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February 19 2009

(SPOILER) EW's Ausiello offers his opinion on "Dollhouse". He misses Joss' humor and doesn't like Topher. Spoilers for a lot of other shows that are currently on TV.

Ausiello: I have mixed feelings about Dollhouse. My biggest complaint is the complete and utter lack of humor. Where's the Whedonesque ha-ha we've all come to depend on? And when I am laughing, I don't think I'm supposed to be. For instance, Eliza Dushku as a ball-busting hostage negotiator? Highlarious. And I may be in the minority here, but I find the Topher "I'm the lovable, quirky one" Brink character to be unbearable. The only thing I find relatable about him is his taste in sweater vests. Despite all this, I'm four episodes in and I can't wait for No. 5. Go figure.

I thought there was only screeners for the first three episodes? Also Ausiello owes us five quid for using Whedonesque in a sentence.
I think "complete and utter lack of humour" is a bit of exaggeration, and I can't wrap my mind around the idea that someone who wants Joss to bring back the funny hates Topher.
I think Topher may become the Andrew figure. Some people will like him, others won't. But then I'm just enjoying the sensation of seeing people debating new Joss characters on the telly. Been a while. The wilderness years were a bit lean (but did produce some of Joss' best work to date).
But Himself has said this one's gonna be darker than his other shows, so bringin' the fun in isn't his first priority. I bet once we get to know the characters a bit more, then the quirk will show up.

Not Quirk, 'cause...that'd be weird. Although...if a client wanted an Active for the ultimate Trekkie/Whedonite fantasy...ok, so not going there!
"lack of humor"? Were we watching the same show? Anyway, Dollhouse is less mixed genre than Buffyverse shows ever were, and first half of Serenity (the pilot, not the movie) didn't have as much humor either. If people want ha-ha humour, go watch a sitcom, there a few ones on the air that I really recommend. Does BSG lack of humour, makes it any less of an amazing show, which is a remake of 70's campy show.

I still see Topher as the Joss stand in inside Dollhouse, a more nihilistic stand-in than Xander or Wash, but his stand in whatsover. And moreover than before with an active role for shaping things to come.
I gave up caring what Ausiello's opinion is when I realized he puts spoilers in his headlines/post titles, which then of course pop up all over the place. He's not going to respect the audience enough to not pull that sort of BS, I'm not going to respect his reviews.
I recognized a good amount of humor in the first episode. The "Omelet Chef" line comes to mind, for example. And the client's rant about reality television? Not an accident.

As for Topher, he is a bit too gleeful with his science. He's corrupt, but in a totally awesome way.
I didn't like Topher either - but I trust Joss enough to believe that that's because I'm not supposed to. At least for the time being.
I think there's humor in Dollhouse. Maybe not as much as we're accustomed to, but it's there. This isn't exactly the kind of universe that would lend itself to a "Once More, With Feeling" or a "Smile Time."

Oh, and Topher is by far my favorite character so far.
I'm pretty sure I'll like Topher. It's really great how the creepiest character in the Dollhouse is also really appealing

As for humour, there was a little but not a lot. The only line that made me actualy laught was Topher's 'that's where I'm going with this' line
I'm loving Topher, though I know I maybe shouldn't. His line "I bet it was something great!" cracks me up...just the absurdity of it. I also love the Shakespeare quoting, and the speech about faults. I think he has the best dialogue of anyone on the show so far.

I agree that there is less humor (humour, for you Brits ;-), but I don't think that there needs to be right up front. It's a serious show, and I think they need to establish that before they bring in the funny from time to time.

Plus, if Fox asked me to rewrite a pilot at the last minute, I would be lacking in the funny too.
Please note that he can't wait to see more.
Is Topher Joss' trademark everyman character or is that Boyd?
I think Boyd is Book. :-)
I've got Boyd pencilled in as the wiser, moral force akin to Giles, with Topher as the Xander-esque everyman. I'm looking forward to a significant blurring of those roles though. :-)
I almost always agree with Mike, and this is no exception. :-)
Topher could be construed as Warren after he pitched his first version of the Kathrina brainwashing technique to investors and got the funding to develop it further, in the process deciding that it is more cost efficient to mindwipe women than building them from scratch.

I have Boyd marked down as an early casualty.
Boyd is absolutely the Giles/father figure.

Topher seems to be kind of a Xander/Knox hybrid.

[ edited by jlp on 2009-02-19 12:34 ]
I have Topher as closer to Warren than to Xander based on (1) arrogance and (2)amorality. He doesn't seem to have the insecurity (which nonetheless led to appalling behaviour on some occasions)or the compassion of Xander.

I suspect Boyd will have to suffer some before he gets to be a casualty in the terminal (at least off the show) sense.

[ edited by baxter on 2009-02-19 12:56 ]
This isn't exactly the kind of universe that would lend itself to a "Once More, With Feeling" or a "Smile Time." I think it might be the kind of universe that will lend itself to anything. I think the concept could lead to all kind of silly thinks (only there'd always be an underlying darkness.)

Does BSG lack of humour, makes it any less of an amazing show IMO yes, it's one of the reasons I don't watch it. Dollhouse however, did make me laugh a few times and I foresee many more laughs in the future.

Plus, if Fox asked me to rewrite a pilot at the last minute, I would be lacking in the funny too.
But they didn't, did they? As far as I know the new pilot was Joss idea and there were still loads of time due to the midseason start, though I can't imagine being to relaxed while there is a production stopage, I'll give you that.

I think Topher may become the Andrew figure. Some people will like him, others won't.
There were people who hated Andrew? That can't be true. Ah, actually Simon just said there were people who didn't like him. I guess I can live with that.
Topher is supposed to be a lovable character? I don't think so, at least from what I've seen so far (one episode, so hard to judge). I also see him more as Warren/Knox. They're all human, but their morality is off. We can love evil characters like Dru, but Topher/Warren/Knox could all be our next door neighbors and coworkers, and that's part of what makes it uncomfortable.
"There were people who hated Andrew? That can't be true", yes it can.
I loath Andrew. He wastes the air of any ep he is in. I hate Topher, and think he brings the show down each time he is on screen.
I'm so glad we're actually talking about Topher. He's my favorite character so far, but not my favorite person. That is to say, he's the character I want to see more of and to learn more about, but he's not a person I would actually like in real life. I think it remains to be seen whether he's a Warren or and Andrew or even, if he has enough of a moral epiphany (a la Angel?), a Xander. (And, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks he's a figure for some part of Joss.)

(I'm kind of surprised at the Andrew hatred, not ahving been around back in the day. I think he's great. "Storyteller" is one of my favorite episodes.)

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-02-19 13:43 ]
Hate Andrew? Hmmm..... only in the sense that if I found myself handcuffed to him I would contemplate gnawing off a limb (his) to escape after about 10 minutes.
I dislike Topher so far, what's to like? But the fact I don't like the character doesn't mean I don't want to see more of him ;) I love to hate him basically, even Fran Kranz said he was "a punk."
Ditto on Topher as being Warrenish. But with a steel core.
He creeped me out.
I find him very worrisome.
So quirky? Yes. Lovable? Hardly.

He also seems massively observant and intelligent. After re-watching on HULU I was amazed at some of the nuances that I missed my first go-around. That scene with the speech about flaws, imprints and blurred vision etc.? He speaks it while staring at Amy (eventually I'm sure I WILL remember character names) and seems to be applying his thoughts also to her, not just the actives.

I can also see him collecting nuggets of information and hording them, all for the pleasure of it and then...having to choose to do or not do something with them.

And the humor? It might have been drier and scarcer than the usual fare, but it was definitely there. At least...I laughed.
Speaking of Knox, am I alone in wishing Jonathan Woodward was playing Topher? Nothing against Kranz, he's fine (I loved the lines mentioned above, but also: "Aren't you supposed to be getting your physical with Dr. Saunders, FAR from here right now?"). I just get the feeling that Jonathan would have been better casting. Still, it is only one episode, so my opinion may change as things move along.

Plus, Ausiello's laughing at Eliza playing a tough, ball-busting take-charge woman is kind of catty to me, and odd considering her many previous roles that were very similar to this (on the surface, I mean. I thought she handled the nuances of it quite well). Does he not like/remember a certain Slayer named Faith?
I'm very happy Jonathon Woodward wasn't cast as a regular character. I know I'm in the minority, but I never liked him, not in any of Joss' works. He was the most tolerable in Buffy. I also don't see any resemblence between Topher and Knox. The Warren resemblence is huge to me, however.

Topher's character in general is very interesting to me. I loved his conversation with Boyd over the comm while Ms. Penn was active. Lots of interesting dialogue there, especially with his furtive looks at Dr. Saunders. Also, I noticed an unusual amount of concern on his face when he asked, "Did something happen to Echo?" after her motorcycle engagement.
I never liked Jonathan Woodward either. I saw him first in Firefly and he annoyed me, and while the other two appearances were better - I almost liked Knox - I'm still glad he isn't playing Topher. Fran Kranz is doing a great job so far.
No Humor??? "Wash your hands... and your shoes." That belongs in the Whedonesque random Joss quotes file, right now! Along with Topher's line about how great humanitarians are so misunderstood.

For that matter, BSG has humor too, although it's very dark, and it took a couple of seasons (and adding Magic Jane to the writing staff) for it to start to come out.

I like Topher. If he told me the sun was shining, I'd get a second opinion, but I like him as a character. Topher and Boyd are the two characters I'm connecting to right away. I'm looking for Adelle to become a stronger presence in the show, also.

Topher is a world away from Andrew, whom I loathe and detest. And I think Fran Kranz is doing a fine job with him; I don't think Johnathan Woodward would be as good in this role.
Wow...The cheese stands alone. :) I wish I hadn't brought it up now. I am interested in seeing more between Topher and Dr. Saunders.
I'm just glad there's not a "Whistler" character.
Simon, there's screeners for up to and including Gray Hour.
People always seem to miss the point. Miss Penn was never a ball-busting hostage negotiator. She wasn't Samuel L. Jackson-esque, nor was she meant to be.

In that line of work, I'll bet you're hardly ever face to face. It's done at a remove, over a phone. She had all the knowledge and skills to make her good at the job, but emotionally, she was still fragile because she never dealt with what happened to her.

She probably took the job (other than the obvious desire to save people from what she went through) to try to face her fears. But at the same time, because it's over a phone, she never truly did. It has to be easier to mask fragility that way.

Even when Gabriel challenged her, her facade started to crack, and I don't mean Echo's. The fact that the real person killed herself is proof that she wasn't "ballbusting." But then what Echo did by the end was finally overcome fear, pain, and become stronger for it.

I didn't find it highlarious at all.

And talk about implicating your audience. Whenever I read that someone can't buy Eliza as different people, to me, that says more about them than Eliza. They don't want to, so it colors their view. Because Eliza's hot, because she's one of the hot people, she can't possibly be anything other than just one of the hot people.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-02-19 15:36 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-02-19 15:39 ]
Whenever I read that someone can't buy Eliza as different people, to me, that says more about them than Eliza.


I think it's because they don't think she's a good actress more than anything else. Nothing really to do with whether she's hot or not.
After only seeing one episode, not sure I can form an opinion yet on any Dollhouse characters/actors.
My opinions have changed for better or worse over time on previous Joss creations.
I was more interested in reading about the Big Bang Theory's 'Summer Glau on a train' episode. Can't wait to see it!
I kind of-sort of agree with Michael. I do agree with some of the flaws he cites, but I also agree that I can't wait for the next episode, despite them. I don't particularly LIKE Topher either, but I'm not sure I'm supposed to, at least not yet. I love Eliza (please, I watched Bring It On because she was in it), and think she was good in the pilot, but I understand the reservations. My biggest issue with her was that she couldn't seem to lose the regional accent even though she was playing different people. I think that is where some of the concerns come from...the transitions from one character to the next aren't as obvious as I think some people expect. I also agree that I wish there was a bit more humor, or at least more of Joss' patent word play, but there were some funny moments in the episode, and it's a darker show, so I don't mind too much.

[ edited by MoonOnAString on 2009-02-19 16:04 ]
During the pilot, Topher and Boyd are the two characters I connected with the most. I can't wait to see more of them. Eliza was great and I care about her character. I am also interested in the Dr. (Amy Acker's role), I'm sure there will be a lot of interesting storylines concerning her.

There were many characters and only approximately 45 minutes of screentime (I didn't time it but less than an hour) so as time goes on and the characters get more fleshed out I imagine it will become like any of Joss's creations, and I enjoy (love or love to hate) all the characters.
49 minutes, actually, like the old days.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-02-19 16:08 ]
As much as I love Jonathan Woodward, I wouldn't really want him as Topher. I certainly want him on the show at some point though.
From the stuff I've seen of Dollhouse so far, I don't buy Eliza in the roles. It's NOT a commentary on Eliza. Nor her hotness - I don't find Eliza attractive. It's me not buying her in the roles thus far. That might change further down the line.

It doesn't help I'm watching screeners of United States of Tara along with Dollhouse. USoT being by an oscar nominee writer and oscar (and BAFTA, and emmy) nominee actress, about a woman with multiple personalities per episode. USoT is a much better show so far.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-02-19 16:18 ]
I love Andrew, but Topher in no way reminded me of Andrew even though I was expecting him to. Warren all the way, even in mannerisms. Only his appearance reminded me of Andrew.

The hostage negotiater bit was really off. Not just the performance, but the very idea. Why on earth would anyone contact an organization like the Dollhouse for that purpose? Even the client was sceptical. That whole bit was a HUH? for me. The performance didn't help.

Humor is a huge part of why I loved Buffy and Angel. It's why I only got through half an episode of Lost before losing interest. That juxtaposition of drama, excitement, and humor is the very thing that made Buffy and Angel so incredibly extraordinary. Now I know other people don't need it, judging by how popular CSI/Without a Trace shows are, but I do.
Topher's my favorite character to hate. He's just so creepy, creepy, creepy. But I love that Joss gives the amoral character a lot of the good lines. It messes with your head the way the Geeks did in season 6. Makes you question with whom you're relating.

I miss the verbal humor too, but I think a show this dark has to earn it. Right now it would spoil the tone that's being set. And as others have mentioned, there is some humor. I also liked the "Are you going to rap my knuckles?" "It's unlikely." And "You have the money." "It's polite to ask."

I can't wait for next Friday.
It's obvious that Fox has a noose round whedon's neck. They pulled the rope hard when it came to reworking the pilot, which was bland episodic television.

I agree with Ausiello on this one.

The show has no compelling characters that retain their personality week-to-week, with the possible exception of the agent and the ex cop.

There are no Spike/Angel or even Mal-like characters that we associate with Joss' work.

That Topher, is awful. The actors bad, the character is unbelievable, there's no spark in either.

It's time Joss did a Gene Roddenberry and actually did what he wanted to do, following his original vision. Who cares if the networks don't get it? It's going to be cancelled anyway because of ratings. Come on Joss, do what YOU want to do because it's what WE want to see. Go out on a bang and not a whimper!
The Host, if you piss off your network they fire you. It's happened before, it'll happen again. They're paying $2m or so an episode for this show.

Also, Fran Kranz absolutely nails Topher if you ask me.
I watched the pilot, just once through when it first aired last week. I liked it well enough, but it did lack many of the qualities typically associated with Joss -- humor being one of them (although Ausiello exaggerates; there was some, just not much). It wasn't a genre blend like Buffy or Firefly. It didn't playfully tweak our expectations the way Joss almost always does. Had I not known Joss was behind it, I probably would never guess he had anything to do with it, save maybe contributing a line of dialog here and there. (Somebody upthread mentioned Topher's "that's where I'm going with this" line. Yes. That's trademark Whedon for me.)

Some of the other weaknesses in the show have more to do with the usual shakiness of any pilot. None of the actors, except maybe Boyd (if Boyd is the "handler" -- I can't remember the character names) and Amy Acker, looked completely assured and comfortable yet. And that's much more common than not in pilots, so no big deal. Eliza's Miss Penn character was the best part of the episode, as I remember it. Topher, as a character, looks like he has potential. Topher, as performed by the actor, needs more time to grow into the role. There was a certain forced, overstated quality to his performance, not hamming it up so much as overselling the character notes. Again, I find that's often the case with actors in pilot episodes.

And, as The Host suggests, we could also be seeing the effects of network executive interference. I didn't read the original pilot script, so I have nothing to compare it to. But the end product was indeed bland and conventional. Don't know for certain where the responsibility for that lies.
Is Topher Joss' trademark everyman character or is that Boyd?

Neither. I don't think there is one. Unless it's Caroline. But maybe that's too literal.
Gossi, yeah which is why I used the Roddenberry metaphor. Make them think they are getting what they want, but do what it is you always intended. In the case of Joss it seems they wanted self contained episodic television rather than arc based stories. Joss is a genius, someone like him can plant small enough seeds that pay off throughout the season in these supposedly self-contained outings. I don't mean the topless obsessive at the end. That was just tagged on and had no relevance to the episode or plot. Had we seen him throughout the episode and it built up to it, it would have been more of a natural flow.

Don't get me wrong I love Joss' work, I love Buffy, Firefly and Angel. I just can't escape the feeling I'm watching watered-down Joss television. And I think the blame is Fox. A show like this may have been better off on HBO of FX, or failing that, sold to England on the BBC!
Gossi, what does it mean to say that Fran Kranz really nails the character? After one episode, that seems an odd thing to say, since by what measure can you say he is "nailing" anything? I mean, if you think he fits what you think the character should be like, fine, but beyond that I can't fit meaning to what you are saying. Is there some cosmic Topher against which we can compare Kranz portrayal?
The Host, I think later on Joss has been able to do what he wanted a little more with the show (because folk at FOX, basically, left them run riot with it a little bit).

But FOX are not solely to blame for problems with Dollhouse. Joss's name is "Exec Producer". He wrote and directed "Ghost". He was there every day on set filming every frame of the thing, pretty much. He has reordered the episodes, so there is be some plot stuff in "Dollhouse" you're going to see which doesn't make sense. He wrote all the jokes, or lack of, in this episode. The original pilot ("Echo") was not a laugh riot, either, and that was before FOX even gave him notes.

Dana, yeah: the script. As the script and casting descriptions went, he is Topher.
Topher's not Xander, who'd have a big problem wiping people's personalities away. He's not Warren, who wouldn't be able to resist making one of the Actives his personal lovebot on the side and who would be scheming as long as he wasn't in charge. He's not Andrew, who wouldn't have such a blunt appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of people's personalities.

He's just this new guy, you know?
The fact that the real person killed herself is proof that she wasn't "ballbusting."


Except only A real person killed herself. The other personalities that made up Penn are presumably what kept her from doing the same. The person who killed herself was quite likely never a hostage negotiator.

I just watched the show again with a friend who had not seen it, and she too thought the personality implants were just straight transfers of personalities, not combinations. This baffles me as it is said at least 3 times in the episode that they are combinations, twice by Topher, and once by Boyd. Just watch the scene where Echo's brain is all blue if you don't believe me.

Not to mention the logic hole. If they are just someone else's personality, why bother programming? The perfect person for the job is already out there. But if the personalities are combinations to make the perfect person for the job the premise holds. And whoever it was who said they didn't buy the reasoning why the client would go to the Dollhouse for this didn't watch the scene where he met with DeWitt. He's concerned for the life and well-being for his daughter, he would do anything for her. He can get a person who may or may not be perfect, or he can get a person programmed to be perfect, which would you choose? He later came to question the logic of his reasoning but was convinced by Penn's personal stake in it.

Penn was totally a ballbuster, for all the reasons you mention, pat32082. She was compensating for her weakness. She's running from something (weakness) to something (strength, or at least a perception of it).

Gossi, always remaining positive, that's why we love you! My understanding from an interview is that the continuing plot stuff has been shuffled among the reordered episodes so that it tracks, and that only the episodic stuff is out of original continuity, but being episodic, that won't matter. Of course, I haven't seen as many episodes as you.

[ edited by bobw1o on 2009-02-19 18:04 ]
I thought the pilot was interesting and moderately entertaining, however, it wasn't typical Joss fare for sure. I have to agree with Ausellio on Topher...I can't stand him. He may have a good line or two, but the actor is soooo over playing the role that I can't even enjoy those. So far I am most interested in Boyd as a character. I do think Eliza did a good job with Ms. Penn and I found her entertaining...I presume she will get more adept with each episode of showing us the character changes.
Of course Topher could be scheming and we just don't know it yet. I actually sort of expect he is up to no good in some way or other, but more likely a kind of overstepping/overconfidence thing than a true megalomania. At least so far he doesn't seem to be a complete and total loser overcompensating for it by trying to dominate other people. Which makes him a couple steps up from the Skinless Wonder at least. Warren wouldn't have given a shit when Eleanor was terrified. Topher was clearly shaken.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2009-02-19 17:41 ]
Topher has a reason for doing what he's doing in The Dollhouse - they all do.

bob, whilst they may have tried to clean things up, there's still things that don't make sense. I mean, there's a big reveal at the end of episode 4, which you already know about from episode 2. Unless they've done some significant changes. Note, I actually fully support reordering the episodes - you risk loosing your audience if your opening episodes aren't terribly strong. One of the things with Dollhouse is that they need a second season order within the next month or so, otherwise they're screwed for another season. So quality first.

Also, yeah, ballbuster methinks. "I will scold you".

[ edited by gossi on 2009-02-19 17:47 ]
Topher could be construed as Warren after he pitched his first version of the Kathrina brainwashing technique to investors and got the funding to develop it further, in the process deciding that it is more cost efficient to mindwipe women than building them from scratch.

Yeah, that's exactly what I took from Topher. That "I bet it was something great" line struck me as exactly Warren-ish--kinda smug and supercilious, with a shocking lack of empathy behind it. On the other hand, he's definitely "early Warren" rather than "late Warren." That is, there's layers there--he's not simply "evil nerd guy." I think he has a tendency to see the Actives precisely as "dolls"--more toys for him to play with--but you got the feeling that emotional growth may well be a possibility.

I'm amazed that anyone would think that he's meant to be the character we like in this world. He so clearly--to me--seems to sum up what is creepy and abusive about the Dollhouse operation.
I think some of us are talking about Topher as a character, and some of us are talking about him as a person, but we're using the terms interchangeably. Someone else mentioned this above.

I love Topher as a character, he's multilayered, dark, clever, humorous, emotionally involved in the actives. I hate him as a person, he's a despicable punk.
Topher has a reason for doing what he's doing in The Dollhouse - they all do.

Right, and that's a very good thing. I just meant I don't think he's like any of the characters we've seen before. Sure there are similarities here and there, but this is a whole new level of creepy weirdness.

Yes snot I agree he's layered and not all that likeable yet but like you I see potential for that to change a lot by degrees. Or get darker and creepier! Who knows. He's very well done. I don't get the criticisms of the acting/writing for him.
bobw1o, exactly. Topher is exactly the kind of person I hate - willing to use anybody and anything to do something cool and willing to mess around in other peoples shit. Which is why I hate myself. But he's also absolutely vital for the show - it gives you a window to other characters (Boyd, for example, and Adelle).
Topher is easily my favorite character so far, especially after watching the episode again. I had no problems with his acting and thought he had a number of great lines and expressions ("I bet it was something great" and "that's where I'm going with this").

Also, maybe it was just me, but when watching the pilot I could just feel that it was a Joss show. Sure it was different from his others, and the pilot had some issues, but I just had that gut feeling. I know some people had thought otherwise, but I disagree. I'm willing to bet I would have known it was Joss even if I had just turned on the tv in the middle of it and had never heard of the show before. It just felt like Joss. And I really can't ask for anything more.

[ edited by snakebyte on 2009-02-19 18:26 ]
Ditto what bobw1o said about Topher.

I was never fond of Andrew, but I didn't hate him. I just wished he were Jonathan.
I was never fond of Andrew, but I didn't hate him. I just wished he were Jonathan.

Yeah, I remember when S7 was first airing I found it really hard to get over that feeling: "you keep one member of the Trio around this season and it's not JONATHAN???"

On re-watching, though, I have so say I've come to love Andrew. I think "Storyteller" is a real highlight of S7.
Gossi, cool. I have to admit to being totally intrigued and won over by the concept and premise; but being bitterly disappointed as a Whedon fan, in its execution. Maybe I'm judging too harshly too soon, but non-Whedon purists who are watching for the first time will leave in droves if the series doesn't fulfil its potential and a drastic upturn in quality is required soon, me thinks.
Let me put it this way about Topher, and why I buy into his character.

I can completely see walking into a new job, and Topher's in the next cubicle. He'd be a perfect fit in more than one place I've worked. I'd respect his work and trust his judgment on technical issues, and probably enjoy talking with him. In no way would I ever trust him on any personal or ethical issue. I would not consider him to be a "team player," although I may be proven wrong about that.... we'll see over the course of episodes.

The difference between Topher and the Evil Trio is basically one of professionalism. Topher is good at what he does, and takes his work seriously. He's certainly amoral, but he does take pride in the quality of his work, and takes responsibility that his work gets the job done. He does commit to group goals.

There's none of that in the Trio. They were funny, but they were idle, directionless, self-centered kids.

In this sense that Topher is believable in this role, I think that Fran Kranz has nailed the character. Ditto for Boyd. The rest of the cast needs more time and visibility, and I assume that will happen over coming episodes.
Regarding the lack of comedy in the Dollhouse pilot, besides my agreement that there are some funny lines in the pilot, I thought this Joss quote from this interview posted in a different thread yesterday was interesting:

Question: It's not as funny a show as some of your others. It's darker and more serious. Would you agree?

JW: Absolutely. It is a dramatic thriller where it's very important people invest in the reality of the thing, and the reality of the thing is dark. And yet once people have, we're able to bring some changes. There's no way I'm going to make a show that doesn't have some silly. I couldn't breathe if there was no silly. The fact of the matter is, we're talking about what makes a human being a human being. A large part of that is that they're ridiculous.


Sounds to me like although the overall tone will be darker than his previous series, the tone will lighten a bit in places in future episodes.

(Sorry if this has been mentioned already but this thread has become a bit too long for me to read it all right now).
Maybe I'm judging too harshly too soon

After one WHOLE episode? Nah, impossible! ;-)
I liked the pilot well enough, although I wonder whether I would stick with it if Mr. Whedon's name wasn't on it. While watching I found myself trying to tease out what I thought were more Whedony touches in the dialogue, structure, or what-have-you. The "concept" doesn't blow me away, frankly, nor do any of the characters as yet. OTOH, as someone here said recently, given Joss's track record, who am I to argue that this won't get very good, very quickly?

I would add that several of my friends who are well-disposed towards his material in general were quite disappointed with Dollhouse, and may not give it a lot of time. So far as I can gather, the reasons were, more or less: too dark; too much like a procedural; don't like Eliza's performance. (No one complained about skimpy clothing, though that's probably just the company I keep . . . )
Somebody mentioned that this seemed like watered down Whedon and either that person or someone else said that they could not figure out another reason other than the network input. Another thought occurred to me.

One of the things that has worried me a little from the beginning was that this was conceived and produced as a star vehicle. That means that the main purpose is to show off its star. That always worries me, because if things are not working, the one thing that cannot be changed is the emphasis on making the star look good and have lots of air time. I don't have anything against Eliza D., but the fact that the story is, by the nature of the kind of show it is, secondary to showing off her talents, could be part of the problem that some of us felt. As I said in another thread, I did not see Joss in this show although I am hoping to.

I started to watch it a second time to see if my opinion changed, and I found that I didn't want to spend the time that way. That is soooo not a good thing.
I watched it a second time and enjoyed it much more than the first viewing. I had similar experiences to a second viewing that other people have mentioned in previous threads: I enjoyed the dialogue and nuances of the acting more, picked up what I think might be a bit of foreshadowing, and just generally thought it was better.

I have been thinking about the reasons why I enjoyed it more the second time, and I think it was because I didn't have a year and a half of expectations for the show to live up to! Even knowing it hadn't got stellar reviews and had a lot of exposition, I still was disappointed... sometimes 'knowing' and actually understanding are two very different things!

Interestingly, I watched it the first time with two friends who aren't Whedon obsessed like me (giving them the pre-warning that although I thought it would be good this was meant to be a relatively weak episode) and they both said when it finished 'Awesome! if that was a weak episode can't wait to see more!'. It was partly their response that led me to watch it again. I am glad I did.
What Sunfire said about Topher not being someone else.

However, if I were to make a comparison in terms of what I bet my response to him is going to be, I wouldn't go with any of the nerds, I'd go with Lila: terrible person that I love and just keep hoping is a little bit good inside.
I'm baffled at how people don't like Topher. I really have to assume its their morality getting in the way rather than an honest assessment of how good the character is.
While I'm not going to start braiding Topher a bff bracelet anytime soon, I just don't get all the hate.

And who can complain about a show that had Tahmoh shirtless for a good several minutes? Priorities, people!
Listening to some of the criticisms of the show, I find myself thinking that much of what people object to has to do with their own expectations from a Joss show. That is not to invalidate those criticisms, but to put them in perspective. For one thing, it's comparing a single episode to entire series (or at least multiple episodes) of other shows. For another thing, it seems to focus only on what the particular viewer liked about Joss's previous series and to forgive a lot of what he or she did not like.

For instance, the claim that it is too episodic or procedural seems both to underestimate how episodic earlier Joss shows were (Buffy in particular had a lot of standalone episodes, but so did Angel and Serenity), and to overestimate how episodic Dollhouse actually is (there were a number of references to longer storylines including the Alpha, Ballard's investigation, Amy Acker's backstory, Echo's growing self-awareness, and probably some that we cannot recognize as such until later). Joss's show structure has always been individually contained episodes that succeeded or failed on their own, woven into a larger (season-long) story arc; the episodes that are purely driven by the longer arc are actually rather rare.

Or, another example: the evident lack of humor. I'm one of the people that loved Buffy for the humor (yay Xander!), but to act like it was full of laughs all of the time is, I think, disingenuous. And Buffy was the funniest of Joss's previous shows; Angel was decidedly darker and had way fewer quips, and Firefly had some humor but was overall quite dark as well. Plus, of course, there were funny lines in Dollhouse, as others have pointed out.

Or, yet another example, the focus on a single character (or non-character), or the show as a "star vehicle." Of Joss's previous shows (as the titles make clear) only one was really designed as an ensemble show fromt he get-go: Buffy was always about Buffy and Angel was always about Angel. Both, especially Buffy, turned into ensemble shows because Joss's characters are rich and compellingly written, but the focus on a single heroine or hero is hardly new to Dollhouse. As far as titles go, "Dollhouse" is a lot more like "Firefly" (the place/mission that brings these people together) than it is like "Buffy" or "Angel" (the main character). The show is not called "Echo." And, is there really anyone that thinks that we will not learn more about Boyd and Adelle and Topher and Ballard?
Word, Septimus.
Ack, Sunfire, you trumped my too-slow "Well said, Septimus" by a mile!
Oh, people are totally over thinking things, but that's what we do: we're fans.

My reaction to The Train Job as aired in 2002: Meh. I wouldn't have been bothered if it was cancelled after one episode.
Xane said:
"Humor is a huge part of why I loved Buffy and Angel. It's why I only got through half an episode of Lost before losing interest. That juxtaposition of drama, excitement, and humor is the very thing that made Buffy and Angel so incredibly extraordinary. Now I know other people don't need it, judging by how popular CSI/Without a Trace shows are, but I do."

Heh, it's kinda unfair when these discussions are had and cop procedurals are usually held up as the model of mostly humor-free viewing. Nearly every drama has a touch of humor in it at least some of the time, even cop dramas have the officers making morbid/inappropriate jokes or making fun of suspects behind their backs/taunting them to their face...whether it's well-written and genuinely funny, depends on the viewer. If that's specifically what you're looking for in your TV entertainment, yeah, not finding that balance of genre in your run-of-the-mill procedural isn't gonna keep you watching it. I'm not usually a big fan of the cop genre, but these are just some of the things I've noticed while catching the rare ep of Criminal Minds and the like. Despite many of those shows snagging some great actors--well-known or not--my problem with procedurals usually stems from the lack of continuity/character building in most of them that would've given me a reason to care about the people depicted and their journeys. Humor or no humor, that's the most important element in any hour-long for me.

There are many shows that have been lighter on the humor or were especially dark that were just as well-written and emotionally resonant as Joss' works. For folks who need their funny bone tickled on a regular basis throughout the hour, allowing for only the occasional almost entirely humor-free, special heavy sad/drama episode like we got in the runs of both Buffy and Angel, well what can anyone else say to argue with that. That's just what they enjoy or what they feel they need from their weekly entertainment. Potentially depriving themselves of some thrilling, heartbreaking, sometimes mind-bending drama, but what can you do ? (I know this isn't everyone, I know a ton of people watch outside their comfort zone, or at least attempt to sometimes. To be honest, some of the most rewarding viewing experiences I've ever had came about because I gave a serious try to shows involving concepts/themes/settings I wasn't sure I cared about. And now I'll watch damn near anything as a result, because I realize I could be missing a ton of quality storytelling and acting hidden behind flashy high-concept dramas and certain subgenres).

And man, Lost has humor. Season 1 and I can't remember Season 2 as well, but they may've lacked it the most or it might've been kinda weak from what I recall, but Seasons 4 and 5 (and maybe Season 3) have definitely had it. It's not on all the time, but it regularly comes from jokes based on knowing the characters all this time. If I were to argue against watching or having kept up with it this many years, there're other things I would accuse it of before a lack of a sense of humor.

As far as a number of comments about Dollhouse (we'll see) and BSG (I haven't seen it) being too dark...how is that a strike against a show or a reason to maybe avoid watching ? Where are folks coming from when they say that ? I realize not everyone can take it or wants to force themselves to on the off chance they might be thoroughly entertained to justify it, but...is it so uncomfortable watching disturbing, potentially morally challenging material from the comfort of your couch ? When people say "too dark", it just makes me think of the ridiculousness of the many folks who gave Deadwood a try and their chief complaint (sometimes their only complaint) was that the language was "too salty for my ears"/swearing too harsh. Like, how old are we here ?

[ edited by Kris on 2009-02-19 20:57 ]
It's weird he misses the Whedon-speak AND doesn't like Topher, because I thought Topher spoke the most Whedon-esque. But maybe that's just me.
I agree Kris. I cannot comprehend some of these people's views on television. Why would one want only lighthearted romps? I do not only watch light movies, or read light books (the opposite in fact). Indeed the most critically acclaimed examples from those medias are incredibly dark. You don't see humorous movies winning Oscars all that often (of course the Oscars tend to suck, but thats a different issue).

But TV has to be different? It seems like a vicious cycle, people thinking that tv viewers are all stupid people who want easy to follow light hearted vapid entertainment, and so only make that, while not giving the brilliant, dark and mature shows time to find its place. (Of course I couldn't care less about how much money Fox loses, so as far as I'm concerned they should continue making Dollhouse regardless of their ratings...) It's like the ridiculous notion that comic books are just superhero stuff, and can't tell real stories (you'd think that that notion would have been tossed out the window with Watchmen in the '80s, but no... some Whedon 'fans' don't read Season 8 just because it's a comic, which is obviously just for nerds).

I also love Lost and Deadwood (both of which have often brilliant humor along side their serious stuff), and I would strongly advise to you try out BSG. I only recently started (though now I am caught up) when I found out how big a fan Joss is of it, and it is excellent. Though it is so very dark and serious, so it must not be good. ;)

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-02-19 21:47 ]
Or, yet another example, the focus on a single character (or non-character), or the show as a "star vehicle." Of Joss's previous shows (as the titles make clear) only one was really designed as an ensemble show fromt he get-go: Buffy was always about Buffy and Angel was always about Angel. Both, especially Buffy, turned into ensemble shows because Joss's characters are rich and compellingly written, but the focus on a single heroine or hero is hardly new to Dollhouse. As far as titles go, "Dollhouse" is a lot more like "Firefly" (the place/mission that brings these people together) than it is like "Buffy" or "Angel" (the main character). The show is not called "Echo." And, is there really anyone that thinks that we will not learn more about Boyd and Adelle and Topher and Ballard?

Septimus | February 19, 20:35 CET


You misunderstand the difference I was making between a show that is about a particular character and a show that was conceived as a vehicle for one actor. Buffy and Angel were about those specific characters and as such SMG and DB were usually featured and the story lines revolved around their characters. They were not however, conceived as showcases for SMG and DB. I am sure if either of them had not gotten the airtime or interesting things to do, they would have complained, but the show was not designed for that purpose. The shows were conceived to tell story of the characters.

On the other hand, both Joss and ED have described how Dollhouse was inspired by a discussion of what ED needed to be doing in her career. It was not conceived first and foremost as the story of Echo, but as a way for ED to show off her acting skills. Now that is not necessarily a problem if everything works. If things do not work, however, the one thing they cannot change is making a showcase for ED.

Creating works or characters within works as vehicles for particular actors has been a tradition in show business since individual actors started being recognized by an audience. It has given us some wonderful shows, some great characters and some amazing songs. I don't have a problem with it. I do recognize that this is a different dynamic than we have seen Joss work with in television. Others have done it well, so I see no reason that Joss wouldn't be able to. I am hopeful that future episodes will give me something I can jump on the bandwagon for.

[ edited by newcj on 2009-02-19 22:03 ]
Woodward or Lenk would make the character of Topher far more appealing. But Franz can't seem to get the lines out of his mouth without stumbling on them.
Didn't Joss say to Eliza something along the lines of "The first thing you need is an ensemble"?
I wonder if we'll hear a different tune once we're discussing the season finale in a couple of months time.
Newcj, I understand what you're saying about Dollhouse as a vehicle for a single actor. I guess I just don't see its origin from Joss's belief in and desire to do something good for Eliza as necessarily hampering the show. That may be where it began, but that doesn't dictate where it will end up, does it? Why is it that "the one thing they cannot change is making a showcase for ED?" I don't see why the focus couldn't shift away from her as the series progresses. (Knowing Joss, he could kill her off!)
I wish I'd said everything Septimus said at 20:35 CET.

The "where's the funny" seems particularly off for fans of both Angel and Firefly--man, there are plenty of episodes of both of those (well, proportionally speaking in the latter case) that go into dark, dark territory. Joss can (and will, later) bring the funny, but he's as much about bringing the pain and the creepy moral relativity. Me, I'm hooked. Hooked enough to take me all the way to episode 13 and, I hope, beyond.
I'll have to see a few more episodes of Dollhouse before I can tell which characters I like and dislike.
I don't think Topher is supposed to be lovable. He's creepy, and intentionally so. More like Warren than Andrew in the creepiness.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2009-02-19 23:12 ]
Really? Topher doesn't rape and murder people... Sure wiping away people's brains isn't very nice, but it ain't the same as murdering. Besides he's a humanitarian!
I wonder if we'll hear a different tune once we're discussing the season finale in a couple of months time.


I suspect this will be the case with a lot of folks.
Removing people's memories is sort of like killing them.
Well, that's what Agent Ballard says, at least.
Word, Simon. ;)

Re: Topher & humor

I don't think he is as easy to hate as other people are claiming. Yes, he carries with him an edge that is put-off-ish, but the man is an artist. I find Topher's humor to be one of confusion for the person laughing at it. He said many memorable lines, but because of his delivery you wonder if you should be laughing at it. The same goes with Paul Ballard. If you were in the room when Topher says, "I bet it was something GREAT," would you have laughed? I would not have, if I were in the room. But, being comfortable on my couch, I enjoyed my chuckle.

It kind of reminds me of racist jokes for some reason. The "2 Jews walk into a bar..." or the "blonde in the MM factory" kind of thing. You may enjoy them (& laugh), but probably shouldn't.

Kranz does a great job with Topher. Any uncomfortableness I find with the character is because I find it in myself.
but the man is an artist

He's programming people who've been forced into human trafficking to go have sex with people - any people, Adelle chooses, not the Active - and then erases the evidence. He also tools them up for murder.

I like Topher as a character, and, hell, I'd like to go and have a beer with him. But, you know, he's complicit in something not only illegal, but - yes - with the murder and properties of rape.
snot: "The "where's the funny" seems particularly off for fans of both Angel and Firefly--man, there are plenty of episodes of both of those (well, proportionally speaking in the latter case) that go into dark, dark territory."

Yes there was plenty of darkness, but I don't really see the connection between darkness and humor. Dexter is quite dark a show, but one of the funniest on tv. The Sandman comics I'm reading right now get pretty dark sometimes soon, but they're funny as hell. There always was room for jokes in both Firefly, Angel and Buffy and I also think there will be plenty in Dollhouse.

That said I think we're almost completely on the same page, I too believe

SteppeMerc: "people thinking that tv viewers are all stupid people who want easy to follow light hearted vapid entertainment"

I don't think humorous or even light hearted entertainment has to be equal to stupid. The West Wing was humorous and even light hearted (most of the time) but also IMO an example of smart television.

Kris: "gave Deadwood a try and their chief complaint (sometimes their only complaint) was that the language was "too salty for my ears"/swearing too harsh."

Thanks for reminding me of Deadwood. Never watched an episode, but I think I'll like it. I do kinda get people being put off a show in that way, though.
I was disgusted by the way Dexter butchered his victims so much, that I almost stopped watching after the pilot. Luckily my brother wasn't such a softy and kept pressing this was really good. What I guess I was trying to say I get how those kind of things (since swearing and murder are, ofcourse, more or less on the same page,;)) could put someone of at first.
Removing people's memories is sort of like killing them.

Re: Topher as Warren

Topher sees wiping memories (or killing them) as the "minor broken eggs" needed to make a masterful omelet. And, even though he's earned "bragging rights" to his skillful hand at developing an imprintable memory, he doesn't use this to his own devise. The mission and the work are what matters, and he cares for his art on the field. He worries about Echo when she reacts to the child-napper. He "watches" over Echo with Boyd, who is her Handler. And, what I see as a key item, is that Topher does NOT wipe Echo when her mission has "failed". Remember, Boyd was running to the chamber to stop Topher, but Topher made the call to not "wipe" Echo because he knew that she could save the little girl.

Warren would not care about the little girl. At any moment we saw Warren, HE was priority, and there was no charity work. Topher essentially did charity work, even when the mission had "failed". That's compassion, in my opinion. That's why I think he can't be all that bad... even if he is a bit more open about his stance.
If you were in the room when Topher says, "I bet it was something GREAT," would you have laughed? I would not have, if I were in the room. But, being comfortable on my couch, I enjoyed my chuckle.

God, I found that line so creepy. It was so smugly patronizing and showed such a complete inability to empathize with the pathos of Echo's situation: her baffled but only half-conscious confusion that she has an injury but can't remember how it occurred. It was classic use of the joke as an instrument of exclusion and as a way of marking superiority (only Topher could possibly understand what was 'funny' about the joke--to Echo it's just 'go away and stop bothering me' noise). Any halfway decent person would have said "oh, you poor thing" or "well go with the doctor and I'm sure she'll make it all better" or something.

That said, I think there's potential for him to be the character that undergoes the most interesting long-arc development. Or he could just become the evil 'core' of the Dollhouse project.
I think it's already been established that this show won't be funny but more of a straight drama. I can deal with that as long as the show is interesting.
but Topher made the call to not "wipe" Echo because he knew that she could save the little girl.

Hmmm, maybe. My reading of that was that he'd received a call from DeWitt telling him to stop. I mean...why rely on sending some guy running through the building rather than just pick up the phone and call?
I think it's already been established that this show won't be funny but more of a straight drama. I can deal with that as long as the show is interesting.

Actually Joss (and others) have said a lot about later episodes being humorous.
There always was room for jokes in both Firefly, Angel and Buffy and I also think there will be plenty in Dollhouse.

"Always"? I think there are episodes of all of them--and episodes that are greatly beloved--that have very, very little humor in them. And, of course, the little touches of throwaway humor get a lot easier once the characters and their histories are established. I mean, in a pretty heavy episode like "Orpheus" you can have Angel selecting Barry Manilow on the juke box, and it's hilarious--but only because we have all those previous references to draw on. For someone watching that episode cold, would they think the show was particularly funny? And that's by no means the "bleakest" episode of Angel out there.
To go back a bit, are the actives really forced into it? It seemed that Caroline had a choice... not a very good one, but it didn't seem she was picked up off the street and had her mind wiped. Maybe that's what happened to some of the others, but I didn't see the evidence for it.

Not that what they're doing is right though. Obviously is squicky, and amoral. But is it immoral? They do do some good (more so with helping the girl and slaughtering the kidnappers than making a date for the weird racer guy).
Not that what they're doing is right though. Obviously is squicky, and amoral. But is it immoral? They do do some good (more so with helping the girl and slaughtering the kidnappers than making a date for the weird racer guy).

Well, I think that's exactly the question that Joss wants us to be asking--and being troubled about not being able to answer decisively. So...score one to Mr. Whedon.
Well, we know from the promos Echo can be a lover, saint, assassin... Murder is murder; it's immoral no matter the context, to me. That said, can Echo and the gang make an amazing difference to lives? Yes.
Any halfway decent person would have said "oh, you poor thing" or "well go with the doctor and I'm sure she'll make it all better" or something.

Which is why, snot, I also said:

I find Topher's humor to be one of confusion for the person laughing at it. He said many memorable lines, but because of his delivery you wonder if you should be laughing at it.

And then followed up with an exclusionistic example:

It kind of reminds me of racist jokes for some reason. The "2 Jews walk into a bar..." or the "blonde in the MM factory" kind of thing. You may enjoy them (& laugh), but probably shouldn't.

snot: God, I found that line so creepy. It was so smugly patronizing and showed such a complete inability to empathize with the pathos of Echo's situation: her baffled but only half-conscious confusion that she has an injury but can't remember how it occurred.

I agree. Echo isn't a person right now; she's a tool that he uses to complete his mission. She's the canvas on which he paints. You can't have feelings for a canvas. (or can you?- the response that the show is shooting for)

But for a work of art, now THAT you can have feelings for. That masterpiece moves you in a way to like it, hate it, etc... I think Topher views Echo in the same fashion- she's a canvas until she's imprinted; then she becomes a masterpiece to empathize with. JUST as he did with Echo & the asthma- those fears about the kidnapper reflected in his art, which he was able to worry with.

Which, I think holds the main difference between Boyd & Topher. Boyd feels for the "canvas", while Topher does not. But, they both want to be successful in their mission, and not damage their "masterpiece". I saw a level of understanding pass between them when Topher did not wipe Echo; they had reached a common ground.

gossi: Is murder still murder if you kill a terrorist or a murderer?
I was wondering the sme thing korkster. Arguably it is, but then so I would argue is what Buffy and Angel did, though more on the lighter side of grey, since even though the demons may do bad things, we've seen time and time again that not all are bad, and indeed some are far better than many humans. This sort of grey morality thing is why I have a great deal of respect for Joss, and I'm glad his shows after Buffy have dealt with them in a manner that makes a bit more sense to me (I never got the whole kill no humans thing in Buffy at all).

Of course anyone who wants to ignore my views on right or wrong is certainly free too, since one of my main heroes is Chinggis Khan...
Well, heroes aside, SteppeMerc, I agree with you on the "good demons" thing too. Which we had started to see a bit of in Angel with Gunn's gang killing random demons... but the question seemed to shy away after a bit.

The murder of murderers on Dexter has really opened my eyes to what I think rightful punishment is. And none of it sits comfortably, because there's no sense to know that what you do is right. I guess the part-Texan in me who grew up in a "protect your own" and "eye for an eye" thing has to find a way to co-exist with the "protection of humanity" side. I guess, for me, it comes down to choice. If you know the consequences, and choose your path with that knowledge, then be prepared for the consequences. The severity of the punishment doesn't affect me.
But for a work of art, now THAT you can have feelings for. That masterpiece moves you in a way to like it, hate it, etc... I think Topher views Echo in the same fashion- she's a canvas until she's imprinted; then she becomes a masterpiece to empathize with. JUST as he did with Echo & the asthma- those fears about the kidnapper reflected in his art, which he was able to worry with.

Yeah--that's beautifully put. I can completely see that--although in a way it makes the moments where Topher is most human in the pilot less likable. Is he empathizing with "Ellie" or is he caught up in the intricacy of his design? I hope there'll be some Prospero quotations in his future (and given Joss's obvious interest in The Tempest I imagine there could well be)--or the Duke from "Measure for Measure."
Is murder still murder if you kill a terrorist or a murderer?

Yes, unless you have no other way of stopping them from committing murder. Vigilantism isn't justice. Justice is an impersonal action taken on behalf of the social order as a whole. Vigilantism is "are you talking to me" self-aggrandizement.
Newcj, I understand what you're saying about Dollhouse as a vehicle for a single actor. I guess I just don't see its origin from Joss's belief in and desire to do something good for Eliza as necessarily hampering the show.

I did not say that it would automatically hamper the show, only that it raised a concern in me. After having seen the first episode, the concern got larger. I actually pointed out that there have been many successful shows, characters and songs written to show off the talents of particular actors and singers.

That may be where it began, but that doesn't dictate where it will end up, does it? Why is it that "the one thing they cannot change is making a showcase for ED?" I don't see why the focus couldn't shift away from her as the series progresses. (Knowing Joss, he could kill her off!)

Septimus | February 19, 22:29 CET


Actually the fact that ED is a producer of the series with Joss and that this show is part of a production deal that ED has with Fox dictates that she will have a much bigger say in where it ends up and what it is than actors have had in past Whedon shows. I am also guessing that because of that Joss cannot kill her off or fire her anymore than she can probably fire him.

To go back a bit, are the actives really forced into it? It seemed that Caroline had a choice... not a very good one, but it didn't seem she was picked up off the street and had her mind wiped. Maybe that's what happened to some of the others, but I didn't see the evidence for it.

SteppeMerc | February 20, 00:19 CET


She was given the kind of choice anyone being coerced has. Do what I want or something bad will happen to you. She said straight out that she did not want to do it. That is the thing that makes the show most disappointing for me. To my mind it colors the whole show in a really foul light much the same as if it took place in any whorehouse in which the prostitutes were forced into prostitution. It is not a place where I find ambiguity.

I wonder if we'll hear a different tune once we're discussing the season finale in a couple of months time.

Simon | February 19, 22:17 CET


I hope so Simon! I am practicing a bunch of different tunes and hope to be singing some of the happy ones long before the finale. ;-)
Justice is an impersonal action taken on behalf of the social order as a whole.

How does that account for our legal lethal injections? Bombings of potential terrorist facilities?

I guess it depends on your view of the "social order as a whole". Does that only include the United States? Rwanda? Your city? Your daughter? Your... Dollhouse?

What order system do you choose? Who's rules are you willing to play by because that social order matters to you?

Ms. Penn's social order was limited to helping the girl. Which she did, at the cost of several murder-rapist-potentials. Sierra killed those people because she could not asses an alternative to protect the girl without more information (which she did not have). She made a choice, killed the men, but in her social order, justice was served in protecting the girl.

When a serial killer it tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, we're killing that person. We have no way to know for SURE that they'll do it again, but we know that it is possible (even probable) that they will continue, so their execution is considered "just". But that "just" is earned by the lines we've drawn ourselves in the legal system. A way to convince us that it is the right thing.

But human beings decided those rules. They aren't perfect, and there have been mistakes. I guess it only matters if you choose to accept those rules and live here as a citizen. If not, you have the choice to find another place with rules you better agree with.
But for a work of art, now THAT you can have feelings for. That masterpiece moves you in a way to like it, hate it, etc... I think Topher views Echo in the same fashion- she's a canvas until she's imprinted; then she becomes a masterpiece to empathize with. JUST as he did with Echo & the asthma- those fears about the kidnapper reflected in his art, which he was able to worry with.

I don't have anything to add, I just wanted to say that I think this was wonderfully put, gives incredible insight into the character, and fits perfectly with what was shown on screen. So, good job.
This discussion makes me flash back to the episode in B5 where mindwiping where used as a alternative to the death penalty, the old personality was 'killed' and a new personality implanted to let the 'person' keep working to pay back to humanity for his/her crimes, perhaps this is a business Adelle should aim for ?

The following episodes will have to show in which direction the Topher character is taken but I've thoroughly enjoyed following many a character with a limited supply of ethics like Jim Profit and characters like that can make for excellent stories.
It's fun to read everyone's opinions, but I get concerned when people seem so disapointed that they won't be watching. We waited so long for a Whedon show; I think Dollhouse deserves a chance to WOW us. I was just remembering my feelings after watching the other various Whedon show pilots.

When I first saw the Buffy pilot I felt it was cheesy but fun and had possibilities, so I continued watching. (David Boreanaz was also hot - yes I can be shallow!) Somewhere along the line I became addicted - I made an effort to be home to watch every episode but true addiction might not have happened until season 2.

When I watched the Angel pilot I was already sold - Angel had been on Buffy steady for 3 seasons, so it was a no brainer that I would be watching. It had the benefit of being a spinoff show.

When I saw the Firefly pilot I felt it had possibilities but I didn't fall in love with Firefly until the Shindig episode - then when I went back and rewatched the earlier episodes I enjoyed them more.

Now I watch Dollhouse - and I feel very similar as I did with Firefly - it has possiblities and I will watch. At some point I expect to become addicted.
Justice is an impersonal action taken on behalf of the social order as a whole.

How does that account for our legal lethal injections? Bombings of potential terrorist facilities?

I guess it depends on your view of the "social order as a whole". Does that only include the United States? Rwanda? Your city? Your daughter? Your... Dollhouse?

What order system do you choose? Who's rules are you willing to play by because that social order matters to you?


You're seriously asking if every illegal organization has the right to decide it's own code of morals and its own set of laws? That there's no identifiable difference between a gangland hit and legal execution, between, say, 9/11 and D-Day?

Legal lethal injections are actions taken on the part of society as a whole. Military actions, similarly, must be authorized by the duly appointed representatives of the state. They are not acts of revenge or of vigilantism. That is why we don't put soldiers in prison if they kill innocent people during those missions--although the soldier would be punished if he killed those exact same people for reasons of his own. That is why lynch-mobs are wrong regardless of whether or not the person lynched is guilty.

You can, just, make an argument in defense of Sierra's actions in "Ghost," though. I think it was ethically wrong of the Dollhouse not to hand the whole thing over to the Feds at the moment everything went wrong (and, really, there was no special magic that Ellie brought to the negotiation or to the search after her massive asthma attack at the dock that the Feds couldn't have done equally well). But once Sierra's in the situation of being outside that house and hearing gunshots, she has a fair justification for going in, shooting first, and asking questions later.

But in no way would that be because she's meting out "justice." Surely not even most Americans--who like their justice pretty savage--would think that the death penalty was appropriate in the case of a kidnapping-for-ransom?
I'm interested to see so many people have a problem with a lack of humour in the pilot, because I had the opposite reaction. I felt that what humour there was seemed out of place in what was apparently supposed to be a dark, serious drama. I must say that I sometimes had the same reaction to "Angel", and clearly this sort of thing is a Whedon trademark, as he mentioned above: "There's no way I'm going to make a show that doesn't have some silly." So I guess I'm going to have to learn to accept it if I want to enjoy this series.

I'm not saying that I don't like humour in a serious drama. But I want it to be naturalistic, i.e. to be behaviour that is credible for real people. In the case of BSG--to take an example already mentioned--I think the humour is credible. True, Gaius Baltar's behaviour has occasionally verged on silly. But I think it can just about be explained naturalistically as eccentricity.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just the humorous dialogue that struck me as not credible in "Ghost". There was a lot else. (I won't make a list. If you don't agree, that's fine with me.) That wasn't a problem for a show like Buffy, which didn't set out to be completely realistic (though I like to think it had emotional realism). But according to Joss, "[Dollhouse] is a dramatic thriller where it's very important people invest in the reality of the thing, and the reality of the thing is dark." I'm finding it impossible to invest in the reality of Dollhouse so far. OK, it's still early days. But it's not a promising start in this respect.
P.S. Maybe Joss's plan is to start off with some relatively light episodes, all the better to shock us with a dark whammy later.

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