Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse”: Why Bother?

MikeachimThe Everyday12 Comments

dollhouse

Mr Brooker, I sympathise.

But you’re wrong.

(Kinda).

The first 5 episodes are a worrying experience. Your expectations are high – because this is Joss Whedon of “Firefly”, which showed that Mr. Whedon could make TV history in just 14 episodes (New Scientist’s “World’s Best Space Scifi Ever”; inspiration for the name of Google’s next-gen application, Wave; and snowballing quietly onwards).

But after 5 episodes, “Dollhouse” is…erm.

It’s interesting, it’s quirky, it’s morally unsettling, the performances are good, but…

Stick with it.

At episode 6, it gels. It comes together with a bone-jarring *click*, throwing your brain across the room, and you start to see what the story is, and as importantly, what it isn’t.

It’s not Quantum Leap. It’s not Sports Illustrated With Guns. It’s a lovely, nasty little fable about what happens when we think we can separate mind and body using technology. It’s bleak, challenging, adult and far more complicated that it initially pretends to be (which is one of its early faults). And it’s anything but formulaic, as the unaired, DVD-only episode “Epitaph One” illustrates – depicting the end of the line, the culmination of the whole arc, a massive flash-forward to a modern world in pieces. This story overwhelmingly has a direction, and it’s not a happy one.

But early on, this show is tatty. It fluffs the all-important First Impressions part of winning itself an audience. I don’t know if this is because of newbie writers on the team, or Fox’s influence (yes, it’s on Fox – an added frission of fear for the fans), or just Mr Whedon struggling to feel the material. But then it starts coming together, and you realise you’re leaning forward in your chair, anticipating watching it again. It becomes something worthy of the great man’s back-catalogue. It becomes unique.

We have at least one more season.

Consider me a fan.

“‘Dollhouse’ DVD released today: Is it worth your time and money?” – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly.
“Dollhouse: sci-fi series finally hits its stride” – Lucy Mangan, The Guardian.