I finally caught the end of Dollhouse tonight, and I thought it was worthy of comment. It was the latest tv show from Joss Whedon, the legendary maker of sci-fi and fantasy programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel, and Firefly.
And just like Firefly, it didn’t last very long – its cancellation was announced early in the second season. But I enjoyed it while it lasted. Indeed, I almost think it may have even been better that way – the cancellation meant that the timescale of the programme’s story got accelerated, and the final few episodes have covered a lot of ground.
Dollhouse tells the story of a group of “dolls”, people who have chosen to have their personalities erased as part of a contract with the mysterious Rossum corporation. Rossum then use their bodies to fulfill various jobs by implanting new personalities into them, so that the dolls aren’t merely actors, but completely believe all of the false memories and skills that have been implanted. But as the story goes on, the dolls start to redevelop personalities again, despite having their brains repeatedly wiped. Victor and Sierra find love in the sterile environment of the dollhouse, while Echo’s desire to help others despite her programming (or lack of it) asserts itself.
There’s been some good stories about the effects of this unexpected technology (a highlight was the story of the woman investigating her own death in the body of a stranger, which was very poignant), and the morality of science and power. There’s also been some great acting, as the cast have played such a variety of different people inhabiting the same bodies. But I think the strongest thing has been the storytelling along the way, getting sucked in by the unlikeable as well as the likable characters, and some marvellous plot twists.
The premise behind Dollhouse has always been hard to explain (see above!), and I suspect that made it quite hard to sell to viewers and other television channels, but I think it’s been worth following. I suspect it won’t quite receive the critical acclaim that Firefly did, but I predict that in retrospect it too will find a niche in the sci-fi hall of fame. I might even splash out on a box set.