Yeah, we’re nothing if not timely here.
For me, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse was one of those disappointments that take a few episodes to fully sink in, as my Firefly buzz faded and it became all too clear that this broken show wasn’t going to get any better. But in the DVD release (which I borrowed rather than bought) there’s an extra feature in the form of Whedon’s original uncut pilot, which sets up a very different show.
For me the big problem with the broadcast version was the idea of a heroine wiped clean for every new adventure – it sounds smart (Hey, she can be someone different every week) but in practice there’s no character to engage with. There’s a poetic angle to it (I’m reminded of Robert Stallman’s Orphan trilogy, where the werewolf’s alter-egos are decent people with hopes and dreams, unaware that their lives end the moment the beast’s cover is blown), but you can’t build a symphony on a grace note.
The original pilot addresses the true potential of the concept by setting up a show in which the heroine’s personality has been imperfectly erased, and begins a secret struggle to survive and regain control in week-by-week increments. That was the show’s real premise, overruled and ignored in the reshooting and recutting, only to emerge in the second season when cancellation was inevitable and Whedon, it would seem, was left to get on with it as he wanted.
I’ve heard it suggested that the way to get the most reward out of Dollhouse is to watch the unaired pilot and then skip straight to the second season. I haven’t done it. But there ain’t going to be no more Firefly, so maybe I will.
4 responses to “Dollhouse Thoughts”
Haven't got round to watching season 2 of Dollhouse yet, but after the first season I developed a wildly over-elaborate theory theory that the show was becoming a metaphor for its own behind-the-scenes troubles:
Well, the original version does sound marginally more interesting actually but I'm glad it wasn't just me that thought the premise for the show (as aired) was mostly a load of phoney baloney. The first six episodes, before the 'reboot' were especially poor I thought. I mean, no matter how you jiggle the premise, another 'The Most Dangerous Game' rip off needs to be a lot cleverer to pass muster than just naming a character after the original author – and speaking of jiggling, the show did seem to mostly be an excuse to see the curves of the leading lady. Never saw season two but did manage to get into an almighty tiff with a good friend who though the show was much better than I was prepared to credit (she's the bigger BUFFY fan shall we say). Still, very much looking forward to THE AVENGERS movie
I returned to the show for episode six but didn't see anything that I'd consider in the nature of a 'reboot' at all, so drifted again.
Seems to me that the 'good' version of DOLLHOUSE would have been ALIAS MEETS ROBOCOP – the disguises and adventures of Sidney Bristow underpinned by Murphy's against-all-odds survival of personhood.
I loved Firefly/Serenity and, having missed the series on telly, was considering the DVD of Dollhouse…until I read your post! The Avengers is excellent though – it's hard to see how it could have been done any better.