Remember Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Remember those high-kicks, the Scooby Gang, the barbed wit as sharp as Buffy’s stake? Those were the days. Remember Dollhouse? You most probably don’t, but as Whedon’s hidden gem of a series returns for round two, I would strongly urge you to sink your fangs (last Buffy reference I promise) into this fascinating and slightly warped sci-fi vision.
Initially rather sceptical of watching and reviewing a programme that I had never heard of before, the synopsis filled with words like ‘Actives’, I imagined my worst nightmare of a sci-fi series. Code-names, buttons beeping, men shouting, bad fight scenes and contrived romance. Dull, dull, dull. Discovering that it had been cancelled in the US after two series did not inspire much hope. The fact that it had Eliza Dushku in it however, did.
I was expecting to be bored into a drooling wreck. What I was not expecting was to be drawn in by the dystopian world of Dollhouse. The basic premise is that an organisation called the ‘Dollhouse’ wipes the memory of willing volunteers (the ‘dolls’) and sends them out to paying clients with a completely modified memory and personality. Eliza Dushku plays the cringe-inducingly named ‘Echo’, in this episode sent to marry a villainous Englishman. The cold and brutal head of the organisation is also played by an Englishwoman. The usual stereotyping then.
There were fights, and explosions and sex but if I’m honest, they passed over my head and if you want to know about Dushku’s acting or her great-looking breasts, you can watch the series. In fact I highly recommend it (not just for the breasts.)
The very idea of having the power to completely change someone’s thoughts and memories, the very essence of a person, fascinated me. Imagine discovering that everything you know, everything you think you know, everything that makes you, well, you, your quirks and habits, has been invented by someone. In Dollhouse, the power to do this has been unleashed and put to monetary use. Underlying this thought-provoking programme is the question of whether it’s purely fiction or a possible reality for the future.
Dollhouse is on Wednesdays at 8pm on ITV4
Originally published on The Yorker 4th May 2010