved, yet new adventures can be undertaken in future "Trek" sequels.
The "Trek" and "Fringe" models allow for free will to be a factor in our lives. "Lost?" Not so much. Though everyone makes the conscious decisions to take the actions they take (Sayid shooting the young Ben, Jack not operating on him, etc.) it's the actions they would ALWAYS take, because time on "Lost" is in a loop and the characters have always made those decisions. Ben was always going to be evil because Jack and Sayid always make the decision to try to kill him as a young kid.
It follows the theory that even though we live our lives full of free will, we are always inclined to make one particular choice given a certain set of information. If we could go back and do our lives over, but don't have any knowledge of the future, the "Lost" writers presume we would make the same choices we did the first time.
I could write more about this, but no doubt those "Lost" headaches are starting to recur. I pass along the advice that Sam Tyler gave on another time travel-themed show, "Life On Mars" -- take two aspirin and call Doctor Who in the morning.
TUESDAY RECAP: In addition to the excellent "Fringe" finale, it was also the best episode of the season for "My Boys," which provided some great commentary about our Facebook culture.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: The two-hour finale for "Lost" will be preceded by a recap show at 8 p.m. The "Lost" recaps are usually better than most clip shows, so if you are having trouble remembering it all or understanding it, I recommend watching it.
"Lie To Me," (Fox, 8 p.m.) a solid series from Fox, ends its first season tonight. Technically, a decision hasn't been made for a second season yet, but I have high hopes that Fox will bring it back. It's followed by the results show on "American Idol," which cuts the finalists down to two.
"Rules Of Engagement" (CBS, 8 p.m.) shows up on a different night and bumps the season finale of "Old Christine" to 8:30 p.m. They are followed by "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."
"Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) shows what could be one of its last original episodes, since NBC still has ruled whether it will bring the show back.
The documentary series "WWII Behind Closed Doors" continues tonight on PBS at 9 p.m.