In the present day (circa 2010) the Rossum Corporation controls a series of facilities called Dollhouses. Located within are what are called “Actives” – programmable people whose identities are wiped at the end of every mission and who are reprogrammable. Despite this parts of their personality start to persist and they begin to plot the downfall of the Rossum Corporation.
Echo was an unwitting entrant into the Dollhouse program. She was previously known as Caroline Farrell and she studied at Los Angeles University. She seeks revenge on the Rossum Corporation for its role in the animal testing but then her boyfriend Leo is seemingly killed. She thereafter is eventually captured after an attempt to set off explosives in a Rossum Corporation lab and she is turned into one of the dolls.
The character is set in the near future world based on the television series Dollhouse. The television series was based on a concept put forward by Joss Whedon and series star Eliza Dushku who had worked together previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and to whose likeness Eliza lent her own appearance to the Buffy character Faith.) The concept behind the characters was similar to Dushku’s experience as an actress, only put into a science fiction setting. The characters were introduced in comics in the series Dollhouse: Epitaphs. The series bears the same name as the final and unaired episode of the series, though the context of the two is not identical. Echo is the only regular cast member of the television series to continue in the comic series.
Throughout the course of the series the character begins to reassert her own personality through her own tenaciousness. The wiping of the character’s minds becomes increasingly less complete as more and more parts are left behind.
Major Story Arcs
Dollhouse Television Series
Most of the early developments in the Dollhouse television series have little bearing on the developments in the later episodes. In these Echo is shown to be a Doll (and the #1) who can still fight her way past the previous imprints and reassert her personality in certain ways. This is first shown as she groups with other dolls, but later she becomes more and more aware of her developments as she recalls going on each mission. She is eventually kidnapped by Alpha, a psychotic ex-doll that had uploaded a wide range of imprints into his head all at once. He kidnaps Echo and does the same. She is eventually rescued as he escapes, but she is now in complete control of all of her imprints, having all at once figured out how to sort them all out from interfering with one another. Working in tandem with Paul Ballard she is able to fool her handlers that she can do this, though it eventually becomes evident to them. Due to the interference of Senator Perrin she is sent to Washington D.C. where an old friend of hers, Bennett Halverson, is the house programmer. She still holds a grudge against Echo for a seeming betrayal years ago when the two tried to blow up a Rossum lab together. Echo let herself be captured and made it appear as though Bennett was an innocent bystander. Now Bennett exacts her revenge and using technology from Topher Brink she can do remote wipes without the need of the chair. She remotes wipes Echo, but Echo still escapes. She is initially unable to retain any of her skills and is essentially a helpless doll, but after a few months she regains control over every personality to which she was exposed. He returns to the dollhouse in Los Angeles and after a few other missions, she is placed into the Attic alongside Victor and Sierra. It is revealed finally the true purpose of the attic, the people there are harvested for their brainpower in a large worldwide computer mainframe. Echo escapes with her colleagues and asks to be loaded with Caroline Farrell, her original personality. She no longer identifies with this personality, so she has reservations about doing so. In the meantime while she had been absent, Topher Brink had created a device which can do both a remote wipe and imprint and they determine that with this technology that the world will end in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Pretty much every member of the Los Angeles dollhouse goes to Tucson (where Rossum HQ is) to put a stop to the machinations of the corporation. Here they discover that it was Echo’s original handler that was pulling the string all along and who was in charge of the corporation. He wanted Echo to be able to fight through the programming as he knew in doing so that her body would reconfigure itself to the programming. He meant all along to harvest her for her spinal fluid from which a cure could be found. The team also discover that Rossum is trying to mass produce Topher’s device for a weapon, intent both on bringing about the post-apocalyptic scenario as well as wanting to hold the key to stopping it. Eventually Boyd himself is wiped, and left to blow up Rossum HQ with all the information inside. As the team from Los Angeles escapes they are certain that they have stopped the apocalypse, though the final scene of the series shows otherwise.
Epitaphs Comic Series
The chaos alluded to in the final scene of the television show is described in the comic series. Their attempt to stop Rossum was unsuccessful as at one point Rossum unleashed a massive call sequence to people with a wipe and imprint wave over telephones. This made anyone that picked up the phone into what is called a butcher, mostly a mindless killer similar to a zombie. A small group of survivors (Griff, Mag and Zone) lead an attack against a radio tower which is being used to broadcast successive control messages from Rossum. Meanwhile, Ivy (one of Topher’s asistants from the television series) has managed to remote imprint herself on people and they aim to create a new army alongside a reformed Alpha who must still wrestle with the many people inside his mind. Their attempt to create an army fails as only one subject for mental upgrades can make his way to be imprinted (a boy by the name of Trevor) but they know that they must find Echo in order to stop the apocalypse. They set off first to her last known location (Washington D.C.) but they intercept another Rossum mindwipe along the way (part of which Alpha receives turning him more crazy again.) They learn instead that they have to go to Tucson to find Echo. They journey there and find first Paul Ballard and then Echo. She cannot help them immediately, but instead Ivy figures out how to reverse the Rossum signal. While the others are in Los Angeles and about ready to blow the tower, one of the many Ivy imprints calls them and tells them to broadcast a different signal which reduces those that here it to dumbshows (essentially unprogrammed dolls.) Echo takes Trevor with her and prepares to go into a giant dystopian dollhouse run by the Rossum corporation in Neuropolis (their name for Tucson.)
Television Series Epitaphs Episodes
The television series released two episodes (which were never broadcast) detailing the end of the post-apocalyptic landscape. The remaining survivors led by Griff, Mag and Zone find the Los Angeles dollhouse and former doll Whiskey there. They are seeking a place called Safe Haven which the Ivy had relayed to them. One of the people with them is a little girl, who is unknown to them a butcher, only a more controlled one. She successively kills off the others (including Griff) and demands to be made into someone else, but instead the remaining few real people capture her and put her in the chair where they imprint her with the Echo backup. The little girl now essentially becomes Echo and can lead them into the Safe Haven. At the beginning of the second part of this story, the three survivors are captured and taken to Neuropolis where they are freed by Echo and Ballard. Echo and Ballard were not there for them though, they were there to save Topher Brink, who has by now figured out the cure to the Rossum mindwipes, and can theoretically return the entire world to who they were before. The only problem is that they must return to the dollhouse in Los Angeles for the technology to do so. They are eventually successful in returning although Ballard is killed. Echo has issues with this as she never told him that she loved him. They also rediscover Alpha there, who had turned the dollhouse into a refuge for dumbshows. Those that want to save their memories such as Echo, Sierra (Priya) and Victor (Tony) have to remain underground for a year. The others are led to the surface to have their memories restored. Among them is the little girl that had been programmed with Echo. Topher sacrifices his life to manually detonate the shockwave which I successful. His last present to Echo is that he has backed up Paul Ballard and that she can imprint him into her own mindframe, now reunited with her true love the only way possible.
Power and Abilities
Echo is one of the most effective Actives (or dolls) from the dollhouse in receiving imprinted identities. It is soon revealed that she has the ability to retrieve the information from her imprints even after she has been mind wiped. At first this information comes in parcels, as she remains in her doll state and has flashbacks, but later she figures out how to activate it by herself. As Alpha had once kidnapped her and imprinted her with over 40 imprints as well as many others which she has access to, she therefore has a wide range of abilities which she can draw on - acrobatics, escape artistry, computer hacking, advanced medical knowledge, crime scene investigation and criminal profiling.
Before receiving "Alpha architecture" which makes her able to be imprinted, she was Caroline, a young woman with a passion for societal change. This took extreme measures, in what she herself described as terrorist activities including sabotage, infiltration and weapon use. Throughout her entire exposure she has been shown to be an effective hand-to-hand combatant though this has improved significantly with her access to other imprints. Equally she was skilled with conventional firearms before but has had her skills elevated to a high level beyond that.
In the post-apocalyptic scenario she shows her adaptability as Echo as she becomes skilled at survival in the harsh environment as well as an effective leader.
In the Epitaphs story line she is immune to the effects of mind transferal and thus acts as one of the few standing against the post-apocalyptic environment.
The character was one which was much more popular during her run as the main character on the television show Dollhouse. This series ran for 27 episodes over two seasons. As it relates to the comics though, each season contained an episode named Epitaphs (part one and two respectively by season) on which the comics were primarily based (though the basis also came from the series as a whole.) These episodes were never shown on television and were only made available on the DVD/Blu Ray box sets versions of the show.