Is 'Manifest' Inspired By A True Story? It Borrows From A Real-Life Mystery
If, eight years after Lost's finale, you're still craving a show about a mysterious plane and the supernatural forces that surround it, consider Manifest your new fix. The NBC series premieres Sept. 24 and follows the passengers of Montego Air Flight 828 — a group of people who feel as though they've only been in the air for a few hours, but return to the ground to learn they've been missing for five years. The time-jumping element is, of course, fictional, and Manifest wasn't inspired by a true story, but if it weren't for the 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, it may never have made it to screen.
As Manifest creator and executive producer Jeff Rake told Syfy, he first thought of the concept 10 years ago, but it wasn't until Flight 370 went missing that the show began to take shape. "I pitched [Manifest] around [a decade ago], nobody wanted it," he explained in a video for the network. "Then, seven years later, Malaysian Airlines happened and suddenly my crazy idea felt a little more real, a little more relatable, in the context of Malaysian Air, suddenly people were interested."
In Manifest, Montego Air Flight 828 goes through some turbulence that somehow shoots the plane through time, putting the passengers at the center of an investigation much like that of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Five years later, the world finds out what happened — or at least, that everyone who was onboard is still safe and alive — but the friends and family of Flight 370 haven't been so lucky. As outlined by The Guardian, Malaysian investigators released a 1,500-page report in 2018 stating that, four years after the flight's disappearance, they were not able to conclusively state what happened to the plane, where it is, or why it disappeared.
In 2017, CNN reported that debris from MH370 has been found in the Indian Ocean in the years since it vanished, suggesting that the plane had crashed and come apart. According to TIME Magazine, though, not a single body has been uncovered. While the chances that Flight 370's passengers were warped through time or transported to a smoke monster-inhabited island are slim, to say the least, those answers are only slightly more strange than the fact that a 21st century plane can disappear into thin air with seemingly no explanation for what happened.
So, while the mystery of Manifest isn't directly inspired by MH370, it's hard to watch the show without thinking of the very real tragedy that it mirrors. And, perhaps more than that, it's difficult to comprehend the lack of closure those close with Flight 370's passengers likely still wrestle with today. At least the friends and family of Manifest's passengers get an answer — even if it is a seemingly impossible one.
Manifest may make for fun, twist-filled entertainment, but the mystery that helped fuel its creation still looms large over the world. And ultimately, that makes it all the more eerie to watch.