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May 10 2009

What if everyone in the Dollhouse was an Active? io9 has some intriguing theories regarding the main characters.

The one about Paul is the only one I've ever seriously pondered, especially from the "active from another house" perspective.
Nitpick maybe, but the evidence against Topher being a Doll is that we did see him get stoned, which is the drug's effect on normal people. It is a "true self" kind of expression, but only in the sense that it removes some inhibitions. Dolls feel no effect until they start reliving traumatic memories, which we didn't see with Topher.
Topher makes sense as a doll; with 20+ dollhouses in existence wouldn't it just be easier to imprint the genius mind that created the tech, rather than locate and recruit individual Einsteins to operate the stuff? The only problem with that idea though is that if such a doll were to become self aware then you could end up with another Alpha on your hands. Then again maybe that's why Topher is so neurotic.?
Don't click on the "Annalee" link. No, don't. Really.

Told you.
I was thinking about the same while watching "Omega".. Exception made for the last entry of the article. I'm not, thank you.

(..I'm not, right?!)

I think that someone else among the "civilians" might really turn out to be an active..and about whom,I don't think Topher, but who knows? His own personality is clearly between the imprints, after all, and maybe "his nerdy munchies self" is his true self...!
I've been thinking Adelle might be..Or not.. I'll think about it during next Dollhouse marathon ;-)P.
Boyd and the other handlers also might be, mostly because the Dollhouse might need someone they can completely count on to do that job..and who could they trust more than someone they programmed to be trustworthy?
Ballard? No..I'd find it kind of lame as well..
dreamlogic: "Don't click on the 'Annalee' link. No, don't. Really."


You warned us - but did I listen? Noooooo.

I don't think I'll ever be able to sleep again.

I dunno, this seems to be fanwank of a high order- I mean, really, we've all considered this possibility, right?
I never considered the possibility that everyone was a doll, no.
I considered it but figured it wasn't all that likely. It seems like a much better setup for exploring the grander themes if some people are not Dolls.
Ekk! I could be an active. My mind's always playing tricks on me. Silly brain! Hey, we've been programmed from the start!

Nice try, Simon.

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2009-05-11 06:52 ]
I considered it but figured it wasn't all that likely. It seems like a much better setup for exploring the grander themes if some people are not Dolls.

Yeah... It makes me think of the whole debate over whether Deckard was a replicant or not in Bladerunner.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-05-11 01:12 ]
Wasn't this theory already debunked? With "Gray Hour", the noise only seemed to affect Echo, although it could have been just for her. But "Echoes" showed who and who was not a doll. Especially glaring since Dr. Saunders was mysteriously absent when the drug went into effect. And we know why that was now.

edit: I like how the article even cites "Echoes" as a litmus test for dolls, but ignores that Boyd was also affected the same way.

[ edited by John Darc on 2009-05-11 01:36 ]

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled unbold comments.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-05-11 01:40 ]
That is really strange, b!X

[this post should not be in bold except for b!X]
I'm nothing if not bold.

OMG, I'm nothing.
What was that b!x? I think you fell asleep.
I thought everybody could be a doll cause like ... Joss Whedon show... until the Echoes episode. Maybe Topher isn't a doll but has additional memories/skills implanted. Like Matrix, Brainstorm? Seems you would do that first in experiments and then figure out that it was better to start with an doll like brain.
"One of the "Dollhouse" theories that has bounced around is that some of the staff members are actually actives themselves. And in a place like the Dollhouse, why bother with confidentiality agreements if you can just wipe your employees' memories? But it would be a major pitfall if more than one of the employees also was an active.

WHEDON: "How many layers of unreality can you have? If we make this a lie within a lie within a lie within a lie, people are going to start slapping us. You need to have some touchstone of reality even in this world."
- "Joss Whedon talks game-changer 'Dollhouse' episode" (, 3-18-09
I was wondering where that quote was.
The "Echoes" episode, as others have addressed before me, was Whedon's way of telling us who's a doll and who's not. Dr. Saunders was purposefully absent because he wasn't ready to tell us, but her absence, as it turned out, gave away the truth.

So far as we know, the writers want us to presume that DeWitt, Topher, the now attic-boy Lawrence, and Boyd are not dolls. They are certainly not dolls as they have come to be defined up until now. They were most certainly NOT ever generated using Topher's chair.

These other characters can still be dolls however, from another house. Good writers always leave themselves loopholes like this. It's evident that there's something wrong with Topher's technology. It's new and quirky. If other houses are not using the same exact technology, then it's possible that elsewhere someone is making 'better dolls' that would behave more consistently, even on levels Topher can't detect, or drugs and diseases can't affect.

However, I would argue that from a writing standpoint, if one were to introduce the idea that a human being can be so wiped as to behave on a grey matter level as if they were real so that even Topher couldn't tell the difference, then there's no turning back. Because if you introduce something like this, you're gonna need to explain why it's less commonplace. Maybe it's technology that's more painful to the recipient. Maybe it takes an inordinate amount of resources to accomplish. Maybe it's technology that was used many years ago and has since been replaced by cheaper, more versatile methods.

For example, (pure speculation) Boyd may not be Boyd, but he is SO MUCH Boyd that whoever wiped his original personality had no intention of returning him after a five year plan. There is no backup, and there'd be no way to undo his current personality with Topher's chair. It's like he was hard-coded. Such processes result in a more authentic personality that someone like Topher couldn't detect, but it's irreversible. Maybe it's older, now obsolete technology, but was MUCH more dependable than what Topher's been doing, provided you wanted only one different personality for the rest of the Active's life.

Metaphorically, Topher's chair works like a CDRW. The process used on Boyd would be more akin to grooves in a vinyl record. Furthermore, Boyd's mind is now immune to a 'treatment' from Topher's chair, because only a treatment by whoever made him originally would be able to unlock it. This means that the only way to discover Boyd is a special doll would be to put him in Topher's chair and have it not work.

This is of course pure speculation. We may or may not ever know. Season two could be so much fun. I hope we get to see it.

...with all that said I should add that it was clear Joss Whedon had something in store for Boyd. Something big, but that he was saving it for later in the series. I doubt it would have been so pedestrian as he was a doll. I have my own theories...

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2009-05-11 06:34 ]
It did occur to me during the second-to-last episode that they could all be Dolls, but only on the second viewing when I realized who "Whiskey" was (I completely missed it the first time through). If *she* was an active ... well, then just about anyone could be. I'm still not convinced that the virus was a definitive test for doll-hood. As said by others, writers leave loopholes, and since we don't really know all the rules here, we can't be sure.

As for the layers of unreality, I don't think going to the "everyone at the dollhouse (or, at least, nearly everyone at the Dollhouse) is a doll" place is too far. It's reminiscent of the feeling in the Matrix sequels when you're not sure Neo et al., have actually left the matrix for the real world. Whedon could go to that place if he wants, but it's a boundary condition: beyond that, there be monsters.

These last two episodes sealed the deal for me. Up until then I was just ambivalent about the show. I liked it fine, but was not blown away by it. But when I saw Briar Rose... yeah, I'm definitely loving this show.

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