Can Joss Whedon Earn The Right to Make Dollhouse His Own?

by admin on January 8, 2009

Not many things in life are unconditional. Aside from true love, most things in life we have to earn, and even true love involves having to do something to earn such affection in the heart of another. Whilst many of Joss Whedon’s fans will no doubt love whatever the man does, if the show is to affect the masses it has to first win respect. Whedon himself also has to win respect, because a true creator (in my eyes) has to continually invent and even re-invent him or herself. In this mid-season interview, Dollhouse creator, Joss Whedon touches (indirectly) on some of these issues as he talks about how the original show has changed since those early scripts, specifically in relation to the original Pilot episode being thrown out and more action being thrown in:

The things that the network clearly wanted to… shooting a new pilot was my idea. Because the network, they were looking for something specific. I thought I delivered it because they were very excited about the script. They weren’t as excited about the show so we talked about why and why and why and I figured out what they wanted. We talked about those things and it was obvious they wanted more of an action feel than a noir feel. What I had done was very sort of dark and moody. And they wanted a show, a first episode that absolutely laid out the structure of the show, which is – Echo is at the Dollhouse, she is imprinted for an engagement, she goes on the engagement, she comes back from the engagement into the Dollhouse. This is how it works.

They wanted, the first thing I wrote was sort of laying out how that would happen… in the next episode. They were like, “No, we want it to happen in [this] episode so people get it from that.” And then, you know, upping the action and deciding to roll out… change certain events that ultimately made it so that I just junked the other pilot. This won’t be the second episode because this isn’t what the network wants, this isn’t the kind of show they want.

Whilst I’m starting to like the idea of more action, I would have liked to have seen the ‘uncut’ Whedon version, as that’s what initially attracted me to the show. However, it looks like Whedon hasn’t given up on the idea of evolving the show into his vision, once he’s earned the right to do it:

This is something you could do two years in when everybody’s familiar with it and you don’t have to explain it. I always hold to the premise that the first six episodes are the first six pilots. You have to be able to come in and just go, “Oh, okay. So that’s the premise and here it is delivered in this fashion.”

[…]

But I realized, you know, I may have said this before – you don’t pitch “Buffy” with “The Body.” You earn that. You pitch it with the premise and then you get to all the stuff that you’re really doing it for.

That makes a lot of sense. Rather than bumping heads with Fox, he seems to have compromised somewhat. Once he’s delivered the hook, he’ll be able to implement his ideas with much greater weight and authority than he may currently have with the network. I often use “LOST” as an example (sorry but it’s my favourite show), and if you look at how that show started, it’s a very different show 4 years later. Well no, that’s not quite true, it’s the same show, but it’s a totally different animal – one that screams “sci-fi” as it beats it’s metaphorical chest. “LOST” has earned that right – the show creators were also very clever in how they disguised the true nature of the show in order to ‘hook’ people who might not have bought the concept straight out of the gate. My hope, after reading this interview, is that Whedon has similar plans for “Dollhouse”, a show which he will gradually evolve into it’s true form (noir and all) once the show has earned the right to make such a transformation. That, or Fox get it completely right straight away – which I doubt, as even “X-Files” evolved over time, didn’t it?

In recent blog posts, I have speculated whether Dollhouse is becoming a show that has forgotten about the magic, a project that has lost sight of the premise and instead become a one-man band showcase reel. Whedon himself admits that he questioned whether this was still the show he once believed it to be:

There was times when I was like, wait a minute, are the things that I care about still in the show? [Laughs.] Because some things that I was interested in – the more twisted elements of the human psyche and some of the more quieter aspects of it, kind of got shunned to the side.

I realise that he’s talking about the behind the scenes stuff, but even so, seeing as Whedon himself has had his doubts, it’s only right that prospective fans have too. He goes on to somewhat dispel my worry about the creators no longer being interested in the premise:

I like the premise, I’m interested in the premise. But it’s the people behind the premise that are ultimately the heart of the show.

Although I do wonder what he means by “people behind the premise that are the heart of the show”? My hope is that he’s referring to the characters because the actors are yet to prove themselves in the show. I know that he adores his “team” but he really needs to let their performances do the talking

Whedon also talks about the “twisted elements” of the show, Olivia Williams “duality” and his online endeavours. You can check that out here, as well as the complete interview outlined above.

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