Buffy writers and the Evils of Synchronicity
This may be turning into a bad series of coincidences. We wrote last week about the similarities between the Sci Fi Channel’s Warehouse 13 (co-written by Buffy writer Jane Espenson) and Steve Jackson Games’s Warehouse 23. Now we might seeing something similar happening again — and this time, it’s Buffy creator Joss Whedon.
As has been widely reported, Fox has given a seven episode order to a new Joss Whedon project called Dollhouse. The series is about a group of agents used for different assignments and between those assignments their minds and memories are wiped and they live in a dollhouse type environment. One of the women, Echo (played by Eliza Dushku), tries to find out who she was before her memory was wiped.
All well and good, except there was something that tickled the memory of a correspondent — specifically, a similarity to Piers Anthony’s Of Man and Manta trilogy. He might have a point. Here’s an excerpt of the the first chapter of the first book, Omnivore, originally published in 1968, where the lead character Subble talks about himself:
"An agent’s memory is washed blank before every assignment. I have been given three addresses and a caution signal. That was, literally, all I knew about you before I landed. Your name, where to find you, and a warning of danger."
A decent amount of Omnivore, and a smaller amount of the sequels, Orn and Ox, is spent dealing with agents and the dilemmas their particular type of existence generates– mission above all, downtime (such as it is) and what sort of existence they have.
As we said, this happens at times in the business — some people work in the same fields of the mind, the same strain will occasionally come up. But this is odd in that both pitches have gotten to series commitment without anybody noticing similarities to previously published material. Perhaps we’re getting closer and closer to that point predicted by Spider Robinson’s Melancholy Elephants, where we’re starting to run out of ideas.
But here’s the part that sucks. There’s a writers’ strike that starts at 12:01 Monday morning. Joss will be prevented (nor, based on his pro-WGA statements, would he anyway) from making any changes to Dollhouse until the strike is over. Any changes. Even if lawyers say he has to make changes to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. At that point, does it become easier to just dump the series, since no real money has been committed? It’s a science fiction show on Fox, with Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, and Eliza Dushku attached — yeah, those last.
I’d say it’s 6-5 and pick ’em, depending on the length of the strike.