07th Feb2010

Hey Star Trek! dijoo get ONBOARD!?

by jerad.formby

A few years ago, it was announced that Joss Whedon would be developing a new project with Eliza Dushku. Legend has it that he came up with the concept on the spot while the two of them had lunch.

The show had a science-fiction concept, would be called Dollhouse, and it would be shown on FOX.

To many Joss Whedon fans this was like watching your friends board the Titanic.

Everyone knew there would be an iceberg coming. The production of Dollhouse was told about the iceberg with ample time to prepare… they added more character lifeboats, increased the capacity for story elements, and resigned themselves to the show’s ultimate fate.

And it wasn’t very good. The reason might end up being obvious, but before we get to that –let’s keep in mind that Joss Whedon has ended three other shows with fantastic flourish.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the show that probably best epitomized Whedon’s awesome storytelling abilities. This show, born of an ironic title, centered on a female protagonist whose journey was a heckuva lot more complicated than some viewers and some critics would allow.

Buffy Summers was a teenage girl who had cheerleader genes –but a destiny which she could not escape and had to learn to embrace. This sort of story –the sort of story where one is chosen might seem simplistic on the surface, but with each season, the show became more and more complicated.

Buffy became so popular that it was turned into a spin-off show. The show was called Angel and centered on Buffy’s ex-boyfriend –a Vampire with a soul. The thrust of the series was that Angel “helped the helpless” week to week in an effort to atone for the crimes he committed when his soul was lost.

This premise might look weak on paper (and truthfully, when we read about the concept, we rolled our eyes), but once Angel came together, it was quite likely more addictive than Buffy, possibly more demanding, and ultimately very rewarding television.

With the success of two rocking shows, Whedon was invited by FOX to create another show. You see, FOX owned both Buffy and Angel but didn’t want them on their networks. With the success those shows were earning, they were excited to have their own entry in the Whedon creative pool.

He made for them a show called Firefly. The show was cancelled after only thirteen episodes aired. The reasons for this have been speculated far and wide. The usual conclusion is that nobody knew which “Friday Night” Firefly would be airing.

FOX was quick to pull the plug on the series. They sited that the episodes were too expensive to produce and the viewer numbers weren’t anywhere near what they were looking for.

Firefly ended a year before Angel and months before Buffy. At that time, Whedon worked all three shows. He trusted his show runners to rock their respective beasts while he channeled most of his effort into keeping Firefly afloat.

When it came to conclude Buffy, Whedon wrote and directed her final entry. If you’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s important to note that when his name came up as writer and director, everyone would lean forward because the episode was bound to be particularly good.

Joss Whedon wrote or directed or wrote and directed pretty much every ground-shaking episode for each of these series. If you’re a Whedon fan, a list of titles would read a lot like grades of Heroin.

ANGEL: A Hole in the World
ANGEL: Conviction
ANGEL: Spin the Bottle
ANGEL: Waiting in the Wings

BUFFY: Once More With Feeling
BUFFY: The Gift
BUFFY: The Body
BUFFY: Hush

FIREFLY: The Train Job
FIREFLY: Objects in Space

or… simply put:

He wrote and directed the final episodes of Buffy and Firefly. Firefly’s final episode was particularly brilliant because Whedon never meant for the final episode Objects in Space to be the last time we saw the Serenity crew –it’s just how it shook out with FOX’s choice to kill the show so early in its introduction.

It could be said that Whedon needed another chance to end Firefly and he got it when Universal let him make a movie based on Firefly called Serenity. A major motion picture based on a cancelled sci-fi TV show sounds strange and familiar, doesn’t it?

With Firefly gone half-way through its season, Joss Whedon was free to throw all of his energy into Angel and the rapidly ending Buffy.

For Buffy to end and end-well, her destiny would have to be either taken from her or she would have to embrace entirely. Her show ended with her accepting her burden and getting a much-needed break.

Angel, like Dollhouse, was cancelled with ample notice to allow Whedon time to finish the show how he wanted. This announcement came down after Whedon had compromised his concept to make the show “more open” and “brighter.”

When the WB asked Whedon to put Angel in sunlight –something that will kill him—Joss Whedon found a way to make it work. In fact the compromise worked so well, that we at the Hey Star Trek! offices believe Angel’s last season to be the greatest story ever told in the Buffy-Universe and she’s not even in it!

The show ended in a way that might have harmed a few television sets.

Whedon had assured everyone that the ending would not be a cliff-hanger. He didn’t intend to revisit how the story ended. The ending was perfect and poetic. It ended with our heros checked into a fight they could not win –but that was the point of Angel.

There is no atonement. There is no reward. There is only the work.

And as far as heroic-deaths go… you’ll never see better than Wesley Windham Price RIP.

Dollhouse has ended now and for some reason, Joss Whedon stayed away from the series ender. Maybe it’s too easy to say that Joss’s lack of involvement contributed to a less than stellar ending.

There was a Whedon involved in the show, his name was (is) Jed Whedon. But a Whedon name does not a Whedon make.

The ending of Dollhouse skipped into a future which we knew was coming and had been building throughout its second season. The end-of-the world concept that Dollhouse presented was believable and scary.

Yet how we found the characters was so strange and out of whack that we wondered why the heck they tried ending it the way they did.

The differences between Dollhouse’s greatest couple (Victor and Sierra) appeared out of nowhere and seemed wildly uncharacteristic on both sides. The change in Alan Tudyk’s character was so off-the charts that it took me right out of the story.

We understand that Whedon had no time and no real notice to end this show a little better. In the hurry to finish it up, but some different decisions in the making of the final episodes might have helped.

Because the emotional pay-off will be between Helo and Echo… maybe the Helo and Echo story could have had more relevance when all that insane plotting within the Rosseum company was going down. Maybe we needed more of an idea of how Echo thought of him –or just better written scenes.

When Topher goes to sacrifice himself, maybe he should have felt a little more like himself and a little less like Rain Man. Just an observation.

Hey Star Trek! you might be saying, there was no time for that stuff!

Gentle readers, if you need more time to end the show right, then we humbly suggest maybe one of the new characters should have been sacrificed to free-up the screentime. We’re not talking about Felicia day neither.

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  • http://www.dvdgeeks.tv Televixen

    I liked the change in Alpha because I like Alan Tudyk. It was a bit strange, but if you recall when we last saw him he wiped Paul Ballard rendering him brain dead and imprinted himself with Ballard. Also, he has multiple personality disorder with around 50 people inside of him, so he could really be anyone, hence turning into Mr. Nice Guy. At the end he leaves the envelope in the chair for Echo with the Ballard imprint. That’s some kind of redemption. He easily had one of the funniest lines in otherwise dark episode, “It speaks to the schizophrenic in me, both of them.”

  • Reno

    I still say they knew it was coming early into the second season. It’s a drastic change from the first four slow episodes, which is the same storytelling style of the entire first season, to the remaining nine episodes. The show was barely renewed, and that was mainly an apologetic move from fox because of how firefly went down. They promised the rabid Whedon fans that they would get a full thirteen episodes no matter what, which already doesn’t sound good. Terminator was canceled and it had similar ratings as first season Dollhouse.

    Anyway, back to a point… By the time the first episode aired and the Whedon group saw the ratings stayed about the same and only got worse by the second episode, they knew they wouldn’t be coming back for another season. They knew they had to put in as much story as possible in the limited amount of time they have left. Starting with the fifth episode of season two, they sped up the storytelling because (my theory at least) that’s where they were in the writing when the first episode ratings came out. There was a huge gap between the fourth and fifth episodes because of christmas scheduling to give them plenty of time.

    I know as a Whedon fan we all want to wait until the last second to get the official word the show is canceled. We all have that hope like this time the show will stick and it will be as good as his past works. With a show where they significantly cut the budget for the season and it was already known that if the ratings didn’t improve drastically they would be gone, there’s no way they didn’t know what was coming before the “official” word came out. That’s why they pushed so fast about losing the dollhouse and getting it back. That’s why they pushed the relationship between Topher and Summer Glau unnaturally fast for any Whedon character. That’s why episodes five through thirteen were faster than spanish soap opera plots, because they had to resolve everything they hinted at in the first season and first four episodes of season two in nine episodes.

    If the official word for cancellation wasn’t given until the tenth or eleventh episode, why would the twelth episode, which would have already been written, filmed and ready to go, burn every bridge and leave them with no dollhouse to work with? So season three they could be hiding in an apartment trying to hurt Rossum and we could watch Eliza Dushku be super-flash-I-know-everything woman even longer?

    Pretty much all this just to say they knew they were done long ago. Besides, the show died as it lived, in mediocrity. Whedon has done better and will do better in the future. Hopefully not with Eliza Dushku, though.