TV - Dollhouse: The Top 5


Steve Taylor-Bryant tells you how he discovered Dollhouse and why he loves it so much...

Friend: Have you seen Dollhouse?

Me: No.

Friend: it's this great, complex show from Joss Whedon.

Me: Not interested in complexity. Give me a tag line?

Friend: Hooker spies with implanted memories.

Me: Er...

Friend: It stars Eliza Dushku?


The above is the true story of how I came across Dollhouse, I've kept my friend anonymous as his mum wouldn't want him to use the word 'hooker' in polite conversation, but it really was by chance I found the show and so started a love affair with crazy, ridiculous stories.

Let's start by saying they aren't actually hookers but later I'll explain why the premise allowed for my friends humorous tag line.

An organisation has learned how to wipe memories in human beings allowing them to be reset for espionage jobs. The people, known as Dolls, have a mission and a particular skill set implanted in their brains before going off on their mission. Upon their return, their memories are again cleared leaving them living in blissful ignorance in their base, The Dollhouse. The hooker line came from my friends insistence that these unfortunate souls were being prostituted out and their handlers are no more than pimps, protecting them from harm before returning them to the harem, and I can understand that analogy, I just think that level of deep thought is wasted on what is essentially mindless fun.

The whole story would be very repetitive if it wasn't for the outside forces at play. An investigator trying to bring down the world's network of Dollhouses almost single handedly and the rogue Doll hellbent on destruction and revenge, and the cast including some Whedon alumni really make a crazy sounding plot work well.

The main Doll, Echo (Eliza 'mmmmmmm' Dushku) becomes aware, as the show goes on, of what's happening to her and the other Dolls and leads the cast with aplomb. I've always loved (not too strong a word) Dushku. Yes she is a very attractive lady and the smokiness of her voice could can make a man melt but she is hideously underrated as an actress and can storm a scene with ease, making even the flimsiest script work on a different level. Add in the always watchable Alan Tudyk as Alpha, the main villain, and the eccentric technical stoner attributes of Fran Kranz as Topher Brink and you have all the ingredients for a few days of great television viewing.

Of course any show of this ilk is going to have plot holes and, whilst I wish they'd made more, the life expectancy of shows like Dollhouse is short and it probably ended at the right time before it became a complete parody of itself. However if you have some spare time and are able to switch your IQ off you won't find better for this style of show. It beats Alias hands down and that was J.J. Abrams finest moment at that point in his career. I'll stop waffling now and leave you with my list of favourite episodes, in no particular order, and hope you go and explore them for yourself.


Epitaph One (Season 1, Episode 13).

Topher Brink: If I think I can figure things out is that curiosity or arrogance?

In the year 2019, a small group of survivors stumble upon the underground complex of the disused Los Angeles Dollhouse. The group, Mag, Zone, Griff, Lynn, along with a little girl named Iris and her mind-wiped father are "actuals," actual-minded people struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic society where a tech mind wipe has turned most of Earth's population into "scavengers" or "butchers." Mag and her team struggle to unlock the secrets of what brought on this disaster where the Dollhouse's mind imprinting technology was discovered and abused by the world in which the answer lies within the active Whiskey, who still resides there and who may know where the former active Echo/Caroline is and whom may lead the group to a place called "Safe Haven," while a mysterious and lethal evil lurks among them. Periodic flashbacks show how Paul Ballard became Echo's handler, and how DeWitt realized that Rossum used the imprint technology in their capacity to bring on the end of the world


The Attic (Season 2, Episode 10).

Clyde Randolph: My nightmare, my loop, has been to run statistical probability scenarios for whete the technology might lead... All but 3% of them include the end of civilization.

We finally enter the mysterious Attic - the secret vault where the Dollhouse keeps damaged actives and problematic employees unconscious and in a perpetual state of terror. Adelle has had Echo sent there, along with Victor and Sierra, on the grounds that her multiple imprints and their growing self-awareness are making the three a danger to Rossum. In the dream-world of the Attic, Echo and her friends forced to face their worst nightmares repeatedly, and their only ally is former Dollhouse security head Laurence Dominic, sent there earlier when he was discovered to be a spy for the NSA. Together they must confront a mysterious predator bent on killing the Attic's prisoners, as they try to uncover the mystery of the Attic's true nature and purpose. Meanwhile, Adelle forces Topher to find a way to restore Ballard's damaged brain in order to revive him - at a terrible cost.


Epitaph Two: Return (Season 2, Episode 13).

Alpha: Because we're not freaks shows. Well, OK, maybe I am... and Echo... Topher's a little off but Adele, she's a class act all the way.

In the year 2020, events finally come full-circle as Echo and the few surviving Dollhouse staff struggle to restore mankind after the devastating events seen in the first season episode, "Epitaph" that has turned 90% of Earth's population into mindless, kill-crazy zombies out to kill those not infected (called 'actuals') by the Rossum's remote mind-wipe system. In the meantime, fellow actuals, Mag, Zone, and the mind-restored Caroline set out to find the save haven that can save man-kind from total extinction.


Belonging (Season 2, Episode 4).

Adelle DeWitt: Which Dr. Saunders would that be? The avuncular physician so brutally cut down not five feet from where you were standing? Or the last woman to whom you gave a permanent imprint, the other wounded flower you restored by offering her a new life. Who apparently found you so unbearable she had to flee the city, is it that one?

Sierra's past connection to the Rossum Corporation is revealed. Nolan, a Rossum doctor, threatens DeWitt unless she gives him an imprinted Sierra permanently. It is revealed that Nolan was in love with Sierra in her life as Priya Tsetsang (before she joined the Dollhouse), but she rejected him completely from the beginning. Nolan has her kidnapped and put in a Rossum institution, where he uses medications to force her into insanity. As part of Nolan's plan, Topher is sent to the institution to bring Priya to the Doll House and make her an Active. In the present, Topher discovers the truth after a clue from Echo, and, feeling pangs of guilt about handing Sierra over to Nolan, imprints her instead with Priya's original personality, and she confronts Nolan at his house. Meanwhile, Boyd takes notice of Echo's growing self-awareness when he discovers a book in her sleeping pod and he slips her a security pass in preparation for when "the storm" comes.


Omega (Season 1, Episode 12).

Echo: I have 38 brains, not one of them thinks you can sign a contract to be a slave. Especially now that we have black president.

Having abducted Echo, Alpha attempts to recreate the "composite event" that resulted in his becoming a mosaic of all the imprints he'd ever had, so as to make her a fitting companion for himself - at a frightening cost. Meanwhile, Ballard must overcome his scruples when Boyd and Adelle ask him to work with the Dollhouse to find Echo and Alpha before it's too late. Meanwhile, there are disturbing revelations about Alpha's background - and that of Dr. Saunders as well.

Quotes, Synopsis, and Image - IMDb.

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