On Dollhouse

Rossum's Universal Robots

Karel Capek Meets Joss Whedon in the Dollhouse
By Kristin Noone

In the season two episode “The Attic” (2-10), Echo came face to
face with Clyde Randolph, one of the two founders behind the
Rossum Corporation. At one point, she asked a simple question
about the name of the company, almost idly, out of curiosity:
“And Rossum . . . ?”

“Oh,” Clyde said. “It’s from a play. Anyway . . .” And the
episode moved on, and the play was left unnamed. For Joss
Whedon, who is famous for meaningful names and allusions,
this cannot be a coincidence; after all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
has what is possibly the largest cache of literate and literary
references in television history, according to academics Jesse
Stallings and Emily Dial-Driver, who have made an impressive
study of the number and types of allusions in the Whedonverse
in their essay “Texting Buffy: Allusions of Many
Kinds.” Dollhouse carried on this tradition, alluding to sources
as diverse as T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Canterbury Tales, and the fairy tale “Briar Rose,” an early version
of the Sleeping Beauty tale. This particular reference, the
one that gives the Rossum Corporation its name, seems clearly
important. The ellipsis invites viewers to ask Echo’s question,
to investigate Rossum for themselves, and to discover the play
that lurks behind the entire Dollhouse story: Karel Cˇ apek’s
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).

Cˇ
apek, a young Czech journalist and playwright, wrote
R.U.R. in 1920, in the wake of the First World  …

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