I’m a Dollhouse fan, so this tweet from @HostilePoet_17 caught my eye.
THE DOLLHOUSE IS REAL! #dollhouse #Thoughtpocalypse Can I have Topher so? http://t.co/Twcl4KiPoj
— Dara (@HostilePoet_17) September 12, 2013
The tweet lead me to this story in TIME Magazine : Memories Can Now Be Created — And Erased — in a Lab. In TIME, the writer talked about the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I’m with Dara, the story makes me think about the series Dollhouse.
Created by Joss Whedon, Dollhouse was on the air for 2 seasons from 2009-2010. The premise was that the residents of the dollhouse, who were captives, could be remade over and over into new people with new skills as needed for new jobs. Their memories were constantly being erased and rebuilt, depending on what the puppet masters needed them to do. Sit them in a special chair, zap their brains, and suddenly they were skilled surgeons or soldiers or equestrians.
Like Orphan Black allows for virtuoso performances from Tatiana Maslany, Dollhouse allowed the lead characters, particularly Eliza Dushku who played Echo, to be a completely different personality every week. All the actors who played “dolls” had the dream job of demonstrating their chops by inhabiting an ever changing array of personalities and characters.
If you are a Whedon fan, you know that Eliza Dushku also worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Other Whedon regulars who appeared in Dollhouse include Fran Kranz as Topher, the mad scientist who rewired everyone’s brain with aplomb, Amy Acker as (mostly) a doctor who helped take care of the dolls, Alexis Denisof as a Senator, Summer Glau as one of the dolls, and Alan Tudyk as a scary character named Alpha.
Harry Lennix, Tahmoh Penikett, and Olivia Williams were in the cast as characters who ran The House and the dolls. Most of the time these characters would be considered “the bad guys” but that was a bit fuzzy on this show. In addition to Echo, other dolls included Enver Gjokaj as Victor and Dichen Lachman as Sierra.
The conflict and struggle in Dollhouse partly came from the fact that the memory wiping and imprinting process was never quite perfect. For example, Echo always had vague ideas about who she really was and struggled to hold on to that. Victor and Sierra were in love. No matter what personality they had to take on, that basic emotion always seemed to creep back in. The struggle to recall who they really were led the dolls to attempt subterfuge and misdirection in an attempt to save their own memories and to escape from the dollhouse.
Mixed in with that overall story arc of the dolls attempting to get back to who they really were, there were the weekly stories centering around whatever action or job needed to be done by the dolls that week.
You could wipe my brain and make me forget that I’d ever heard of Joss Whedon, but I’d only have to watch one episode of Buffy kicking vampire butt or Echo fighting to retain her true self or or Gina Torres decked out in leather and guns aboard The Serenity to fall in love with his fictional females all over again.
If you missed Dollhouse the first time around, I suggest you watch it now. And if you’ve already seen it, binge watching a second time is a perfect way to spend a weekend.
You can watch both seasons of Dollhouse on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
Like many Whedon creations, Dollhouse inspired an obsessive fandom to create a Wiki for the show. If you feel like getting into the details, the Wiki is your happy place.
Images ©20th Century Fox Television
2 responses to “Dollhouse: Reality Catches Up with Fiction”
Summer Glau didn’t play a doll. She played a genius programmer working for the Rossum corporation. Tahmoh Penikett played an FBI agent trying to find the Dollhouse.
Okay, thanks. It’s been years since I thought about this show. Is it still streaming somewhere?