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Actives in training (left), Echo (right)

Actives (or dolls, informally) are the employees, and also the merchandise, of the Dollhouse. Any client of the Dollhouse can hire Actives for engagements, although sometimes the actives also do pro bono work. For each engagement actives get the necessary personality imprinted (which can include false memories, muscle memory, language, etc.). After each engagement, actives get their memories erased and live in a childlike state in the Dollhouse, which serves like a dormitory/school for them. Most of the dolls are "young and beautiful", because of the high demand for romantic engagements.[1]

The Dollhouse implants Actives with devices that locate them on GPS and remotely monitor their vital signs called Biolinks. These devices are placed at the base of the neck.


Supposedly, actives are volunteers who gave up five years of their lives for the Dollhouse. They get "a ridiculously large sum of money and no memory of anything they did for the Dollhouse", as well as an end to whatever personal trauma led them to sign on.[1]

However, there are examples of Adelle DeWitt recruiting candidates to become Actives under duress, such as Echo. This recalls the question that Boyd asked Topher about dolls supposedly being volunteers, and casts doubt on how many dolls are actually volunteers. "Needs" revealed that Sierra was put in the Dollhouse as revenge from a powerful man, Nolan Kinnard, for not accepting his advances, although "Belonging" showed that the Dollhouse staff was unaware of this - Nolan had arranged for Sierra to be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and taken by the Dollhouse as a charity case. Victor signed on with the Dollhouse in order to be cured of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in Afghanistan, and November signed on to be rid of her grief over the death of her infant daughter Katie.

In the past, the Dollhouse recruited convicts from the Department of Corrections, including Karl William Kraft, who became Alpha. This policy has been discontinued.


Main article: Engagement

The Dollhouse will usually be contacted by "shifty and rich"[2] clients asking for an active to perform an engagement. The Dollhouse (in particular Adelle DeWitt) runs thorough background checks on each client to ensure the active's safety. Usually riskier engagements (the ones where actives are in danger of getting hurt or killed) also tend to have a higher price tag. The actives are monitored internally and remotely by their handler, but they only listen in on the engagements that involve criminal activity.[1] After finishing the engagement the actives feel a need to return to the Dollhouse, where they get wiped.

Besides client-related engagements, the actives also do work for the Dollhouse itself, such as Victor sabotaging Paul Ballard's investigation as "Lubov" or November surveilling Paul Ballard, and occasionally pro bono missions.

In the DollhouseEdit

Tabula RasaEdit


The beds/sleeping chambers

The actives live in the Dollhouse while not on mission. Since they have no memory of their past lives or missions, their state, termed "Tabula Rasa" by DeWitt, is quite childlike. Bonding between the actives (for instance during lunch) is quite uncommon. In their tabula rasa state, Actives are not supposed to form individual attachments or feel sexual desire. They often use stereotyped, repetitive phrases, such as, "I want to be my best" or "Massages are relaxing." They are not supposed to be able to read, and presumably look at picture books.

Joss Whedon described the actives in their childlike state as "the most vulnerable characters" he has written so far: "And that's something we play on, the fact that when they're in their doll state, they're not just childlike, but they're kind of naïve and trusting and optimistic. Sometimes things are just sort of, when they're bleak, their optimism is kind of beautifully sad. When we realize that things are not going well and they don't, it's kind of heartbreaking and then when they begin to realize, they begin to think beyond what just a blank slate, then it takes on a different kind of poignancy."[3]


For the main article, see Script.

Despite the Dollhouse's insistence that the dolls are wiped clean after each imprint, they do maintain a small skill base, which includes the ability to speak the English language. Dollhouse programmers take advantage of the visceral nature of language and imprints the dolls with scripts which help to dictate their actions and reactions. The dolls remember their lines from wipe to wipe and use them to negotiate their relationships with their handlers and their reaction to their "birth" after every wipe. Topher refers to this as a "neural lock and key." If the expected response is not given, it causes distress and confusion, and the Doll may repeat his or her line until receiving a satisfactory response. The usual question after a wipe is "did I fall asleep?" to which the operator responds "for a little while." The active then asks "shall I go now?"  and the operator says "if you like." The Doll generally leaves, returning to their daily activities and striving to be their best. 


The Dollhouse offers large co-ed showers, treadmills, weight training equipment, a swimming pool, a sauna, a cafeteria-style dining area, and a variety of health related activities such as yoga, massage and art classes to its actives. Actives move at will from place to place and activity to activity when off duty.

Actives sleep in single bed chambers, known as Sleeping Pods, that are recessed below the floor and covered with translucent sliding doors. While sleeping, they listen to subliminal messages and breathe anti-psychotic drugs.


The designations of LA actives are taken from the NATO phonetic alphabet. The exact method of assigning specific names to specific actives is unknown. Since the current Sierra is at least the second active to bear that designation, as mentioned in "Stage Fright," a name that comes earlier in the alphabet does not necessarily mean that active has been at the Dollhouse longer. It is possible that the first actives were named in order, and replacements merely take over the most recently vacated name. Gender may also play a role in name designation, given that male Dolls have been assigned the typically male names "Victor" and "Mike." (S1: "Ghost"; Et al)

Topher mentions "Whiskey 1.1", suggesting there is an additional numbering system used for imprints that incorporates the designation of an Active. (S1: "Omega")

The Washington, D.C. Dollhouse uses names taken from Greek mythology to designate their actives. (S2: "The Public Eye")


Actives' original personalities are meant to be restored to them once their five-year contracts are up, presuming they are still alive (some engagements are high-risk). The former Actives do indeed receive a great deal of money and the erasure of whatever unbearable memories or feelings prompted them to join in the first place. They also retain the Dollhouse's "Active architecture" in their brains, making them susceptible to related technologies. The continued presence of the neural architecture is, of course, necessary - their restored original personality is an imprint. This means that to speak of a "former" Active is misleading. (S2: "The Public Eye")

They are not as free and clear as they are supposed to be, however. For example, many ex-military former Actives are recruited into Rossum's Project Mind Whisper. (S2: "Stop-Loss")

It is known that a former Active who made a passing reference to the Dollhouse on his blog was eliminated. Rossum has actively betrayed another former Active, Madeline Costley, by setting her up to be "exposed" as a madwoman as part of a plan to increase its political power, and then abducted her to the DC Dollhouse. As observed by Paul Ballard, "no one really leaves here". (S2: "The Public Eye", "The Left Hand")

Rossum had also given approval to permanently imprint the Active Sierra and send her to live with Nolan Kinnard due to his wealth and his influence with the company, even though this was in outright violation of the five-year service concept. This was nullified when Priya Tsetsang, Sierra's original identity, murdered Kinnard; Tsetsang subsequently signed a new five-year contract so that she wouldn't remember killing Kinnard. (S2: "Belonging")

List of activesEdit

Current ActivesEdit

L.A. DollhouseEdit

Other actives are shown, but not named. At least five unnamed actives survived Alpha's "composite event;" they are shown being ordered to bed before their shower. (S1: "The Target")

D.C. DollhouseEdit

Actives sent to the AtticEdit

Notes & referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 10 Facts about Dollhouse - Spoiler Alert!. (2008-05-15). Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
  2. Spelling, Ian (2008-06-02). Joss Whedon offers a sneak peak at his brand-new Dollhouse. Sci Fi Weekly. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
  3. Topel, Fred (2009-02-25). Joss Whedon sheds some light on Dollhouse. Retrieved on 2009-02-26.

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