Television Whitenoise: Dollhouse
The relationship that I have with the work of Joss Whedon is strange – I really like his work but I sometimes forget that I do. I don’t often need to be re-sold on a writer once I have decided that I like their work but for some reason I find myself dragging my hels when it comes to Mr Whedon. Why is this? I think it might just be the attendant hype that comes with everything that he does, and this is not necessarily his fault – it may be true that he brings something new and exciting to the table whenever he puts out a product but it can feel like a full frontal assault when the choir starts singing like the heavenly host with a huge motherfucking PA system. So, I usually wait for the hype to die down and then I go and sit down with the characters and I try to get to know them without all the bullshit flying around. I am glad that I have done it in the past and I am glad I have done it this time. Buffy became a regular feature in my life and I eagerly awaited the next episode; really feeling it when a character had a major life event come crashing down on them. Firefly I watched one episode and wrote it off, which was kind of weird – someone with the DVD box set later talked me into giving it a go and I watched the thing in one straight undiluted run and became evangelical about it, unsure as to why it got axed. It had the potential to be as big as Babylon 5, Farscape, and wasn’t Whedon guaranteed gold? Between that show and this I had the chance to catch Whedon’s run on X-Men and for once, with this new show, it seemed my stupidly rock hard skull got the message. The whole premise of this show is great – sets up so many contraditions for the characters and the audience. Anything that does away with that easy sorting of characters into black hat/white hat dialectics had to be given kudos. The first three episodes take you in pretty deep, pretty fast and they seem to be showing you a lot of the workings of this machine, making you feel as if you may know a bit more of what is going on than the main characters – which is true of at least of a few of them given that they have their memories wiped after every adventure. The intelligent viewer will be suspicious though – wondering where the switcheroo is going to come in, when the trapdoor in the logic is going to drop you into unfamiliar territory. Whedon has always been great at engendering that kind of atmosphere where expectations run rife; where you absolutely sure that something is going one way and then you have to back-track and reassess, double-guessing what’s going to happen. The whole playing field is open and Dushku’s Echo is already compelling – a character who is never really herself but who makes you care about her – putting you in exactly the same position as Harry Lennix’s Boyd Langton: protective yet complicit … not wanting to see her get hurt but willing to sit back and watch what happens to her; well, to a point. Whedon is used to handling consecutively running arcs, consistently comes up trumps with the way he gets his ensemble to pay, and rarely disappoints when it comes to the pay-off, so if this goes right it could be great. What’s the particular minefield this one has to cross? Well, not to disappear up its own rectum like Alias did (and this does feel like it has certain commonalities with that show).