Dollhouse: Season One (2009) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Adventure / Mystery / Science Fiction
Fox || NR - 643 minutes - $69.99 || July 28, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-08-07


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: NA
Writer(s): Joss Whedon (creator)
Cast: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Original Unaired Pilot Episode
  • Select Episode Audio Commentaries
  • 5 Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Joss Whedon’s newest series, “Dollhouse” got off to a rocky start before it even aired on Fox with a pilot reshoot by Whedon and then after the Fox network originally slotted the show to debut on Mondays with “24”, they shifted it to the Friday death slot after “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”. Lucky for Whedon, while “Sarah Connor Chronicles” was cancelled, “Dollhouse” got a second chance at life despite dwindling week-to-week ratings.

Now the show comes to Blu-ray and although I admit that I never did get into the show even with DVR’ing the first episode, I was impressed with the end result and saw a show grow from having potential to meeting it as the season progressed. Initially, I found the first few episodes to be entertaining with an interesting premise but with each subsequent episode, the show seemed to find its footing and where it wants to go avoiding the help-the-needy weekly plotlines. As a comparison, this probably is akin to “The Pretender” with a more sci-fi flavor to it.

Plot: As an “active”, the mysterious Echo (Eliza Dushku) serves as an unwitting agent of Dollhouse, an illegal underground organization that provides its elite clientele with programmable human beings. Actives receive personality imprints allowing them to temporarily become anyone or anything—the perfect burglar, lover, spy or assassin. Now, with the FBI and her own shadowy past closing in, Echo must face a rogue Active who will stop at nothing to bring Dollhouse down—forever.

Fox only aired 12 episodes (it was a midseason debut) but a 13th Whedon-standalone episode was filmed but never aired which was included with the DVD and Blu-ray releases. I’ll cover the other episodes in a moment, but episode 13 called ‘Epitaph One’, opens in the year 2019 in an apocalyptic future where imprinted Actives run amuck and the real people try to find refuge from the chaos. One group manage to find the abandoned Dollhouse facility and through mind imprints/flashbacks, we learn more about the primary characters.

While this episode was certainly interesting to watch, I think Fox was right not to air as it would’ve only confused some viewers and wouldn’t have made for a good season finale, like episode 12, ‘Omega’, was a perfect – though I guess admittedly safe – season ender. Overall, most of the episodes were good with a couple exceptions, the one that stood out for me was ‘Haunted’ (episode 10) where Echo gets the imprint of a deceased woman and now she returns home to find out who murdered her. It probably was a decent idea on paper, but the execution was borderline lame to downright dull.

Here are the episodes with asterisks next to my personal favorites:
01. Ghost
02. The Target (aka Wrong Turn redux)
03. Stage Fright
04. Gray Hour
05. True Believer
06. Man on the Street
07. Echoes
08. Needs*
09. A Spy in the House of Love*
10. Haunted
11. Briar Rose
12. Omega*
13. Epitaph One

I might not be the biggest Whedon-ite out there (I have really enjoyed both “Buffy” and “Angel”, though and I only recently came to appreciate “Firefly”) so I’m not saying this out of some blind loyalty for the man, but give “Dollhouse” a chance because this is one show I could watch over the 5 year plan Whedon apparently outlined.

Note: For some reason the back of the case states the running time as 540-minutes when in fact it is 643-minutes.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Although not heavily packed, Fox does a decent job with the features. The 3-Disc Set comes housed in a regular (non-eco friendly) Blu-ray case with 3 disc hubs. Each disc has artwork on them but no indication which episodes are on what and with no booklet or listing on the flipside of the cover art you’ll have to go off of memory to find the episodes.

First is the Original Unaired Pilot (45:47) episode which was scrapped when Joss Whedon wanted to retool things with the series. It is interesting and cool to see this alternate pilot episode and even though I thought it was OK if not a bit dull. One thing I noticed about this version is it’s a bit too standard in its story telling, especially the explanation of the Dollhouse and what the “Actives” do.

Select Episode Audio Commentaries – There are three commentaries on this set: “Ghost” with Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku; “Man on the Street” with Joss Whedon; and “Epitaph One” with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. The tracks, especially the first one, are loose but give behind-the-scenes information about the sets, stories and actors.

Deleted Scenes (29:46) – There are 23 scenes included from each episode (some multiples). Some are good but of course they were excised more than likely for issues of time.

Making Dollhouse (20:48) – Even Joss Whedon can make a standard ‘making-of’ featurette into something interesting. Whedon and other crew and cast members explain how the show came to be. The featurette also includes footage from the pilot table read and other behind-the-scenes footage.

Coming Home (7:11) is about Whedon assembling the “Dollhouse” team from the writers, editors, directors, stuntmen, actors, etc whom he has worked with before on “Angel” or “Buffy”.

Finding Echo (5:07) covers the friendship between Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku and starting the “Dollhouse” project. Dushku talks about the character and what she has in common with Echo.

Designing the Perfect Dollhouse (5:59) – This featurette focuses on the production and set design of “Dollhouse”, where the elements came from and how it plays into the stories or characters.

A Private Engagement (5:47) – The cast and crew talk about what they would do if a Dollhouse really did exist. Would they hire an Active or even volunteer to be a Doll?



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Fox’s “Dollhouse: Season One” gets the Blu-ray treatment with a 3-disc set (50GB discs) presented with a 1.78 aspect ratio, AVC/MPEG-4 encoded, glorious 1080p high-definition. Although I can’t say this is a “wow” presentation, it is probably on par with the HD airing on Fox. Colors are purposely muted at times so you’re not going to get any big pop but it is a clean transfer although I did notice a couple dust marks once in a while, but overall it is void of major artifacting and scratches. The picture overall, however, just isn’t that impressive, more acceptable given the source.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is decent if not at times soft. Dialogue levels are fine but when it comes to the heavy-lifting like sound effects (tires squealing, arrow whiffs, etc), it’s a little disappointing as it never had much of impact. The music and score, however, both sound quite nice including that great theme (say what you will about Whedon, the themes he creates or finds never disappoint).



.::OVERALL::.

Early on “Dollhouse” may not have started off too well but as the season progressed the episodes and central story did as well. I think the show has potential to be something special though airing on Fridays will not help it even get through its second season let alone make it to season three... The Blu-ray release has a good video transfer and acceptable audio while the features are pretty good.