- "If I think I can figure things out, is that curiosity or arrogance?"
Christopher “Topher” Brink was the genius programmer and employee at the L.A. Dollhouse. He was responsible for imprinting and wiping the actives, and making sure they stay unaware in their Tabula Rasa state. During his employment, he streamlined the imprinting technology and developed new technology such as a remote wipe taser.
Employment at the Dollhouse
Although not much is known about Topher’s past, he apparently joined the L.A. Dollhouse at least five years before the series proper. Upon employment at the Dollhouse, Topher began to streamline the imprinting technology, reducing imprinting time from as much as two hours to as little as five minutes, often less.
When Alpha attacked Whiskey and was to be sent to the Attic, Topher pulled up all of Alpha’s previous imprints in an attempt to search for any possible errors. Due to an accident, all of the previous imprints were downloaded onto Alpha himself, later termed as a ‘composite event’. This resulted in a massacre and included the death of the original Dr. Saunders. Topher was one of the few in Alpha’s immediate reach to escape injury and/or death. Topher was later told that Alpha had been hunted down and killed.
After the composite event, the Dollhouse was left with a ruined Active (Whiskey) and lacking in a House doctor. Thus, Topher used the late Dr. Saunders’ brain scans to create an altered imprint to fit Whiskey and made Dr. Claire Saunders. In addition to the more obvious alterations to the imprint (such as gender identity, age, and sexuality), Topher gave Whiskey extensive computer skills and deliberately ensured that she would be “everything [he’s] not.” His reasoning was that if she challenged him at every turn, the likelihood of someone getting hurt would greatly decrease.
Just prior to the series’ proper, Topher was sent to recruit Priya Tsetsang into the L.A. Dollhouse as an Active. Believing she was mentally ill, he thought that by recruiting her, he would help her, unaware that she was given anti-psychotic drugs to make her act as if she suffered from a mental disorder.
Topher’s main task throughout the series is simply imprinting Actives for their various engagements. In “Gray Hour”, Topher’s security clearance is upgraded so as to allow him to join the investigation into Alpha’s whereabouts. After Alpha escapes with Echo in “Briar Rose”, Topher is tasked with discovering who Echo was imprinted as and his discovery that it was an old Whiskey imprint clearly disturbs him. Not long later, Claire Saunders confronts him about her true identity as Whiskey and this leads to a brief period where Saunders antagonizes him. After the two reconcile to an extent, Dr. Saunders leaves the Dollhouse.
After Saunder’s departure, Topher delves into technological advancement. This includes hormone changes, a prototype remote wipe, and the Disruptor. Topher’s sense of morality also begins to surface, most notably when he rebels against Adelle’s decision to permanently send Sierra to Nolan Kinnard, the man who poisoned Sierra to make her appear psychotic. This, however, ends up “messy” when Priya, Sierra’s original personality, is forced to murder Nolan in self-defense. Topher then, with help from Boyd Langton, must cover up the murder and is forced to dismember Nolan’s body.
When the L.A. Dollhouse discovers that Senator Daniel Perrin is being manipulated by Rossum, the House makes moves to thwart them. However, this attempt is botched and Echo is taken to the D.C. Dollhouse. Desperate to recover her, Adelle DeWitt and Topher both travel there. At the D.C. Dollhouse, Topher meets his counterpart, Bennett Halverson, for whom he feels mutual attraction. When Bennett attempts to murder Echo, however, Topher retaliates by knocking out Bennett. Ultimately, however, Echo runs away and Topher and Adelle return to L.A., where Adelle is demoted and Harding takes over her position in the Dollhouse.
During Harding’s three-month reign in the L.A. Dollhouse, Topher ran the research and development department, refining his remote wipe device. Although he seems to enjoy the attention and praise Harding gives him, Topher reveals to Adelle that he had begun to speculate on Rossum's plans for his device, and came to the conclusion they were exploring the possibility to remotely imprint regular people who have no implanted Active infrastructure. He is both fascinated and frightened by his discoveries, and confides in DeWitt that he has actually figured out how to do it by himself, and shows her the schematics. DeWitt, however, is eager to retake her House and steals the schematics and shows them to Harding. Topher is devastated by her betrayal and calls her the “coldest bitch on the planet,” something that Adelle quickly puts an end to via threat.
When Echo returns from her three-month stint away from the Dollhouse, Boyd and Paul both inform Topher that Echo has become a person rather than just a blank state. Topher begins to work with the others behind DeWitt’s back and aids them to the best of his ability, including when they directly defy Rossum to retrieve Anthony from the groupthink army. This deviation, however, results in sending Echo, Priya, and Anthony to the Attic. Although Topher pleads with Adelle to find another way to deal with them, he ultimately gives in when she threatens to imprint an Active with his personality, but not before expressing great regret.
While Echo, Priya, and Anthony are trapped in the Attic, Topher and Ivy work together to restore Paul Ballard, who was mind-wiped by Alpha. Inspired by one of Ivy’s sports references, Topher is able to ‘rewire’ Paul’s brain by moving the functions that would traditionally be performed by the scarred portions of Paul’s brain to another portion of the brain. He is also interviewed by Adelle, who has decided to test her employees’ dedication to their cause. When Echo, Priya, and Anthony return from the Attic and help Adelle form the resistance against Rossum, Topher eagerly joins.
When Echo decides to imprint herself with Caroline to retrieve information that only she knows, Caroline’s wedge is found missing. Topher then attempts to reconstruct Caroline’s destroyed back-up wedge with the help of a reluctant Bennett Halverson. The two admit to their feelings for one another and kiss passionately. Dr. Claire Saunders, who has recently returned, then observes that Topher is in love with Bennett before murdering her right in front of Topher. Topher then goes into a deep shock that he can only be taken out of by Adelle’s urging. He manages to repair the wedge just as Rossum security guards drop in and is able to begin imprinting Echo just before being knocked out. Topher wakes to find Echo in a psychotic state and leaves the Dollhouse with her and Boyd to find Paul, Mellie, and Adelle.
After reuniting with the others, they continue on to Arizona and the Rossum headquarters. There, Topher is pained to find that Rossum has indeed been working on the remote wipe technology that he has engineered. Although Topher initially wishes to destroy the prototypes and schematics, Boyd convinces him that if he completes the prototype, they can use it against their enemies, and Topher agrees, working out the complications in less than ten minutes. Boyd then casually remarks that he is glad that he chose Topher, alarming Topher to a degree. Echo, now recovered from her temporary psychosis, then appears and begins to attack Boyd, aware of his true identity and believing that he is going to kill Topher. Clyde 2.0, imprinted onto Whiskey, arrives and holds Adelle at gunpoint to stop Echo. Boyd is then revealed to all present that he is the founder of Rossum, but also that he has no intent to harm Topher, Adelle, or Echo, as he loves them and considers them family. Topher, however, is deeply upset at this, realizing that because Boyd has control over Clyde 2.0, he must have ordered the murder of Bennett. After Anthony rescues him from holding, Topher decides to destroy any evidence of the technology, but not before using the remote wipe to stop Boyd from killing Echo and Paul.
- "He also thinks he's a little teapot short and stout"
- ―Zone about Topher's mental state[src]
“Epitaph One” reveals the future of the Dollhouse and its inhabitants as well as the still-impending apocalypse. Two particular memories concern Topher’s future. One is of Clive Ambrose, imprinted onto Victor, telling DeWitt and Topher of Rossum's plans to sell off the bodies of actives. DeWitt vehemently protests, and Topher is visibly chilled by the direction Rossum has taken his technology. The other reveals Topher has suffered a complete mental breakdown, due in large part to his guilt over creating the technology that has destroyed modern civilization. He is barely lucid or coherent and has come to depend almost entirely on DeWitt, who treats and cares for him.
Echo and Paul eventually discover "Safe Haven", a place where imprinting/wiping technology cannot reach. Topher, along with the other inhabitants of the Dollhouse, travels there. Sometime later, he is kidnapped by the remainder of the Rossum corporation and is forced to create an even more powerful wiping device. For each day that he fails to complete the technology, someone would be shot in front of him, further driving him to insanity. His living conditions are also poor, becoming malnourished and weak. He is eventually rescued by Echo and Paul and brought back to Safe Haven.
- "The opposite. A reflection like an echo. Put everything back the way they were. Minds back the way they were... I can bring back the world."
- ―Topher to Adelle[src]
Topher reveals that he believes he can reverse the mass wiping, returning everyone with their personalities, something he had been working on while held by Rossum. In order to both protect those with Active architecture (Anthony, Priya, Echo, and Paul) and to find the technology Topher needs, the group returns to the L.A. Dollhouse. There, Adelle realizes that Topher was not looking for technology, but rather an idea that familiar surroundings would inspire. As Topher builds the device (using a video tutorial created by Bennett Halverson as inspiration), he reveals that upon activation, it would cause an explosion. A horrified Adelle realizes that Topher has no intention of returning and suggests that she accompany him. Topher refuses, stating that her job of rebuilding the world that they had destroyed is too important. Topher travels up to Adelle's old office and assembles his technology. Just prior to its activation, Topher spots the 'To Remember' memorial on the wall and seems to find a small amount of solace before he is killed by the explosion.
- "There's nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so, man friend. We gave two people a perfect weekend together. We're great humanitarians."
- ―Topher's view on the Dollhouse[src]
Topher is initially portrayed as amoral and does not seem to dwell too much on the actions of the Dollhouse. Because of this, he is often at odds with Dr. Claire Saunders and Boyd Langton, both of whom function as the moral center of the Dollhouse. Topher has complete confidence in his programming abilities and intelligence, leading to a somewhat arrogant and self-absorbed air.
Topher possesses a number of quirks, not least of these being his childish personality. His lab is littered with games, toys, and snacks, and he rarely treats anything with genuine seriousness; his lack of professionalism often put him at odds with Laurence Dominic, whose rigid personality resulted in the view of Topher as a possible liability. Topher also has several phobias; nyctophobia, fear of the dark, is the first of these. It is unclear how badly he suffers from it, but blackouts put him on edge. He is also afraid of rats. Lastly, Topher seems to be acutely agoraphobic, which may explain why he is so rarely seen outside of the Dollhouse. On the occasions he does leave (most usually on official business), his behavior is nervous. Topher also lives within the Dollhouse itself, possibly in an attempt to minimize his time outdoors and also in an attempt to focus on his work. Because of this, however, Topher only interacts with non-coworkers very rarely and it has been implied that Topher is without friends. This is especially obvious when Topher imprints Sierra to be his friend on his birthday, something that Adelle allows because she knows that he is lonely.
Despite this, however, Topher does begin to develop both friendships and morals. This is apparent as early on as “Briar Rose”, when Topher hires Echo for an engagement to help a troubled young girl. When Dr. Claire Saunders accuses him of not caring about others, Topher insists that she doesn’t know him, perhaps implying that he does indeed care, although his morality remains hidden to others. Perhaps the first open sign of morality from Topher is when he indicates ethical reservations in awakening a comatose serial killer (this is something that Boyd notes rather sardonically). Furthermore, Topher comes to his first major moral quandary when he discovers that Sierra, who he believed was a paranoid schizophrenic, was brought to the Dollhouse after being given drugs to make her appear psychotic. He is given the order not to release Sierra, but to permanently imprint her and send her away to stay with Nolan Kinnard, the man responsible for Sierra’s wrongful imprisonment. Morally conflicted, he imprints Sierra instead with her original personality, but this ultimately results in Nolan’s death while Priya attempted to defend herself. Although he initially attempts to run away with Priya, Boyd Langton intervenes and helps Topher cover up the murder.
Topher’s moral growth does not end there. When Harding takes over the L.A. Dollhouse, Topher is assigned to refine the remote wipe technology. Realizing that his technology was part of a bigger purpose, Topher delayed his work for two months while trying to uncover Rossum’s motives. During his attempt, he drew out schematics, finally realizing that Rossum planned to imprint ordinary people, even without Active architecture. When he confides in Adelle DeWitt, she betrays him and hands the schematics over to Harding. This deeply hurts Topher, not only emotionally, but also due to the realization that Adelle has become cold and amoral, willing to trade information that could harm the entire world for the sake of her own advancement. After that moment, Topher begins to actively follow his own moral path and works with Paul, Boyd, and Echo behind Adelle’s back in an attempt to do the right thing. Not long later, Victor is released from his five-year contract and promptly recruited into a groupthink army. Despite knowing that the army was founded by Rossum, Topher takes the risk and helps Echo and the others rescue Anthony. This, however, results in Echo, Anthony, and Priya all being sent to the Attic. As Topher is the only one capable of performing the procedure, he is forced to betray his friends, unaware that it was all a ruse to uncover information about Rossum. By the time Echo returns from the Attic with intelligence, Topher has ‘resurrected’ Paul, but Echo almost immediately notices that Paul no longer returns her romantic feelings; when confronted, Topher admits that in order to rewire Paul’s brain, he was forced to sacrifice their connection in order save his life.
Topher’s moral development is highlighted in “The Hollow Men” not only by Boyd, but through Topher’s own dialogue, in which he indicates great guilt for having created the remote-wipe technology in the first place.
“Epitaph One” offers a glimpse into the future in which Topher has suffered a mental breakdown and come to depend on Adelle DeWitt for care. Topher’s fragile mental state then becomes a recurring theme throughout the second season. In “Vows”, Topher implies some amount of self-loathing and/or low self-esteem when he tells Claire Saunders that she is “better than” him. His psyche takes a heavy blow during his botched attempt to help Priya; when Nolan Kinnard ends up dead, Topher attempts to cover up the murder by dismembering the body. This is clearly traumatic for Topher, as revealed when he later speaks with Priya:
- Priya: "This secret we have - can you keep it?"
- Topher: "Yes. But I don't think I can live with it."
- Priya: "I know I can't. But I don't have to."
- — Priya and Topher[src]
Months later, Adelle deeply hurts Topher when she breaches his trust and delivers schematics to Harding. When he attempts to confront her, she accuses him of being fascinated by the idea of mass imprinting. Not long later, he is forced to send Echo, Priya, and Anthony to the Attic, all people he has come to care about, although he later learns that this was a ruse to gain intelligence against Rossum.
“Getting Closer” delivers perhaps the most traumatic moment to date. When reunited with Bennett, the two admit their romantic feelings toward one another. Claire recognizes Topher’s feelings as love, but her sleeper protocol is activated and she murders Bennett in front of him. This causes Topher to temporarily break down, a precursor to his eventual fate in “Epitaph One”. When Topher later learns that Boyd is the head of Rossum and therefore responsible for murdering Bennett, he is overwhelmed by the betrayal. Upon realizing he was manipulated into finalizing the prototypes for the mass imprinting technology, he is clearly devastated. Although Topher and the others do temporarily postpone the apocalypse, it still comes to pass, perhaps resulting in the final blow to Topher’s psyche before his breakdown.
Topher's psychotic collapse supposedly lasts until the very end of the show, when he redeems his deeds by sacrificing his life while setting up and successfully activating the counter-imprinting pulse on top of the L.A. dollhouse.
- Adelle DeWitt: Topher’s relationship with Adelle is rather unusual in that he treats her relatively respectfully and seems to be a little intimidated by her. He refers to himself as her ‘number one son’ and Adelle is surprisingly tolerant of Topher’s childishness, understanding his worth as a programmer. Although their relationship is mostly positive, it suffers damage in “Meet Jane Doe”, when Adelle betrays Topher’s confidence by giving the mass remote wipe schematics that Topher designed to Harding in order to win back her House. Topher was deeply hurt by this and described Adelle as “the coldest bitch on the planet.” In response to his insubordination, Adelle slaps Topher and coolly threatens him. After this moment, Topher begins to work alongside Paul, Boyd, and Echo and seems to no longer pay Adelle the respect he had once given her. However, their relationship seems to have been repaired once Adelle declares war against Rossum. Topher again shows Adelle the usual respect he had given her before, even referring to her as their ‘general’. After Topher goes into shock due to Bennett Halverson’s brutal murder, Adelle immediately begins to comfort him and attempts to get him to focus on the task at hand. Later, when Topher learns that Boyd is the head of Rossum and, thus, behind Bennett’s murder, Adelle grasps his hand in an attempt to console him. These two instances seem to foreshadow their future relationship as depicted in “Epitaph One”, where Adelle cares for Topher in a motherly way after the latter has suffered a mental breakdown.
- Dr. Claire Saunders: Topher and Dr. Saunders have a complicated relationship at best. In the beginning of the series, their relationship seems to be one of mutual annoyance, resulting from vastly different approaches and moralities. However, their relationship takes a turn in “Omega” when Dr. Saunders begins to suspect that she is an Active and uses her considerable computer skills to hack Topher’s files. Upon discovering that she is an Active, ‘’’Whiskey’’’, she begins to torment Topher, who she believes deliberately programmed her to hate him. The two eventually seem to reach a sort of understanding when Topher reveals he had not intended for her to hate him, but rather to question him and that her hatred was a natural evolution of their opposing personalities. Shortly later, Dr. Saunders leaves the Dollhouse for several months until she returns in “Getting Closer”. Upon meeting again, Dr. Saunders seems to treat Topher somewhat playfully, suggesting that she no longer hates him. Unfortunately, Dr. Saunders was imprinted as a sleeper Active (specifically as Clyde 2.0) sometime after her escape from the Dollhouse and murdered Bennett Halverson, Topher’s love interest, in front of him. It is currently unknown how this will affect their future relationship, but “Epitaph One” indicates that there must have been some reconciliation, as Claire Saunders becomes one of Topher’s primary caretakers after he becomes mentally unstable.
- Note: It is implied that because Topher gave Dr. Saunders the necessary skills to hack his files, he had intended for her to discover that she was an Active and possibly who she was before she came to the Dollhouse, although it remains unclear as to why.
- Echo: Although Topher initially treated Echo in a patronizing way, their relationship has evolved quite a bit. Their first major interaction is in “A Spy in the House of Love”, when Echo offers to help with the mission at hand and asks to be imprinted. Topher is clearly shocked by this and from that time seems to be semi-aware that Echo has evolved past that of the usual blank slate, but still treats her like he does most dolls. In “Omega”, Echo recognizes Topher’s suffering despite being in her doll state and makes a gesture to comfort him, something that clearly shocks and touches Topher. Later, in “Belonging”, Echo turns to Topher to help Sierra, who has expressed sadness and painted distressing pictures. Finally, in “The Left Hand”, Topher tells Bennett that Echo is his friend, much to the latter’s chagrin. When Echo returns from her three-month absence, Topher is told by Boyd and Paul that she has become a person rather than just a blank slate and drops his usual patronizing tone around her, even introducing himself to her. He continues to support Echo behind Adelle’s back until “Stop-Loss”, when Adelle forces Topher to send Echo to the Attic. Despite this, Topher is clearly and morally conflicted and begs Adelle to find another way; when she refuses, he brokenly tells Echo that he is sorry. When Echo returns from the Attic, she finds that Paul, whom she had fallen in love with, no longer returns her feelings. When she confronts Topher, he admits that the only way he could save Paul was by sacrificing something, and that was the connection she and Paul shared. It becomes obvious that this was not an easy decision for Topher and it is something he truly regrets. Echo, however, does not hold this against him. Their friendship finally becomes clear in “The Hollow Men”, when Echo ferociously attacks Boyd, who she believed was going to kill Topher. He later returns the favor by saving Echo’s life by wiping Boyd with the remote wipe.
- Bennett Halverson: Although Topher only meets Bennett as of “The Left Hand”, but both were aware of each other much longer than that. Immediately upon meeting, the two develop a mutual attraction/crush (although Topher notes in “Getting Closer” that he has always had great respect for Bennett, even when he thought she was a guy). Despite their flirtations, however, the two clash on the subject of Echo, as Bennett holds a deep hatred for Echo’s original personality. When Bennett attempts to kill Echo, Topher is forced to knock her out. Not long later, Bennett is kidnapped by the L.A. Dollhouse in an attempt to rebuild Caroline’s ruined imprint wedge. Although she is initially uncooperative, even striking Topher in anger, she eventually agrees to help. She and Topher not only come to an understanding but also admit to their feelings for each other. As observed by Saunders, Topher did not merely ‘like’ Bennett, but in fact, loved her. Because of the intensity of Topher’s feelings, he was deeply traumatized when Bennett was murdered in front of him.
- Sierra/Priya Tsetsang: Like most Dolls, Topher initially treats Sierra with little regard and has few notable interactions with her early in the series. She is, however, what ultimately leads Topher to his first moral quandary. When ordered to imprint Sierra as Nolan Kinnard’s permanent lover despite the fact that Kinnard is essentially a rapist, he at first vocally disagrees and then rebels by imprinting her instead with her original personality. After Sierra unexpectedly murders Nolan, Topher immediately finds her and seems to plan to run away with her before Boyd Langton’s timely arrival. After Nolan’s murder is covered up, the two briefly bond before Topher restores her to her doll state. Since then, Topher has expressed some protectiveness over her and was visibly uneasy when Harding suggested sending Sierra away to the new Dollhouse in Saudi Arabia. Topher also seems to be protective of Sierra and Victor as a couple. He is clearly upset at the idea of separating Sierra and Victor in “Belonging”.
- Ivy: As Topher’s assistant, Ivy clearly expects to be treated as an equal and to be entrusted with some responsibility. However, due to Topher’s childish (and perhaps untrusting) nature, he primarily treats Ivy as a gofer, much to her chagrin. It is clear that Ivy desires Topher’s respect and wishes to play a more active role in the Dollhouse’s activities, but because Topher often shunts her to the side, she is sometimes irritable with him. On the occasion he does imbue her with responsibility, she is clearly excited. Despite this, Topher does seem to be somewhat fond of Ivy, enough so that he is hurt when she tells him to leave her alone in "The Attic". Immediately after Bennett Halverson’s murder, he urges her to leave for her own safety, describing her as having a ‘wonderful brain’ and finally giving her the recognition she desired.
- Boyd Langton: Topher and Boyd initially clash due to their very different approaches, both in morals and conduct. While Boyd is serious and concerned with doing the right thing, Topher is carefree and amoral. Because of this, Topher often taunts Boyd, who seems to view Topher as tiresome. Despite this, Topher does seem to develop a fondness for Boyd and when he discovers that there is a mole inside the Dollhouse, he suspects that it may be Boyd. However, rather than turning Boyd in, Topher gives him a chance to escape, something that touches (and amuses) Boyd. Their relationship continues to grow when Topher develops a moral compass, something that Boyd notes several times. When Topher makes his first major moral endeavor in “Belonging”, the result ends in murder and Boyd promptly aids Topher in covering it up. Since then, the two seem to have developed some sort of understanding and get along relatively well. This relationship becomes most obvious in “The Hollow Men”, when Topher (imprinted onto Victor) is clearly and deeply shocked that his ‘man-friend’ is the enemy, and again when Boyd expresses fatherly pride that Topher has chosen morality over self-preservation, claiming he views Topher as family. The feeling, however, is not mutual, as Topher is enraged that Boyd was behind the murder of Bennett Halverson and manipulated Topher into engineering the remote wipe device, as well as threatening his other friends.
- Victor/Anthony Ceccoli: Topher cared a lot about Victor, especially when it came to his pure relationship with Sierra. When it was suggested Victor and Sierra should be separated because they were "grouping", he went so far as to ignore that suggestion, not having the heart to separate them. He also on occasion imprints Victor with his own personality, to carry out important tasks or to figure out certain problems. He also eagerly helps Echo and Priya rescue Anthony (Victor’s original personality) in “Stop-Loss”, even if it meant breaking his previous promise to Priya to erase the memory of murdering Nolan as it would also erase her memory of realizing that Victor was the person she had fallen in love with.
- According to casting documents, "he is the genius programmer of the Dollhouse who's articulate, nerdily attractive, and blithely amoral. He's responsible for imprinting and wiping the dolls — and making sure they stay unaware of anything. Is fascinated by the science and kind of digging the illegality. Fun to be around, but might not be remotely trustworthy."
Notes & References
- The Left Hand
- The Hollow Men
- Because Topher was present at the beginning of Anthony's 5-year term, it's logical to assume he was employed by then
- Belle Chose
- The Public Eye
- Meet Jane Doe
- "The Attic"
- Getting Closer
- The Hollow Men.
- Epitaph Two: Return
- Gray Hour
- A Love Supreme
- Dos Santos, Kristin (2008-03-26). Dollhouse Casting Alert!. eonline.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.