When it comes to TV shows with deep fandoms, Joss Whedon has certainly figured it out! While abuse allegations from former cast members have overshadowed Whedon’s success in recent months, there’s no denying that the creator has left a tremendous impact on the entertainment industry.
Part of that legacy includes the television show Dollhouse. While never quite reaching the fever pitch of popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Whedon’s work with the MCU, the show certainly has a dedicated set of fans. It also has a secret episode that never made it to the air.
‘Dollhouse’ starred Eliza Dushku
Already well acquainted with the Whedonverse from her time on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Eliza Dushku took on a starring role for 2009’s Dollhouse. The series, which premiered on Fox and only ran for two seasons, featured a collection of “dolls,” humans who had their memories wiped and were programmed with false identities to serve the whims of paying customers.
Eliza Dushku played one of these brainwashed tools as the protagonist Echo, a doll who is slowly gaining awareness of what’s happening to her. As Echo grapples with what this knowledge means for her identity and sense of self, we also see her handlers battling out their own ethical concerns about the work they do. The show asked tough questions about AI, human autonomy, and labor that have grown even more relevant in a quickly technological world.
‘Dollhouse’ includes a ‘secret’ episode
Dollhouse had immense promise and has managed to win over many fans, but it was far from a commercial success. The series was canceled after its second season, and Whedon would leave the small-screen for a very successful run with films.
In the meantime, Fox had brokered a DVD distribution deal for Dollhouse that included thirteen episodes for Season 1. The problem? The episodes filmed for television included a scrapped pilot. That left a window for the episode “Epitaph One.”
As Den of Geek reports, this episode debuted in July 2009 at the San Diego Comic-Con and then was released on DVD. It never aired on Fox and was therefore unknown to most casual viewers of the series. Only the die-hard fans who got their hands on the DVD got to see the episode.
‘Epitaph One’ of ‘Dollhouse’ was set in the post-apocalyptic future
The general premise of the show had Dushku taking on a different part each week as her memory was wiped and she was reprogrammed to serve a new role. That’s a challenging task for an actor and certainly gave the show a unique flavor. It also allowed the show to, as Den of Geek’s Alex Spencer puts it, “hop genres, going from a murder mystery one week to a romantic comedy the next.”
In the secret “Epitaph One” episode, however, there is a leap into the future. Set in 2019 — 10 years beyond the present — “[m]ost of the regular cast appear only in flashbacks, and we’re instead introduced to a band of survivors led by Felicia Day’s Mag.”
Viewers are treated to a look at a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is teetering on the edge of extinction. As the episode unfolds, it’s made clear that these conditions were ushered in by the capitalist ambitions of the handlers who managed the “dolls.”
For network execs, “Epitaph One” promised to be less expensive than a regular episode, and perhaps that’s all it took. Thematically, it did a good job of not disrupting the narrative of the existing show, but it did place some of the show’s main cast members in a troubling light as the harbingers of the end of the world.
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