This show is the latest from “Firefly”, “Buffy”, and “Angel” creator Joss Whedon. Here is the story:
People who are lost, broke, or in some way are suffering can find shelter in the “Dollhouse”. At a low point in their lives individuals are approached by the Dollhouse with a proposition: sell your body to them for 5 years to use as they will, and you are compensated with enough money to live comfortably without working for the rest of your life. But wait, there is more: you don’t remember a second of those 5 years guaranteed.
Sounds good right? Well, it isn’t too good to be true. In the Dollhouse is a chair which maps a human’s brain, copies all the signals and everything, and downloads individual minds into hard drives. With the original person removed from their body, new minds can be placed inside.
So here is how it works: a client (with millions in disposable income) contacts the Dollhouse for whatever need they have. The Dollhouse matches their request to an Active (an individual who has signed themselves over). The Active, kept in a zombie-like state (they can walk, talk, and do whatever, but they are basically extremely calm with the mental capacity of an infant) is sent up to the chair they first had their mind wiped on.
Topher, the controller of the chair, builds a personality from different memories and components he has in his database to create whatever the client needs. The Active believes they are this person, and know nothing of the Dollhouse. Actives can be anyone- a thief, a hero, or even a dead spouse.
“Dollhouse” follows one active in particular: Echo (her original name was Caroline, but all Actives have a name from the military alphabet). Echo is no ordinary Active. For some reason Echo keeps getting minor glimpses of previous imprints or memories, either while she is an Active or when she is in her trance-like “Doll” state.
Previously within the Dollhouse there was an Active named Alpha, who was in love with Echo. He slaughtered much of the Dollhouse before he was finally killed, and those who run the Dollhouse fear Echo may also go crazy, as she was Alpha’s closest friend in Doll state.
The show follows Echo on various engagements as things become more complex and she starts to remember previous minds which were placed inside her (called “Imprints” in the show), but she never remembers herself fully.
Secondary in the show is Paul Ballard- an FBI Agent who searches for missing people. He is searching for, among many others, Caroline (Echo before her mind was wiped). A message sent to Ballard has Caroline’s picture, and he figures out she is being kept in an urban-myth location known only as “The Dollhouse” which he finds it impossible to track down.
Ballard is in love with his neighbor Millie, who it turns out is a Doll sent to spy on him and kill him if the Dollhouse feels he is getting too close in his hunt for Caroline.
One minor side story is the love of Victor and Sierra, two other Dolls. They start to drift towards each other and it is clear they are becoming very close, which is causing trouble for the Dollhouse, who can’t figure out how to stop it.
The show sounds complex, and it is a little hard to get into with all the tech and stuff, but once you get past, say, episode 2 it is an excellent series. Eliza Dushku plays Echo/Caroline expertly, bringing the story to life. The end of the first season feels very abrupt and rushed, probably due to the series sudden cancellation (there is a Season 2 I will review later on). But other than that it is pretty good for anyone who is into the Sci-Fy scene.