Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Room full of Macguffins: A Review of "The Lost Room"

"The Lost Room" is a three episode mini-series from The Sci Fi Channel, that thankfully was picked up by the Canadian channel "Space." The series namesake is the phantom Room 10 of the long abandoned Route 66 "Sunshine Motel," that only has nine rooms. On May 4, 1961, an Event occurred which disrupted space/time erasing the room and all its contents from history. However one can still visit the room, if one should find The Key.

Sunshine Motel
Originally uploaded by Robotclaw666.

Enter the series' protagonist, detective Joe Miller (Peter Krause). Finding The Key and Room 10 he crosses the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. He enters a room where it is always 1961. When you visit the room, the bed will always be made, the Sun will be shining through the window, anything that belongs there will be its allotted place. Anything that shouldn't be there will be gone without a trace. Joe finds this out the hard way, when his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning) is lost to the room, thus beginning his journey to bring her back.

The room was not always unoccupied. It was once filled with the accessories and ephemera of 1960's highway travel. These "Objects," as they are called, consist of roughly 100 powerful artifacts in the form of everyday items. There is a bus ticket that can instantaneously transport a person to a stretch of road outside Gallup, New Mexico. The Comb can temporarily freeze time around a person when it is run through the user's hair. These are some of the tools Joe must use in rescuing his daughter. He must navigate the previously unknown underworld of secret cabals, religious orders and desperate Object collectors who are all jostling for possession..

Knowledge of what each Object can do, both alone and in consort with others, becomes a commodity. I noticed that the information dealers and trackers refuse to handle the Objects. This seems to make them neutral parties, but beyond business sense, this aversion is based on fear. They know that those who seek the Objects tend to die, go insane, or get wiped off the face of the earth. Since the mini-series was a back-door pilot for a full season, many loose ends were left at the end of the third episode. A former forensic scientist who worked with Joe becomes so obsessed with the Objects he believes that he will become God if he can return all of the Objects to the Room. Beyond the quest for divinity, reuniting the objects seems like a logical undertaking, as the Objects seem to be at "rest" in the Room. In the outside world they are indestructible and potent, while within the room they become lower case "o" objects; mere possessions who wish to remain where they were in1961.

The basic elements of the plot are similar to Fred Saberhagen's "Books of the Swords" series, wherein a collection of powerful items are dispersed to humanity, each with a power or gift. Humanity then struggles to control them. Whether the artifact is a sword or a pair of scissors, people don't fair well when power over others is granted.

While editing an associated article on Wikipedia, I classified the Objects from the series as Macguffins because the story really is about the protagonist finding his daughter, and possibly even the nature of the God and the Universe, and not the Objects themselves. If an episode required that he get a "Tea cosy", that could turn soup to salad, he would do so. However if you replace the word "Tea cosy" with "coffee mug" the plot does not change one bit. Other wiki editors felt this diminished the position of the Objects in the series.

If the crux of the series becomes "what combination of Objects will solve the puzzle-of-the-week" the story is flat and weak, but if the story is about a father's relationship with his daughter, or the nature of God, then we have something to work with, even if The Room is full of Macguffins.


1 comment:

hinder34 said...

Excellent review as the show is. So now watch all episodes of this show. Free download The Lost Room and fully enjoy this. This mini-series is quite original and I found it very entertaining. The idea is pretty wild and far fetched. The production value is good and the atmosphere created is very convincing. The acting is great for a TV production and I wouldn't mind if 'The Lost Room' would be picked up for a full season.