Saturday, February 21, 2009

What a Difference a Script Makes

Via Micole, what's rumored to be the original script for the Dollhouse pilot.  As several scenes and lines of dialogue within it appeared in the first Dollhouse trailer, I think this is the genuine article.  Unsurprisingly, it's a massive improvement on "Ghost," not only because it dives right into the arc elements of the show, stressing Agent Ballard's investigation of the Dollhouse and Echo's potential awakening, but because it's engaging--unlike the by-the-numbers kidnapping story in "Ghost" the plot here is interesting and entertainingly twisty, taking me by surprise with its turns on several occasions.  The secondary characters--Boyd, Topher, Dr. Saunders--are also more believably sketched and and more intriguing, and there's some interaction between Echo and Ballard.  Perhaps most importantly, the episode suggests believable uses for the actives that go beyond the jumped-up prostitution the show has thus far concentrated on.

As depressing as it is that someone in Fox preferred "Ghost" to this episode, this script gives me hope--that Whedon has a firmer grip on the show than I'd previously dared believe, and that he'll work elements from this script into future episodes.  The second Dollhouse episode was an improvement on the first, if still depressingly self-contained and slow to build up the arc storyline, but both it and this script suggest that the show might soon find its legs.

8 comments:

Andrew Stevens said...

The original Dollhouse pilot was "The Target" that aired this last Friday. The script you point to may well be Whedon's, but it never made it to shooting and Fox never preferred "Ghost" to it or anything. Fox thought "The Target" wasn't comprehensible enough for the pilot and that the tone was a bit too dark.

I believe they said the same thing about "Serenity" in Firefly. While "Serenity" was better than "The Train Job," I didn't come to the show until after it was out on DVD so "Serenity" was the first thing I ever saw about Firefly. I found it baffling and couldn't figure out who was who for at least the first hour. I can't comment on how much better "Train Job" was since I didn't see that until after "Serenity" and had a pretty good handle on the characters, but I absolutely believe that Fox was right and that "Serenity" has to be either A) watched twice or B) watched after other episodes before you can figure out what on earth is going on. Of course, we all agree that it doesn't make much sense to air "Serenity" in any position other than the pilot (unless it's given a clumsy flashback frameover) but that doesn't mean Fox wasn't right in their criticisms of it as a pilot.

ianras said...

Andrew, the script Abigail linked to was the script of the original pilot. Scenes shot from it were distibuted online half a year or so ago. 'The Target' was written fourth, I think, and it wasn't written by Whedon.

I really wanted to like 'Dollhouse' but both episodes have lumbered about like T-Rexs and while I think it has been the victim of some overblown criticism, the prostitution aspect of the story hasn't been handled half well enough. I'm gonna stick with it but I'm afraid Whedon will begin with the philosophizing and Whedon + philosophy = 'Objects in Space' and Angel's epiphany-type silliness. But, who knows? I hope not.

Andrew Stevens said...

Oops, my mistake. My information was out of date (not the first time). At one time, the original pilot was supposed to air second, but it's not clear now if they're ever going to air it (probably not). But yes, the script linked to does appear to be the pilot as described which test audiences found too confusing and dark.

chance said...

As several scenes and lines of dialogue within it appeared in the first Dollhouse trailer

Surely if you were going to make a fake you would do exactly that.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Surely if you were going to make a fake you would do exactly that.

Well, if it's a fake then I hope whoever wrote it starts writing for the show, because they sound more like Whedon than anything that's shown up on screen has so far.

(I still think it's real, though.)

Raz Greenberg said...

I think "Target" could have worked just as well - if not much better - as the first episode of the show, and leave a far more positive impression than "Ghost". It had enough introductory material, and the episode's chase plot connected better to the show's background.
From what I read in media sources, next week's episode returns to the so-so mode of quality.

ianras said...

It's almost certainly real. It was floating around for months before the show aired and contains a scene important to the plot which was released onto the internet last summer and a whole bunch of spoilers.

Ouranosaurus said...

I felt that the first episode was, compared to an average hour of procedural/SF TV, pretty good. Not great, but okay. The second episode was a fun thriller, better than the pilot, but still with a plot kernel that's been beat to death in pulp fiction and B movies for 60 or 70 years. Of course, people in the Cult of Whedon expect better.

Thing is, so far it's always gotten better. Any one of his shows hits its stride later, and there's always a plan.

Compare and contrast to a creator like J.J. Abrams. Big start, not much follow through.

Some creators reward patience more than others. At least we know from experience that Whedon has a plan.

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