AVS Forum banner
1 - 9 of 9 Posts

Blu-ray Reviewer
15,760 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2009
MPAA Rating: TV-PG
Feature running time: 540 Minutes
Genre: Drama/Sci-fi/Fantasy

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Starring: Eliza Dushko, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams, Tahmoh Penikett, Dichen Lachman
Directed by: David Solomon & Joss Whedon
Written by: Various
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 28, 2009

"They can be anyone you want"

Film Synopsis:

From Joss Whedon, the creative mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, comes the provocative Dollhouse, a sexy, suspenseful thriller starring the stunningly talented Eliza Dushku. As an Active, the mysterious Echo (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 anythingthe 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 downforever.

My Take:

Dollhouse is a sci-fi drama that takes place in the present but has futuristic elements that incorporates advanced technology that revolves around human subjects that a re transformed/altered to become "Actives". Actives are regular people, whose personalities/memories and existence in the outside world, have been wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of predetermined new personas. Contents of an imprint may include semantic/muscle memory, skills, and language, as appropriate for different assignments which are referred to as engagements. The new persona can be a mixture of several and the end result can incorporates both strengths and weaknesses from the template personalities. The Actives are then hired out for particular jobs, which can be anything from crimes to fantasies to the occasional good deed. On engagements, Actives are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between engagements they minds are wiped, leaving them in a child-like state. They live together in a futuristic facility that incorporates living quarters as well as headquartering the laboratory/main offices of the "The Dollhouse". The show revolves primarily around Echo, an Active who begins to become self aware even though her mind has been wiped. It follows her, through her various engagements as seen through her eyes, her Handler Boyd's, and other members who oversee the Actives/Dollhouse. FBI Agent Paul Ballard actively investigates the myth that is The Dollhouse and is suddenly fed a mysterious trail of breadcrumbs that lead him to discover its whereabouts and the existence of Echo and her true identity. Things are compounded on both ends by the presence of a rogue Active named Alpha. He has his own agenda which involves both Echo and the destruction of the Dollhouse.
I didn't see one episode of this series on TV and in fact hadn't heard of it until a colleague at work inquired to see if I would be receiving if for review. I am familiar with Eliza Dushku and remembered her from some of her early films such as True lies and Bye bye love. I will admit to being a Joss Whedon fan although I haven't followed any of his serials with any regularity. The first few episodes of Dollhouse didn't have me thoroughly convinced that I would find its characters and scenarios stable enough to buy into. As it progressed my opinion changed and I found myself involved in its continuing story. Dushko is really quite talented which makes acceptance of the multi-faceted nature Echo's persona imprints easier. The script does a nice job with character integration and the varied yet connected plotline successfully weaves a pattern that slowly comes into focus and is ultimately rewarding. Be sure to check out the unaired Epitaph One episode from season one! The show's balance between drama, sci-fi and action keeps interest going and I think that besides Dushko there is a credible and well placed core of regulars among the cast. In the end I found myself looking forward to each episode as well as toward Season Two. I think that creator/writer/director Joss Whedon has another winner on his hands. Hopefully its potential will be realized and fulfilled.

Parental Guide:

The show contains thematic elements and violence.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 82

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

Dollhouse: Season One comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 21 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.

This video presentation was quite good and featured consistently sharp and definitive image quality. Colors were visually enticing with natural highlights and vibrant depth. Fleshtones were delineated with enriching complexional structure and lifelike depiction. Contrast was boosted which made colors and the sun drenched exterior sequences pop but this came at the expense of washed out whites in many instances. Blacks were respectable and shadow detail was excellent. Grain was rendered in fine visible layers that provided texture but never became intrusive. I detected some minor noise against backgrounds during a few darker scenes but it didn't rise to level where it negatively impacted fidelity. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound kept pace with the video quality and was also quite good. Dynamics were sharp and defining without being strident or edgy. Dialogue was rendered with precise tonal expression room penetrating depth through the center channel speaker. The front soundstage was diffused with excellent separation and clearly articulated detail. The presentation made ample use of the entire surround platform. At times it opened up quite nicely to create an involving surround mix that bristled with a mix of directional and ambient sounds. Bass response didn't reach subterranean levels however it appropriately supported the source elements and provided an appreciably tight, and punchy low end.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary on select episodes

  • Commentary for Epitaph One and Man on the street by writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen

  • (HD) Original unaired pilot Echo

  • (HD) 22 deleted scenes

  • (HD) Making Dollhouse - 20 minute featurette

  • (HD) Coming home - Discussion/commentary with the show's writers (who have also worked with Joss Whedon on previous projects)

  • (HD) Finding Echo - 5 minute feature on Eliza Dushko

  • (HD) Designing the perfect Dollhouse - 6 minute feature on the show's set design

  • (HD) A private engagement - Featuring the cast/crew's input on the reality of The Dollhouse concept - 5 minutes

Final Thoughts:

Dollhouse is an entertaining sci-fi drama series from creator Joss Whedon. Its building block style storyline mounts nicely over the show's inaugural season which combines with its cache of strong characters to entice the palette for a taste of what's to come next season. I found its high definition audio/video presentation on Blu-ray Disc to be quite good and appreciated its decent set of bonus features which includes two unaired episodes and an excellent making of documentary. This is probably worth a blind buy for Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushku fans. If you're curious throw it in your queue and check it out.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)

Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen

Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)

Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

1,416 Posts
I think I'm going to blind buy this one. I didn't want to invest in the series on television in case Fox messed it up like Firefly.

96 Posts
As a Joss fan, I started watching Dollhouse out of excitement for his next project. After the first 2-3 episodes, I was sticking it out because of loyalty. Once the show hit its stride, towards the end of the season, I was glad I hung in there. It was good to know that the show was picked up for a second season, but after watching the featurettes, the unaired pilot, and epitaph one (especially epitaph one), I am positively excited for next season to start. Joss has laid the threads for a lot of fascinating themes to play out in this show.

1,416 Posts
What are one-offs?

398 Posts

Originally Posted by geocab /forum/post/16977273

What are one-offs?

Episodes with stand alone plot lines that had little to nothing to do with the overall plot line of the show.

But I would disagree that this series really had a one-off. At least one of the characters had something building in every episdoe that paid off in the finale.

1,763 Posts
If I have time maybe I will rent this. I think it was on when Terminator or Prison Break was airing (one of those days), but I just never got involved. I was already invested into those 2 shows, Fringe, Lost, and House.
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.