Joss Whedon tends to cast realism aside in favour of drama, and this is no different in Dollhouse, a more recent sci-fi series. Eliza Dushku is Echo, a human “doll” whose brain is imprinted with the persona of whoever she needs to be. This is usually decided by rich private clients, though on occasion she is imprinted with a personality who knows how to get out of a sticky situation.
Vague/minor spoilers follow.
Through the series, holes appear in this setup: Echo starts to collect pieces of past imprints (perhaps facilitated by an ex-doll), an FBI agent becomes obsessed with tracking her down, and there are spies, abusers, and more within the organisation.
Dollhouse is a great sci-fi series, polished and clever, and I look forward to the second season (unfortunately it was cut, like just about every other sci-fi series these days).
However there are:
- Annoying plot holes – Why doesn’t the organisation simply kill the pursuer? Why use so many dolls when the opportunity cost is so high? What was the spy trying to do anyway?
- Annoying characters – The FBI agent bears Joss Whedon’s trademark self-righteousness, and the tech chief is over-the-top stereotypically juvenile.
- Silly gimmicks – The security chief’s obsession with suits, the organisation leader’s accent, and some “comedic” episodes.
- An awkward attitude to sexuality – Dushku’s attractiveness is beaten into the ground in the first episode with some hamfisted dialogue. The series has an apparently liberated view of sex, but excruciating emphasis is placed on how the main characters’ relationships are non-sexual or beyond sex.
- Acting that’s broad rather than nuanced – I’ll admit that this is a matter of taste.
- Too many fake characters – Substituting dolls is a surprise, but leeches away the genuineness of the emotional relationships. This gets better later in the series, when the writers figure out how to do this right.
- A main character who is tabula rasa – Poor Eliza.
The sci-fi plotting was great, with various explorations of the different scenarios arising from the imprinting technology, and some great reveals. I also liked the “epilogue” episode set years later in a kind of technological apocalypse (Felicia Day makes an appearance).