SciFi Weekend: Transferring Memory in Caprica and Dollhouse


Two shows this week, Caprica and Dollhouse, centered around the transfer of memory, with each show handling the idea in an entirely different matter. Although the prequel to Battlestar Galactica will not begin until next year, the pilot for the series was released on DVD this week. The DVD is also an unrated version including nudity which will not be present when the show is aired on television. (This review contains major spoilers for those planning to watch the DVD.)

The nudity is used to show both the decadence of Caprica before the Cylon wars along with their scientific abilities in virtual reality. In many ways the Caprica of the prequel is more advanced than what was seen on Battlestar Galactica, with Galactica purposely using a ship with limited technology to prevent control by the Cylons (along with preventing overuse of holodeck type stories as on Star Trek: The Next Generation). The show involves two families, the Graystones and the Adams (later Adama), with Zoe Graystone being a rebellious teen with extraordinary programing abilities. Brilliant, rebellious teens such as Zoe create virtual reality clubs where everything goes, including virtual sex and violence.

An unexpected development in Battlestar Galactica was to find that the Cylons believed in monotheism while the humans were polytheistic. This division began on Caprica as Zoe and some of her friends were part of a minority which believed in monotheism. Zoe, along with family members of Joseph Adams, were killed when a friend of Zoe’s caused an explosion as an act of protest.


After the explosion, Zoe’s friend Lacy Rand (who stayed behind at the last moment avoiding the suicide bombing) returned to the Graystone home and was able to enter Zoe’s virtual club. A virtual version of Zoe remained who expressed independent thought, leaving a version of Zoe behind. Zoe’s father, Daniel Graystone, found out and saw how this could be combined with work underway on robotics. Daniel Graystone transferred Zoe’s programming into an early Cylon model. At first it appeared that the experiment was a failure, destroying all traces of the virtual Zoe. At the end the Cylon awoke and called on Lacy for help with Zoe’s voice.  Seeing how the Cylons began in this manner explains both the monotheism of the Cylons along with their rebelliousness which ultimately led to the destruction of the humans.

Alessandra Toreson, who plays Zoe Graystone, and producer Jane Espenson have revealed that we will continue to see Zoe in at least three forms:

“There’s a lot of flashbacks” to young Zoe’s life before she was blown up by her religious fanatic boyfriend, but Espenson says that a young woman’s unwise entanglement with a killer is almost familiar ground for her: “Buffy’s boyfriend was a vampire—several vampires, even.” Indeed.

In addition to “live” Zoe, we’ll be seeing at least two other Zoes. According to Alessandra, “Zoe A is in the club, and Zoe R is robot Zoe, centurion Zoe. There’s a lot of Zoe to come, a lot of different hair colors, a lot of different outfits. Robot Zoe is amazing actually. They’re having me take miming classes—we’re going to get the robot to do exactly what I can do. They really want me to feel as if I am a Cylon and that I’m living this.”

This prequel to Battlestar Galactica provides important background to the development of the Cylons. Jane Espenson has also discussed how we will learn more in the upcoming made for television movie, The Plan:

Q: The introduction to Battlestar Galactica always said the Cylons had a plan, but some people felt we never got a clear vision of it. Now you’ve got this movie coming out called The Plan. Is the idea here to finally answer this lingering question?

A: That is very much at the center of the movie, yes. We wanted to explain things that you might not have even realized needed an explanation — tiny little mysteries that we could address. That was my greatest joy in making the movie — trying to find satisfying little connections. I want The Plan to feel like a gift to the really observant fans.


The transfer to Zoe Graystone’s memories begins an epic story which leads to the destruction of the colonies and the eventual colonization of our Earth. Similar technology is used in a far more trivial manner on Dollhouse.  (I previously discussed some of the problems with the premise here).  Memories are transferred so that rich clients can either have the perfect sex partner or a temporary employee with the skills they desire, such as a hostage negotiator in one episode.

A far more significant potential use of this technology was raised in this week’s episode, Haunted, but this was not fully explored other than for a brief protest from Boyd.  Margaret, a friend of Adelle, had her memories stored a month before she was murdered. After her death her memories were restored n Echo’s body, allowing Margaret to temporarily return to life. Margaret both settled matters with her family and uncovered her own murderer.

This technology could offer eternal life, which could demand a far greater price than the other services they offer (even if Boyd was disturbed by the prospect of doing this). The  contract in which the dolls allow their bodies to be used for five years could be a minor problem, assuming that they really do return the memories after five years (considering that the dolls would be in no position to enforce the contract). If they did honor the five year contracts they could provide a different body every five years, providing eternal youth along with immortality.

This storyline was matched with an amusing b-story in which Topher showed a more trivial use of such advanced technology as he created the perfect nerd friend to spend a day with, presumably as he had no good friends of his own. Ballard is also coming closer to finding the Dollhouse and it appears he will do so next week. Now that the series is more fully developing the mythology, and has gotten away from Fox’s idea of Echo’s adventure of the week, the show will hopefully be renewed to explore this story further.