Rebuttals to the Theory
Several people have immediately tried to debunk this theory, mainly for 2 reasons: They're taking the producers' podcasts too seriously (and have thus discounted time travel), or my theory is too contradictory to their own theories. Either way, I have written this theory for entertainment value, and it should only be taken in as a clever means to explain the show. Below, I will address the rebuttals that have been brought up against my theory.
Q: Didn't the original podcast say that there is NO TIME TRAVEL!?
A: The producers, during season 1, stated that "there are no space ships and no time travel." I believe this statement was made long before the producers had even worked out the framework to the story. Back in season 1, I the producers were trying to tell a simple story of people who had crashed on an island, showing how they were all intertwined and possibly been unknowingly planted on flight 815. However, once the producers had reason to believe the show could go on for several seasons, they introduced the concept of time travel. Yet, they've been cleverly trying to deter the audience from ever coming to this conclusion. I'm sure that people will not want to agree with me on this, and they will state that I'm just saying this to defend my theory - but you do have to admit that the producers still have an out in the event that they do decide to center the show around time travel given they have not recently said anything along the lines of "time travel is NOT an element to the show" or "the sequence of events on the show happen in a linear fashion on ONE timeline." Also picture it this way the producers will not hint at the "big reveal" until the very last episode of the series. They want to keep the audience guessing on most of the main questions (ie, what's the smoke monster) for the next 3 years they're not going to even hint at "the answer." And, time travel is a single concept that can nicely bring together the entire series. Think about it all this "unexplainable" stuff happens on the island for 6 seasons, and we see these intertwined flashbacks and flashforwards. Then, in the end, Ben says "Jack, when you came to the island, you went back to the year 1996. If you ever return to the island, you can go back in time."
Q: If by crashing on the Island the 815'ers go back in time to the preserved Island time of 1996, why does this cure the ailments but not "de-age" their bodies? This in an inconsistent twist to our understanding of time travel - It seems conveniently designed to support ONLY your theory.
A: Since time travel, as we know it, doesn't exist, the producers of LOST have the ability to twist the "concept" around as much as they want. So, yes, in a logical sense, going back in time should cause you to de-age, get back your old hair style, and lose your memory. However, we the audience still know nothing about this time machine or its functions, thus, the producers can set whatever rules they want for its functionality. The connection that I used to build this assumption stems from the "disease" that existed on the island in the past. I think DHARMA had been experimenting with diseases on the island to test to see if the time travel would remove them - thus, the time travel can cure disease but not necessarily de-age (because we haven't seen any de-aging). So, I know that this probably seems like a "cheap" answer to your question, but to the same extent, I think the producers will be using a "modified" version of how we would logically perceive time travel. I'm using the concept of fate to help me explain the functionality of the time machine and here's the big take away: It doesn't really matter the exact effect of traveling back in time the ONLY thing that matters in relation to the time machine is that fate keeps the universe course corrected.
Q: The theory is way too complicated for the average viewer.
A: It may be a complex theory when taken in all at once, but consider that the producers have 3 more seasons to lay this out for us. Also, I don't think that the producers are going to give us 100 different answers, each to every question presented on the show. Additionally, I don't think they're going to say, "here's ONE concept that will answer every question" - that would just be too cheap, and I think would cause everyone to ultimately hate the series. Hence the reason the producers debunked purgatory, as "an answer." And, that's where I come in with my theory. I want to provide a concept that can't sum the show up in one single answer, but at the same time, doesn't require 100 different answers either. Is my theory STILL a little too complicated for the average viewer? Most definitely. But, I think in the final season, the producers will really start laying "answers" on us. And, by the very last episode, we'll know exactly what the smoke monster is, and how time travel applies to the show. The final question would be: Can we stop fate from course correcting through our decisions? Also consider that the producers said they would give us "an answer" that would allow us to tie up several loose ends on our own. Once they drop the word "time loop" and "time travel" pretty much anyone will be able to come in and write a theory like this one.
Q: The resetting of time every 108 minutes makes sense, in theory, but that brings about many inconsistencies on the show for example, it's day and night on the island quite frequently, yet, an elapsing and repeating 108 minutes shouldn't allow time on the island to pass between day and night.
A: I think there are 2 explanations to this. The cheap explanation would be that the producers hadn't really mapped out the entire show by the time they had written the first season, therefore, they weren't even considering time travel as an option. So, the show would be flawed in that sense. However, the second, more logical explanation is that while the island is in a time bubble, the characters on the island can see "through" the bubble into the parallel time's sky therefore, they would still be seeing the day and night change outside the island, because that outside time is still running its course. (I know, I don't really like this explanation, but it's the only thing I can think of).
Q: They have 48 hours left to wrap this story up and if the picture you paint is correct, technically I don't think you would be able to prove it because they'd leave so much out of it.
A: I don't think they're going to give us many answers. I think it will be left to the viewer to determine what's going on based on a few major answers, such as the time difference between the island and the real world. I also don't think they will ever tap into certain things, like maybe Ben's moms story. But if we know why Ghosts appear on the island (ie, dead bodies merging with past versions), then we would know that Ben's mom was on the island at some point in time - and that is what I used to write out Ben's mom's story in my theory.
Q I know it's a theory and conjecture and I'm not going to outright say it's wrong, but too much on this is based on things that are (as of yet) completely unrelated in the LOST universe.
A: True, this is still just a theory, and while I think many of the things I mention will not actually happen, I think the "frame" of my story, if you will, is for the most part accurate.