When the LOST prop auctions were going on, I told a friend of mine that, as much as I loved the show, I wasn't really tempted by anything. She joked that's because they didn't have any spacesuits on the show and I thought OHOHOHOHO. So here's my concept Dharma suit for Darkside Station:
Maybe, somewhere, in the quantum universe, there’s a Season Seven of Lost where Commander Frank Lapidus and his second-in-command Ann Arbor (special guest star Rene Russo) are coordinating Hurley’s on-Island instructions from a Dharma moonbase, triangulating with the Lamppost to spot the sporadic appearances of The Island on Earth for Charles Widmore after what we know as the series “finale.” Because (of course) Jack’s corking of the light causes anomalous skipping about of the Island, and Darkside Station’s data comes into serious play. Which means a reveal of Darkside Station. And of their spacesuits.
So my original brief to myself was that it had to look like something Dharma would have access to in the 1970s (which explains the surplus MiG helmet and West German chem suit as the base) but also look like something the Lost art department could get together in ten man-hours for the week’s shoot of the episode. That Sam Rockwell flick Moon used IKEA silverware trays heavily in the set design, so I knicked that idea from them and used the common-knowledge build technique of the guys who build sandtrooper backpacks to string together plastic boxes with cable ties.
First order of business for the backpack was the base it’d be built on. The Ghostbusters proton packs (“Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.”) are built on Vietnam-era “Alice” frames, which seems good enough for me. An easy score on eBay from an Army surplus store.
And of course we’d need air tanks on it. After briefly considering just a box-like shape, I ran across a photo of an open Soviet backpack with its exposed tanks and conduits and felt that had a good Dharma look. My first thought was just to fake it with white-painted two-liter soda bottles and old plumbing valves, but one of my pals said, “Two-liter Coke bottles painted white are just going to look like two-liter Coke bottles painted white; it’s Halloween, go to a costume shop and get a couple of kids’ fireman costumes and use the toy airtanks for it.” Well, after that, why not just buy real fire extinguishers? They already have valves, so I would only have to do rudimentary fittings.
After the fire extinguishers were bolted to the frame, I collected two plastic art supply boxes, the silverware drawer, two under-the counter lights, and a battery-operated air pump for a five-gallon aquarium. This last sits in the chest pocket of the West German chemical suit and blows air up into the helmet.
Then it’s just a matter of painting and detailing. The tanks got several coats of white paint, vinyl yellow-and-black hazard tape, and Dharma “oxygen/nitrogen” labels with the Darkside Station logo. The silverware drawer gets inverted and strapped to the two art supply boxes, and the lights are velcroed to each side. Two yellow 24″ gas connectors get looped with black electrical tape to echo the hazard tape on the tanks, and are bolted into the plastic. Velcro strips were added to the silverware tray to give the eye some texture to look at, but begged the question: what goes on the back? Since the suit was going to feature a 1917 Swedish Army ammo pouch, I figured it be stuff that you might need every once in a while but was never mission-critical. So I put some velcro on the handles of an old coax crimper that was kicking around in my tool box and positioned it so the spaceman could reach back up over his shoulder to get it easily.
It still needed a bit more something, so I got a few survival blankets and stuck them to the back. There are three different Dharma logos on them, because I had the thought that Dharma members privately think this is the most useless item Dharma issues them. You don’t need them in LA, you don’t need them on a tropical island, you don’t need them in space. So the Dharma guys trade them amongst themselves, as proof you’ve met folks from another station.
If you want to read about the whole sordid mess, I did a column about it, here:
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