Joss Whedon's Dollhouse seemed like a...weird idea when I first heard about it. Like many, I'm a fan of Whedon's and I enjoyed Eliza Dushku on Buffy (I thought she was less whiney than Buffy). It was just the idea of the 'dolls' or 'actives' having memories implanted into their minds to go on different missions that I questioned. It didn't seem like a bad idea. You could have the ultimate operative. Would the novelty of this work or begin to wear thin after a few episodes?
When the show started, I watched the first couple episode and wasn't overly impressed. It felt like the operatives were almost glorified prostitutes that sometimes went on missions that saved lives. I did have my DVR set for the season and would watch an episode now and then, more out of loyalty to Whedon. The 'crisis of the week' plot started getting a little annoying at times. When word came out about the Blu-ray, I decided I'd watch the rest of the episodes that way. It also gave me the chance to have a little marathon with the episodes.
What I had heard during the season was that things did start picking up in the second half. That was true. I found I didn't care so much for the individual storylines/missions but rather the ongoing subplot of the rogue 'doll,' Alpha that fled the program. Throughout the season, the Dollhouse program was accused of turning the operatives into slaves. The operatives joined the program by choice. They sign a five year contract to allow themselves to become these dolls. Things do get turn on its side at the end of the season. With the announcement that FOX has renewed the series, it makes me wonder what direction they will take the show. There has also been word that the network will allow Whedon to have more control and not give any pressure over what he does.
As for the Blu-ray presentation, I was amazed. I went back and rewatched the episodes I had seen when they aired. It's also nice going back and trying to pick up on the little clues about Alpha and what went down before the series started. With the crisp and clean presentation, I didn't even mind the few moments that the missions felt like they were dragging on.
I did find myself liking the fact that it was a thirteen episode season. I'm not sure how a 20+ episode season would have been. As I mentioned, the idea of the 'dolls' going on their missions got a little old. While it opens the door to put the main characters in different situations each week, there were some that didn't hold my interest. It's good that things get shaken up in the second half of the season to make the show worthy of a second season.
What's interesting about the thirteen episodes is the 'bonus' unaired episode, "Epitaph One" that is inclued. The story behind it is the network wasn't crazy about the pilot episode, stating that it was a bit confusing (and I agree it doesn't give the best introduction in the beginning). The pilot never aired but bits were used in other episodes. The deal was for thirteen episodes and it was questioned whether or not the pilot would count as one. Thus, Whedon produced a thirteenth episode (with a lower budget). It starts out a little slow then gets really crazy. Here's a clip from that episode (only seen on the Blu-ray/DVD) set in the year 2019.
Seeing the apocalyptic future in this episode made me wonder how set in stone it was. Are we seeing the actual fate of some of the characters? Will season 2 play into this or is this simply a possible alternate future?
The special features include commentary for "Epitaph One" (which I did not listen to yet). The original pilot is also included. It runs at 45:47, about four minutes shorter than the rest of the episodes in the season. There are over twenty deleted scenes from various episodes. Featurettes include "Making Dollhouse" (20:48), "Coming Home" (7:11), "Finding Echo" (5:07), "Designing The Perfect Dollhouse" (5:59) and "A Private Engagement" (5:47).
For me, the series would rate about a 3.5 out of 5. Watching it on Blu-ray with all the bonus features raises it to a 4 out of 5. The slower earlier episode brought things down a little for me but things do pick up. I am glad the show has been renewed for a second season. I am curious to see if the Dollhouse will continue to operate the same way and what will happen when we see Alpha again. If you watched the series as it aired, you know this is a show worth watching. The Blu-ray (and DVD) makes it a more convenient experience. The "Epitaph One" and original pilot make it a must buy if you enjoyed the show. The set is on sale now. It came out on July 28, 2009. I do think it's important that shows like this are successful as we need more actual TV entertainment rather than all the reality/competition shows that air.