Saturday, February 28, 2009

Various Fannish Stuff

Okay, first, a few words about Dollhouse.

The majority of reviews that I've read online have been...anemic, at best.  People who were expecting snappy Buffy-esque dialogue were disappointed with the (heavily-tinkered-with-by-Fox) premiere.  Many people see no potential in the show because Echo is "not a character" (read that on a blog; don't remember where).  One Fandom!Secrets post complained that Dollhouse is the last nail in the Joss-isn't-a-feminist-after-all coffin.

I was, I'll admit, a little surprised at the...well...normality of the dialogue in the premiere.  There was no creative use of tenses, word forms, or sentence structure (just look at the Wikiquote Buffy page, if you don't know what I'm talking about) such as "But not for me the furrowed brow."

The thing is...this isn't Buffy.  Or Angel.  So why does it have to sound like it?

(To be fair, in the second and third episodes, there are a few turns of phrase that I found quite reminiscent of both, but it's not like it's an hour of Buffy-esque dialogue tricks.)

Now, as for the "Echo isn't a character" thing -- I'd argue against that, strenuously.

(Spoilers below for the first three episodes.)

I'm not sure that Echo, in her non-imprinted state, has much to do with her pre-Dollhouse persona (whose name I have forgotten) but I'm fairly certain that something is lingering even after wipes.  Whether that has to do with the flashbacks she had when crazy-hunter-guy was stalking her, or whether it's just a flaw in the process (which the existence of Alpha and of the other doll recognizing Echo at the end of the third episode suggest), I'm not sure.

The fact is, they have shown Echo wandering around where she shouldn't be, out of curiosity, remembering other dolls when she shouldn't, interacting with them in a way that suggests she knows she shouldn't let on that she recognizes them (shaking her head at Sierra), and so on.  I think Echo is a character -- and, what's more -- I think that Echo is going to develop as a character over however long the series lasts (or however long Joss has planned, if by some miracle its ratings go up and it lasts more than the few episodes that have been ordered already) into the main character of the show.

And, yes, I mean that as literally as I wrote it -- it's not going to be the "tabula rasa" show -- it's going to be the Echo show.  The question is, is it going to be about Echo taking down the Dollhouse from within, or is it going to be a more morally murky situation?

Much is being made in the show of Echo's ability to build something above and beyond what she's been imprinted with.  Dr. Fred suggests -- likely because they suspect that's what Alpha did -- that that is a bad thing.

So is Alpha going to be the moral opposite of Echo?  The doll that took all the bad bits and pieces and created for himself a persona that seems clearly evil.  Or is it?  Was he, perhaps, trying to put the dolls out of what he perceived as their misery?

And, say Echo becomes fully self-aware, in between imprinting sessions.  Does she retain that after being imprinted?  Does she, ultimately, become Echo who is also a ninja fighter?

Personally, I find the possibilities fascinating.

So, say, at some point in the show (I think I remember reading that Joss intends for it to be five seasons) Echo escapes from the dollhouse and becomes a fugitive.  Who do you trust?  How do you know that the person you're talking to isn't a doll sent to set you up, like Agent Ballard in the third episode.

Incidentally, I could do without the Agent Ballard thing at all.  I've just never gotten the fuss over Tahmoh Penikett, even as I rooted for his character on Battlestar Galactica.  Someone, though, perhaps on an io9 discussion, suggested that he might be Alpha, and I find that intriguing -- that perhaps the Alpha persona is only part of the character.

Now, based on past history, the fact that I enjoy a Fox sci-fi show with mediocre ratings suggests an early end, a la the much-lamented Alien Nation.  Oh well.

Meanwhile, having been inspired by a re-read blog on Tor's website, I have decided to try, once again, to re-read The Lord of the Rings.  I've tried three other times before, but was heartened by many, many comments by folks that are now clearly die-hard fans who also made several aborted attempts (all failing very close to where I gave up -- somewhere between Bree and Rivendell) to try once again.

I have no real explanation for why I've never made it through the books -- the rather high-brow language doesn't really trouble me -- but my suspicion is the rather long info-dumps that happen with prodigious regularity in the book.  Peter Jackson said once that getting the prologue to Fellowship the right length was an arduous process -- he had to try to give audiences info they needed to know, without having a 23-minute-long prologue.  Tolkien, to my observation, showed no such restraint.

So we'll see.

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