By Ken Tucker
July 28, 2009 at 03:34 PM EDT

The season-one DVD of Dollhouse goes on sale today, and you know the party line: this Joss Whedon show started out wobbly, got better, and now most of us are psyched for a second season. But is the DVD worth it for its unaired 13th episode, “Epitaph One”; for the original, unaired pilot; and for its commentaries?

As always with a Whedon project, if you’re Whedonesque, you’ll buy it no matter what I or anyone else says. For the rest of you…

First, “Epitaph One.” (SPOILER ALERT.) Set 10 years in the future, what could have been the series-ender is a mind-bender involving a group of post-apocalyptic rebels. Yes, there’s been an apocalypse, most likely brought on by none other than the bratty-but-brilliant Topher.  (He’s played with bratty brilliance by Fran Kranz — he’s one of the characters I’ve done a 180-degree turn on since the premiere: used to give me the creeps, now I get and enjoy his funny creepiness.)

This ragtag band, which includes Dr. Horrible‘s wonderful Felicia Day, comes upon a Dollhouse in ruins. Over the course of the episode, co-written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, we find out that Actives can now, to varying degrees, control or at least have conscious memories of their personality imprints. There’s a goodly amount of Whedon-style action-banter (“Let’s blow this bitch back to the Bush years!”). A little girl whose identity I won’t reveal uses a big gun to blast someone important to the episode. Dr. Saunders/Whiskey has scars no more. Olivia Williams’ Adelle is lovely. (Just throwing that in there.) Eliza Dushku’s Caroline puts in minimal appearances, but they’re crucial.

In short, a terrific Dollhouse episode that adds a lot to our knowledge going in to season two. It acts as a flash-forward that renders next season a flashback to things that occurred before “Epitaph One”‘s 2019 events. The episode’s commentary by Jed Whedon and Tancharoen is cozily laid-back; I really didn’t need to hear that they’re considering having sex after recording their comments. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way; don’t mind me.

As for the original pilot, you’ve seen bits of it chopped up and scattered throughout other Dollhouse episodes, so, again, if you’re a rabid fan or a completist, you’ll want to watch it, but it’s not essential. I didn’t listen to every one of the commentaries, but the ones with Joss are invariably his usual mix of intentionally-obfuscating silliness and interesting how/why-I-wanted-that revelation.

All in all, definitely at least worth renting, if not owning. What about you? Have you been looking forward to this Dollhouse DVD release?