Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Friday 9:00 PM Feb 13, 2009 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (59)

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out of 10
1,086 votes


    The good;

    More involving plot, more drama and excitiment and more realistic depiction of the reality of the Dollhouse.

    The bad;

    The bike ride is stupid, such a Hollywood cliche that they turn out to be racing. Boyd is the worst sniper ever, demonstrating why you should always use a semi-auto rifle. Her client is also way to handsome as Joss and ED comment but if she'd turned up with an ordinary looking guy would we not know something was up? Plenty of pandering to the studio frankly. How does Sierra fire 3 rounds from her pump action shotgun without working the action?

    Best line;

    Addy "Nothing is what it appears to be" (how true that will turn out to be!)

    also like Tophers

    "Everybody who's running to something is also running away"

    Packing heat;

    Sierra with a shotgun and pistol (although she has a carbine in the chopper?), Boyd with a pistol and sniper rifle.

    Kinky dinky;

    ED dancing is always a treat. especially in her 'decent by half an inch' dress. She also does a twirl around the stripper pole move when she gets into the van (check out her film The New Guy for more in that vein). We also get to glimpse her having bondage sex with her client. On the other hand her sexy librarian look is also quite something. Giles says he has a thing about libraries/librarians, wonder if Tony Head knows?

    How'd they get away with that?

    All the stuff with the kidnapped girl and what happened to Echo's personality as a kid is horrific. Sierra's first treatment is hard to watch.

    This weeks fantasy;

    Sierra is a SWAT team commander, Echo is a bike-riding party girl and hostage negotiator.

    Total number personalitites;

    2 for Echo making a total of; 6

    1 for Sierra making; 2

    1 for Victor

    Total dolls;3

    Echo, Sierra and Victor

    Addy is a bit British;

    It's the tea again

    Topher is a bit geeky;

    Subverting the Hollywood cliche


    Echo ties up her client during sex

    Knocked out


    Sierra kills 2 of the kidnappers

    Dolls injured;

    Echo slapped around by the kidnapper

    Capt subtext

    Dr Saunders offers Echo a massage. One wonders how she danced so wonderfully after dropping a motorbike on her leg?

    Happy hookers

    This time Echo explicitly does have sex with her paying client

    Know the face?

    Recurring Joss Whedon stars 3 ;Amy Acker, Eliza Dushku and Ballards sparring partner was the 'walking action figure' Spike had to fight in season 6 of Buffy to get his soul back. Also look out for Tim Kellehen who was also in Dark Skies, another conspiracy-fest series where he played a similar character (his Dark Skies co-star Conor Farrell also turns up in Buffy as the soldier who takes over The Initiative)



    Plenty of bondage sex in fanfic

    Missing scenes

    Reminds me off;

    Adele is very Lilah like whilst Dominic is very Marcus. The relationship between Active and Handler very reminiscent of Watcher and Slayer. Ballards FBI contact is called Loomis which may be a Halloween reference.The boat sequence was so Miami Vice I had to check that Boyd was wearing socks. The kidnapped girl stuff is reminiscent of the Angel ep 'Damage'.

    Questions and observations;

    Caroline remarks 'Like she always said', is this Mrs Dundee whom she refers to in her video? Obviously it's not ED doing all the bike work but can she ride at all? You wonder what the Faith on a motorcycle spinoff would have been like especially with ghost-Spike as sidekick? The first time I ever actually heard Lady Gaga was watching this ep. Caroline says 'Hello mom' in her video, is her family still out there? The kidnap victim's dad refers to 'That reality crap', Joss putting the boot in? ED refers to her first movie with period cars which was presumably 'This Boys Life'. Joss is a fan of BSG AND Millers Crossing, he sure has taste! Obviously the budget is pretty tight to judge by their comments. What does Echo mean when she babbles 'Is it bigger than your thumb?'

    7 out of 10, combine this and Echo and it would be much better

  • Cancellation will be justified.

    This pilot episode was horrendous, and the show's definitely going to be cancelled, and most likely because of the pilot.

    What the hell was this? Why did Whedon feel the need of dealing with the most cliché episodic story right in the first episode? And why did it take up 85% of the screentime?

    The characters are dull. Dushku can't act. She has good looks, but her performance is duller than her character. Supporting characters? Snoozefest. I mean Fringe has a relatively weak lead, but the support cast makes up for that.

    Conclusion: cancellation is well earned, if this is the best Whedon can produce for the episode that's supposed to suck the audience in.
  • The premise is cool, the execution,not so much.

    I don't think Dushku has enough range to pull off all the different characters she slips into. Seeing her in the business suit and glasses, she looked more like a kid playing dress-up.When asked to play up the more emotional scenes, I'm left underwhelmed. Most of the supporting cast leaves a bit to be desired as well; especially the blonde 'tech guy', their "Xander"- he's already annoying. I missed the quippy dialogue that Joss Whedon is known for; this had an Alias/Fringe feel to it, which only makes me wonder what someone like JJ Abrams could have done with the material.
  • Poor

    Episode starts out with a scene that makes no sense, the leader of the dollhouse calls dushkus character "chanelle". But we already know that Elizas character is called "Echo". I couldn't help but laugh at the botched writing already. We jump to a flashback of reckless driving on sidewalks to where echo, or should i say chanelle, chases some boy to a party. Echo dances, boy gives her a necklace, im getting bored

    We learn that the first 15 minutes are filler, as anything that happened was completely pointless. Echo is now inside of a underground criminal hideout called "dollhouse", oh that's real original, lets call the hideout the same thing as the show. Whedon is a genius. The main plot involves a kidnapping of some rich girl, first mistake. We don't care if some spoiled rich brat gets kidnapped. They nappers what 6 million dollars. Another mistake is that the mexican kidnappers should have demanded pesos instead of dollars, but i guess that would make to much sense.

    Echo gets shot on a pier when a drug deal goes wrong, the nappers get away with the girl.

    Echo is cloned, she actually witnesses the dollhouse people cloning her, they give her clone the nickname Sierra.

    Echo flys a helicopter to the middle of a desert and rips the brat out of a fridge, when in the biggest shock of the episode, echos clone bust thru the door and kills everyone.

    Poor characters, poor writing, poor acting, poor lighting, poor everything. If i was given the option to travel back in time and not watch this show i would. Instead i would of probably watched supernanny.
  • Echo must face the ghost of a memory of a Kidnap Advisor that was kidnapped when she was a little girl.

    Well to tell you the truth I wasn't very excited about this new TV show to begin with, which is odd because I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon's work but the idea of erasing people's mind and turn them into "actives" sounds like a movie of John Woo with Ben Affleck, so it seems like it would be your typically science fiction show, but the second this episode starts I realize I was completely wrong, Rich people can engage an "active" for pretty much anything they want: dates, gathering information, meet certain targets and obviously completing missions, but what makes this episode very interesting is the fact that Echo (main character / Eliza Dushku) gets to play different personas, one second she's a girl having a fun date with a rich guy, the next one she's taking a "medication" and then she's an expert advisor in kidnapping. This particular memory belonged to a real advisor that was kidnapped by the same guy, so Echo starts experience what the real person would feel, which in this case is fear but at the same time she's compelled to finish the mission and face that memory inner demons (I know it sounds confusing).
    The script was great I think Joss Whedon put a lot work not in action but more in mystery and drama, The set is beautiful it kind of remind me the "wolfram & hart" building in Angel season 5, The music is incredible is very well connected to the ambience, as for the actors they played great and at the same time gave a lot of mystery, by the way watching again Amy Acker in a Joss Whedon show is great and her character seems very intriguing. I hope the upcoming episodes show more action which I think is vital for this show to survive, and more connection with the characters, but only time will tell if this show can be creative enough to stand on both feet after Fox starts shaking things down like they always do with new shows.
  • Interesting concept, at the moment marred by a few silly ideas and problems to do with character.

    It was never going to be an easy concept to sell, especially as it rests entirely on the acting ability of Eliza Dushku. Although I loved her in Buffy and Angel as Faith you can see that this project for her is about expanding her acting ability. This episode proves that she isn't quite convincing enough to pull off some roles yet. As a hostage negotiator she tries valiantly, but if the client (the Dad of the kidnapped girl) doesn't even feel convinced, it makes it hard for us also. Of course when they wiped her memory and gave her this persona they decided to add flaws as well. This is all fair because to be brilliant you need flaws, so you can reflect and learn, but the coincidence that they programmed part of someones memory into Echo (Eliza), which had one of the kidnappers be linked in her own kidnapping as a child, was hard to swallow. Unless this comes back as deliberate later on it made it even less convincing.

    The episode it self was nicely done. It set up what the Dollhouse was and introduced other character's like Sierra (who I've been informed used to be in Australia's premier soap opera 'Neighbours') and the unlikable programmer. Boyd The Handler and the boss were probably the best and most interesting characters introduced. I felt that Boyd was someone who would help Echo gain her independence back if it ever came to it. The Boss was just mean.

    Tahmoh Penikett at FBI agent Ballard feels at this point to be mis-cast. All those years spent playing a soldier on Battlestar have followed him into this role. He wasn't convincing as an FBI agent, more a renegade soldier - threatening people to get what he wanted. He was good in Battlestar, I hope he's able to bring something more to this role later on instead of making it feel like a hollow retread. So an okay start to the series, I just hope it doesn't stay in the mediocre pile for much longer. Definitely better than Knight Rider that was broadcast straight before it in the UK.
  • Who Are You? Written And Directed by Joss Whedon

    Echo/Caroline: "I know. Actions have consequences."
    Adelle: "What if they didn't?"

    I swore to myself that I wouldn't touch this series with a ten foot barge pole but the last time I adopted that kind of attitude, I ended up caving in and reviewing the series and thanking my lucky stars that I did. Maybe I'll feel just as thankful with this series as well.

    I caught this episode on Tuesday now that the Sci-Fi channel in the UK finally got up off their backsides and premiered the series, I felt oddly compelled to take it on. As summer TV goes, I need more programmes but in terms of opening episodes, I have to admit that I wasn't impressed and Joss Whedon is one of the best damn writers on television.

    In the past four years we've had amazing pilots from shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes to name three but this pilot felt a little too tame for my liking, which is strange given it's general premise and the amount of discussion that can be generated from the very topic of mind-wiping people.

    Logistically and morally, there are plenty of holes that can be picked at the idea of the Dollhouse. Why would anyone in their right mind want to be part of something like it? I can see that along with Caroline, most people are coerced into it and the ones that actually volunteer are nuts. There's no way in hell I'd allow myself to be coerced into doing it but Adelle did seem to have Caroline/Echo over a barrel.

    Morally, it's degrading. Being forced or allowing yourself to be imprinted into something else to cater to another person's needs is just reprehensive, plus aside from physical and legal consequences, there's also got to be some emotional ones too. Topher talked about the dolls living the dream but I fail to see how this actually benefits them at all.

    Echo (the name of Caroline the Active now has to go under) is a character I have no idea on how I feel about. We saw her as a date for a rich playboy and then as a hostage negotiator called Eleanor Penn who was abused by one of the men who took Davinia. The latter role was the more difficult to pull off but Eliza Dushku did alright.

    It might have helped if they had gone with a darker plot than the little girl being snatched (although there were allusions to child abuse, especially when Eleanor disclosed more on her former captor to Boyd and Gabriel). Also the extraction was something of a disaster what with Mr Sunshine getting a clean shot at Gabriel and Eleanor getting caught by the kidnappers as well.

    Still there does seem to be an ongoing arc as well as in Whedon dynamic, a Big Bad to look out for. I am intrigued about this Alpha person and their interest in Caroline/Echo. Why is Echo/Caroline so important to Alpha and how long do we have to wait for them to make a move as well?

    In terms of the remaining characters, they're certainly a mixed bunch with some of them working better than others. Then again, this is a debut episode so I can't gripe that every character wasn't perfectly vocalised. There's a remaining twelve episodes to give us perfect depth on the assorted regulars.

    I adored Boyd. To me, the character had a mixture of Giles, Dixon and possibly even Jack Bristow). He certainly displayed a fatherly affection for Echo and even seemed appalled by what the Dollhouse was doing to all of the Actives in question. Maybe he'll try and change things from the inside or maybe he's a mole.

    On the contrary, Adelle the iron lady in charge of the Dollhouse was another character I cared for. Yeah, the icy demeanour is hardly original or breathtaking and while I didn't totally buy her sympathy for Gabriel when his daughter was snatched, I couldn't help but like her. I guess I'm weird in that way.

    I was also very intrigued by Claire, the doctor of the Dollhouse. Amy Acker is always a pleasing bit of casting and she certainly raised some interesting questions, namely what happened to her face and why did she flinch when Echo asked if someone took care of her? Maybe she's a botched doll or something. Topher kept looking at her in a strange way as well.

    In terms of the other dolls, we met two more besides Echo. Superficially, I thought Victor was cute, though the Russian accent was a bit much in certain scenes and I sorted of hated the bathroom confrontation with him and Paul, though there was amusement generated from it as well. Victor had no clue about the Dollhouse when Paul was demanding answers. Apparently on engagement, actives are unaware of the Dollhouse. I suppose there's a degree of logic in that.

    However I really liked Sierra and although she didn't get much to do, I do have a good feeling that she'll shine later in the season. She certainly came through for Echo towards the end of the episode, so that's a good start with her. Plus Echo seemed enthused about the idea of having a friend and concerned when she saw Topher imprinting her.

    I could also tolerate Dominic. Nothing against Reed Diamond but I don't think Dominic is meant to be the most complex of characters but this is Joss Whedon and I'm sure they might be some hidden depths with the character but here, he was little more than right hand man for Adelle and nothing else.

    So, the only characters who left me cold were Topher and Paul. The former came across as the standard sexless TV nerd, as well as being a frightening mash up of Warren/Andrew when a Xander type personality would've been more needed for this kind of show. Topher's breezy attitude about his work is Dexter-esque and I don't mean that in a good way.

    Paul, whose motives for trying to take down the Dollhouse don't seem compelling to me. Plus he was way too much of a meathead for my liking. I'm not criticising Tahmoh Penikett but I almost sided with the FBI bosses during that dressing down meeting than Paul himself. I'm hoping over the course of the season the writers give him a strong personality, especially seeing as morally, we should be on his side. He did allude to the imprinting process in the least flattering of descriptions.

    Also in "Ghost"

    There was an original pilot as well for this series but FOX made Joss Whedon change things. They do seem to have a penchant for doing that. Sci-Fi did some edits as well to the episode and it trashed Prison Break in the ratings, UK wise.

    Adelle: "I'm talking about a clean slate."
    Caroline/Echo: "You ever try to clean an actual slate? You always see what was on it before."

    Caroline was a college student but what the heck did she do that Adelle could force her into becoming an Active? Plus there does seem to be some prior feeling that they know each other.

    Matt: "Oh my God, you are a sore loser."
    Echo: "I wouldn't know, I've never lost."
    Matt: "That's OK, the first time you're always just a little bit sore."

    Topher: "We're great humanitarians."
    Boyd: "Who would spend the rest of our lives in jail if anyone ever found this place."

    I'm not sure if I like the credits for the series. Unlike Buffy, Angel and Firefly, they don't really jump out at you and perhaps they've should used clips from all of the cast members and not just Eliza Dushku.

    Topher: "Look at Echo, not a care in the world. She's living the dream."
    Boyd: "Who's dream?"
    Topher: "Who's next?"

    Claire (re memory): "Does that bother you?"
    Echo: "Should it?"

    The set for the Dollhouse does very much look like Wolfram And Hart, though glass windows over the Actives beds? Are Adelle and company that scared one of them might try to make a run for it?

    Paul: "Nobody has everything they want. It's a survival pattern. You get what you want, you want something else. If you have everything, you want something else. Something more extreme. Something more specific. Something perfect."

    Topher (to Boyd): "Achievement is balanced by fault, by a lack. Can't have one without the other. Everyone who excels is overcompensating. Running from something. Hiding from something."

    That being said making someone near sighted and asthmatic seems especially stupid when they're on an engagement. And the actives names are taken from phonetics.

    Gabriel: "You told me you were good with people."
    Echo: "I misspoke. I'm good at people."

    Boyd: "The older man. You know him. He's the one who took you. They never found him."
    Echo: "He said he was a ghost. You can't fight a ghost, but he was heavy, the weight of him. Ghosts are heavy. Ghosts are sheets with holes cut out."

    How long has Echo been an active? It's not five years right but definitely a while since Caroline's meeting with Adelle.

    Caroline (on video): "I'd like to take my place in the world, like Mrs. Dundee taught us. Global Recovery, Doctors Without Borders... The world is in need of serious saving. And I want to travel. Travel around the world as I save it. In a private jet that I pilot and designed. Okay go ahead and laugh yearbook monkey. I know, I'm such a cliché. What can I say, I want to do everything. Is that too much to ask?"

    Standout music: Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" during Echo's first engagement.

    As an opening episode, "Ghost" did set a template for the show's premise, the kind of stories it can and will probably do and is certainly something that will inspire a certain amount of debate. Superficially there are some gratuitous moments with Eliza Dushku in a skimpy dress and Tahmoh Penikett, all topless and sweaty boxing. I know the show gets better with later episodes but this was an incredibly underwhelming pilot.
  • Echo becomes an hostage negotiator when a young girl is kidnapped and held to ransom

    So Joss Whedon is back with his latest series. I can't say i was blown away by it anymore than I was Buffy or Angel. No doubt fans of his work will love this one too.

    TGhis has all the makings of being ssimilar to the series The Pretender. Each week the main character is posing as someone different. Also like The Pretender you have this secret organisation.
    For me this has a feel of seen it all before.

    Eliza Dushku iss still gorgeous and stil not a lead actress. 'm not sure this role suits her. She was definately better in Tru Calling which IMO was a better show. It was really starting to find it's legs when it got axed.

    I'm the type of person that will watch a whole season/series before I make up my mind on if I'll stick with it. If I weren't and was making the call just on this first episode like lots of people do I think I would walk away as there is nothing there that seems fresh and interesting.
  • A bunch of made to order stepfords who can do anything but keep a diary...

    So this girl Caroline (Eliza Dushku) who seems to be in some sort of prison is offered a second chance, to "help people", she isnt however told that by doing this she becomes a moronic robotic zombie style airhead called Echo, a pimped out prostitute programmed for any situation a client requests,only to have her memories fried and wiped at the end of the mission and retire to the equivalent of a matchbox to sleep..obviously if they had Im guessing she would have chosen to stay where she was.

    Instead we are introduced to a party girl having a great time with her boyfriend racing him on a motorbike, she thinks she's in love as they hug at the party, he is checking his watch and kissing her goodbye, this might seem rude only he knows thats soon she'll be having her elctro shock treatment and wont remember a thing, the date is over and Cinderella aint leaving a shoe, she wanders back to the van for her ride home, expecting to go back and see him after she has her treatment, oblivious to the fact that seconds later brains fried and she wont even know she was at a party, "Did I fall asleep?" she askes mindlessly looking round the room like some store mannequin coming to life, a deluded smile on her face she wanders to the pool, she ends up walking in on some other girls treatment and the one brain cell that isn't fried realises something isn't quite right, a quick visit to Dr Fred from Angel (who looks like she did a couple of rounds with Freddie Kruger) and she forgets.
    Add into the plot that an FBI agent is trying to track down this so called dollhouse, and a rich bloke's daughter is kidnapped and you have this weeks story.
    Suddenly Echo is a no nonsense hostage negotiator, the best in her field and has been doing it for years, she has been programmed with the knowledge and memories of various people including a dead girl who was kidnapped when she was a child, she then has to face this as her own personal demon and overcome her horrific childhood to help track down the kidnappers, a bit too much of a coinsidence actually gets justice for the dead girl as well as helping to rescue the child as it is the same person involved, as Echo convinces the others to give themselves up, Katya from Neighbours (ok sorry) Seira bursts in and shoots them all, they got what they deserved, Im not complaining.
    I am hoping that flashbacks of Caroline's actual life keep coming back to her so she can figure out who she is and actually move the story on, otherwise other than showing what a versatile actress Eliza is, which to be honest is good but not interesting enough to carry the whole show, I can't see where this is going, she is obviously ment to be the heroine and at the moment she is very much the victim, its a very sad situation, especially when you see her yearbook video being watched and she was just a happy normal girl, this is quickly made sinister again by the person watching it being surrounded by dead bodies, maybe even her keep watching but still dont know what to make of this just yet.
  • Solid show with great potential.

    Upon viewing the first episode I gave it a nine. It is a great show with lots of potential. Eliza Dushku is hot and great for the part...did I mention that Eliza Dushku is hot. I loved her in other shows that I have seen her in. In this show the minds of the "Actives" are wiped and reprogrammed for various missions, over and over again.

    In this episode she plays the roll of a hostage negotiator for a rich man who's young daughter has been kidnapped. She immediately takes control of the situation and things are going as planned until she recognizes one of the kidnappers as the kidnapper of one of the personalities she has been programmed with. She kind of looses it when she sees him and the mission is stopped. She keeps telling her people that she can get the little girl and at the last minute they decide to let her in instead of wiping her memory. She finds where the kidnappers are and rescues the little girl. The man that had kidnapped her in her memory was killed by the other kidnappers when she told them he would kill them and started rattling off other little girls she had kidnapped and what he had don to them. The other kidnappers are killed by another Dollhouse Active and they retrieve the money.
  • Joss Whedons brand new show begins

    The Dollhouse-A place where if you pay the right amount of money, you can get a doll to be whoever you want. The dollhouse, run by Olivia DeWitt, hires people to be their "dolls" for 5 years. At the end of that 5 year run, the volunteers recieve a large amount of money. The dolls are made to forget who they are/were, then are placed in a blank state and given a name from the phonic alphabet. These dolls can have memories implanted into them, making them whoever you want to be. It's a unique idea, a brilliant idea, but the episodes's not as good as it should be. I blame Fox.
  • Dollhouse

    Echo is introduced as one of the "Actives" in the Dollhouse. The Dollhouse's Topher Brink wipes her mind and reprograms her as a ruthlessly efficient kidnapping negotiator. Echo's new personality incorporates memories from another woman who was molested as a child, and it turns out the molester is one of the kidnappers she must now negotiate with. She crumbles in fear during the ransom exchange, nearly getting their client killed. Allowed to confront the kidnappers, she turns them against each other and rescues the kidnapped girl. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Paul Ballard struggles with his assignment to uncover information on the Dollhouse, which has destroyed his marriage and is wrecking his career; his lead is small-time Russian gangster Lubov.
  • Joss Whedon returns to our screens for the first time since the curtain prematurely closed on Firefly and the jury is most certainly out.

    Joss Whedon returns to our screens for the first time since the curtain prematurely closed on the hugely underrated Firefly and the jury is most certainly out. The much-discussed Dollhouse premiere is a mixture of the fascinating and the banal, a curious pot pourri of ideas that don't always seem to gel. The script tries to do too much at once: introducing the audience to the concept of 'dolls', outlining the rules and procedures of the imprint process, delineating the power structure of Miss DuWitt's facility, counterpointing the Paul Ballard character against the central plot and, most importantly of all, demonstrating the malleability of Eliza Dushku as Echo, our plucky young protagonist. The result is that some aspects of the plot suffer from a lack of development or, worse still, rather lazy writing; Ballard's introduction through the medium of the highly clichéd 'boxing metaphor' being perhaps the worst offender. Still, there is much to enjoy here: inevitably, Dushku brings a pointed believability to both of her roles within the episode, selling the character of the 'ransom expert' exceptionally well and imbuing her rather less graceful doll self with enough charm and intrigue to acquire the viewer's allegiance. Whedon does a beautiful job with his supporting cast too, presenting us with a number of apparently one-note characters whose dialogue and mannerisms quickly hint at many more hidden depths: Amy Acker's Dr. Saunders is fascinatingly resigned, while Topher's stereotypical 'aloof genius' persona is just crying out for further exploration. It's worth noting, too, that the basic premise of the show is one of the most original to have come out of the LA film lots since well, God only knows when, and has absolutely bags of potential. It's a shame that the implications of the process aren't explored in much detail here – although its morality is certainly well discussed, and quite refreshingly left without decisive comment, allowing the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions – and that the central drive of the narrative is ultimately a rather flat game of cat and mouse between Echo and a young girl's kidnapper. Still, there's plenty time yet for the show to grow into itself and as a preface to the season, this sets the necessary pieces into place satisfactorily. It's just, well, we know Whedon's capable of so much more…
  • Eliza Dushku stars in the pilot of Joss Whedon's new series about a secret organization called The Dollhouse which leases human volunteers called Actives whose memories and personalities have been wiped clean and engineered to clients' requirements.

    Joss Whedon's new sci-fi series Dollhouse introduces us to Echo (Eliza Dushku), Mattel's new Fill-in-the-Blank Barbie. Echo is an Active, a "Doll" working for the super-illegal and super-high-tech organization nicknamed "the Dollhouse." A "needs fulfillment" service, Dollhouse furnishes clients-those who can cover the high-priced rental fee-with human "volunteers" whose personalities have been wiped clean in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fashion and replaced with an engineered persona customized to the client's needs. Dollhouse's hipster techie Topher (Fran Kranz) imprints Actives with behaviors, skill sets, memories, and even weaknesses like nearsightedness or asthma, all manufactured from a combination of personalities from other individuals, sometimes resulting in repercussions for the Active.

    In the premiere, Echo is hired out as Fantasy Date Barbie for a wealthy bachelor in need of a Cinderella for the weekend. It's no surprise that there will be the occasional Pretty Woman service to deliver, but Dollhouse promises a show about more than just tuning in each week to see Eliza Dushku prostitute herself unknowingly. The bulk of the pilot also sees Echo taking on the role of Hostage Negotiator Barbie, acting as an intermediary fixer for a client whose young daughter has been kidnapped for ransom.

    It's an interesting premise and unlike anything else you'll find on television, which both helps and hurts the show. Dollhouse could prove novel and intriguing enough for audiences, or it could backfire and be more "out there" than The X-Files's truth. Whedon is, after all, no stranger to taking leaps. In 1997, a snarky dramedy about a 16-year-old female vampire slayer set to the themed backdrop of "High School is Hell" premiered and later inspired the gritty spin-off Angel about an L.A. private eye vampire with a soul. Whedon struck out at the plate, however, in 2002, when his brainchild space- western series Firefly was canceled with just 11 episodes aired. But now that Whedon has returned to television with Dollhouse, there is hope he might ride the rocket to further success toward which the summer internet sensation Dr. Horrible blasted him.

    As the show's center, it will be interesting to see whether Dushku possesses the range necessary to transform herself every week for not just clients but viewers. Just out of the starting gate Dushku does what she does best as fun-loving Fantasy Date Barbie. But hidden behind "I'm intelligent" glasses and clad in a business suit as Miss Penn the Negotiator, she is already straining to be taken seriously. As the season unfolds we'll see if Dollhouse has a little Meryl Streep they can program into Echo.

    Dollhouse's supporting cast looks capable at least, with Tahmoh Penikett of Battlestar Gallactica fame as an FBI agent investigating Dollhouse; Harry J. Lennix as Boyd Langton, fatherly man of morals bodyguard to Echo; and Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt, the calculating boss of Dollhouse who hired Echo for a five-year contract. Angel alum Amy Acker guests as the scarfaced Doll Doctor, Dr. Claire Saunders.

    The pilot also indicates other Actives may come into prominence, including a rogue Active known as Alpha. Alpha's existence hints that Echo may not remain a tabula rasa Doll for long. As Echo says in a pre-Active state in the episode's opening scene, hinting at a troubled past she's running from, "You ever try to clean an actual slate? You always see what was on it before." Appropriate that her Active name is Echo?
  • Intriguing premise but too vague yet. Not sure what to make of it.

    I've always loved Eliza since Buffy/Angel and she does a sterling job here, the premise is interesting and it's got a similar feel to Alias, switching identities, the difference obviously being that the personalities are programmed and erased afterwards. It is just missing Alias' fun vibe.

    The personalities are deliberately based on real people, so that it is believable when people ask detailed questions. This has a flaw which surfaces here, actual memories of the programmed personality recognize the kidnapper and gets the client shot. By not erasing Echo, she is able to retrieve the girl unharmed and the money, which will both buy a lot of forgiveness in the client.

    Echo's problem is that her programming seems to be malfunctioning and she's having flashes of life at the Dollhouse. We know too little yet to know if this is a glitch, too many personalities or sabotage.

    Of course there will be rumors of an organization like the Dollhouse and there's a fed investigating it. Couldn't they have cast someone more attractive and/or interesting? Nice to see Amy Acker though, another Whedon alumni. I do like her handler and how protective he is over Echo.

    Some very strong scenes, Eliza does fantastic work portraying three such different personalities and she is particularly impressive as 'Miss Penn'. Got a lot of potential but a bit too vague yet to know what it will amount to. I am, however, intrigued enough to continue watching, to see what it turns into.
  • Interesting start to a show

    The whole premise of adjustable people that you can program to suit the moment, is interesting and I wonder is there a deeper meaning behind it other than catering to the whims of the rich and powerful. Eliza Dushku goes from the vacant expression of the doll to the to the expression of the roll she has been programed to play convincingly. The other characters all seem to fit well together and Tahmoh Penikett is very good as the overzealous FBI agent. This is a good start that will hopefully continue to develop overtime.
    One other thing I didn't like was Amy Acker face all scarred up.
  • Skilfully done pilot that should appease Whedon fans. Sex, action and better-than-average dialogue should hook the rest.

    I'm impressed with the first episode - unlike a lot of pilots this one left me wanting to see more. Usually it seems you need to hang in there for a few episodes to get the flavor of the show or care about the characters but this one worked for me from the start.

    Joss Whedon has stayed true to his theme of Girl Power. I love that the first mission we see Echo (Eliza Dushku) take on is to rescue a little girl from a man who likes to do bad things to little girls.

    I also like that the personality Echo is imprinted with is once such little girl, and that in the end she gets to do what the original personality didn't - she wins.

    There are lots of things to like -- I especially like that they took the hackneyed use of glasses and turned it around to be self-deprecating as well as story revealing. Nice touch.

    For me it loses points on just how much they play up ED's hot bod -- like seriously, her dress couldn't have been any shorter! And the whole group shower thing, puhlease. But it should make all the geek boy fans happy and unfortunately it seems pilots need lots of sex appeal. Hopefully the show will tone it down a bit in future. (anyone remember how in the first ep of Bones Angela flashes her bra and Tempe gets around in a very low cut singlet top?)

    It's also great to see ED back in an ass-kicking role. Am looking forward to the rest!
  • Entertaining!

    This episode is not one of the best pilot episodes I have seen. But it sure was entertaining and an "ok" start for Dollhouse. Maybe it is because of the hot echo (Eliza Dushku) or the idea of actually being able to program people (I assume the first)whatever it is, this episode had something that kept me watching.

    The introduction to what the show is all about went a bit to fast for my taste. This is mostly because of the FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett). He is immediatly shown as a cop who has a real reason to destroy Dollhouse, the reason is not given ofcourse wich is kind of cliché and did not work good for "Ghost".

    But Boyd Langton (Harry J. Lennix) was able to save this episode a bit so far he is my favorite character in Dollhouse with Echo as a close second. Boyd is echo's handler and is always nearby in case she needs him (although she wont recognize him) he is shown in action this first episode wich promises a lot for future episodes. As a closing note I must say that Dollhouse should not be judged by this first episode alone.
  • Sharp. Twisted. Lots of potential.

    Joss Whedon really does serve up something new in the pilot of his latest offering.

    The characters are all believable, quirky and layered. Echo is a "doll", developing glimpses of genuine consciousness.
    The new "good" ex-cop handler asks the questions, and the rest of his colleagues are happy to maintain a verneer of philantrophy with the help of oddles of detachment.
    The FBI agent obsessing over the dollhouse is really quite cheesy, but gritty in places.

    Like all great shows, the premise abounds with many shades of white, black and grey etichal questions with no straight answers.

    The story in this episode was sharp, with some genuinely disturbing material straight off the bat, regarding Miss. Penn's past. Thankfully she has no vivid flashbacks.

    Hopefully we will get to see more of Sierra in later episodes and the side characters in the dollhouse will be fleshed out better in later offerings.
  • How did Dollhouse do?

    I was able to watch this months ago, but I just got around to reviewing it now.

    The writing is actually solid, but it's clear from the get-go that this is a one person show. Eliza Dushku is the only one with any screen presence whatsoever, and her character known as "Echo" is the only one you really get to know. While the show is better than Dushku's last attempt at TV Tru Calling, the difference is not that great. Her performance is underwhelming and is not the kind of effort that could champion a successful series.

    Fran Kranz, the unappealing lead in CBS' failed Welcome to the Captain andwho had a guest spot on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this past season as a scientist who enjoys rifling through feces, is the only supporting actor to get major screen time. Unfortunately his one-dimensional acting and general annoyance make his character one you'll hate from the moment you see him.

    People will say that FOX "screwed" this show over with its timeslot, but the fact is that this is not up to the standards we have come to expect from Joss Whedon. It tries too hard to be unique, but ends up falling into the same traps nearly every network TV drama has. It has predictable plots, a guy who is "fighting the system" and relies on a cliffhanger to try to get you to tune in every week.

    This is not going to set the world on fire. It's not going to get strong ratings, and it probably will not get a second season. Sorry for the grim outlook but Dollhouse does not live up to the hype.
  • Dolls: Activated!

    Ghost-Echo is one of the "Actives" in the elite and illegal Dollhouse. Through different personality downloads, she plays the role of a lovestruck girl on a romantic weekend, and then a ruthlessly efficient kidnapping negotiator.
    Meanwhile, FBI Agent Paul Ballard is struggling with his assignment to uncover information on the Dollhouse. The chase has destroyed his marriage and is wrecking his career, and it doesn't seem that he'll stop until he uncovers the truth.

    Since I heard that Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku were teaming up again to do another series, I couldn't wait until the debut of this series. Even with news of the series continuing to be pushed back and Joss having to re-write the pilot over again, I had faith in this brilliant writer as he's past series have been nothing short of stunning (Buffy, Angel, and Firefly). Well, finally the wait is over and Dollhouse is finally here. I have to say, I love the concept. The idea of Dollhouse is about private organization where "Actives" who are humans with no personality are given certain personalities and skills to complete missions for them. "Ghost" does a pretty good job setting up that concept, but as a premiere from Joss Whedon, it leaves something's to be desired.

    The star cast seems very capable to really carry this series. Eliza Dushku takes the lead as Echo, the most active of actives at Dollhouse. I have to admit, although I love Eliza to death, I thought her first performance was a bit shaky. There were times he hit it right (when she was a party girl at the beginning) and times were she was iffy (when she was the negotiator). But I believe she will get stronger as the series progress and I'm not really worried. Olivia Williams is decent as Adelle DeWitt as the head of Dollhouse, Fran Kranz as Topher Brink the mind wiper looks a signature Whedon character being the wise cracking guy, and I like Harry Lennix as Boyd Langdon, Echo's handler. The wonderfully talented Amy Acker rounds off the core cast as Dr. Claire Saunders. But the character gets little screen time, which is a shame.

    The main storyline of the premiere involving the kidnapping was decent, but I felt there could have been more done with the plot. Eliza almost had to carry the whole storyline on her shoulders and there were times I felt she wasn't convincing as the negotiator. Although, I love the revelation that Echo had a memory of one of the kidnappers taking her as a kid. It's a nice know that the memories that the actives are implanted with aren't just created, but are memories stolen from the actual people who had those skills. It's added some depth to the show which it needed. I thought when it came to that part of the story, Eliza got it right. The way the story rips up is done well as we see another active come out of no where to clean up the rest of the mission. The sub-plot featuring an FBI agent on a mission to reveal the existence of Dollhouse already looks promising. Tahmoh Penikett just really pulls off that tough sarcasm of agent Paul Ballard. My favorite scene is when he goes after Victor played by Enver Gjokaj and threatens him with a gun. It's only real hilarious scene in the whole premiere and it was played well by both actors. I guess the real problem with the premiere is that is just jumps right into the story and I was left a confused a bit about what was going on. There is no intial connection with the characters and some parts leave something's to be deserved. But I think Dollhouse will be fine, I mean this is Joss Whedon and I'm sure the writers are still trying to get the feel for the series before they can hit us with something amazing. "Ghost" is a decent premiere that establishes the series' concept well, but I hope there will be more character development and better storylines ahead. Telling from the shocking end where a mysterious murderer has killed Echo's family and is watching tapes of her pre-Dollhouse life, it looks like things are already about to get very interesting!
  • Enter the Dollhouse

    Wonderful! I think I am really going to enjoy watching this! Imagine the possibilities! Echo and the Actives can be anything! That means we can have a show that can be different in every episode! Everything's pretty unclear after watching, but that just means there will be more things to clear up later on. I sincerely hope that the writers will be creative enough, as this show has a lot of potential, in my opinion.

    It kept me pinned to my chair and I can hardly wait to see the next episode. As for Eliza Dushku, it's an another amazing role for her! Let's just hope the show does better than Tru Calling (which is a high standard to live up to, if you ask me)...
  • Another fantastic show by Joss Whedon!!!

    The Pilot episode was brilliant. I know I'll be hooked to this show for life. The story follows Echo, a young woman with many personalities, sorta. A secret organization with brains is stamping false memories into a special group of people, making them become whoever they want them to be. "Dolls" are for hire to whoever can afford the price. In the meantime, Special Agent Tom Ballard is the laughing party at the FBI. He might as well be searching for Bigfoot as his quest to find Dollhouse seems to be a big joke. Yet again, I am blow away with Josh Whedon's creativity and originality! Bravo!
  • Definitely underrated. Character development. Enough action and drama to keep me glued to my TV.

    There are 44 reviews in front of mine at this time. I read some of them and don't understand if these people watch the same show as I do. Sentences like "nothing happened" or "bad dialog" are all over the place including some official reviews as well. Let me put it in a very simple form: I DISAGREE. Lets start from the beginning.
    I'm a big Firefly/Serenity fan. I love the whole universe and pretty much all the characters in it. Buffy was okay in my opinion but it definitely comes second after the Firefly (or any number of other shows like Battlestar Galactica, for example). So, I guess the question is why Buffy survived for so many years and Firefly was canceled after its first, abruptly ended season? Why till this day we see petitions all over the net to bring Firefly back? Well, the answer is, I believe, is that Firefly was ahead of its time. It didn't cater to masses that were, at the time, looking for a mindless and less sophisticated entertainment (which Buffy to certain degree was). Today a lot of people start looking for more sophisticated shows, shows where action takes a back seat to ideas, Mysteries (the upper case here is intentional), and characters that are both larger than life and present us with sometimes uncomfortable reflection of ourselves. Lost, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica fit into this category. I think that Dollhouse may fit into the same category as well. So why so much criticism. Well, people expected a lot from the show. It was done by a person proclaimed to be a "visionary". People waited for Firefly and they waited for Buffy. They got neither. A lot of them were disappointed because of that. Once this show gets judged by its own merit and not by association with its predecessors the scores my improve significantly. The scores of the second episode that came out yesterday and I haven't had a chance to watch yet may very well prove my point. Back to the episode itself:
    STORYLINE: I thought it was intriguing and open ended. It set the stage for any number of possible developments and I like when show keeps me guessing. DIALOG: Was within the parameters of the show. The Firefly signature humor was missing but, as noted by one of the official reviewers, it may appear in subsequent episodes.
    ACTING: I think Eliza Dushki did a pretty good job. The switch between a downloaded personality and her core, a little spaced out personality was very distinct, pronounced and handled.

    CONCLUSION: This show, in my opinion, has a very high potential. If given a chance it may stand on its own against its revered predecessors. Well, if it gets canceled then we will never know. But I can almost guarantee that if it does get canceled we will see petitions all over the net to bring it back. After the fact, late efforts that will never come to fruition.
  • Interesting plot.

    I found the first episode of Dollhouse to be amazing. Though I don't know exactly where Joss is taking this show, I find it very enjoyable. I also enjoy the fact that I don't know what's really going on. The show is complex and requires the viewers full attention, but I think that it is worth it. Eliza Dushku blew me away. I always thought that she was a great actress, but after seeing her in this, I know she is even better than great. He ability to change and be anything they want her to be is brilliant. She changes everything about herself depending on the character she's playing. Being in Dollhouse allows her to be a different character in each episode. Which is also where the show gets confusing. I think that before a serious judgment can be made, more episodes need to air. Until then, I'm giving Joss an A for Dollhouse. Because I have a feeling this will be amazing.
  • Lay it out for us, Joss!

    If ever I've seen a show that's going to need some time to find its stride, "Dollhouse" is it. Too much input dragging it in too many different directions.

    You don't just have 42 minutes to just do something. Storytelling is desperately important, right along with character development, and here's what I'm given to work with:

    - A jazz-cool geek who builds personalities from some vast reservoir of human experience
    - a bunch of pretties who may be called upon at any time to yada yada yada
    - an ex-cop standing around disapproving of all of this (at least in part because it's beyond illegal)
    - some head of marketing type who puts the richies with the pretties (without being able to in any way advertise because of that "beyond illegal" thing)
    - then whatever adventure the richie has purchased
    - all wrapped up in a human person's quest for meaning through experience and memory

    Oh my god, it's "Alias" meets "My Own Worst Enemy" on "Fantasy Island"! How am I supposed to feel? Bewildered? Betrayed?

    No, seriously, without retreating too far into Nathan Lane ... um (Note to self: No more "Birdcage" refs -- they get irretrievably dirty almost instantly): No more network notes. Just let Joss and Co. tell the story in their own way on their own freeqin' timetable and let it unfold organically.

    All that being said ... how cool was it to see the Mutant Enemy zombie at the end? Go Mike! w00t! :D
  • A rough start, or sign of things to come?

    The latest production from Joss Whedon has been the victim of enormous interference and second guessing, almost from the moment the project was announced. I don't need to get into the specifics; the details have been hashed and rehashed for months. Whedon fans know that the original pilot was completely scrapped and this new premiere episode was produced in its place at network behest.

    Yet, strangely enough, a great deal of negativity has been leveled at Whedon for not producing the perfect debut episode. Let's be honest; this was a fairly average episode, and it's hard to tell whether or not the series will develop into something strong enough to survive just from the first hour. More to the point, it may not be something Whedon's fans are willing to accept on faith.

    I have little to say about this premiere in terms of plot; it felt rather self-evident. There's the Dollhouse, an illegal operation wherein young and pretty people with troubled pasts have their minds wiped and reprogrammed to serve whatever function a client wants. An FBI agent is trying to find the Dollhouse and shut it down, while a former "active" is threatening to expose the operation. Meanwhile, the story focuses on "Echo" and her story, both in terms of her role in "engagements" and, presumably, her intersection with the FBI and "Alpha".

    It's no great stretch to say that the nature of the Dollhouse is deeply offensive and morally indefensible. It goes without saying that the "actives" will be used by many clients as tailored sex toys, and it doesn't take long to see how much worse the reality could get. There's no question of agency here; those in charge of the Dollhouse are complicit in rape, murder, and countless other immoral acts.

    What is equally clear, at least from the pilot, is that Whedon is not presenting the Dollhouse as a good thing. He's not shying away from the fact that the Dollhouse is a criminal enterprise, and that the handlers, doctors, and administrators are all engaging in several levels of self-denial and rationalization. They know what they're doing is beyond wrong, but they fool themselves into thinking that what they do serves a necessary function.

    Frankly, I'm not surprised that this concept was born out of the writers' strike, when writers and actors alike were discussing and resisting the demeaning treatment by production companies. As many might remember, Whedon was one of the most outspoken supporters of the strike. One issue was the right to be compensated fairly for one's own work and the retention of rights to one's work under new and unforeseen "new media" outlets.

    It's not hard to see the parallels here. Replace the "actives" with the pretty little actors and actresses like Eliza Dushku, the brilliant but conflicted programmer with writers like Joss Whedon, and the handlers and administrators with production studio personnel, and the subtext becomes text. The message is so lacking in subtlety that it's surprising that FOX even let the show on the air.

    But the message may be intended for more than the studio heads; it might be meant for the audience itself. Whedon fans are already wondering why this new series doesn't seem to have the same old Whedon sense of humor. They want another "Buffy", or something along the vein of "Firefly" or "Dr. Horrible". They want the funny. They also seem to forget that "Firefly" was never meant to be laden with so much humor; much of that came at the request of the network to "lighten things up". "Angel" was several shades darker than "Buffy". Joss has been trying to be more serious and mature in his storytelling for years, and this is another attempt to that end. Frankly, the concept doesn't lend itself to Whedon's usual wacky humor at all. If he did go down that road, it would imply that the ethical issues with the Dollhouse weren't being taken seriously.

    The "actives" feel like they've been designed to express Eliza Dushku's own reflection on how an audience perceives the actor or actress. They want the actor to play their role as they want it to be played. They resist the full agency of the actress to take on whatever projects she might want. The audience wants Eliza to be sexy, run around in skimpy outfits, and be little more than a doll on a stage. The concept is taken to the extreme in this case, and the metaphor may seem a bit pretentious, but there's something to it.

    But therein lies the problem. The audience is being taken to task, on several levels, while being presented with a show that lists as its main strength the notion that its young and hot lead actress will be taking on a myriad of unexpected roles. It's subversive to a degree, but perhaps not to the extent that Joss and Eliza would like to think. There's no doubt that the series is supposed to make us uncomfortable, as we wonder at the ethical implications of it all. But the metaphors and subtext all ask the question: aren't we, as the viewing audience, ready and willing to treat our performers the same way? (Take one look at "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" before you answer that.)

    The question is whether or not this concept (and its underlying metaphors) can sustain an ongoing series. This felt like something that might have been better as a miniseries or feature film. Certainly, a series on FOX is probably the last place in the world for anything Whedon in nature. But with so many Whedon fans disappointed or dismissive of the series already, this may struggle to meet even cult status. Add to that the FOX tendency to cancel quickly and ruthlessly, and this may turn out to be the first true Whedon misstep.
  • This was a nice start to this much anticipated series. With a few adjustments this could well be the start of something great.

    This was a nice start to this much anticipated series. With a few adjustments this could well be the start of something great. The character of Echo was very promising in this episode and I also enjoyed the banter between Topher and Boyd. The premise of being able to take on any combination of personalities suitable for the task in hand was also great fun and there's lots of potential in that. Some parts were a little disappointing, dull even. Hopefully things will move on from the getting to know you stuff and we'll have a great show to watch.
  • People should stop comparing Whedon's shows

    The pilot episode was a great basis for the show. I'm excited to see where this is going. Yes I do expect a great story line, good acting and good action or special effects. But I do not expect to see another Angel or Buffy The Vammpire Slayer. I was actually hoping it would be nothing like that. I want a new fresh show with original storylines. A fresh look on all the same themes. And I'm hoping this is it. I'm very satisfied with the performances of all the main characters. Especially the sympathetic handler and the detective. Both great actors. Curious to see what will happen next week...
  • Joss Whedon is back! And he brung with him some old friends.

    Joss Whedon created my two favorite television shows of all time. BTVS and Angel were so good it's almost not even fair. That being said here is my two cents.

    You have to give a show time, you do not judge a baseball season on one month nor can you judge a show on one episode. For me it was just an okay pilot. Not the greatest thing I've ever seen nor the worst. Eliza Dushku is gorgeous and has a certain energy to her that makes her sparkle on screen. For those who say she can't act, I humbly disagree. I think she is more than capable. But where was the Whedon witty dialogue? The snappy one liners? The heart underneath the material? Seemed too cold and formulaic for me but again it was only one episode.

    I think the problem is, from what I have read, that the network constantly tinkers and messes with the guy's vision. They just don't let him do things his way. The product as a result, becomes a hybrid of what Whedon wants and what "the man" wants". They change around the order of his episodes, mess with major ploit elements etc...

    I think Dollhouse has potential. Do I think that potential will eve be realized? Probably not. Network short sightedness and early cancellation are it's future. Too bad because I believe if given the chance the show will find it's course and become quite good. It's Joss after all.

    Is it Buffy? No. Is it Angel? No. The problem is that for Whedon fans the bar is set too darn high, we will never see those heights again. But for now we have Eliza, Amy Acker and Whedon at the helm and that is enough for me to want to see more. Let's just enjoy it while we can.
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