It infuriated its ranks of fans when it ended but now the truth can be told about the much-debated finale of long-running TV drama Lost - no, the survivors of the plane crash weren't dead the whole time and no, they weren't in purgatory.

Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have explained the ending to fans at the PaleyFest in Los Angeles to mark the 10th anniversary of the show's premiere.

The pair said the island was never purgatory, as widely believed. “No, no, no. They were not dead the whole time,” Cuse said, explaining that footage of the plane wreckage at the end of the show was meant to act as a buffer.

“We thought, let's put those shots at the end of the show and it will be a little buffer and lull. And when people saw the footage of the plane with no survivors, it exacerbated the problem.

“But the characters definitely survived the plane crash and really were on a very real island. At the very end of the series, though? Yep, they were all dead when they met up in heaven for the final ‘church’ scene.”

Cuse also confirmed that Lost was metaphorically about "people who were lost and searching for meaning and purpose in their lives" and that “the ending really had to be spiritual, and one that talks about destiny.

"We would have long discourses about the nature of the show, for many years, and we decided it needed to mean something to us and our belief system and the characters and how all of us are here to lift each other up in our lives."