Solved: Dollhouse – The Mystery Of The 13th Episode

Published 6 years ago by , Updated June 27th, 2013 at 3:07 pm,

So… what, exactly, is the deal with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse?

Thursday and Friday, the Internet went nuts with worry that the number of episodes the Fox Television Network is said to be airing for Dollhouse was being short changed. The info distilled into a hyperbole of rumors saying Dollhouse was canceled because the season was being cut short. The truth of the matter is that Fox paid for 13 episodes, but only planned on airing 12.

Which makes us wonder: What’s up with that?

The Dollhouse History

June 4th 2008, Screen Rant reported that Fox was going to give Whedon a 7 episode run of Dollhouse, without airing a pilot for the show. They also gave it a Monday time slot, being the lead-in show for 24.

June 15th 2008, we reported that Fox “asked” for the first episode of Dollhouse to be reshot. It’s here that we felt something was up.

Late July of 2008, fans were starting “Save Dollhouse” websites (before the show even started airing). Joss addressed the re-shoot at Comic-Con, saying that the show jumped right into the story line and reshooting Dollhouse created more background to understand, emphasizing that nothing was removed from the show, just rearranged.

He also noted that they had 13 webisodes planned to accent all the network episodes.

September of ’08, the production for Dollhouse was shutdown. They said that Joss had to take a break from production and get back into writing the show. Joss himself said he asked for the stall.

November 8th, 2008 it was announced that Dollhouse was being moved to Friday nights. It went from a lead-in for a popular show to a Friday night slot following a show that already had ratings issues. November 8th is thereabouts when the fanbase of Whedon went into a tizzy of sorts, and I was right there with you.

The move to Fridays left Whedon feeling mixed, as he said “I’ve had a bad experience on a Friday; you may have heard about it.” (Referring to the prior cancellation of Firefly) But he also expressed supportive thoughts on the issue, like being paired with The Sarah Connor Chronicles was good.

As the series premiere approached air time, we started seeing something we’re not used to seeing from Whedon: Sex-laced ads and then episodes that weren’t what I felt were Whedon creations. Despite his saying at one point that he wanted to go in a different direction with this show, I’ve never seen any of his work demonstrate such an overt air of suggestive sexuality from women in any of his shows. He writes strong, commanding female roles, not objects.

Present Day

Starting back on March 20th and April 3rd, the show started representing a stronger vision of what Whedon considers Dollhouse to be about. It comes back to the first 5 episodes being altered by Fox. Why, I don’t know. This stronger vision is what I presume to be more of how Whedon envisioned the flow of the story.

We were apprehensive when Dollhouse got stuffed into Friday nights with an already ratings-weak show in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Hence why we feel like Dollhouse is an endangered species.

Or more to the point, the show looks like it was handled exactly as Fox has handled Joss Whedon franchises before – with curious and interesting logic (for lack of a more polite way to say it).

The ratings have been dwindling from week to week, despite strong DVR numbers.  That’s not the key demographic to getting a show a repeat season.

So What Is Up?

So is Fox shorting us an episode? It would seem so, but it’s not. Fox ordered 13 episodes, but is only airing 12. One of the 13 episodes was considered to be un-airable by Fox execs, and the season was subsequently planned out with 12 episodes.

But when Felicia Day tweeted that her episode, the 13th episode, wasn’t going to air, folks went nuts. At this point not too many people had seen the TV By The Numbers info or our own info yet, so the Internet did what it does best, and most expeditiously: It lashed out at Fox.

What we were missing was that the 13 episodes ordered also included that un-airable pilot episode. That’s the episode that had been shot, “reconceived,” and was still never was considered for airing.

The last two episodes that are scheduled to air are a two-part closure to the season. The two episodes together were created as the season finale. They answer a number of questions about the Dollhouse and the actives. Though it’s not being treated as a cliffhanger, it will raise some questions that can lead us into that potential second season, should that happen.

So there you have it as far as the conspiracy issues that were ablaze over the last few days.

It still falls back on how Fox has handled Dollhouse and this furor is just something they only have themselves to blame. All the while, Minear and Whedon had to continually step in to defend the network’s behavior.

I get Fox being worried about creating a viable product. But I also think they needed to trust Whedon to create a decent product and treat the product in the way he envisioned it.

I’m not defending Fox in any way. Trust me. Yes, this is not the first time a Dollhouse scenario had to be explained away by its creators. Sure, moving the show to Fridays seemed self destructive on Fox’s side. Sure, rearranging episode order was an unpopular management choice.  So no, I’m not defending them. But I think this was just a simple misunderstanding and the misguided beast called Fox gets to skate this once… again.

I’m sure we don’t have to wait long to find another mishap on the horizon. Though I’d love to see Dollhouse pop back in for a 2nd season on a night that might carry it further, I’m not holding my breath on whatever decision Fox makes. Heck, at this point, I’d suggest Whedon take it to a cable network or even go viral and turn to the faithful medium that’s always here for him. The Internet.

Amongst The Despair, Good News

Me, I’m still waiting for Universal to exercise the rights they bought to Whedon’s Goners, if that’s ever going to happen. That and the other good news we can focus on is that Joss Whedon has come up with a title for the 2nd installment in the tale of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. And yes, as Nathan Fillion says, “Color me in!”

Sources: E Online, HitFix, TV Squad,

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  1. So…the thirteenth episode was only the un-aired pilot that had to be re-shot? If that’s the case, I feel a little bad I wrote FOX…and told my friends to write FOX…and so on. Though I think with Joss even putting Dollhouse on FOX, not to mention on Fridays, we’ve been kind of preparing for this sort of thing the whole time. Should have gone with ABC.

    And I am totes excited for a possible Dr Horrible 2.

  2. I hear ya Lysh, but really, it’s good to write Fox. Let them know we’re out here. And like I said earlier, how they’ve handled the project has created some tension to begin with.

  3. “Or more to the point, the show looks like it was handled exactly as Fox has handled Joss Whedon franchises before – with curious and interesting logic (for lack of a more polite way to say it).”

    Don’t worry, you can say it, Fox is screwed, in the head. We all know already. (That’s not a personal attack, right? ;))

    Okay, now that I’ve got that over with…

    It’s certainly comforting to know why one episode is “missing.” Actually, it’s a perfectly good explanation that doesn’t raise any more flags. Although, it is an explanation that uses Fox’s own mistakes to quell the cries of the spurned. Way to be, Fox.

    My biggest questions, still unanswered, are what is going through Fox’s heads and what does Joss have to say about everything? The first answer could easily be attempted with one word: nothing, but I don’t think that’s enough. They should know, by now, that Joss has incredible potential to make hit after hit. Yet they still meddle (as River would say). Didn’t Joss gain any trust after Buffy and Angel? As for Joss, I know there has got to be good reason for sticking with Fox. He is a smart guy, it shines through, in his shows, so why? Maybe it’s obvious, but I haven’t found it.

    Personally, I like the idea of him going the same route as with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I know it’s worked for me. The internet makes it more accessible to more groups (I don’t have TV) and even puts the medium at the same place as the world’s greatest shopping center. After watching it one time, on Hulu, I opened iTunes and bought it, and the soundtrack, so that I could watch it, on the go. I’ve since then got the DVD off Amazon, as well. I’m a sucker and lazy, so what?

    Not that I have any thoughts on the subject, or anything…

    I’ll try to keep my overly active mind in check, in the future, and keep focused on the good news. I’d really love to see Goners go through and I’m absolutely ecstatic about the news of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog second installment. What a brilliant creation.

    /memory dump

  4. Tim Minear has also said that Felicia Day’s episode is a separate episode which will be included in the DVD set.

    Basically, as far as episodes that were ordered go, the un-aired pilot counts as 1, making the total up to 13, with the final episode aired on May 8th being the 12th episode we see. But the contracts with the people who make the DVD means that they need 13 episodes in total to put on it, so they shot a new episode, to take place after the final episode to go on the DVD… think of it like the final episode of Buffy season 4, the penultimate episode of that season had them killing off the season bad guy, and then the final episode had the Scoobies all having dreams about the first slayer (and the infamous cheese guy).

    This wasn’t in your (otherwise fairly detailed) article, so I just thought you ought to know. ;)

    Whether we get the un-aired pilot on the DVD as well is yet to be seen, we got it on the Firefly box set, but then that pilot was totally different from the new one and simply added to things, whereas apparently with the Dollhouse one, they chopped it up for parts. Still, I’d like to see it, see if it was any better than what Fox had them cook up.

  5. I’m just really amazed, after having watched Firefly, that such good shows are treated like this. I have not watched Dollhouse, mostly because I fear that it will get canceled and leave me hanging.

    On a side note: at least Firefly had Serenity. I watched the Movie first, and after watching the Series, I watched it again. Does anyone feel that they compressed about 2 1/2 seasons worth of plot points into that one film? Just based on the pace of the Series vs the pace of the Movie.

  6. PSYKO:

    But what do you really think!? AJA (All Joking Aside), thanks for dropping your ./dump here.


    Yes. I’ve intentionally left out a few items in the post. I edited myself because this thing with the extra episode, or # of hours goes beyond my simple understanding of math. I work with scientists and we apply math to satellites and other things. This Hollywood math fuzzies my poor head.

    Yet, it boils down to this about this extra epi:

    “was ordered by 20th Century Fox TV, the show’s production company, but not by the network and the network had no commitment to air that episode. It’s Hour 14 for the season.”

    It gets corn-fusing because the obligation to include the unaired epi comes down to if all the right entities pay for it or not to have it included… or something like that.

    I was trying to keep my article as concise as possible. Trying to deal with this may have created more of a tome than a concise read! Kind of like this comment. Dang!

  7. @Bruce

    Yeah, I understand that.

    I think essentially, it goes like this: There are 14 episodes, only 12 will be shown on TV and only 13 on the DVD (unless they throw on the unaired pilot for good measure)

    I think it’s all to do with contracts (at least as much as I’ve gathered from Minear). Fox contracted Whedon to produce 13 episodes to be aired, which they did since the unaired pilot counts, even if it was unaired (head starting to hurt).

    But if they don’t put the unaired pilot on the DVD, then that number will be down to 12 when 13 were contracted (for the DVD, and I assume this is a different contract), so they made a new episode just for DVD (although Minear hopes they air it anyway because “it’s awesome”).

    Why do this instead of just stick the unaired pilot on the DVD? Because the Pilot was, in Minear’s words, “cannibalized” and elements of it were put into other episodes. Thus, I think, for a coherent narrative on the DVD, they have the 12 aired and one bonus they’ve just made (thus, if they do include the original pilot, it’ll be an extra feature).

    But I get your confusion, someone, somewhere paid for an extra episode and the network isn’t obligated to air it… and not only that but the network is apparently obligated to air the original pilot, but haven’t, and even then there…

    Well it’s just all confuzzling.

  8. I heard about this the other day,
    But I decided not to mention it here because it might be misinterpreted if I said it wrong .
    I knew that Bruce could lay out the facts much better then I could.
    Good job Bruce!
    and good luck to Dollhouse.

  9. I think perhaps Tricia Day shouldnt have said anything about the unaired episode .
    Sounds like she was mad at fox .
    She HAD to know she would get fans upset .
    She even said “Thx Fox” very sarcastically .
    I think sometimes stars try to manipulate fans on the internet .
    Just my opoinion.

  10. Just my OPINION!
    Darn typos!

  11. JOSHI:

    You’re hurting my head and it’s way too early in the morning for this. Thanks for spelling it out… cripes, I may need to put you on retainer to help with all the Hollywood math.



    Felicia Tweets. I’m not sure she wasn’t just spouting out something to spout. She does “post” a lot to Twitter and she’s got a ton of followers.

    And yet …

    One of her tweets soon after her initial one was distributing Twitter contact info for FOX if anyone had questions.

    Various sources put up the studio’s different contact avenues.


    Folks ire were up and they probably took advantage of the info as to how to contact Fox and vent. But as we see, it may have been for naught, being that it was a non-issue.

    On the other hand,

    We can only hope that the onslaught of letters, emails and Tweets would let Fox know that there is a serious core of impassioned fans out here wanting more Whedon in our weekly does of TV.

    (I tend to see that is something good in everything, no matter how small.)

    While remaining realistic about ratings, this whole debacle may have been a good thing in the long run.

  12. I started watching Dollhouse a few weeks ago and I already pray it doesn’t get cancelled so soon. It’s a wonderfully new science fiction show and just what TV deserves to help keep the genre alive. And I think Olivia Williams is most impressive.

  13. Gah, I’m confused again after reading everyone’s comments. I get that the 13th episode was the unaired pilot that they re-shot. So does that mean that Felicia was in the unaired pilot, or is she in the 12th episode? I had heard it was a later episode, but maybe she was confused herself. (and it’s not on her imdb)

  14. @Lysh

    Heh, lets simplify things shall we?

    There are a total of 14 episodes.

    In chronological order they go, Unaired pilot, 12 episodes to air (and we’ve already seen 9 including yesterdays) and then one bonus episode with Felicia Day that likely won’t be aired on TV.

    Out of said 14 episodes, the last 13 will be on the DVD. So the DVD will will have the 12 episodes we see on TV plus the Felicia Day one at the end as their official episode line up.

    Hope that’s helped a bit. ;)

  15. I wonder if part of the overall problem here is that Whedon is too nice of a guy with an “I’ll just take what I can get” type of attitude.

    When he was a UPN they treated him like gold(mainly because BVS was the only show that got any real ratings on that network),so he goes to Fox and they give his new show Firefly the worst possible timeslot for it to succeed.Subsequently,it failed.

    He develops another show and goes to Fox again.I’m really wonder if he even tried to shop it to other networks,because after what happened before,I would be real hesitant.Now it seems to me that Fox has obviously been jerking him around,with the change of time slot,reshot/unused pilot,sexed up advertising,etc.

    It seems that he has been a real stand up guy and has taken the high road by not bad mouthing anyone,but there has to come a point that he has to stand up and not take this crap anymore.Like they say,fool me once shame on you,fool me twice shame on me.Well this is twice,Joss.

    I would really hope for his sake that the next time that he creates a show,try going to HBO or Showtime(could you even imagine how much better this show would be if it were on one of those networks),where you would more than likely have more creative control.

    I’m not even that big of a Whedon fan,but the last few episode of Dollhouse have actually been really good,and it’s gonna be a shame to see what could potentially be a great show get canned because the network airing it would rather show American Idol 5 nights a week if they could.(wow,talk about a run on sentence!)

  16. The irritating thing is that Joss has said he’d like to move out of TV now and do more stuff like Dr Horrible. Now, while I really have nothing against that because I love Dr Horrible (own two copies of the DVD… don’t ask why) and want him to do more stuff like that, it seems like he’s quitting TV because of his experiences with networks, namely Fox, and that’s kind of a shame because I doubt they’re indicative of all TV studios.

    Really, the Sci-Fi channel (or Scy fy or whatever) has lost BSG now, they need another good Sci-fi show and here’s Whedon with a brain brimming with really freaking good Sci-fi ideas, why he stuck with Fox, even for Dollhouse is beyond me (and something I doubt we’ll hear about until after he’s left Fox for good and decided to start badmouthing them although really, he doesn’t seem the type, so I doubt he will).

    Maybe they’ve given him a boat load of money. Or perhaps they “promised” him creative control, and then took it away when they saw the first few episodes. Who knows.

  17. You might have something,Joshi.He should consider moving his ideas to SyFy.Lord knows that they need something else besides Mansquito and Stargate.


  19. Felicia Day is awesome! I cant ever imagine something that shes involved in being un-airable, that sounds like pure crap to me.

    It all started with Dark Angel and they got away with it, so they will do whatever they want whenever they want from now on with our sci-fi shows.

    I honestly don’t think Dollhouse is that great, I loved Dark Angel, and Firefly and TSCC, Dollhouse is the weakest link IMHO (I know they aren’t all JW btw, but they are all Fox sci-fi tradegys) but JW has crazy fans and I’m only like a half-hearted fan when it comes to him because I honestly didn’t get into the Buffy thing, I thought it was, and still think it was stupid, while Firefly was visionary, so yeah.

  20. This article is both right and wrong; The 13th or 14th(if you count the pilot) episode is in fact an episode that is not airing. It is said to be set in the future and may or may not have anything to do with the series. If you scour the web you can find some photos, and this is the episode that Felicia Day is in. It is supposed to be included on the dvd.

    “The decision had to do with the studio saying, ‘We need another episode for our package, and we can’t afford one,’” Whedon said. “‘Can you do a clip show? Can we show the unaired pilot?’ I’m like, ‘No, you can’t. It wouldn’t make any sense. Besides, we cannibalized it for parts. Most of it’s in other episodes.’ And they were like, ‘Well, we really have to have 13 for foreign.’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll shoot a post-apocalyptic thriller that’s all on our sets in six days with a cast of four other people, then we’ll pepper it with different bits from our regular cast, and we can do it all during the schedule. It’ll cost you half. I can do this.’ And I was so in love with the idea that I just came up with off the top of my head, and that’s what it turned into. It’s one of the best episodes we’ve ever made.””