FANS OF LOST will be pleased to learn they'll get some answers to the questions that the hit series has tormented them with since it first crash-landed onto television screens around the world last year. Just don't expect them anytime soon. Not since the early days of The X-Files has a television series spawned such a vigorous guessing game. What does it all mean? Where is it all heading? What's the monster living in the forest? What's inside the hatch? Who else is living on the island? For the uninitiated, Lost is about a group of plane-crash survivors stranded on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. What appears to be a straightforward castaway drama evolves into a supernatural tale as the survivors' stories and the island's secrets are uncovered. Some of the show's mysteries will never be answered. Anyone craving to discover, for example, the true meaning of the six numbers that keep appearing will be disappointed. 'How would you ever answer the question of what something means?' Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof says. 'What we do know is the story of the numbers and why those specific numbers.' Well, up to a point. A transmission from the island 'is heard by a man at a listening post in Australia and that man ends up in a mental institution and downloads the number to Hurley, and then those same numbers end up on the hatch, which we now know originated from a project called the Darma Initiative. We have that story.' All clear? 'But when somebody says, 'What do the numbers mean?', we just don't know how to answer that question,' Lindelof says. 'It's sort of like saying, 'What does this room mean?' or 'What do my shoes mean?'' Now in its second season in Hong Kong, Lost has enjoyed global success that never ceases to surprise its creators and cast members. Lindelof says the trick now is knowing when to stop. He doesn't want Lost to follow shows such as The X-Files. 'That's something we obviously talk about a lot and have talked about from the very beginning,' he says. 'I think the question that came up most often, just on viewing the pilot, was how long can this possibly be sustained for? How long can you string people along? We feel burned by shows such as The X-Files or by Twin Peaks, although one went for 19 episodes and the other went for 140 episodes. How are you going to maintain your mythology? 'The simple answer is one season at a time. Do we know what season three is going to be? No. But we probably know what the end of season three is going to be. I mean, it's always nice to have something to work towards, but you have to be able to change tune in the middle of the song if it starts to get tedious.' A handful of people, including Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse, know how the show will ultimately end, but they plan to take their time getting there. 'We know what the ending is,' Cuse says. 'This is a show that demands an ending. We want to find out the fate of these people. Do they get off the island? What's the nature of the island? There are some big questions that you want answered at the end. We have an ending. We just don't know when we're going to get there.' One of the show's biggest innovations is a readiness to kill off characters. Cuse says the writers deliberately chose to create storylines that would leave viewers uncertain as to which characters may survive. 'If you watch CSI and somebody puts a gun to Billy Petersen's head, you know he's not going to get shot,' Cuse says. 'We really feel that part of the intensity of the show comes from the fact that the life-and-death stakes are more believable. We don't want the audience to ever feel that any character is safe.' Such uncertainty could be difficult for some actors. But Matthew Fox, who plays Jack, says it's a key to the show's success. 'I love being in a position where I only know as much about the situation as Jack knows,' Fox says. 'As an actor you don't have to trick yourself if you only know as much as your character knows. I look forward to the scripts like the audience looks forward to the episodes. 'I love the fact that this is a show in which you believe any character could die. Damon and Carlton have created a world that's full of danger and mystery. It will be interesting to see whether these guys take it to the next level and actually kill off somebody the audience has gotten to love.' Fox says the show has also broken new ground by showing a dark side to its leading man. 'Damon and I had conversations during the pilot about how we didn't want to make Jack a knight in the shining armour. It's just not interesting.' Far from being squeaky-clean, Jack is sometimes devious. 'We're living in a modern world where our heroes need to be more complicated and flawed,' Fox says. 'And they need to be people that we can relate to more because we're all in very beautiful ways flawed. We've seen some pretty dark stuff come out of this guy. There was a moment where he basically signed off on torture. It ate him alive.' Although script security for Lost is tight, Cuse and Lindelof say they're resigned to details leaking out. A plot outline for coming episodes, supposedly from a former member of the writing team, circulated on chat rooms last year. 'It's the curse and the blessing of a show that has a mystery element to it,' Lindelof says. Cuse says the show may even herald the start of a new golden age of television drama. 'A lot of Lost-derived shows started out this year - in a way that hasn't been seen in a while,' he says. 'It's rewarding to do a show that deals with issues of faith and metaphysics and philosophy and larger questions couched within an action-adventure format. That the audience embraced the headier aspects of the show is something that's incredibly rewarding to us. 'I think it opened the possibility that you can do a show that deals with substantive issues - a commercially successful show that actually tries to dig a little bit deeper into the meaningful questions of our existence.'