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Dollhouse - Season One - television series DVD / drama DVD / sci-fi DVD / thriller DVD review
DOLLHOUSE: SEASON ONE Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Eliza Dushku, Olivia Williams, Harry Lennix, Amy Acker, Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz
Creator: Joss Whedon   Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
DVD release: 28 July 2009   Runtime: 641 minutes
(4 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish, Portugese), 12 first season episodes, Audio commentary (Joss Whedon, Eliza Dushku, Maurissa Tancharoen), Never-before-seen episode "Epitaph One," Original unaired pilot - "Echo", Deleted scenes, Making Dollhouse, Coming Back Home, Finding Echo, Designing the Perfect Dollhouse, A Private Engagement

Joss Whedon is known for many things as a creator, but the ability he is most beloved for by fans is creating characters that matter to his viewers. In the new show Dollhouse, he has done it again - mostly. This one is as much a commentary on the destructive and greedy tendencies of man as it is sheer eye candy and action-oriented entertainment.

Adelle DeWitt runs an underground operation known as the Dollhouse, available to ridiculously wealthy clients who have very specific needs. The "volunteers" are young men and women whose personalities are wiped and saved remotely, leaving an empty shell of a human to be filled with anything that is wanted or needed. The dolls, or Actives, can be imprinted with anything at all: religious fanatic, heist expert or, quite often, the perfect romantic partner for a weekend fantasy.

The concept of the show seems both familiar and novel - an interesting feeling for a brand-new television series. Dollhouse might put one in the mindset of The Pretender or Alias, but it layers so deeply as to become entirely its own creature. It is believable as well, which adds an aspect of the scary. Technology like that employed in the Dollhouse is one that we can easily believe might be coming into our world very soon. It is compelling and gradually grows ever more complicated. We ease into this new world with the first three episodes, but even before we know it - as we greedily gobble the meager amount of episodes up - we are caught up in a world of confusion, betrayal, and moral ambiguity.

As one has come to expect from a Whedon show, we get to see familiar faces from his other work in the Dollhouse. Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) stars front and center as Echo, a girl who used to be Caroline before these people got a hold of her. Amy Acker is also seen again - a viewer favorite from Angel. The rest of the cast is top-notch and proves that it is okay to set the highest expectations, at least when it is a show from him.

Fran Kranz as the Topher - boy tech genius behind the Actives - is incredible. Enver Gjokaj stars as one of the actives, and his flowing from one mood and personality to another is seamless. Harry Lennix, Tahmoh Penikett, Olivia Williams, Dichen Lachman, Miracle Laurie - all were hand-chosen and are entirely well suited. Eliza Dushku is a surprisingly gifted actress. As the other slayer, she was never terribly impressive. Copping an attitude just ain't that tough. I underestimated her by a long way. She juggles many, many varying roles and imprints with ease. Each role, each new person she is puzzled together to become, truly seems like who she really is.

The sets are complex enough to be an honored character. The Dollhouse itself, which houses all of the Actives, their handlers, the doctor, and various other staff members, is a genius structure (Joss Whedon provides a tour in the assortment of extras offered). On the other hand, the music must also be noted. It is used effectively to truly enhance any given scene. The song "Lonely Ghosts" in episode eight ("Needs") was an inspired choice, to the point of goosebumps.

"We come up with anything new, we destroy, manipulate, control. It's human nature." Paul Ballard, FBI agent searching for the girl who became the doll Echo, sums up a main theme in Dollhouse. Topher makes a statement that illustrates the comedic overtones randomly tossed in to flavor the show - it isn't all doom and gloomy. "This is an awesome gig. This is cutting-edge science in a house full of hot girls." Sometimes, amidst all the conspiracies, the moral angst and the fear, a good giggle sneaks up.

The final chapter of Dollhouse for season one is a bit of an experiment. It is a big wrap-up, but also a slight letdown. Still, it sets up so many questions and possibilities - and potentially series-fatal pitfalls - that it naturally draws viewers hungrily into needing season two. Unexpected revelations and twists demand more screen time. Dollhouse has a rich and potentially elaborate mythos with talented actors, and it deserves to be expanded.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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