Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon
Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon

Dollhouse can be best described as Joe 90 on speed. Joe 90 was a Gerry Anderson puppet series in the 1970s where a young boy could have implanted the knowledge of, say, a brain surgeon or an aircraft pilot to carry out missions. With Dollhouse being from Joss Wheadon and a live-action 2009 series things have gotten a little more complicated, and a little darker….

Not only is the overriding plot challenging to follow so is the series’ production and transmission! The series started with a pilot which was abandoned and not shown but used throughout the series in flashbacks. Fox had commissioned 13 episodes but  counted the pilot as one of those episodes, but never showed it. The production company,  with commitments had to make 13 episodes, after the pilot! Fox showed the series from February discounting the original pilot and finished the run with the twelfth episode Omega. The thirteenth episode, Epitaph One, was not shown the States however in other countries around the world, including the UK, the stations had bought al 13 episodes and so Epitaph One was shown.

At Comic Con (early July 2009) Joss Wheadon announced the USA DVD release of the ‘missing’ episode. Then on 31st July 2009 at the Television Critics Association meeting Film Review Online reporter Judy Sloane was there to hear his latest news on the series, starting with a joke…

<B>Dollhouse<B>  Echo (Eliza Dushku) in the final season one episode <I>Epitaph One</I>
Dollhouse Echo (Eliza Dushku)

The incredibly brilliant Joss Whedon could not be here today I am here instead. Soon I will bring out the cast to you. But since we are in the middle of filming, some of them are getting ready so I thought I would start out with a song. No, not with a song, but to first of all to welcome you back to the biggest surprise of my career, our season two. You know when I was a small boy, I don’t actually have anything about being a small boy, but what can I say I really didn’t expect to be sitting here again for a while. This has been like skiing in a cartoon where you go up the mountain and down the mountain and up and down. Right now we are pretty high up on it because we realized that we were actually going to have to work for a living this summer.

The first thing I did was get together with my writers and start talking about what possibilities there were. Particularly after we had made an incredibly strange sort of book end to the show Epitaph One. And what we discovered was that the possibilities were entirely limitless and that we had more excitement and enthusiasm about the show than we did by a country mile last year because we are in it now. Before it was an idea and it was an idea that we had a lot of trouble defining and America got to watch that. And now we feel like it is defined, the network understands what it is we understand what it is we know what our cast is capable of which is wonders. And so we came in just with the most excitement and we been having a great deal of fun ever since.

We are wrapping today right after this the first episode. Starting the second one on Monday. And from Go the mandate has been how far can we take this? How much can we twist the knife? Where can we find alliances that we did not have where can we pull people apart who seem to be together, and most importantly how can we build Echo up from nothing? Which is basically where she started last year and really give her a sense of momentum and purpose that will ground the show in a way that it couldn’t be last year. And that has been sort of our mission statement, was to make things harder for everybody, find ways to bring back all the extraordinary reoccurring actors we had and most importantly let things begin to cohere.

The good news about that is once they do, once Echo starts really realizing that as a person she not only exists and but that she has a mission. That she has something she wants. This year we are going to see the results of everything she went through last year. Particularly the event with Alpha where she was downloaded with all of her personalities. We are going to see what effect that’s had on her and we are going to find her to be a great deal less passive and a great deal more sort of directed in what she wants and that is of course going to make her life a lot harder. And the more she finds out about what is going on around her and the more we find out the creepier it is going to get. Because creepy is what it makes it fun. So welcome to season two.

With Epitaph One coming out on DVD won’t it be confusing for someone who has not seen the series?

Epitaph One did present that particular problem of serving two masters, people who had seen it and people who hadn’t. I am used to that. I made an entire movie that had that problem and only that problem and so we talked about do we want to just go there? Do we want to just forget about it and the answer was that we’re fascinated by that world in its connection to this world that future and all of the things we saw there we will be basically be making the show for both audiences. We will see the future again.

If fact we will see it first thing, we will go back to time as a sort of bookend structure for this first episode. But if you haven’t seen that it will explain itself it will say what that episode said, which is all of this will result in disaster but this is the story order of what happened then so the actual bulk of the show takes place three months after the events of Omega. But we will be visiting that future every now and then. It will not be something where we can change it or where we send people back in time or anybody has metal under their flesh. I love that stuff but apparently that gets you cancelled.

Where you pleased to hear that Fox finished series one with the twelfth episode rather than the thirteenth episode?

Dollhouse Eliza Dusku and Olivia Williams
Dollhouse Eliza Dusku and Olivia Williams

No because when they told me it wasn’t going to air I thought, “Oh well we had been cancelled.” I was disappointed because I thought what we had was a great way to go out. And I was so proud of what we had accomplished I loved that episode and the performances in it from the people we had in the future and from our regular cast in the bits they did where they all got to play a little something they hadn’t played before. I really, really, wanted it to be on and when all of that didn’t happen after a lot of begging and whining on my part I figured well okay that is the death nail it is just not worth it to them so it was a little bit there was a little bit of recalibration it wasn’t a question of panic so much as ok well it is going to be on the DVD it will exist and the true fans will go to it but now it does create the problem of the new viewers versus the old but any season does. We have so many regulars and relationships and so much mythology already around the central premise of this woman can be anyone that this episode has a lot of catching up for any viewer whether or not Epitaph was a part of it. The fact of the matter is the first episode of this season [2] is going to contain a lot of so this is Brooklyn six months have past and in that time I have become King. You know you just have to live with it.

Film Review Online will be coming back to Joss in a few days….

Colin Davies

The editor of Film Review Online