Boyd Langton -
Topher Brink -
Paul Ballard -
Adelle DeWitt -
Laurence Dominic -
Claire Saunders -
OTHER JOSS WHEDON SHOWS
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
OTHER DOLLHOUSE SEASONS
A girl is snatched from her house and her father is told he will have to pay $5million to get her back again. The police are not to be involved. He is willing to pay, but knows just how easily these things can go wrong and so he hires a woman with all the skills of a hostage negotiator, but no connection with the police. Her name is Echo and she is an active, a person whose own personality has been wiped and who can be programmed with any personality her masters choose. Unfortunately, this personality has a flaw in it that might just prove to be disastrous.
No matter how rich you are there is just one thing that you can't buy and that is the perfect person. Until now. The Dollhouse will, for a very large fee, create that person for you. She (or he) will be whatever you want them to be; the perfect date, assassin or, in this case, hostage negotiator. After the job is done, the personalities are wiped again and the actives go back to being passive.
Joss Whedon is the creator of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL and FIREFLY, three of the finest examples of genre shows that there are. A new show from him is something to get really, really excited about, but that pedigree is also something that will mean expectations at a level that are almost impossible to satisfy. Certainly, this first episode reaches none of the heights of those other shows.
This, though, is something new and different for Whedon. Where the other shows were sassy pieces of fantasy wrapped around a core of smart plotting, great but larger than life characters and witty dialogue, this appears to be aiming to be more gritty, realistic and down to earth. And that's not playing to his strengths. The plot here is a fairly standard one with a kidnapped child and a negotiator. It's not anything that we haven't seen in any number of police procedural shows and it does rely on the staggeringly huge coincidence of the kidnappers having amongst their number the man who abused the woman whose personality Echo is borrowing. That's not even remotely believable.
This being the pilot, we can expect things to be a little rough and the script is there to introduce the concept more than the characters. Of course Echo (Eliza Dushku) doesn't have a personality for part of the show, but it is fair that the head kidnapper refers to her as a schoolteacher because that is exactly how she plays her hostage negotiator personality. Tahmoh Penikett BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a cookie cutter angry rogue FBI agent on a mission and Olivia Williams is the hard nosed bitch running it all. Harry Lennix is the handler who treats Echo as a person rather than a commodity and Fran Kranz is the geek who makes it all happen technically speaking.
Apart from Echo and her handler, however, none of these characters really get a look in whilst the crowded plot is trying to lay the groundwork. There is a pointless bike race sequence for the sake of having a bike race sequence and the FBI man's subplot could have been introduced in a later episode. The opening scene of Echo being recruited is straight out of NIKITA and the whole premise is like JOE 90, but with sexy short skirts.
Expectations, then, are far from met, but even though it is well down on what we might have hoped for, it is competent, slick and there are possibilities to be worked with.Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
Echo is hired for a weekend of hiking, rafting, rockclimbing and generally being outdoorsy, but the man who paid the fee turns out to have one last game to play, he plans to hunt her down for sport.
After the lumpy and not very good opening episode, DOLLHOUSE steps it up a gear with an episode that is a streamlined action story and nothing more (or, for that matter, less). OK, it's very far from being original, but it's slick and fast and never dull.
More of the background is revealed through Echo's flashbacks and Boyd's memories of his first day on the job. It's all based around the mysterious Alpha, an active who went psycho and therein inevitably lies the plot arc.
Agent Ballard gets teased by his colleagues for his theories about the Dollhouse and then spills his guts about what he knows to his attractive neighbour who has got to be one of the dolls. It's to be hoped that his character develops a bit as the show goes on.
Still, this shows great improvement and there are hopes for better to come.Written by Steven S DeKnight
Directed by Steven S DeKnight
When a pop star is threatened by an obssessive fan, Echo is programmed to be a back up singer with a need to protect the star. When a link between the star and the would-be killer becomes apparent, the manner in which Echo carries out her programming takes a surprising twist.
Nobody may be singing that they will always love Kevin Costner, but this is liberally ripped off from the film THE BODYGUARD right down to the connection between the star and the killer. Unoriginality aside, it's completely watchable with the musical interludes well done and the performances perfectly fine, although giving the lead star more than one outfit to perform in might have been a bit more believable and would someone involved in music choose an outfit that jangles so loudly all the time?
The background plot arc hints are actually more interesting than the main story as Agent Ballard finds himself set up and shot, but by whom and with Echo retaining memory of Sierra after her mind wipe and also enough sense of mind to warn her off from greeting her. The development of that is where the show's potential lies.Written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
Directed by David Solomon
Echo is programmed as a super-able and super-confident bank robber, but when her mind gets wiped remotely over the telephone during a heist, Sierra has to also take on the persona in an attempt to get her back.
A fairly ordinary set up (a theft of famous art from a supposedly impregnable bank vault) gets an interesting twist with the betrayal of one of the team and then the mind wipe, but fails to end on a satisfactory resolution, Echo and her friend walking out of the vault past the armed guards just because there is some smoke there?
The addition of the remote mind wipe gives it a twist, but hardly seems likely considering the technology involved in creating and erasing the personalities of the dolls. It's just one more reminder of the shadowy Alpha's presence in the background.Written by Sarah Fain
Directed by Elizabeth Craft
A religious cult inside a compound are targeted when one of the members leaves a simple, stark message in the local score - 'Save Me'. Echo is hired to go undercover in the cult as a blind woman who really believes in the cult's leader. Such total faith is hard to resist, but then the cameras in her eyes pick up the presence of a huge supply of guns and a standoff takes place.
Considering that the WACO standoff that inspired this story gripped the world, this is an unforgiveably dull episode. Absolute religious faith doesn't make for that great drama and Echo's character never rings true, never seems deeper than the religious platitudes that she spouts. Neither do the motivations of the cult's leader (which are never explored in any depth) or those of the police officer who set up the whole thing in the plot's 'twist'.
All of this,however, is masterful stuff compared with the side story of the Dollhouse geniuses trying to understand why one of the male dolls is getting erections in the communal shower.Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Man on the Street
Agent Ballard comes within inches of catching Echo only to find himself involved in a web of conspiracies that will cost him his badge and his gun. Sierra, meanwhile, has been having sex within the Dollhouse, something that ought to be impossible.
With this episode, the show starts to come together. There are lots of hints dropped about what is really going on that set up a much bigger picture than to date. There are more than one Dollhouse. They are a global force and the fulfilment of pleasure is a means rather than an end. There is someone working inside the Dollhouse organisation who is on the side of good, but can't reveal themselves just yet. Ballard's neighbour really is a doll and he is being set up for the fall.
As you might expect from Joss Whedon, the plot is tight and slick, but still has a lot of time for character, such as the conversation between Ballard and the lonely rich man. The talking heads on the television discussing the 'urban myth' of the dollhouse is less effective and becomes rather intrusive.
The action is ramped up with Ballard taking on and beating up security guards, Echo beating up Ballard and Ballard's neighbour beating up an attacker. That's more action than in the whole show to date. Things are starting to really look up for the show. Let's hope it's not a fluke.Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by David Straiton
Something is causing people on a university campus to act out of character and has already led to one death. The Dollhouse actives are imprinted with the personalities of government agents to allow them to go in and contain the event. Echo, however, is on a different assignment, which she abandons in order to save someone she barely even remembers.
People being driven to act in a way that is totally alien to their nature is an old, old idea and one that usually is a lot of fun to watch, but first you have to be invested in the characters and that's the problem here. Whilst Topher and Adelle bond in an unexpected love of things British (Brown sauce yay!) and agents with guns turn all sensitive and sorry that they tried to burn Echo alive we really don't care that much, funny though it may be in passing.
This story is all about giving the backstory as to how Echo became Echo, why she volunteered (in the end) to sign away five years of her life. It's a surprisingly uninvolving backstory that doesn't manage to convey the desperation that someone would have to feel to become one of the dolls and the flashback structure doesn't help with the action either, though that is nothing to write home about anyway.
Oh, and the whodunnit is pretty obvious all along.Written by Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft
Directed by James A. Contner
Following the memory drug issues of Echoes, the Actives are having problems. This leads to a group of them waking up with much of their original personality, if not their memories, intact and a mass jailbreak is organised.
This is a much better episode with a stronger storyline focussed around the Actives and the Dollhouse itself, giving the usually mindless dolls some of their real personality back and thus giving the audience someone to connect with, something that is impossible when the characters change their intrinsic personality every episode.
When the action starts rolling it's pretty good too with a strong confontation between Echo and Topher the science guy. If this was a season finale it might have been easier to believe, but the resolution at least makes sense of what has gone before and does add a little depth to the players.Written by Tracy Bellomo
Directed by Felix Enriquez Alcalá
Spy in the House of Love
Topher discovers that there is a traitor within the Dollhouse who has been interfering with the imprints that the Actives have been getting. Head of Security Dominic imprints Sierra to infiltrate the NSA to find out who it is, but Topher imprints Echo with another personality to work out who it is from within the Dollhouse itself.
For the second week in a row, DOLLHOUSE shows very good signs of improvement with probably the best episode yet. The balance between the action of Sierra's breaking into the NSA compared with drama of Echo's investigations and the character work of Adele DeWitt's holiday is spot on, serving all and detracting from none. Even the unnecessarily flashy different points of view format doesn't overly get in the way. Sierra's infiltration of the NSA is all MISSION IMPOSSIBLE in a good way whilst the big showdown at the end is fast and exciting.
The side story of how the boss of the dollhouse spends her holidays adds a bit of depth and definition to what has been to date a flavourless character.
This could be the episode where DOLLHOUSE starts fulfilling its potential.Written by Andrew Chambliss
Directed by David Solomon
Echo is imprinted with the mind of recently dead woman so that she can back into the bosom of her not-so grieving family to find out who it was that killed her. Topher, meanwhile imprints Sierra with a companion of his own.
Using the dolls to provide a new body for a dead woman raising questions about eternal life and its price. There can be no doubt of the market, so what's the price going to be? What price another person's life? This is exactly the kind of service that the Dollhouse would provide and the cost would be huge, but an elite few would be able to afford it.
Unfortunately, the show ignores all of this in favour of a vaguely amusing tale of a hard-nosed woman who finds out that she wasn't appreciated for it at all. The identity of the killer isn't any great surprise, but then the pool of suspects isn't very large.
Topher's romp with what is the female equivalent of himself is fun enough, but hardly substantial and the episode is likely to remain in the memory for about as long as it takes the credits to roll.Written by Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jane Espenson
Directed by Elodie Keene
Agent Ballard finally locates the building hiding the Dollhouse, but can't get into its hidden parts. He tracks down an engineer who he believes built the recycling systems and persuades the agoraphobic to take him into the Dollhouse. Once inside, he comes up against the security systems, but there is more going on here than meets the eye.
This is a great episode. Forget the stuff going on about the Echo outreach programme whereby she is imprinted with the psyche of a damaged girl subtly enhanced to a successful woman in order to help empathise with the damaged girl, the real stuff happens inside the Dollhouse.
OK, it seems like Ballard finds the place with ridiculous ease since he's been looking for it and getting nowhere since the first episode, but the introduction of Alan Tudyk (FIREFLY) as the agoraphobic engineer ups the wit factor with a fantastically twitchy, funny performance that then segues into an action story as Ballard and Boyd face off against each other before finally dropping a bombshell of a twist that in a single leap sends DOLLHOUSE into unmissable territory.
All the members of the 'Joss Whedon is TV God' faction punch the air in unison and smugly say 'I told you so'. He's back and DOLLHOUSE fulfills its potential at last.Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Dwight Little
Alpha goes underground with Echo and another victim to further his diabolical plans to create a fellow god. Agent Ballard agrees to help find her, but at a price.
In the final episode, DOLLHOUSE comes good on every promise that it made. The flashback structure that reveals pretty much everything that you wanted to know about the characters dovetails nicely with what the present-day investigations are finding out. Want to know why Alpha slashed the Doctor? Want to know how he came to be nuts? Want to know what happened on the fateful day that he left? Of course you do and it's all here and it's all good, very good.
Alan Tudyk, as Alpha, gets the showy role with all the tics and the paranoia, but that gives Eliza Dushku someone to bounce off and play against as the twists come a-tumbling. This is, after all, her show and it's a shame that her Omega personality wasn't maintained. Perhaps we'll see her again.
The action is fast and exciting, though in small bursts only that serve the plot.
It took a while to get us here, but DOLLHOUSE has certainly been worth the patience we afforded it at the beginning.Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Tim Minear
It's 2019 and the world is shattered, destroyed by something called the Tech, a signal that can take your mind away. A small group of people resisting being imprinted find their way into the LA Dollhouse and are met there by Whisky who gives them hints about a cure to the effects of the Tech through a series of memory implants. They are not alone, however, and it becomes a question of survival.
This episode of DOLLHOUSE, made for the DVD boxset, reveals so much about the real reasons why the Dollhouse was built and what is going to happen to all the major characters that you have to wonder if it was made to wrap things up in case a second season was not forthcoming. The overall device of using small memory implants one at a time to find a way to Sanctuary (sorry, that's LOGAN'S RUN, here it's called Safe Haven) is clumsy, but the sequences work so well in slowly building up a picture of what has happened that it is hard to complain about that. All of the major characters get their moments and there is some serious emoting going on as each flashback is a moment of significance.
The world outside of the Dollhouse is only sketched in, but is done so expertly. There is a real TERMINATOR vibe to the future world and if this were a pitch for a spinoff series then we would certainly go for it.
If there is a second series then many of the cats are out of the bag and running wild in terms of the show mythology and who lives how long, but if not then this is an effective wrap up.Written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tanchroen
Directed by David Solomon
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