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Oceanic Airlines, We Salute You…

Lost returned to Sky One recently, for its sixth and final mind-bending season. In the fourth season it was flash-forwards, in the fifth season it was time travel and this year it looks like it’s alternate dimensions. In fact, this season opens with an alternate universe where the Oceanic 815 flight from Sydney never crashed. Yes, there exists a timeline where an Oceanic Airlines flight made it from one side of the world to another. I’m a big fan of linking seemingly disconnected threads from various strands of fiction together – like postulating that Fight Club is a sequel to Calvin & Hobbes – so I was quite impressed to learn that Oceanic Airlines have a long and varied history of aviation disasters across any number of movies and television shows.

Note that flying that low over London is incredibly dangerous... and perfectly in keeping with oceanic's standards of safety...

One of these days I’ll discuss the Tommy Westphall hypothesis. In summary, it’s a way of connecting virtually every television show (and several movies) to each other and demonstrating that they themselves take place in the brain of an autistic child. I’m not kidding, check out the link. It’s ideas like that which fascinate me, the idea that certain fictional constructs dovetail into each other and that they are all connected in some weird fashion.

Anyway, I digress. Crucially, Oceanic Airlines has become a bit of an in-joke among film and television producers. The earliest reference I can find is in Executive Decision. Yes, the Kurt Russell movie. A bunch of Islamic extremists hijack a plane – but guess which airline they target? Yep, it’s Oceanic.

Since most television shows during the nineties didn’t have huge budgets or CGI experience, they tended to use stock footage for most of their establishing shots. When they needed a shot of an aircraft taking off, they generally picked it from the above movie. As a result, Diagnosis Murder saw the murdering of a crew member and an illness spreading among the crew. Over on JAG the airline was the target both of militants trying to shoot down one of their planes and terrorists hijacking another flight (leading it to be retaken again in mid-flight – I wonder if Oceanic staff are trained for that sort of thing). On Flipper another flight had to make a water-landing.

As you can see, the Oceanic brand was certainly in tatters even before some freaky island-related mayhem. They must have the best PR department in the world (as alluded to on Flash Forward, where a billboard promises a “Perfect Safety Record”) and it’s no wonder they made such a huge fuss about the “Oceanic Six” – it must be reassuring to know that even six people can survive an average Oceanic Airlines flight.

Admittedly references have gotten more tongue-in-cheap since Lost hit the airwaves. Chuck, for example, couldn’t resist shooting down the same flight that crashed on the island. Meanwhile both LAX and Pushing Daisies feature rather subtle shoutouts in airport scenes. And, like Slusho, it appears that JJ Abrams has incorporated the airline into his own private continuity. The brand pops up in Fringe and Alias. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Starfleet (from Abrams’ relaunched Star Trek) was founded by Oceanic shareholders, especially given the fate of the armada sent to Vulcan.

In fairness, it isn’t all doom and gloom. In romantic cult film After the Sunset, Oceanic ferries Max and Lola away to their romantic getaway in the Bahamas. Of course, a successful Oceanic Airlines flight might make the entire fabric of the universe unfold, so the scene was apparently deleted from the actual film, appearing only in the trailer.

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