Posted by: da_nibbler | February 19, 2009

Dollhouse Premieres

Joss Whedon’s new series Dollhouse premiered last Friday on Fox. Starring Eliza Dushku as an “Active“, the new show beat out its returning lead-in Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles by about one million viewers. Not that those numbers were hard to beat, but just sayin.

So what is Dollhouse about?

The Dollhouse is referring to an organization that enlists people to become “Actives“, who are then hired by the Dollhouse‘s clients. “Actives” get their original identities erased and depending on their job assignment, their client’s wish, are implanted with a new one. Where they get these identities, which include brain patterns, memories, abilities etc, from we don’t know. But one of the ones used on Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, in the first episode had previously died. Do they steal identities from dead people? Do the people they get their identities from have to be dead? If so, what effect does that have on the “Actives” that get implanted with dead identities? Is the memory of the death in there too?

After completing their assignments all “Actives” must report in and get their brains wiped again. Not that they know what the “doctor” is doing. But this constant memory implanting and wiping brings up the question as to how often you can do that until the brain shuts down. Does it fry like a hard drive that you have been using for years? Can you completely wipe previous identities or will there be traces left? Most of us know what a lengthy and painful process it is to completely wipe your hard drive so no one can restore the data again. Just format doesn’t do it.

The implanting procedure is an interesting technology. One that has not been perfected yet it seems. The only way they can use the implants is use the full brain pattern, which means all the good and bad stuff. For example, Echo had to wear glasses cos the original host had to as well. I like the fact that they can’t just pick and chose. It’s either the full imprint or none. Imprints can be combined though, depending on the abilities the “Active” needs to complete their assignment. I wonder what happens if one imprint is blind and one has the best eyesight known to man? Which one overrules? Do they combine to an averaged middle? And how many identities can you download into one brain? Doesn’t it become cluttered in there? Do they mix in unexpected ways?

All these different interchangeable identities give the show a great premise that allows the actors to play an unlimited number of different characters. That’s one way to not narrow your show down.

Of course the whole scenario of the Dollhouse can’t be legal, is expensive and therefore only available to the richest of the rich. But I am still curious about how the organization makes sure none of their clients will rat them out or are a mole planted by an agency? Also how do they make sure that their “Actives” won’t be missed or recognized by someone? Who came up with the research? Who funded it? What are the program’s origins? I sure hope it won’t lead back to an abandoned classified government operation as it usually does in TV and film.

The whole first episode reminded me of the film Hostel. Forget about the gory bits of the film, but the premise is similar. Clients pay tons of money to have another person abide to their wishes. They are just not allowed to kill the “Active“, but where is the line drawn? Is torture allowed as long as the product, the “Active“, is not damaged? What are the limits?

Psychological and physical torture and the enslavement of all the “Actives” seems to be the standard. Maybe for some of the crew as well? Just look at the demeanor of Doctor Saunders, played by Amy Acker, who gives Echo a massage after one of her assignments. Echo has a problem with one of her knees after crashing with her motorcycle. She of course doesn’t remember that since her memory was wiped. Doctor Saunders comes across as if she doesn’t necessarily approve of what’s going on and how the “Actives” are treated. I was also wondering where her facial scars come from. Could she have been an “Active” and something went wrong? Couldn’t they repair her face fully and opted to give her the memory of a doctor so she can still serve the organization and be useful? A lot of money has to go in to creating an “Active“. They seem to be highly valuable, not easily discarded. Just look at the expansive team that is standing by to make sure the “Active” makes it back intact.

Tons of questions, not many answers. A good start and it will definitely keep me watching for a while.

Overall cool show with an interesting premise and an actress we know can carry a show (check out Tru Calling if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Let’s hope that we get what creator Joss Whedon is known for – intelligent storytelling, strong female characters with depth and faults and a couple of twists and turns to smack us in the head when we least expect it. Sign me up for the ride!

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