Dollhouse: Echoes (season one, episode seven)


Rating 2¼

Created by Joss Whedon

Written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain

Directed by James A Contner

Starring Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (Adelle DeWitt), Fran Kranz (Topher Brink), Harry J Lennix (Boyd Langton), Reed Diamond (Laurence Dominic), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Miracle Laurie (Mellie), Brett Claywell (Matt), Mehcad Brooks (Sam Jennings), Josh Cooke (Leo Carpenter), Josh Fadem (Owen Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Professor Janack) and Philip Casnoff (Clive Ambrose)

Clive Ambrose, a high ranking executive in the Rossum Corporation, the world’s biggest drug company and a major funder of the Dollhouse, approaches Adelle DeWitt for help when an experimental mind-control drug finds its way onto a college campus, resulting in the violent death of a student named Owen Johnson. All Actives are programmed to work on the assignment, posing as NSA and CDC agents, except Echo, who is already on an assignment as the fantasy figure of a regular client. When she sees a television news report from the Rossum Building she experiences an immediate compulsion to go there and momentary flickers of her former life begin to flash through her memory.


‘Echoes’ contains several comic scenes, with horribly unfunny lines like, “I could eat that word,” which, were I to find the prospect of an extremely painful haemorrhoidectomy humorous, might have made me laugh. I didn’t laugh. I thought these scenes, in which we observed previously humourless characters like Adelle DeWitt and Laurence Dominic behaving with drug-induced childishness, completely missed the mark. Presumably, more humour was intended by showing us Topher Brink behaving in exactly the same manner whether under the effects of the drug or not, but this simply acted to heighten the realisation that this character is becoming increasingly irritating without the counter-balance of becoming in any way more interesting.

Ignoring this and the ridiculous outfit Eliza Dushku is required to wear (making Echo a clichéd fantasy figure of clients of the Dollhouse so that Dushku can presumably be a fantasy figure of viewers of the show is becoming increasingly wearisome), ‘Echoes’ certainly pushes the story along a bit further. It has some merit and is cleverly constructed, if a little obvious. However, the whole ‘giant multi-national pharmaceutical corporation acting in a dangerous unethical manner that threatens us all’ conspiracy angle reached its apex at the time of ‘The X Files’. It has become rather stale and over-familiar since then and it is all too tempting to make a negative comparison to that show. ‘Dollhouse’ is no more convincing than ‘Fringe’.

In one scene in the episode Adelle DeWitt tells Topher Brink that she believes in what the Dollhouse is doing and it would appear that she means so in almost an idealistic way. Buying into the Dollhouse because of the power or influence or money is one thing, but it seems inconceivable that anyone could have any idealistic view of its function. Echo, to use her as an example, is more or less a human sex toy, constantly farmed out to be violated by clients, something that is an irrefutable fact, irrespective of how she is treated by them. She has no control over what happens to her. This aspect of the show’s premise is certainly its most interesting feature and I do wonder how it will expand on and argue the apparent idealism of Adelle DeWitt.

The misfiring comedy aside, this was one of the better episodes so far and probably a match for ‘Man On The Street’, which has been identified as one of the high points of the season, although I am not altogether convinced that it is not over-rated, admittedly having only watched it once. In the end, apart from anything else, ‘Echoes’ is undoubtedly a lot better than the previous episode written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, the risible ‘Gray Hour’.

Review posted 21 June 2009


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