A wipe is the technological erasure of memory. The Dollhouse performs wipes on each Active after each engagement, thereby also deleting the imprint of that assignment. The wipes are responsible for the childlike state in which the Actives spend their days at the Dollhouse in between their engagements, with no memory of their past. Paul Ballard and Claire Saunders have compared wipes to death, and Topher Brink has compared Dolls to newborns. In "Gray Hour" Topher describes getting wiped as a traumatic experience, like being born, and says that inside the Dollhouse they try to minimize the trauma with throw pillows and perfectly crispy lettuce.
Topher Brink is the programmer responsible for wipes and imprints at the Los Angeles Dollhouse, sometimes assisted by Ivy. Technicians in lab coats sometimes appear. The rogue Active Alpha is also capable of performing wipes and imprint programming, as his composite event left him with a vast array of knowledge and skill sets.
Wipes, along with imprints, are commonly referred to as "treatments". When it's time to pull an Active out of an engagement, their handler will approach them and ask them "Would you like a treatment?". The Actives usually go for the treatment as they are programmed to do, not realizing what is going to happen (many Actives talk about doing things after their treatment, which would be impossible since they would be a Doll again). Dolls about to be imprinted are told "It's time for your treatment" and often say "I enjoy my treatments".
The wipe is shown as a "rewind of scenes from the episode".
In "True Believer", Adelle DeWitt orders Topher to "scrub" Victor because he develops sexual feelings for Sierra. In "Man on the Street", when Sierra is revealed to have been raped four times by Joe Hearn, Topher does his best to scrub the memories, to no avail ("Echoes"). Scrubs prove to be ineffective against the glitches experienced by Victor, Sierra, Echo and November.
When Echo exceeds the capability of a Doll in their tabula rasa state and saves the Dollhouse in "A Spy in the House of Love", DeWitt instructs Topher to not scrub her, so they can see her full potential.
Remote wipes were thought to be impossible, but in "Gray Hour", Echo is remotely wiped through her cellphone, which the LA Dollhouse staff surmise was done by Alpha. Later, in "Belle Chose", Topher attempts a remote wipe of Victor, but instead swaps Victor's and Echo's imprints, as well as crashing the Dollhouse's entire system. Topher is shown in "Belonging" still trying to puzzle out the science of remote wipes. Working with Bennett Halverson in "The Left Hand", Topher appears to come somewhat closer to perfecting it; Echo is remotely wiped, and Daniel Perrin is remotely imprinted.
Following this incident, in "Meet Jane Doe", under Matthew Harding's orders Topher works as head of research and development at the LA Dollhouse and perfects the remote wipe "taser" to instantly return any Active to their doll state; this is a "dumbed-down" technology which Topher built so it could not be used as part of some bigger project. In his attempts to figure out Rossum's agenda, over three months he perfects the technology to theoretically wipe and imprint anyone remotely, whether or not their brains contain Active architecture. Topher withholds his blueprints from Rossum. DeWitt surrenders it to Harding, however, as a means to reclaim control of the LA Dollhouse.
Remote wipes are further weaponized in "A Love Supreme", where Alpha infiltrates the Dollhouse and uses his cellphone to make the Actives turn on the staff, and Topher uses his remote wipe prototype to subdue them.
In "Epitaph One", through a memory stored in the imprint chair, it is revealed that sometime in the future, a mass phone call went out to entire cities, wiping those who answered their phones and imprinting them to kill those who did not. This remote mind control technology was used to start a war.
Notes & references
- Huntley (2008-10-17). Dollhouse: The Sound Of A Million Squees. forums.televisionwithoutpity.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-17.