SF elements: mind transfers/uploads
  1. season 1 . 2009
  2. season 2 . 2010

2009 / DVD

13 x 45 min episodes

season 1 review

Assume we have the technology of mind imprinting/uploading. What to do with it? In the super-secret Dollhouse, there are "dolls", blank people into whom new memories and personalities can be uploaded, created to order for customers who can pay for their perfect companion (for a short time, at least). When the dolls get back to the Dollhouse, their minds are wiped back to the blank slate. Where do these dolls come from? Here, they are "volunteers", who agree to loan their bodies for five years (for a variety of reasons, but mainly to escape from something). Joe-90 for the adult naughties.

The series initially appears to be an "adventure of the week" style, but it soon becomes clear it's much deeper than that. The Dollhouse itself is part of a larger organisation, whose goals are ... what, precisely? And FBI agent Paul Ballard [Tahmoh Penikett, "Helo" from BSG ] is convinced the Dollhouse exists, and is trying to track down Caroline [Eliza Dushku, "Faith" from Buffy ], who is now doll "Echo". Who are the bad guys? There is a definite arc here, and definite deep moral ambiguity ( can you volunteer to be essentially a slave, in order to benefit later?).

There have been a lot of bad reviews about Dollhouse. Even the good ones say it takes a while to get going. But I was sucked in from the start. (Okay, there are a couple of plot inconsistencies in the first couple of episodes due to plot-chopping -- but things are confusing enough anyway that they just seem to add to the effect somehow.) It's complex, layered, there are some genuine surprises, and some very affecting moments. What's fascinating is how one can come to care for a character -- Caroline -- who very rarely appears, since she is usually present either as Echo, or an uploaded personality (or on one occasion, present, but in a different body!).

Great stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to season 2.

Rating: 2.5
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 5 April 2010

2010 / DVD

13 x 45 min episodes

season 2 review

... and season 2 is even better than season 1!

The whole season is essentially one big arc, of Echo discovering/creating who she is, of the fight against the Rossum Corporation, of changing alliances and loyalties, of characters gaining, or losing, their humanity, of wondering what to do once the technology genie has definitely escaped the bottle, of how people will adapt to almost anything. There are shocks, revelations, twists and turns galore.

This must be a joy for the actors, who, as dolls, get to play a range of different characters. The guy playing Victor [Enver Gjokaj] is a particular genius: twice uploaded with Topher Brink's pattern (it got complicated...), he was Topher.

A few of the later episodes feel a bit rushed, as if trying to cram a bigger arc into a half-season set of episodes. But that just adds to the frenetic pace of the devastating finale. Marvellous. Joss Whedon has now pulled it off three times ( Buffy , Firefly , now Dollhouse ), with three quite different approaches, so officially counts as a genius.

Rating: 2
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 6 February 2011