Saturday, April 25, 2009

"You're dead"

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

Dollhouse's latest episode, Haunted, didn't do much for me on the level of basic plot. The idea was good – someone who's brain has been scanned comes back from the dead to solve their own murder. But the execution felt like an episode of Murder She Wrote more than anything as cool as the last couple of episodes.

Really, the best part of the main plot was Boyd's comment that this really means the end of the world. If the rich can buy themselves new bodies when they die, what's to stop them from going on and on forever, erasing the poor but young once every twenty or thirty years? 

I don't normally mentally re-write episodes, but last night I was fervently hoping that the murder would turn out to have been a suicide. If you knew that a friend would bring you back, and temporarily store you in the body of a super-healthy 25-year-old, wouldn't you be tempted to kill yourself and then hijack the new body? Sadly, no.

Side note: anyone interested in these plots from a more SFnal perspective should read some of the British SF that's come out over the past few years. Charles Stross and Ken MacLeod have both written several stories over the past few decades about downloadable, copy on demand minds. However, the best of the British brain-scanners is probably Richard Morgan and his Takeshi Kovacs series. Altered Carbon, the first in the loosely connected trilogy, is about an ex-soldier and ex-con who has to investigate a millionaire's apparent suicide. The millionaire – backed up from a copy – doesn't believe he killed himself. It's a world where the rich are immortal, and where bodies can be swapped around like cars. No synthetic personalities, but it's a very good, very grim look at similar technology.

Back to Dollhouse. The episode's saving grace was its two sub-plots. Predictably, Agent Ballard can't stop himself from abusing the privileges of the Dollhouse. It's also becoming clear just how vile the programming of Millie was; she's his willing slave without even being aware of it.

Topher's creation of a friend for his birthday was even more interesting. This seems like it was intended to showcase the positive side of the Dollhouse. What if you are alone, and strange, and no one gets you? Who do you turn to? Topher made a friend (someone who was probably 80 to 90 per cent based on himself) for his birthday. It was both heartwarming and creepy at the same time. I'm so glad they didn't have sex.

Not too many episodes left now. Fox is apparently going to announce the show's cancellation or renewal mid-May.

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