Wed Sep 23, 2009

The recent dead salmon bit that’s going around is a wonderful distillation of contemporary received wisdom about neuroscience. In the world of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon’s latest scalp-massager on Fox, the salmon would not be actually in the process of transformation into a Deep One, but rather would be under the control of a mischievous adolescent whose wishes are fulfilled through incredible technology he alone controls. Those mind-control fantasies are regulated, however, by various paternal and maternal figures who keep him busy but frustrated. I think that Whedon recognizes the usefulness of this psychodynamic outlay, as it was one of the major plot points of most seasons of Buffy (the sixth in particular).

The identity transformation is not perfect, however. (It’s foolishly referred to as ‘personality’ several times in the show, as if altering someone’s disposition is on the same order as giving them expert-level knowledge in venery or CSIonics.) What leaks through, according to the show’s exoteric Straussians, who are usually agents of the peace, current or fallen, is the soul. Our adolescent godling laughs nervously at this idea, his scorn not quite extinguishing his fear.

I always wonder what Hans Joachim Alpers would think of most of the science fiction and fantasy I watch or read. It’s an amusing enough exercise, though I wonder how Alpers would have dealt with the cloying self-awareness that characterizes much of Whedon’s efforts. In any case, I was bitterly disappointed by the aired ending [UPDATE: I was confused about which episode was unaired when I originally wrote this.], “Omega,” about which I had somehow gotten the impression that it was a challenging, premise-stretching affair when of course it was not.

I feel like I should have an encyclopedic knowledge of many conventional science fiction tropes at my command, but I don’t know when the first instance of the reprogrammable personality concept was used. The second season promises Ray Wise, and I saw what seemed to be overt homages to Lynch in the first, so I continue to hold out hope.