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An imprint is the personality package that an active receives before each assignment. The Dollhouse has a wide variety of imprints available, including memories of dead people (Eleanor Penn, for instance), allowing the actives to become whichever personality is needed for the desired assignment. A memory wipe then erases everything the active knows about the mission, and therefore also the imprint.
Topher Brink and Bennett Halverson are programmers responsible for imprints. The technical instrument has been described as an "imprint chair" with "a wedge" containing all the skills and packages. Each doll lies in the chair to be imprinted with both a persona and a parameter, described below.
Topher mentions that imprinting a non-Active would make the person's mind "implode." Paul Ballard speculates that imprinting would require removing a person's original personality.
A limited form of this technology is known to the public, when Anton Lubov mentions, "They made a monkey do the tango."
For each engagement, the active is imprinted with a personality most suited for the client's needs. The finished personality is an amalgam of different personae assembled into a custom design. Creating this amalgam is not an exact science, according to Topher, who explained that the personalities are made out of whole people with strengths and flaws. The sources of these personalities often create their strengths in order to compensate for their flaws, such as Eleanor Penn's asthma. The skills for which the actives are so prized derive from the achievements of these personality donors, whoever they may be.
As Topher described in "Stage Fright," the second piece of a doll's imprint is the parameter for the mission. Each engagement involves a mission; a doll must not only be capable of fulfilling this mission, but must also have the motivation to do so. The parameter imprint provides this motivation. This particular imprint is key for the mission, as the actives are not themselves knowingly hired to complete a task and enter the world with no connection to the client. This piece of the imprint process provides the actives with this connection, with a desire to fulfill whatever need set by the client.
Types of imprintsEdit
There are a few types of imprints used in the Dollhouse, each used for different ends. Topher oversees all of these imprints, using the instruments described above.
As seen at Sierra's introduction in "Ghost," extensive and painful "tissue mapping" is necessary upon an Active's first arrival, involving acupuncture-like needles following the scan of the original personality. Presumably, this means that the physical skills imprinted in the active can work perfectly even when the Active's body is a different size and shape from the source of the skill. Once the "Active architecture" is installed to a person's brain, it will always be there (S2: "The Public Eye"); the Active, once restored to their original identity, is simply "imprinted" as their former self.
A separate imprint process is also used to form the handler/active bond which allows the dolls to trust their handlers and follow them back for their "treatments" at the end of each engagement. In addition to the standard imprint technology, Topher requires the handler and active to maintain physical contact throughout the imprint and to recite a script which emphasizes trust and care.
These are the most common imprints performed at the Dollhouse, the imprints which allow the actives to become whomever the clients desire. They include detailed memories, personality traits, physical and intellectual skills, and even disabilities such as asthma or nearsightedness.
It's implied that personality imprints only last a certain period of time, likely two or three days, and then need to be refreshed in the imprinting chair. The Eleanor Penn persona in "Ghost" picked up where she left off after receiving her treatment. Alternately, the Actives are wiped at the end of the engagement and revert to their tabula rasa state.
For a list of imprints and personality packages, see this page.
Long Term ImprintsEdit
Imprints can last for weeks, months or years, and apparently need regular refresh imprints. Long term imprints are said to be "tricky." ("Vows")
Known examples of long term imprints:
- November as Mellie
- Whiskey as Dr. Claire Saunders
- Echo as Roma Klar
- Daniel Perrin as a modified version of himself.
Even former Actives who have returned to their original identity are still technically Actives, only imprinted with their original personalities and memories. They are still susceptible to Glitching, Wipes and other problems; e.g. Madeline Costley was affected by the Disruptor in S2: "The Public Eye". They remain under the Dollhouse's care, and come in for diagnostics to make sure they are functioning well (S2: "Instinct").
Personality imprints are assembled from real people, and a complete personality can be scanned from a person, and then imprinted into an Active. For example, Margaret Bashford had monthly scans done at the Dollhouse when she thought she might be murdered. DeWitt describes the scans as "painful." An entire personality can be downloaded in one scan, such as that of Laurence Dominic.
In "Epitaph One", DeWitt mentions that the Rossum Corporation's brain scanners secretly copy information to the Dollhouse's databases, and that the Dollhouses have the stored personalities of potentially millions of people.
By 2020 AD, imprinting technology has been refined.
Anthony Ceccoli's group of fighters use hand-sized imprinters that interface with implanted hardware, with different skills and behaviors stored on flash drive-like devices. The main limitation is that imprints must be swapped in and out with other mental traits.
Topher Brink also invented a device that reverts the world's population to their pre-wiped state.