Dollhouse (TV series)

Dollhouse (TV series)
Dollhouse
Dollhouse logo.png
Genre Science fiction
Thriller[1]
Psychological thriller
Drama
Created by Joss Whedon
Starring Eliza Dushku
Harry Lennix
Fran Kranz
Tahmoh Penikett
Enver Gjokaj
Dichen Lachman
Olivia Williams
Theme music composer Jonatha Brooke
Eric Bazilian
Opening theme "What You Don't Know"
Composer(s) Mychael Danna
Rob Simonsen
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 26 + original pilot[2]
(List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Joss Whedon
David Solomon
Tim Minear
Producer(s) Eliza Dushku
Elizabeth Craft
Sarah Fain

Steven S. DeKnight
Jane Espenson
Michele Fazekas
Tara Butters
Location(s) Los Angeles
Running time 47–50 minutes (Season 1)
42 minutes (Season 2)
Production company(s) 20th Century Fox Television
Mutant Enemy Productions
Boston Diva Productions
Broadcast
Original channel Fox
Original run February 13, 2009 (2009-02-13) – January 29, 2010 (2010-01-29)

Dollhouse is an American science fiction television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon under Mutant Enemy Productions. It premiered on February 13, 2009, on the Fox network and was officially cancelled on November 11, 2009.[3] The final episode aired on January 29, 2010. Production wrapped in December 2009, with a total of 27 episodes produced including the original pilot.[4][5]

The show revolves around a corporation running numerous underground establishments (known as "Dollhouses") across the globe which program individuals referred to as Actives (or Dolls) with temporary personalities and skills. Wealthy clients hire Actives from Dollhouses at great expense for various purposes. The series primarily follows the Active known as Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, on her journey towards self-awareness. Dushku also served as series producer.

Contents

Plot

The story follows Echo (Eliza Dushku), a "doll" or "Active" for the Los Angeles "Dollhouse", one of several fictional facilities run by a company which hires out human beings to wealthy clients. These "engagements" range from romantic interludes to high-risk criminal enterprises. Each Active has their original memories wiped and exists in a child-like blank state until programmed via the insertion of new memories and personalities for each mission. Actives such as Echo are ostensibly volunteers who have surrendered their minds and bodies to the organization for five-year stints, during which their original personalities are saved on hard drives, in exchange for vast amounts of money and a solution to any other problematic circumstances in their lives. Echo is unique however in that she remembers small amounts even after personality "wipes", and gradually develops an increasingly cognizant self-awareness and personality. This concept allows the series to examine the notions of identity and personhood.

Within the house, opinions on such matters are divided. Dollhouse director Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) sees her role as merely giving people what they need; programmer Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) is initially entirely scientific and amoral, apart from brief flashes of moral quandary; while Echo's mentor in the house or "handler", Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix), an ex-cop with an unknown past, is generally concerned with the ethical and theological implications of the Dollhouse's technology, seeing his inside role as an opportunity to limit any collateral damage. Further complicating matters are other dolls Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman), who despite being continually re-wiped, begin to fall in love.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) learns of Echo's original personality, Caroline Farrell. Agent Ballard becomes obsessed over rumors of the Dollhouse and risks his career trying to prove its existence. As Echo continues to evolve and learns to work beyond the limits of each temporary personality imprint or default "tabula rasa" programming, she runs the risk of being sent to "the Attic", a permanent resting place for "broken" dolls and problematic Dollhouse employees. She is an object of fascination for the escaped doll Alpha (Alan Tudyk) – a genius and serial killer who has been driven mad by being implanted with the memories of dozens of people — who returns at the end of the first season to confront her.

"Epitaph One", the final episode of season one, which was not aired as part of the show's original run on US television, depicts a post-apocalyptic future where the mind-wiping technology of the Dollhouse has spread and brought about the end of civilization. Many of the series' main characters futures are shown. As the second season begins, the show's focus shifts to depict the dangers of abusing the mind-wiping technology. Each character in the L.A. Dollhouse is forced to confront their own moral complicity in an increasingly downward spiral from moral grey areas to the realization that what the Dollhouse is doing is ultimately immoral and wrong. The Dollhouse's corporate sponsor is a medical research entity known as the Rossum Corporation, whose ultimate goal is revealed to be gaining control over national governments and later even innocent people with no association with the Dollhouse. Attempting to stop the further spread of the mind-wiping technology, the L.A. Dollhouse vows to take down Rossum and its mysterious founder whom only Echo's original personality, Caroline, has met.

The final episode of the series is set in the year 2020, leading on from "Epitaph One". Despite its best efforts, the L.A. Dollhouse has been unsuccessful in stopping the mind-wiping technology from spreading out of control. Rossum executives use multiple bodies to live in decadence while the peoples of the world are enslaved. A now deranged Topher, architect of much of the technology, devises a way of ending its spread, but at great sacrifice to himself and others. The series concludes with the world's personalities restored, while the Earth still lies in ruins, and those with Active architecture locked inside the Dollhouse for at least two years.

Production

The series stars Eliza Dushku, who worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain were the showrunners, while Jane Espenson, Tim Minear and Steven S. DeKnight served as consulting producers.[6][7] In addition to Joss Whedon, the writing staff included Tim Minear, Jed Whedon (Joss' brother), Maurissa Tancharoen (Jed's wife), Andrew Chambliss, Tracy Bellomo, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.[8] Whedon directed a number of his own episodes, as he has done for many of the shows he created. Tim Minear and Buffy producer David Solomon also directed. Fox used a viral marketing campaign to promote Dollhouse in May 2008.[9]

Dollhouse was produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Whedon's Mutant Enemy Productions,[10][11] Dushku's Boston Diva Productions, and was granted an initial thirteen-episode production commitment by Fox, with a reported license fee in the range of $1.5 to 2 million per episode.[12][13] Fox decided to forego the usual practice of ordering a pilot episode of the series, opting to instead put funds towards the construction of the elaborate set and cultural context of the television series. The set was described as a "life-size Dollhouse".[14] On July 22, 2008, Joss Whedon announced that the first episode shot, "Echo", would be pushed to be the second, saying that this "idea to do a new first episode wasn't the network's. It was mine".[15] Despite several reshoots, "Echo" was later pulled from the run entirely;[16] the staff of the show has since noted, during a panel on the series at the Paley Festival, a television festival held at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, that portions of the episode were used in subsequent episodes throughout the series' first season.[17]

Dollhouse, as well as J. J. Abrams' Fringe, aired during its first season with half the commercials and promo spots of most current network dramas, adding about 6 minutes to the shows' run times, as part of a new Fox initiative called "Remote-Free TV".[18] Fox charged a premium price for this advertising space, but did not completely recoup the money that they spent.[19] Fox later canceled Remote-Free TV.[20]

Originally, Whedon announced he was planning to shoot a separate webisode for every Dollhouse episode produced.[21] The webisodes did not materialize, however. There was originally a five year plan for the show, with Whedon plotting how its characters would evolve through that point.[22]

Casting

Panel with (left to right) Dichen Lachman, Joss Whedon, Eliza Dushku, and Fran Kranz.

Anya Colloff and Amy McIntyre Britt, who previously worked with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity, were the show's casting directors.

On March 26, 2008, it was officially announced that Tahmoh Penikett, Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz, and Enver Gjokaj had been cast in four principal roles for the show.[23][24] On April 3, 2008, it was announced that Olivia Williams would be playing the role of Adelle DeWitt.[25] Two weeks later, it was announced that Harry Lennix had also joined the cast.[26] On the same day, Joss Whedon announced on whedonesque.com that Miracle Laurie and Amy Acker were to complete the cast.[27]

Brennan Elliott and Michael Muhney auditioned for the part of Paul Ballard but lost out to Penikett. Ian Anthony Dale and Paul Campbell auditioned for Victor, but Gjokaj got the part.[28]

Unaired "Epitaph One"

On April 9, 2009, Whedon rebutted speculation that Fox was set to cancel the show. Producer Tim Minear explained that the "missing" 13th episode (titled "Epitaph One") would be on the DVD release of the season. The reason Minear gave for that episode being dropped from the broadcast run was that the Fox network was counting the original first episode ("Echo"), which went unaired, as part of the original 13-episode order; in contrast, the Fox production company was required by contract to have a minimum of 13 completed episodes for international and DVD releases.[29] According to both Minear and Whedon, the producers felt that the original first episode, having been subsequently scrapped entirely and having had its footage reused for other episodes throughout the season, should not be counted as a completed episode as part of their own 13-episode orders for international and DVD distribution but rather as a DVD extra, and thus Whedon produced a new 13th episode on a lower budget to fulfill the contractual requirements for the international broadcasts. The episode was screened at Comic-Con on July 24, 2009.[30] "Epitaph One" had its world premiere in Singapore on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, through Season Pass, an on-demand service offered by SingTel mio TV.[31] The first general broadcast was in Sweden on Channel TV400, Sunday July 26, 2009.[32] In the United Kingdom, the episode aired on the UK Sci Fi Channel on August 11, 2009,[33] in Australia it aired on September 1, 2009, in Brazil it aired on November 5, 2009 on FX Brazil and in Israel on January 13, 2010.

Second season and cancellation

Despite low ratings in its first season, Dollhouse was renewed for a second season[34] of thirteen episodes.[35] Among other factors, fan response to the show was seen as a reason for the renewal; Fox's president of entertainment stated that "if we'd canceled Joss's show I'd probably have 110 million e-mails this morning from the fans".[34] As part of the deal, there was a cut in the show's budget,[36] though Whedon stated that this would not affect the quality of the episodes.[37] The second season also had changes visually, the show moved from being shot on 35 mm film to high-definition video.[38] With the addition of new cinematographer Lisa Wiegand, Whedon wanted the show to look darker. Other visual changes included more hand-held camera work and the additions of snap zooms (à la Firefly).[39] The series continued in its 9–10 pm Friday timeslot, with the season premiere on September 25, 2009.[40] Season 2 of Dollhouse began filming on July 22, 2009, so Fox pushed back Dollhouse's return to the 25th to afford Whedon and the Dollhouse production team sufficient time to produce enough hours to kick off the season with at least three or four consecutive episodes.[41]

Alexis Denisof joined the cast in a recurring role as Senator Daniel Perrin,[42] as did Summer Glau, who was originally scheduled to appear in just two episodes, a number that was later extended.[43] Michael Hogan and Jamie Bamber, both former castmates of series regular Tahmoh Penikett on Battlestar Galactica, each had roles as guest stars.[44] Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (creators of Reaper) joined the writing staff for season 2 as replacements for former showrunners Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (who left Dollhouse to join the writing staff of Lie to Me).[45]

Fox announced in October 2009 that it would not be airing any episodes of Dollhouse during November sweeps, and that the series would return in December, airing episodes back-to-back instead.[46] On November 11, 2009, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the show had been cancelled.[3] Fox passed on ordering more episodes of the show;[47] although it did air the entirety of the 13-episode order. After airing the back-to-back episodes in December, the final three episodes aired during January 2010.[48]

Cast and characters

Dollhouse characters. L to R: Paul Ballard, Victor, Echo, Sierra, Topher Brink, Adelle DeWitt, Boyd Langton

The Dollhouse cast consists mainly of Actives (or Dolls) and Dollhouse employees. The Actives at the LA Dollhouse are named after the NATO phonetic alphabet (other Dollhouses are shown to use other naming systems).

Main cast

  • Echo (Eliza Dushku) is an Active and the main character of the series. She is the most popular Active in the Dollhouse, and has shown skills that transcend the limitations of her parameters during the course of her engagements. Prior to having her mind wiped, Echo was a college student and political activist named Caroline Farrell.E-7 Caroline is originally a student activist who accidentally uncovers the Rossum Corporation's illegal activities; her boyfriend is killed during an attempt to infiltrate a Rossum laboratory, and Rossum attempts to have her recruited to Adelle DeWitt's Dollhouse.E-7 While on the run from Rossum, Caroline becomes a terrorist devoted to bringing the corporation down, until she is finally captured.E-24 Throughout the series, Echo becomes increasingly self-aware while in her blank state, and later even vows to discover and restore her original self.E-14 On achieving full self-awareness, Echo develops a romantic interest in Paul Ballard. Having learned more about Caroline's potentially murky past, she decides to be her own person.E-20 While condemned to the Attic, she discovers Rossum's weakness and emerges to ally with DeWitt and the LA Dollhouse against Rossum.E-23 While she is uncertain what having become her own person will mean for her, she agrees to be reunited with Caroline's personality to gain crucial information over Rossum.E-24
  • Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) is introduced at the onset of the first season as a former cop and the Dollhouse handler assigned to Echo. He has doubts about the Dollhouse's ethics, but largely keeps quiet about them. Later in the season, he's promoted to head of security.E-9 His own "morally compromised" past is not originally revealed, but it is known he has considerable skills and contacts in disposing of dead bodies.E-17 When Echo returns to the Dollhouse after a three-month absence, he allies himself with Paul and Topher in keeping her self-awareness a secret from the Rossum execs.E-21 When Echo regains Caroline's memories, she discovers that Boyd is one of the two founders of the Rossum Corporation and seemingly installed himself in the Dollhouse to become Echo's handler.E-24 After attacking Echo, Langton's mind is wiped after Topher finishes a remote wiping device. In a doll state, Langton is fitted with explosives and given a grenade and is commanded to blow up the Rossum building, which he does, killing himself in the process.E-25
  • Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) is the scientist who operates Dollhouse's technology and uses it to imprint new personalities on the Actives. Cynical, ego-driven and seemingly amoral, Topher's knowledge of human behavior allows him to specially craft the various personalities of the Actives for their various missions. In the second season, Topher faces several moral dilemmas, the first when he is required by Rossum to revitalize a serial killer.E-16 When required to permanently surrender the Active Sierra to her rapist, Nolan Kinnard, he returns her as Priya, who then kills Kinnard. Topher and Boyd help Priya cover up the murder, and Priya agrees to return to the Dollhouse as Sierra.E-17 When the LA Dollhouse comes under the control of Matthew Harding, Topher becomes concerned about Rossum's ambitions concerning the Dollhouse technology. He informs Adelle that he has figured out Rossum's plan as well as the technique to imprint any human being remotely, but she betrays him and surrenders it to her superiors.E-20 Following this, Topher aligns with Boyd and Ballard's "conspiracy" when he learns of Echo's full self-awareness.E-21 Topher develops strong romantic feelings for Bennett Halverson, whose genius technological achievements he admired long before he met her in person. Bennett appears to reciprocate Topher's feelings, but she is killed before they have the chance to develop a more serious relationship. As the Dollhouse unravels and things spiral out of control, he develops an immense guilty conscience, blaming himself (as inventor of the technology) for the events that unfold. Ultimately he creates technology to reverse the process that has wiped the minds of the general population, but sacrifices his own life in order to deploy it.
  • Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) is an FBI special agent assigned to the Dollhouse case at the onset of the series; most in the Bureau view the case as a joke, but he makes discovering and rescuing Caroline/Echo an obsession. The Dollhouse assigns active November to spy on him by becoming his girlfriend, Mellie. After breaking into the Dollhouse, he works for them under the condition that November is released,E-12 and later takes the role of Echo's handler. The two of them vow to set the Actives free.E-14 When Echo is left out on the streets, Paul finds her and helps conceal her from the Dollhouse for three months while she develops a full self-awareness. She becomes romantically and sexually attracted to him, but he abstains from sex with her. The two re-enter the Dollhouse to continue their crusade.E-20 They later form an alliance with Boyd and Topher, but Paul is wiped and left braindead by Alpha.E-21 Topher is able to partially restore Ballard by converting him into an Active, removing one brain function, and imprinting him with the scan Alpha took.E-23 However in doing so, it was necessary for Paul's feelings of love toward Echo to be erased.E-24 In the final episode of Dollhouse set ten years in the future, Paul is killed in combat, and his memories and personality are imprinted into Echo.E-26
  • Victor (Enver Gjokaj) is an Active who was originally introduced as Lubov, Paul Ballard's informant inside the Russian mob, before being revealed to be a Doll.E-3 The character is also regularly hired out by Adelle DeWitt herself to be her lover, whom she truly appears to love. In his mind-wiped state, Victor is inexplicably attracted to Sierra despite numerous attempts to wipe away his memories of and feelings for her. E-9 Before entering the Dollhouse, Victor was a War in Afghanistan veteran named Anthony Ceccoli suffering posttraumatic stress disorder (of which he is cured by the Dollhouse). He is restored to this personality in "Stop-Loss",E-22 and aligns with Priya, Echo, and the senior staff of the LA Dollhouse against Rossum. E-23 In the series finale set ten years in the future, Anthony and Priya share a tense relationship due to his reliance on imprinting technology which Priya considers a dangerous obsession. Priya later realizes he compromises himself only to protect her and their child, and they reconcile near the end of the series.E-26
  • Sierra (Dichen Lachman) is introduced as the newest Active in the Dollhouse; her original mind wipe occurs in the first episode of the first season. She is instinctively drawn to Echo, but lacks her growing self-awareness. Sierra is a painter named Priya Tsetsang prior to having her mind wiped and becoming an Active.E-17 Unlike the other Actives, Sierra was committed to the Dollhouse against her will by a powerful man, Nolan Kinnard, after she rejected his advances. He then hires her out periodically for sexual encounters.E-8 During Season 1, she is also raped by her handler in her blank state, only adding to her trauma.E-6 When Sierra is sent to her original rapist and captor permanently, Topher sends Sierra as her original personality Priya, and she kills Kinnard in self-defense. Boyd and Topher dispose of the body and Priya agrees to return to the Dollhouse to be with Victor, whom she loves.E-17 Priya is later awakened to help retrieve Anthony/Victor when he is captured and enslaved by Rossum,E-22 and the two unite with Echo and the senior staff of the LA Dollhouse against Rossum. E-23 Ten years after the events of the series, Priya is shown to have a child with Anthony whom she raises alone, as she mistrusts him and his obsession with imprinting technology. Near the end of the series, Priya realizes Anthony's unwavering devotion to her and introduces their son to him, reuniting the family.E-26
  • Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) is the highest ranking official at the Los Angeles Dollhouse. She claims to believe that the aims of the Dollhouse are truly benevolent; however, she displays an increasingly cynical attitude in Season 2, eventually joining the conspiracy against Rossum.E-23 Although DeWitt is the head of her Dollhouse (as the L.A. Dollhouse is just one of more than twenty worldwide)E-6 she answers to a number of superiors at the Rossum Corporation. It is revealed that she has been hiring out Victor as her lover, though she has concealed these activities from others in the Dollhouse by inventing a client referred to as "Miss Lonelyhearts". E-9

Recurring cast

  • Whiskey (Amy Acker) is originally introduced in the series as the Actives' general physician Dr. Claire Saunders. It is revealed in the season one finale that she is in fact an Active. Formerly the Dollhouse's most popular Doll, she was attacked by Alpha with a pair of scissors, causing extensive facial scarring. Shortly afterward, Alpha killed the actual Dr. Saunders, and Whiskey was imprinted with his personality and skill-set to serve as his replacement before the events of the first episode. Saunders has trouble adjusting to the realization that she is merely Topher's creation, and objects to being wiped or restored as that would be equivalent to dying. She takes leave of the Dollhouse for some time to find herself.E-14 Later, she begins a relationship with Boyd and he brings her back to the Dollhouse for the confrontation with Rossum. Boyd is later revealed to be one of Rossum's founders and has been working against the group all along. Dr. Saunders shoots Bennett through the forehead in front of Topher,E-24 and she is speculated to have been a sleeper active.[49] In "The Hollow Men", Whiskey is imprinted as Rossum co-founder Clyde 2.0 and does battle with Echo. Between then and flashfoward episode "Epitaph One", Whiskey is re-imprinted with Dr. Saunders' personality as well as programmer skills. Later, after a time when her scars have been healed, she is seen having reverted to Whiskey, acting as a guardian for the Dollhouse, pointing people towards Safe Haven. When the Dollhouse is breached in "Epitaph One", she lets out a toxic gas which incapacitates the intruders and leaves her own fate uncertain.
  • Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond),[16] head of security at the Dollhouse during most of the first season, takes his job very seriously but views the Dolls as more like pets than humans. He attempts to kill Echo, and also suggests she be retired as an Active and put into "the Attic".E-5 Later, while under the influence of a drug, he attempts to apologize to Echo for his actions.E-7 Dominic is revealed to be an NSA agent who is monitoring but not exposing the Dollhouse for unknown purposes. Upon discovery, DeWitt has Topher extract his persona from his body and then sends him to the Attic.E-9 While in the Attic he becomes a defender of other imprisoned minds against the shadowy killer "Arcane". He and Echo work together when she arrives in the Attic. E-23
  • November (Miracle Laurie) is originally introduced to the series as Mellie, Paul Ballard's neighbor, romantic interest, and confidante, but is in fact a "sleeper" Active.E-6 Adelle can switch November to a combat-ready personality using verbal codes.E-6 In "Omega", November's original persona and memories are restored and she is released from her contract early with full payment at Ballard's request in exchange for his joining the Dollhouse's staff. She returns to her life as Madeline Costley.E-12 After being approached by Senator Daniel Perrin with evidence of the criminal and sexual acts she was made to perform as an Active, she agrees to testify before Congress about the Dollhouse.E-18 Unfortunately, this turns out to be a trap; she is denounced by Perrin (himself an Active) as a liar with faked evidence "disproving" the existence of the Dollhouse. She is subsequently sent to the less scrupulous Washington D.C. Dollhouse where her mind is forcibly erased and she is re-enslaved.E-19 After Paul rescues her, Adelle chooses to reawaken her as Mellie rather than Madeline during the Dollhouse's confrontation with Rossum, due to her devotion to Paul and Madeline's disloyalty.E-24 When Mellie's sleeper state is later activated to kill Paul during an invasion of the Rossum headquarters, she commits suicide to prevent herself from harming Paul.E-25
  • Ivy (Liza Lapira) is Topher's assistant. While highly skilled and seeing herself as Topher's apprentice, Topher treats her more as a gofer, assigning her menial tasks such as fetching him snacks. She later teams up with Adelle, Boyd, Priya, Anthony, Echo, Paul, and Topher to take down Rossum. Not wanting to see her get hurt in the battle, Topher tells her to leave and not become like him. Ivy then escapes from the Dollhouse.E-24
  • Joe Hearn (Kevin Kilner) is Sierra's handler in the first six episodes, in addition to being the handler of the previous Sierra. Joe Hearn is introduced as a less-dedicated counterpart to Boyd Langton.E-3 He strongly dislikes Echo for her individualism and worries about her influence on Sierra. DeWitt eventually learns that Hearn has raped Sierra in her blank state a number of times, and has him killed by activating November's combat-ready personality while he's on assignment to assassinate "Mellie".E-6
  • Dr. Nolan Kinnard (Vincent Ventresca) is a wealthy psychiatrist, Rossum Corp VIP, and art collector. He meets Sierra while she is still aspiring artist Priya Tsetsang. As a means of high-profile courtship he buys one of her paintings and invites her to a party where it is exhibited. She spurns his advances, and in retaliation he drugs her with psychotropic medications to mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, then turns her over to the Dollhouse.E-17 When the Dollhouse temporarily restores her original personality, she confronts Kinnard and he gloats that he can have her any time he wants, even making her beg.E-8 He eventually requests that Sierra be sent to him permanently, a demand that Rossum forces DeWitt to obey. A remorseful Topher imprints Sierra with her original personality, and during her confrontation with Kinnard he produces a knife, leading to her stabbing him. Topher and Boyd dispose of the body.E-17
  • Alpha (Alan Tudyk),E-11 born Carl William Craft,E-12 is a rogue Active who escapes from the Dollhouse. Prior to the events of the series, an accident causes a "composite event" in which 48 personalities are simultaneously imprinted in Alpha, along with all the associated memories and skill sets. In his escape, he kills or maims several Dolls and Dollhouse staff members (including Echo's previous handler) but leaves Echo unscathed.E-2 After his escape from the Dollhouse, Alpha begins to send anonymous packages to Paul Ballard that hint at the existence of the Dollhouse and Echo's former identity.E-1 Alpha reveals himself after posing as an Environmental Systems Consultant involved in the construction of the Los Angeles Dollhouse facility, Stephen Kepler, whom Ballard has tracked down. He leads Ballard into the Dollhouse, takes control of the security and automated systems, and leaves with Echo.E-11 Though Echo escapes him, he remains at large.E-12 On learning of Echo's full self-actualisation and her romantic attraction to Paul Ballard, he imprints Paul's personality into himself and leaves the real Ballard brain-dead.E-21 In the series finale, Alpha is shown to have defected to Echo's side. When the wiping technology is to be reversed, Alpha alienates himself from the group in fear that his pre-wiped personality as a serial killer would lead the others to danger.E-26
  • Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof), introduced during season two,E-14 is a third-generation United States Senator who was kidnapped by the Rossum Corporation for the purpose of being turned into an Active. His mind was subsequently heavily altered via fake memories implants regarding his wife (really his handler) and his personality, turning him from a drunken slacker known for partying, into a serious-minded politician and reformer. Though his conditioning was undone and he escaped along with Echo, it was ultimately restored and, as per Rossum's orders, he "debunks" the Dollhouse myth.E-19
  • Matthew Harding (Keith Carradine) is the Rossum Corp executive who oversees Adelle. He does not delude himself about Rossum's goals or the Dollhouse's purpose, and sees the Actives as property. He insists Adelle surrender Sierra to Kinnard,E-17 and keep her nose out of the Senator Perrin engagement.E-18 For three months, he becomes the head of the LA Dollhouse while it develops the remote wipe technology for Rossum. Adelle is able to wrestle power back off of him by showing her supplication to Rossum in handing over the complete remote imprint schematics designed by Topher.E-20
  • Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau), introduced in "The Public Eye", is the D.C. Dollhouse's programmer. Even Topher regards her as a genius. Prior to the events of the series (and becoming Echo), Caroline is Bennett's best friend. Although viewers were initially led to believe that Caroline betrayed Bennett and left her for dead, it is later revealed that she was attempting to disavow Bennett's involvement with the bombing attack Caroline and Bennett mounted against Rossum – something for which Bennett does not forgive Caroline. When Bennett attempts to kill Echo by imprinting Daniel Perrin with an assassin persona, she is thwarted by Topher, who initially develops an attraction towards her.E-19 Eventually, she is kidnapped by Paul and Anthony, taking her back to the Dollhouse in order to fix Caroline's wedge, but she is shot in the head by Dr. Saunders directly after sharing her first kiss with Topher.E-24 She is last seen onscreen in a tape Topher plays in which she lectures about neuroscience, helping him develop the device to reverse the wiping of the human race.

DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases

Dollhouse: Season One
Set details:
  • 14 episodes (including 2 unaired episodes)
  • 4-disc set (3-disc Blu-ray Disc set)

Features:

Bonus features:
  • Three audio commentaries
  • Two unaired episodes
    • "Echo" – the original pilot
    • "Epitaph One" – the 13th episode
  • Featurettes
    • "Making Dollhouse"
    • "Coming Back Home"
    • "Finding Echo"
    • "Designing the Perfect Dollhouse"
    • "A Private Engagement"
  • Deleted Scenes
Release dates: Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
July 28, 2009 September 7, 2009 (DVD)
October 11, 2010 (Blu-ray Disc)
November 5, 2009 (South America)
Dollhouse: Season Two
Set details:
  • 13 episodes
  • 4-disc set (3-disc Blu-ray Disc set)

Features:

  • Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio)
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio (DVD)
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray Disc)
  • Subtitles vary depending on region
Bonus features:
  • Three audio commentaries
  • Featurettes
    • "Defining Moments"
    • "Looking Back"
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
Release dates: Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
October 12, 2010[50] October 11, 2010[51] TBA
  • The Dollhouse Season One DVD sold over 62,000 copies in the first week, and made over 1.8 million dollars.[52]
  • A complete series box set has been released in Region 2 alongside the Season 2 release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Comic books

Cover of Dollhouse Epitaphs

During the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International, it was announced that a comic book had been written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. The book, titled Dollhouse Epitaphs, features a new storyline to bridge the gap between the main series and "Epitaph One" and "Epitaph Two: Return". It was drawn by Cliff Richards and published by Dark Horse Comics.[53]

The book is a 24 page one-off limited edition, and only those who buy the season two DVD or Blu-ray Disc will get a copy. It will not be available at retail stores.[54]

Early copies were released at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International for those who pre-ordered either the DVD or Blu-ray Disc at the event. Both Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen were available to sign the copies.[55]

It was later revealed at New York Comic-Con 2010 that there will be more comics that take place in the Dollhouse universe. A one-shot was released on March 30, 2011, and a miniseries began with the first issue released on July 13, 2011. The one-shot, which reprints the Season 2 exclusive, is written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and the miniseries is written by Andrew Chambliss. The comics are set in a future Los Angeles after the Dollhouse technology has reduced the city to ruins.[56]

Marketing

Viral marketing campaign

Promotional posters featuring Eliza Dushku as Echo surrounded by blank mannequins were used to advertise Dollhouse by Fox prior the series' premiere.

On February 9, 2009, Fox launched Dollplay, a participation drama centered around Dollhouse. It involved using interactive webisodes and a user forum to drive a viral marketing campaign. The campaign asked users on the Fox Dollhouse website to "Save Hazel!" Hazel was a character trapped inside the Dollhouse in real-time. The campaign was called "Dollplay" according to the official Fox press release and was created by the company P "a radical production outfit from Sweden".[57] Five videos released in a four-hour span showed Hazel entering a room, turning on the light, and messing with a computer. That's when the room locked her in and started to move. She approached the camera and yelled for help just as the transmission cut off.[58]

On February 12, 2009, Fox opened the website up to further exploration, and interaction with the main character was now possible via Webcam. It is not yet clear how the character in the viral marketing campaign related to the TV show Dollhouse, but both dealt with science fiction and mind control.[59]

On February 28, 2009, the Dollplay alternate-reality game ended with players saving the fictional Hazel. After Hazel was saved, she told people that there are "Dollhouses" all over the world that imprint them and change them; these include schools, parents, religion and government. She essentially tells people to think for themselves and then leaves the container she is trapped in and the game ends.[60]

Music

Reception

Ratings

The premiere episode of Dollhouse helped Fox double its audience levels among women versus Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and helped the network finish in second place among adults 18–34 and in first place across the key male demographic for the night.[61]

Season Episodes Timeslot Season premiere Season finale TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 13 (1 unaired) Friday 9:00 p.m. February 13, 2009 May 8, 2009 2009 #132[62] 4.63[62]
2 13 Friday 8:00 p.m. (December 4, 2009 – December 18, 2009; January 29, 2010)
Friday 9:00 p.m.
September 25, 2009 January 29, 2010 2009–2010 #131[63] 2.17[63]

Critical response

Season one of Dollhouse had mixed reviews, with Metacritic giving it a rating of 57 out of a possible 100.[64] Ellen Gray of Philadelphia Daily News gave a positive review, remarking that "Dollhouse is less about the ninja kicks and witty banter than it is about instant transformations, and about making the audience care about a character who's likely to behave differently every time we see her. That Dushku mostly pulls this off is a happy surprise, as is Dollhouse, which has survived Firefly-like trials of its own to get this far."[65] Salon.com reviewer Heather Havrilesky was also positive, commenting that the show's combination of mystery, sly dialogue, and steady flow of action results in a "provocative, bubbly new drama that looks as promising as anything to hit the small screen over the course of the past year."[66]

Alternately, Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote that the premise was "admittedly intriguing", but described the series as a "pretentious and risible jumble" and that Echo did not "inspire much concern or interest in the audience". He commented that the actors seemed to struggle due to the decor being so "outlandish", stating that it "simply isn't worth the trouble".[67] Brian Lowry of Variety also wrote "Dushku's grasp of this vague, personality-changing character is a bit of a muddle. What's left, then, is a series with a hollow center that doesn't initially make you care about its mentally malleable protagonist."[68] Robert Bianco of USA Today had a more nonchalant view of the series, describing Dollhouse as not boring or ordinary, and that the end result is a show "that Joss Whedon's most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won't get".[69]

Many critics felt that the series' first season improved as it progressed. IGN Reviewer Eric Goldman believed the show became much stronger and more compelling with the episodes "Needs" and "A Spy in the House of Love". He opined of the later episodes that, "As a whole this show is definitely working better as we get away from Echo's missions of the week, and from focusing so much on just Echo and letting there be more of a true ensemble feel, with the time split amongst the Dolls."[70] Sarah Hughes of The Independent was unimpressed with the first five episodes but also found that the later episodes became "as involving and addictive as Whedon's best work".[71] Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune liked Dollhouse's "unsettling" tone and found the show to be "unexpectedly moving and complex" during the second half of the first season. She called the second season renewal "a good day for unconventional television".[72]

References

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Episode sources

^E-1 "Ghost". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-02-13. No. 1, season 1.
^E-2 "The Target". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-02-20. No. 2, season 1.
^E-3 "Stage Fright". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-02-27. No. 3, season 1.
^E-4 "Gray Hour". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-03-06. No. 4, season 1.
^E-5 "True Believer". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-03-13. No. 5, season 1.
^E-6 "Man on the Street". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-03-20. No. 6, season 1.
^E-7 "Echoes". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-03-27. No. 7, season 1.
^E-8 "Needs". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-04-03. No. 8, season 1.
^E-9 "A Spy in the House of Love". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-04-10. No. 9, season 1.
^E-10 "Haunted". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-04-24. No. 10, season 1.
^E-11 "Briar Rose". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-05-01. No. 11, season 1.
^E-12 "Omega". Dollhouse. Fox. 2009-05-08. No. 12, season 1.
^E-13 "Epitaph One". Dollhouse. Fox. DVD release. No. 13, season 1.
^E-14 "Vows". Dollhouse. Fox. September 25, 2009. No. 14, season 2.
^E-15 "Instinct". Dollhouse. Fox. October 2, 2009. No. 15, season 2.
^E-16 "Belle Chose". Dollhouse. Fox. October 9, 2009. No. 16, season 2.
^E-17 "Belonging". Dollhouse. Fox. October 23, 2009. No. 17, season 2.
^E-18 "The Public Eye". Dollhouse. Fox. December 4, 2009. No. 18, season 2.
^E-19 "The Left Hand". Dollhouse. Fox. December 4, 2009. No. 19, season 2.
^E-20 "Meet Jane Doe". Dollhouse. Fox. December 11, 2009. No. 20, season 2.
^E-21 "A Love Supreme". Dollhouse. Fox. December 11, 2009. No. 21, season 2.
^E-22 "Stop Loss". Dollhouse. Fox. December 18, 2009. No. 22, season 2.
^E-23 "The Attic". Dollhouse. Fox. December 18, 2009. No. 23, season 2.
^E-24 "Getting Closer". Dollhouse. Fox. January 8, 2010. No. 24, season 2.
^E-25 "The Hollow Men". Dollhouse. Fox. January 15, 2010. No. 25, season 2.
^E-26 "Epitaph 2: Return". Dollhouse. Fox. January 29, 2010. No. 26, season 2.

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