Damon Lindelof's Work On Lost Was Inspired By These Cult Classic TV Shows

It's no secret that "Lost" is a bonafide cult classic. Drip-feeding weird existential mythology into a mainstream drama, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse created a show that we're still talking about almost 20 years later. Just don't mention the ending, okay?

But for all its problems, "Lost" gave us something that was drastically missing from TV at the time — a mystery to sink our teeth into. Where was the Island? Who were the Others? What was the DHARMA Initiative really up to?

A character drama with elements of the supernatural and science-fiction thrown in for good measure, it's no surprise "Lost" became a cult classic ... and it was all by design.

During an interview with Vox, showrunner Damon Lindelof explained:

"I wanted to write the show for the fandom that was willing to go the deepest."

The "Lost" fandom certainly did that. I know — I was there. Every week, we scoured each episode frame-by-frame, looking for clues. Decoding the blast door map. Going hard on the Lost Experience ARG. Week after week we honed theories, adding new information to our increasingly complicated workings.

A primetime drama with a cult following was almost unheard of. But Damon Lindelof admits he was inspired by several cult classic TV shows to help create that unique experience that we had with "Lost."

The X-Files (1993)

One of the biggest sci-fi shows of all time, "The X-Files" introduced FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully as they investigated the weird and wonderful cases no other agents would touch.

"The X-Files" practically invented the mythological obsession of modern TV with its alien conspiracies, shadowy government agencies, and catalog of dark secrets waiting to be uncovered. It was this idea of building larger mythology that inspired Lindelof on "Lost":

"I think that I was very activated by the idea of a kind of grandeur, building a grander mythology around the show, which The X-Files had done incredibly well for a really long period of time. The X-Files had just ended, so I feel like there's just this huge fandom, myself included, wandering around, just waiting for the next thing to come for us to invest in."

It's true that fans of "The X-Files" like myself had hit a dry spell. Throughout high school, I was obsessed with Mulder and Scully's exploits. I wanted to believe. And when "Lost" came along, I found my appetite for mystery had found a new home on The Island.

But "Lost" was also inspired by another hit conspiracy series...

Alias (2001)

A show that's full of twists and turns, "Alias" is a blueprint for how to combine conspiracy and intrigue with wider mythology and world-building. Sydney (played by Jennifer Garner) is a college graduate who works for the CIA. Well, sort of. Except, not really. She's actually in the employ of a shadowy group known as SD-6.

Or is she?

Throughout "Alias," Sydney's allegiances are constantly tested, shifting from one side to another, and then another, as new information reveals the real motives of those pulling the strings. It's reminiscent of the DHARMA Initiative, the Others, Charles Widmore, and even the struggle between Jacob and the Man in Black. Who can the survivors really trust?

Add in a dash of Island mythology, allusions to pseudoscience, and a Valenzetti Equation, and it's reminiscent of "Alias" and its obsession with Rambaldi.

"Alias was doing this to some degree with the Rambaldi mythology. It was more of a conspiracy methodology in the same way that The X-Files was, but sort of this idea of real fundamental world-building. And that's the thing that fans really go deep on, which was really exciting to me."

When it comes to "Lost," myself and other fans went deep trying to connect the dots. Lindelof's plan was working. And it all came together with the influence of one of the all-time greatest cult classic shows.

Twin Peaks (1990)

One of the greatest TV shows of all time, "Twin Peaks" has influenced countless productions over the years. And it looks as though "Lost" is among them.

Starring Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, "Twin Peaks" begins with the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington.

But where it goes from there is nothing short of incredible. Lindelof said:

"I knew that would take a tremendous amount of time and effort, but for me, it went all the way back to Twin Peaks, which my dad and I watched religiously, and he would tape on his VHS. As soon as the episode was over, we would watch it again and pause it and look for clues, and debate what lines of dialogue meant what. That level of engagement, especially in the online community, was now basically coming alive."

Exploring supernatural oddities, weird goings-on, and investigating a murder, Agent Cooper is pulled into a story like no other. And fans of the show spent plenty of time trying to work out what the hell was going on .. much like "Lost."

It's easy to see how Lindelof was inspired by "Twin Peaks," especially when it comes to building the show's many mysteries. And when you look at how "Lost" walks to the line between pseudoscience and the supernatural, it all becomes clear.

How successful was Lindelof's world-building?

Love it or hate it, the mythology of "Lost" is without a doubt one of the most joyfully complex things we've ever seen on TV. The DHARMA Initiative is superb, from start to finish, while the more fantastical elements such as the Heart of Island and the war between Jacob and the Man in Black add a supernatural edge that makes you think twice.

Considering that the entire show is about science vs. faith, it's only natural to see elements of both run deep in the show's rich mythology.

"My two television idols were Joss [Whedon] and J.J.," said Lindelof. "I just wanted to continue working on that kind of stuff."

The result is a rich tapestry of storytelling, with mysteries to unravel throughout the show and beyond. Some of my favorite moments of "Lost" existed in the downtime between the episodes — picking through clues and assembling theories while trying to work out what the hell was going on with that Island.