Remaking Dollhouse is not the same as remaking Lost because Dollhouse is already a good show. Great, maybe. It was a two season sci-fi show that never seemed to get a lot of attention, potentially because everyone was still pining for Joss Whedon’s previous project Firefly, also unceremoniously cancelled by Fox who, just like your methed-out second cousin, made destroying its own stuff a habit. The only thing I think it really suffers from is being made about ten years too early, for one very explicit reason:
Wait. Spoilers from here on out, so if you still want to watch Dollhouse without knowing much about it go on over to Hulu. Here’s a lovely picture of a chocobo to act as a safe page break:
Okay, anyway, one very explicit reason:
The core concept of Dollhouse is beyond fucked up, and Dollhouse fucking knows it.
For anyone still reading who hasn’t seen it, Dollhouse is about a company – the Rossum Corporation – that has developed the technology to strip people down to their basic mental and emotional functions (‘Actives’ or ‘Dolls’) and then rebuild that person to any specification requested by someone with the money for it. Now, these dolls are volunteers, typically approached when they are at their lowest, mentally and emotionally. One doll was suffering from wartime PTSD, and another had just lost their baby. You know. Like how a cult recruits. And then anything that makes them them is stripped away until they’re a human shell with the mental capacity of a five year old and then some big shot with money decides they want someone to, say, be that willing-to-fuck-for-an-A student that doesn’t exist in real life and that human shell is programmed to be that person for a few hours.
Already, this is critically fucked up. This is just prostitution with extra steps, with a couple heaping dashes of slavery tossed in, ‘volunteers’ my ass. And the thing is, if this had been made about ten to twenty years earlier, I can picture a scenario where this show airs and they never even begin to discuss how bad it is. You have your main character, Echo, and each week she can get into a different adventure as a different person with a different skill set. She’s a photographer to the stars! She’s a spy! Uh-oh, she’s been KIDNAPPED! Two or three seasons of client-of-the-week, a few sad attempts at a two or three episode arc, and then its unceremoniously canceled after a tepid cliffhanger. A decade later budding internet writers look back on an off-beat childhood favorite and begin writing articles about how, when you think about it, what was being done to the Dolls was, like, objectively evil and they never even addressed it in the show, man.
To be honest, the first season isn’t too far off from there. Sure, there’s an overarching plot, but it’s mostly about an FBI agent who’s essentially turned Echo into a princess he has to rescue, and any time they begin to approach the darker aspects of the concept they turn away pretty quickly. There are plenty of characters and plot points referencing how this is essentially some advanced formed of prostitution, but these are usually self-contained and fairly glib. And then came the season finale.
“Epitaph One” unceremoniously shoots ahead ten years into the future to show that the technology at the heart of the dollhouses ended the fucking world. Just a full blown apocalypse. Disastertown, population: these guys. It stopped just short of the writers coming on screen and saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we know it’s fucked up. Wait, you think the worst thing that could happen with this kind of technology is prostitution? Oh, honey.’
While the second season goes back to the original timeline, it doesn’t let up on plumbing the dark, gross depths of what could actually happen if this technology was developed and controlled by sociopaths because of course sociopaths would control this shit. And when I say I want Dollhouse remade I’m really talking about season two. The second season had a smaller budget and then got cancelled, and you can tell how chained down the show is because of it. I want the show to be able to go even deeper into the madness. I don’t want some limp-dick, vapors-having sad sack coughing into his ascot while reading the scripts and crossing stuff out because the advertisers aren’t going to like it. I want whatever psychopaths are approving shit for Amazon and Netflix and wherever to look at that fucked up shit and scream ‘Radical!’ over their unicorn Frappuccino before throwing themselves out a window to wingsuit their way to their bicycles made of tubas. Whoever approves shit like The Boys and Love, Sex, and Robots, get them some spec scripts and let’s get weird.
I don’t mean I want more graphic sex scenes, and I’m looking at you Game of Thrones people. Because, as I stated before, the sex isn’t actually the worst you could do with this kind of technology. My worst fear is someone like HBO or Amazon getting the rights and just turning it into soft core porn. What I want is…okay, so there’s this season two episode called Stop-Loss where the aforementioned doll who signed up due to PTSD is released and – surprise – he still has PTSD, and then he’s grabbed by some other Rossum division called Scytheon that’s essentially What if Blackwater, but hivemind? Once you’re in, you’re in, and you don’t get to make your own decisions anymore. The episode as it stands now feels incredibly rushed with absolutely no time to breathe and actually explore the fuckery inherent. That episode needs to be remade and expanded upon, without some kiddie-shit network holding it back.
Which is, essentially, the thesis to this entire…whatever. Dollhouse is fucked up, but it could be more fucked up if it just had the right platform, and I am here for it.