On Dollhouse

Dollhouse's Future History Machines

By Kirsten Strayer

I. The Shape of Things to Come

“The Attic” (2-10), technological savant Clyde Randolph gazed
across the vast violence and animalistic chaos of his future
dystopia and told Echo, Priya, Tony, and Dominic, “This is no
nightmare. This is the shape of things to come.” This rather
poetic turn of phrase that closed the episode’s second act referenced
the final installment of the first season, “Epitaph One”
(1-13). The DVD-only episode showed that, while in 2010 the
dystopian dreamscape existed only as the worst possible scenario
Clyde’s mind (and therefore the Attic) could imagine, eight
years later this futuristic possibility was proved terrifyingly and
irrevocably true.

Clyde’s prophetic statement of a chilling future not only
linked the show’s main narrative to the dystopian season one
finale, but also alluded to a rare literary genre that is currently
making a small resurgence in sci-fi television. That well-turned,
prophetic phrase–“the shape of things to come”–is the title of
a cult-favorite science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. In addition to
Dollhouse, both geek-favorite Battlestar Galactica and ratings juggernaut
Lost have recently referenced the novel, pulling it from
relative obscurity to small-screen circulation. In referencing The
Shape of Things to Come
, these shows aren’t just taking advantage
of a catchy, prophetic phrase or a nicely worded sentence;
intentionally or not, they are alluding to what’s called “future
history,” a little-known science fiction sub-genre of which Wells’
novel is perhaps the most famous example.

Simply put, future history is the  …

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