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A First Glimpse Inside the Dollhouse February 17, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Whedonverse , trackback


Dollhouse, the new offering by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, premiered last Friday on FOX, amid unprecedented levels of fan anticipation. The general premise of the show is as follows: a girl named Echo has escaped a prison sentence by volunteering to live in a facility known as the Dollhouse, where she becomes a human guinea pig for unscrupulous employers. Their shadowy operation resembles a sort of high tech prostitution ring, and they possess technology capable of reprogramming a person’s brain to give them specific character traits. The reprogrammed “actives”, as they are called, are then rented out to wealthy clients for various purposes, legal or otherwise. After the mission is completed, the active’s memories are wiped clean, and his or her mind is reverted back to its original state. Here are some additional thoughts on the show:

  • The proceedings seem fairly gloomy, and would definitely benefit from more of Whedon’s trademark humor. I’m also wondering if the brain altering technology will be a permanent feature of the series or just a starting point. It would seem a little gimmicky (and boring) to rely on this as the central plot device indefinitely. Also, as a viewer I really don’t want to see Echo being used by these laboratory creeps week after week for the benefit of the Dollhouse’s high paying clients. I would like to see her somehow turn the tables on them and maybe even use the technology for her own advantage.
  • You would think having all your memories zapped from your mind and replaced with a new set on regular basis would take a serious toll on a person’s brain, especially considering the limited medical technology we have in our day and age. I mean, our sharpest pharmaceutical minds can’t come up with a drug that isn’t accompanied by a list of dangerous side effects. This seems like another logical reason why Echo’s “treatments” shouldn’t go on indefinitely.
  • The general opinion about the premiere episode among fans seems to be a feeling of slight disappointment tempered with cautious optimism. Viewership numbers for the episode were less than stellar, and Whedon undoubtedly feels like he’s on trial this week. We should all keep in mind that his shows typically don’t come flying out of the gate with apocalyptic greatness. The debut seasons of both Buffy and Angel consisted largely of stand-alone episodes which served to establish the characters and settings of the shows, with few earth shattering developments.
  • Whether or not Whedon is purposely lowering our expectations to a more realistic level (not a bad idea, really), I’m predicting that the show will improve greatly over the course of the first season, and the wavering faith of the fans will be restored.
  • The Dollhouse facility reminds me of Angel’s old hotel hangout. Just my imagination?
  • The first line spoken on the show was “Nothing is what it appears to be.” This seems like an easter egg of some kind to let us know that some unexpected developments are on the way.
  • Is Echo’s predicament perhaps a metaphor for capitalism? Maybe I shouldn’t even go there. Nobody wants to be that serious on Friday night.
  • It’s good to hear the badly drawn monster go “Aargh!” at the end of a TV show again.

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1. Agidoo Press » A First Glimpse Inside the Dollhouse - February 17, 2009

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2. Joe GoldsteinNo Gravatar - February 18, 2009

It may be that the creator himself doesn’t know where he plans to take this storyline. The premise sounds nifty at first, but then when you take a closer look at it, as you have done, it doesn’t seem to be the most promising concept for a long-term show. Maybe a better idea for a short A&E type series or even just for one Twilight Zone kind of episode. The restrictive dollhouse may just mean a restrictive budget for filming, one primary set in order to keep down production costs. I don’t know, my hunch is that, because of fundamental problems with the central premise, this one is going to fail fairly quickly and be cancelled in short order, but I could be wrong.

3. DanyNo Gravatar - October 19, 2015

I definitely agree and was happy to see the best Echo/Ballard motnems. If only they had these kinds of interactions earlier in this season. I think the writing and direction for their scenes were much better in this episode. Their chemistry was so forced earlier in this season and it wasn’t believable at all; the weird sexual imagery in Meet Jane Doe comes to definitely comes to mind here. I liked the episode a whole bunch, but there were obviously some disappointments that probably wasn’t too much of the creators’ fault. It would have been nice to see things wrap up with Alpha maybe a little bit more. What was creators’ fault, however, were the stupid outfits for Victor and his pals and some seriously cringe-worthy dialogue. I get what they were trying to do, but “log off”? ..Seriously?? I do think that Mag and Zone managed to pull off their futuristic lines, tho.

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