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Portrayed by Amy Acker, Dr. Claire Saunders is a recurring character of Dollhouse. She looks after the physical well-being of the dolls, and has an acid wit that she usually reserves for Topher, who may only be kidding about being smitten with her (or not). She is scarred from a scissor attack, which occurred three months before the events of Dollhouse, during an attack on the Dollhouse by the rogue doll, Alpha, prior to his composite event. Dr. Saunders appears in 12 of the 13 episodes of the first season. Joss Whedon loves the character "because she wears misery and torture on her face literally, and we definitely learn how Claire came to this fabulous career. In the last few eps we get to turn the Acker up pretty high."[1]



The original Dr. Saunders (played by Joe Howard) was the Dollhouse's physician, a man in his fifties or sixties. After Dr. Saunders was killed at the hands of rogue Active Alpha, Topher imprinted the damaged doll Whiskey with Saunders' personality. Some alterations to the original Saunders personality in the new, younger Claire Saunders include memories related to gender difference, computer skills beyond those of a physician (to the extent where she was able to hack into Topher's computer system). Topher programmed her to be repelled by his scent to avoid the possibility of her being attracted to him, and gave her radically differing outlooks and ethics to his own for the benefit of the well-being of the Dolls; from this starting point, Saunders developed a hatred for Topher.


Joss Whedon describes the role: "Amy [Acker] plays Dr. Claire Saunders. She works in the Dollhouse and she's a very moral force. She's very, very, very broken. She's scarred, literally scarred. Something happened at the Dollhouse a while back, and she was scarred. She just sort of lives there, and her whole mission in life is to take care of them. Topher, the programmer, who is going to be cute and funny and sexy, he programs them, and he has a very amoral kind of point of view, and she is sort of his counterpoint."[2]

Saunders is the most likely to oppose or criticize DeWitt's decisions, usually on the basis of endangering the Actives, whereas Langton objects on the basis of morality. Saunders also sometimes justifies the Dollhouse's services as being a benefit to people, unlike Langton, who sees no redeeming value. The plan in "Needs", to give some of the Actives back their original personalities so they can find closure but not escape, was conceived by Saunders, not DeWitt.


When Boyd enters Dr. Saunder's office at the beginning of "A Spy in the House of Love" she quickly runs across the room to close a web page on her computer. It was a fictional website, assumed to be a dating service. This may indicate the doctor attempting to develop some kind of life outside of the Dollhouse. This episode also states that Saunders has not left the Dollhouse since Alpha's composite event.

Claire also suffers from a wide range of phobias, such as leaving the Dollhouse, a "problem" with crowds, people, sunlight, open spaces, noise and pets. (S2: "Vows")

This suggests that she suffers from Agoraphobia; Anthropophobia; Heliophobia; Ligyrophobia/Phonophobia; Social phobia; Zoophobia. It has not however, been made explicitly clear exactly what "problem" she has with the above situations, although it likely that these traits have been deliberately introduced into her imprint to prevent her leaving the Dollhouse and encountering former clients of Whiskey or associates of her original personality.


In "Omega", Saunders discovers that she is an Active; while she confronts Topher with this revelation, she makes no attempt to escape or learn about her original identity, saying, "I know who I am."

In "Briar Rose", when Victor is imprinted with Laurence Dominic, Dr. Saunders is told to sedate him. When she's walking towards him with the needle, Dominic shouts "Whiskey", at which point she responds "He'd like a drink." This is the first time she is referenced to be a doll.

Claire Saunders 2x01

"I'm just a series of excuses."

In "Vows", Saunders goes through an identity crisis. She acts out by playing pranks on Topher, declines Boyd's suggestion to go outside the Dollhouse, teases Echo, and attempts to sleep with Topher. Topher denies that he made her to be a lover, and says instead he programmed her to be "everything I'm not." This means that her hatred of him, he says, is a natural evolution. At the end of the episode, Boyd discovers a note that says, "I am running out... of excuses." Claire then is shown driving a car away from the Dollhouse. It was also revealed in Vows that Claire has several phobias, all relating to reasons why she wouldn't leave the Dollhouse, including fear of crowds, people, noises, open spaces and so forth.  Further still, Claire has admitted that she does not wish to know who she originally was or be restored as such because that would mean her "death" as Claire Saunders and she is afraid of dying, an ironic statement she had not failed to notice. Finally, she says to Boyd that she wishes to keep her scars because they are a part of her identity; losing them might mean becoming a doll once more.

Claire's absence and departure from the Dollhouse has not gone unnoticed, and during a conversation with Adelle Dewitt, Boyd specifically mentions Whiskey as Claire, resulting in a comment from Adelle to the contrary. It was mentioned that she had simply 'left' and that this doesn't just happen. In addition, in Belonging, Topher tells DeWitt, "Dr. Saunders would have never allowed [this]!" referring to his assignment to permanently imprint Sierra and send her to Nolan Kinnard. In the same episode, Topher tells Boyd to stop "mooning" over Claire and to get over her leaving; however, he immediately takes Boyd's advice to read her evaluations of Sierra's artwork and is frightened at Claire's suggestion that Sierra's fear and rage are his fault.

Dr. Saunders returns to the Dollhouse, having spent her absence in the care of Boyd, who also appears to have begun a relationship with her. She is greeted warmly by the Dollhouse staff, and resumes her place at the Dollhouse as the doctor. However, during a heartfelt conversation with Bennett Halverson, Whiskey shoots and murders her in front of Topher, revealing herself to be a sleeper active. It's also revealed that she's been acting on orders from Boyd, the mastermind behind the Rossum Corporation.

The Future[]

At some point in the future of "Epitaph One", the Dr. Saunders imprint is wiped or fades, and Whiskey remains alone in the Dollhouse long after it is abandoned. Before this however, the Claire imprint is modified to allow her programming skills, a sense of this skill carrying with her when she reverts to Whiskey. Also, at some point in the future, Claire has her scars removed.


Saunders' scars were described as "indeed pretty intense. Not along the lines of Two-Face or Darth Vader, but not at all subtle. There are three on the right side of her forehead that all run from top right towards her nose. There is one on the left of her forehead that is much shorter and runs from left to right across her eyebrow. There's one that runs left to right across her nose and down into her cheek, and may in fact be a continuation of the one on her eyebrow. The last one runs vertically from her left nostril down across her lips to her chin."[3]

These scars came from when Alpha slashed Whiskey's face with a pair of pruning shears, apparently out of jealousy over Whiskey being more popular with clients than Echo. This happened moments before Alpha's composite event.

Saunders appears to be absolutely terrified of Alpha, forcefully denying Boyd's suggestion that Alpha may still be alive, and later complying with Alpha's demand, at knife point, to summon Echo.

Notes & References[]

  1. Dos Santos, Kristin (2009-03-18). Dollhouse Is About to Get Damn Good. Watch With Kristin. Retrieved on 2009-03-19.
  2. Spelling, Ian (2008-06-02). Joss Whedon offers a sneak peak at his brand-new Dollhouse. Sci Fi Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
  3. bobw1o (2008-09-05). Acker opens the Dollhouse door. Retrieved on 2008-09-20.