By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 12:00 AM
"Lost" fans, before deciding which version of the fifth season to buy on DVD or Blu-ray, ask yourself the following question: How geeky am I?
If the answer comes back, "Only geeky enough to want to rewatch all of the 2009 episodes before the sixth and final season premieres in February of 2010," then the standard-edition "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season" DVD ($59.99) and Blu-ray ($79) collections that release today -- complete with the usual flotilla of deleted scenes, featurettes, Easter eggs and other extras -- are probably your best bet.
If, however, the response is more like, "I'm so geeky that I receive 'Lost' Google alerts, own an Oceanic Airlines T-shirt and regularly wear a Dharma Initiative necklace," then the costlier, collectible "The Lost Complete Season Five Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit," also out today on DVD ($119.99) and Blu-ray ($134), may be the more appropriately over-the-top option. How over the top? Let's put it this way: When this writer -- who may or may not receive such Google alerts, sleep in her Oceanic T-shirt and pair her Dharma necklace with casual busines wear -- received her copy of the Blu-ray kit, the first word that came out of her mouth was "holy." The second was a word that cannot be printed in a family newspaper or on its Web site.
All five of the discs in the regular collection are included in this mega-box set as well. But here they come nestled inside a white binder branded the Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit, a comprehensive, faux introduction to the fictional research organization that established its presence on the show's mythical island in 1970. In keeping with what is essentially one massive, cleverly packaged "Lost" inside joke, the kit also includes oodles of Dharma literature, including everything from a map of the grounds to a copy of the Dharma cafeteria menu; several Dharma patches, perfect (naturally) for sewing on your Dharma jumpsuit; a CD that contains the track "Dharma Lady" by Geronimo Jackson, a band frequently referenced on the series; a copy of the "truce" between Dharma's members and the island's indigenous inhabitants; and an orientation video on a VHS tape. Maybe it's just me but I find something deliciously absurd about a Blu-ray box set that cannot be viewed in its entirety without access to a VCR.
Of course, once the wow factor wears off, the more sensible "Lost" obsessives will realize that what's really worthwhile about this piece of pop-culture excess can be found on those core five discs, which contain all 16 episodes of perhaps the most challenging season in this already challenging show's history. With its focus on head-spinning time travel plotlines and a cliffhanger ending that raises a big, fat question mark about free will vs. destiny, regular viewers will undoubtedly want to review every minute of the season -- perhaps, occasionally, in slow-motion -- so they can be properly primed for the Emmy Award-winning drama's final bow.
Anyone scanning these DVDs for clues about exactly what will transpire in season six may be disappointed. The closest these discs get to revealing a major secret is when, during the featurette "An Epic Day With Richard Alpert," we realize that actor Nestor Carbonell doesn't wear eyeliner; he just has incredibly dark, thick eyelashes that make it look like he does. (And with this knowledge, Americans can finally get a good night's rest.)
All guyliner jokes aside, the quality of the extras is, for the most part, on the same high level as that of previous "Lost" collections. The "Lost on Location" mini-documentaries do their usual engrossing job of taking us behind the scenes to witness the machinations behind key scenes, like the launch of multiple flaming arrows in the episode "The Lie" and the brake-screeching three-car accident involving John Locke in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham."
Other highlights: "Making Up for 'Lost' Time," a look at how the creative team keeps track of all the era-shifting on the series; "Lost 100," a Blu-ray-exclusive featurette that tracks production of the show's 100th episode and takes viewers inside the 100th-episode celebration, complete with tropical-themed cake from the team at the Food Network's "Ace of Cakes"; and the eight deleted scenes, including one in which Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) put his revised theory of time travel into much-needed expanded perspective. (The interactive, BD-live feature "Lost University," which will allow "enrolled" fans to take courses like "SCI 201: Jungle Survival Basics" and "PHI 101: I'm Lost Therefore I Am," won't officially be activated until Dec. 8, so it could not be previewed for the purposes of this review.)
On the more negative end of the spectrum, fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the notably fewer number of audio tracks in the season-five set. While past seasons have included commentaries on several episodes, this one comes with just two. We know the writers are trying to be tight-lipped about what lies ahead during season six. But much as I harbor nerdy affection for my Orientation Kit, I'd trade in those Dharma patches and that Geronimo Jackson CD to get some additional commentaries and insights from the minds behind the smartest show on broadcast television.