SciFi Weekend: Surprises on Dollhouse and Lost (Penelope Widmore is Sally Harper!)

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There were several surprises this week. Some of the surprises were actually anticipated but this isn’t necessarily bad as it could indicate that the writers did a good job of setting up the surprises as opposed to bringing in things out of left field. Spoilers released earlier in the season also made some more predictable.

Briar Rose, this week’s episode of Dollhouse, began with one surprise as Ballard dumped Mellie. At first I was surprised he would to this but the moment we saw Mellie back with her handler the reason became clear. I had no doubt that Ballard was following and that this would be how he found the location of the Dollhouse.

While Ballard was hunting for the Dollhouse, the obligatory Echo story showed yet another use for the Dollhouse’s technology as this was used to help an abused child. It was not clear how this organization, which generally sells their services to millionaires, wound up helping this child (or how they could find the Dollhouse when the FBI could not).

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The real surprise of the episode was that Kepler turned out to be Alpha, but I actually expected that even before they made in inside of the Dollhouse. This guess was helped both by knowing that the season would end with a confrontation with Alpha and as Joss Whedon had already hinted that we would first see Alpha in a different identity.

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The show started out with problems, probably because of the interference from Fox, but is ending the season strong from a creative if not ratings standpoint.  Briar Rose set up a the finale, which will hopefully be a season as opposed to a series finale, with Alpha taking Echo. It turns out that both Ballard and Alpha are obsessed with Echo/Caroline. Of course after her nude picture in Allure (above) , I imagine there might be lots of guys who are obsessed with Eliza Dushku.

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Lost had its 100th episode, centering around Daniel Faraday. The Variable probably foreshadows the final episodes of the season as they move on from living with the Dharma people. The show could turn out to be a real game changer if it does turn out that people are variables which can change events, contrary to what we were previously told. The ultimate surprise could turn out to be that everything changes.

The surprise in this episode which came as no surprise was seeing Daniel Faraday get shot by his mother, Eloise Hawking, after going back in time before he was born. (It would have been far more interesting if instead he shot his mother before he was born, but presumably time could not be altered in that manner). We had already known that a major character would die before the end of the season and, being gone for a while, Faraday certainly seemed expendable. Seeing him enter the hostile’s camp after outright telling Jack and Kate that any one of them could be killed made his death so obvious that I told my wife that he was about to get killed with total certainty.

There are suggestions that there could be variables which change time, but it does not appear that changing Daniel’s fate is included. Eloise Hawking seems to know more about time travel and the island than anyone else. If she had sent Daniel back to the island, knowing that her younger self would kill him, she must be very certain that time could not be changed. Perhaps she had everyone else go back in the hopes someone else would be killed or events could have been chaged in a different way, but if she really thought she could change events the most sensible course would have been to keep Daniel from returning (unless there are other reasons this was not possible). It is conceivable that, like Ben, Daniel will survive the shooting but I will be very surprised if this is the case. What remains to be seen is whether Jack or anyone else does can change the sequence of events which have taken place on the island, leading to the crash of Oceanic Flight 815.

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While somewhat contrived, they made use of a story featuring Daniel and Eloise to show that Desmond is all right in the future as Eloise met with Penelope Widmore at the hospital. We also found, in a relatively minor surprise, that Charles Widmore was Daniel’s father.

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The biggest surprise of the week for me came when I obtained copies of the US version of Coupling. The show was based upon a BBC show which I previously discussed here.  The US version was intended to replace Friends but was actually a combination of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. The BBC version, besides being one of the greatest comedies ever made, is notable for being written by Steven Moffat, who will be taking over as show runner for Doctor Who when it returns on a regular basis in 2010.

The show was a flop in the United States but now that I’ve seen the BBC version I wanted to give the US version another chance. Seeing what the series turned into in the BBC version, I was curious to see the entire US run, especially as only four out of eleven episodes were aired here.

One problem the show had in the United States was the protests about the amount of sex discussed in the show. It was also probably hurt by the shorter length of the US version due to commercials. Typical episodes of Coupling were like many episodes of Seinfeld in which different stories often came together at the end. Taking an excellent script by Moffat and cutting out several minutes would be likely to ruin it.

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I’ve wondered if the problem could have been the quality of the actors. Here is where I had the surprise. Playing the beggining of an episode I found that in the US version Sally Harper was played by Sonya Walger. Walger also plays Penelope Widmore on Lost, was in the HBO series Tell Me You Love Me, and played Michelle Dixon on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The presence of Sonya Walger alone does not redeem the US version of Coupling, but after seeing her in Lost on Wednesday I was surprised to see her face when I started to watch Coupling. Although it has an ensemble cast, Sally was far less significant to the stories as compared to characters such as Steve and Susan. The actor playing Steve also looked familiar, and I later tracked him down to be Jay Harrington, who currently is doing an excellent job as star of Better Off Ted (shown here with Portia de Rossi of Allie McBeal and Arrested Development). Presumably he has improved his comedy skills since staring on Coupling.

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