This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"die and we blame someone and then do it all again."
11978 members | you are not logged in | 17 January 2019


February 12 2009

R-Prime Lab website live. It's an official alternative reality game (ARG) for Dollhouse they're shooting day-to-day, so fan reaction determines the outcome. It's all kinds of wacky.

"Think Wrestling, but with mind fracks instead of head butts."

That's funny.
Too bad they used the old-school BSG spelling instead of the modern BSG spelling. ;)
The FAQ on the "Manual" page seems to set the events we're witnessing in 1999. Dollhouse isn't set in the past, is it? Is this supposed to be part of the origin-story for Dollhouse?
snot, the 1999 thing is when the software was 'written'. The 'previous' page shows 2009. So R-Labs has been around at least 10 years, perhaps imprinting people.
Hang on I thought Whedonesque was the ARG?
The line in the FAQ I'm referring to is this:
In 1999 the projected number of imprint-tests will exceed 4000.

I can't see how that doesn't imply that the FAQ is supposedly written in 1999.

ETA: I mean, if it read "In 1999 the number of imprint-tests will exceed 4000" then it could just be the "historic present"--but with 'projected' in there the "historic present" would only make sense if they "projected" that many, and then didn't actually do that many...and why not simply tell us that? Why not tell us what happened in any of the years subsequent to 1999?

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-02-12 20:28 ]
That fact that the FAQ was written in 1999 doesn't necessarily mean the events take place then. Maybe they never changed that part of the original FAQ over the years.
Oh dear. This looks like something I totally won't have any time for. Hmpf.

Also, the video's don't seem to be working for me. Anyone else having that problem?
That fact that the FAQ was written in 1999 doesn't necessarily mean the events take place then. Maybe they never changed that part of the original FAQ over the years.

True enough...though what point, exactly, is served by providing a fictional framework that suggests that the website is horribly maintained I'm not sure. Perhaps it's just to provide a sense of historic depth? "We all know this has been around for ages." But if it has been around for ages, why are they still running these "tests"? Ten years later and they test protocol hasn't changed at all? That seems weird.
Maybe they are NOT (deliberately) still running the tests. The room where she's trapped is all rundown and in disrepair. The computer appears to be old (a CRT monitor, 3.5" floppies), etc..

My current theory: it's an inmates-running-the-asylum kind of thing, or an automated-processes-running-themselves kind of thing. The r-prime mnema program is some sort of precursor to the Dollhouse (using volunteers, apparently), that was (supposed to be?) shut down as it was getting started in 1999. Hazel has wandered into it in the present and somehow it's still going (whether completely automated or through the interference of hackers or something).

(Think Losties coming across what's left of the Dharma initiative, kind of thing.)

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-02-12 21:50 ]
That's a nice explanation, Septimus. I don't think "automated processes" quite works (who's driving the truck? Who's maintaining the website? etc.), but someone deliberately reviving the old test mechanism...that's possible. The web design is aggressively non-1999, of course, but one could imagine that the "hackers" have used existing text while redesigning the site. And she does have to blow dust off those old floppies--suggests the site has been abandoned for a while.

I noticed an interesting thing when I played video #3--up on the top left of the video box was a kind of aphorism: "memory itself is an internal rumour"--a quote from George Santayana. I wonder if the fact that they spelled "rumour" in the non-US way means anything (or if that was just the way they pulled the quote from Google...).

ETA: that same quotation seems to feature on all the video screens.

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-02-12 21:59 ]
Just watched all the videos, and damn, that is cool. Feels like a ARG for Cloverfield, though.
So, snot monster, you got me thinking. Does it have to be a person or could it be automated? And THAT got me thinking: does it HAVE to be one of the other? Or, to put it another way, what about artificial intelligence.?

Or, to put it another another way, what do all those memories that are stored on hard drives (apparently) do when they are not implanted in actives? Or, what if you extracted the memories from someone (say, some sort of founder of the Dollhouse) and put them in a sufficiently complex computer? And then (in full fan wank mode), what if that computer were running the experiments and/or the Dollhouse itself?

Also, grammatical question. Are the institution/company and the place called "Dollhouse" or "the Dollhouse?"
It's funny, actually, I was heading off down a "what date did Skynet become conscious" kind of line, too--although I don't see much direct support for it here.

I don't think that I want Dollhouse to go down that road, though. I think the underlying metaphorical implications of the story would get too messy.

Also: I'm going to assume that a self-conscious computer mind would tidy up that out-of-date FAQ page! (Today: Became conscious. Current mood: Megalomaniacal.)
Maybe the company's 'Dollhouse' but, even if there's more than one, a specific dollhouse would surely be referred to as 'the dollhouse'.

As to the AI point, it's possible I guess. We currently don't have "sufficiently complex" computers (in fact I dunno what it would even mean to "run" a memory, seems a bit chicken/egg-ish in that the memories make a personality but there has to be something there in the first place to "have" the memories - which is presumably one of the things the show looks at) but then we also don't have consciousness imprinting machines either.

That said, thematically it feels more resonant to have a person in charge to me, if you put an AI in charge you're putting the baddie at one remove. Also, "an evil AI" isn't exactly a brand new idea either.

(the disclaimer page features a paragraph in small print about forgetting BTW though it's unattributed so possibly not a quotation. It goes "The existence of forgetting has never been proved. We only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them.")

ETA: There's a forum post up now too. Have at it, people who can be bothered ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-02-12 23:18 ]
Google says that's Nietzsche.

ETA: all the little aphorisms about memory seem to be quotations from various famous people. I'm guessing someone popped open a Dictionary of Quotations and looked up "memory."

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-02-12 23:20 ]
Yeah, I agree that "evil AI" is kind of a tiresome device. I do kind of like the "the memories have a life of their own" angle, though. It has a nice "inmates running the asylum" or "we have met the senior partners and they is us" feel to it.
I wonder when the first allusion to Dali's The Persistence of Memory will crop up?
Well, the videos jump around and distort with "reality" seeming to bounce slightly, that could be a (tenuous) reference already ?

I do kind of like the "the memories have a life of their own" angle, though.

Yeah, that idea could be made to work. The show could make a case that consciousness is "just" what happens when memories "collide" if you like (I think that's not a million miles away from one contender for an actual theory of consciousness, among many).

Google says that's Nietzsche.

Well, it's not particularly pithy or insightful so i'm not surprised they didn't bother with the credit ;).

(in fairness, maybe it was more insightful in the 19th century)
The official wiki has also some info about it:

What Is R Prime Lab?

During the late 90's a company called R-corp started a project called The Orpheus Initiative, investigating the use of Altered State of Consciousness (ASC), Electric Voice Phenomenon (EVP) and Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC). The official purpose was to give rich people the opportunity to talk to their dead relatives. During 2001 the project was stopped and by then over 20 Orpheus laboratories (called R Prime-labs) existed on different campuses all over the USA.

Despite the official close down of the Orpheus Initiative the satellites used as uplinks still kept streaming data and for a long time no one could surveil the information. But in the beginning of February 2009 the web page appeared and one of the R Prime-labs, who had not been in use since 1999, used it to stream videos through. Something that has been gone for eight years is back again.

Oh... well, where did that info come from? How does the "official" wiki work? Can anyone edit it?
Basically, everyone. But that page was done by amy_c, a mod. That means by Fox, I guess.

ETA: And more.
The video interview system will be online in approximately 12+ hrs…

ETA2: And even more.

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-02-12 23:56 ]
one of the R Prime-labs, who had not been in use since 1999

"Who"? That's either some damn sloppy proof reading or maybe Septimus really is on to something.
By the way, this "talking to the dead" thing seems to me to come entirely out of left field. Is there going to be a "spook" aspect to Dollhouse?
What Is R Prime Lab?

R Prime is a distant relative of Optimus Prime. When Hazel explored the lab, she did not realise she was inside the belly of a Transformer who could disguise themselves as a laboratory. Sadly for Hazel when R Prime tranformed back into a robot, she got squished and that was the end of her.
For what it's worth, here is the press release for what Fox is calling "Dollplay". Don't read it if you don't want to be spoiled for the "game", because it explains the basic plot. I was going to invisotext it, but wasn't sure if the mods wanted this much text inivso'd that way.

Only Web Audiences Can Free Woman Trapped in the Dollhouse

Game enthusiasts and Joss Whedon fans alike need not wait for the series premiere of the highly anticipated new drama DOLLHOUSE Friday, Feb. 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX to begin to unravel the show’s mythology. “Dollplay,” an innovative and unique online participation drama invites Whedonites, crime buffs and FOX fans to solve an intriguing mystery now unfolding at and

DOLLHOUSE stars Eliza Dushku as ECHO, a member of a highly illegal and underground group of individuals (“Actives”) who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Hired by the wealthy, powerful and connected, the Actives don’t just perform their hired roles, they wholly become – with mind, personality and physiology – whomever the client wants or needs them to be. Whether imprinted to be a lover, an assassin, a corporate negotiator or a best friend, the Actives know no other life than the specific engagements they are in at that time. After each engagement, Echo returns to the mysterious Dollhouse where her thoughts, feelings, experiences and knowledge are erased. Or are they?

In the groundbreaking new online participation drama “Dollplay,” a young woman named Hazel Rose is trapped in a locked mobile laboratory. Her link to the outside world is through the online audience, who are her only hope to escape confinement and help her find out more about her mother, a researcher somehow linked to the Dollhouse. Through Hazel’s video blog of real-time captivity, fans are encouraged to post clips, view other fan video responses and offer Hazel advice. In return, Hazel will respond to the audience, challenging them to help her uncover clues and discover secrets about the Dollhouse’s early defining days. Meanwhile, Hazel will use the Dollhouse’s imprint machine to dangerously mind-wipe and download herself with a number of new and different personas to help her piece together her mother’s sordid history.

With only three weeks, beginning today, to solve the mystery and escape from the laboratory, time is running out for Hazel. Visit or today to help Hazel before it’s too late.

DOLLHOUSE is a 20th Century Fox Television and Mutant Enemy Inc. production and was created by Joss Whedon. Whedon also directed the premiere episode and serves as executive producer and writer. Liz Craft and Sarah Fain are co-executive producers.

Behind “Dollplay” is The company P, a radical production outfit from Sweden that coined the term “participation drama.” They won an Emmy Award in 2008 for Outstanding Interactive TV Service.

That actually sounds like a pretty good plot. Let's hope "Hazel" is up to the acting.
How often do creators of shows have input on how these internet tie-ins are run ? Does anyone know of a time when they've actually written the material for them ? And I don't just mean glorified deleted scenes like what Lost's put out online sometimes. Did the two main dudes behind Lost ever write the internet clues/puzzles, like last Fall's Dharma Initiative sign-up and assessment ?

If it's not Joss or one of the Mutant Enemy writers on this, then who would do it ? Someone in marketing ?

I know they usually aren't considered solid canon, if canon at all. But if they're well done and they fit into the universe comfortably, it's nice to have the option of considering them so in case the showrunner never weighs in on them (and they probably wouldn't, at least not this early on, as it would be counterproductive to promoting the show).

Don't often make time for these, but maybe this time...if it starts spoiling anything or hinting too heavily at what's going on within the show though (doubtful if it's over in three weeks), I'll have to drop it.

I wish I could enlarge the viewing window a bit. The quality is good enough. It wouldn't look great in full screen (I tried with the "zoom" to blow up certain pieces of the screen, like when she was eating the granola or protein bar, but it does look a bit too grainy like that), but it could definitely be bigger.
Is it just me, or is Transmission 12 missing?
I would be surprised if Joss or any of the main writers had much say in this. But, you never know, they must have signed off on at least the major plot points. And, sometimes they can be quite good. (I'm a big fan of the Halo ARG, ilovebees, which was written and produced by people outside of Bungie (the game's creators), and though it's not considered "canon," it was darn good.)

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home