What with reconceiving and reshooting the show’s pilot, Joss Whedon didn’t havemuch to present to the Dollhouse panel observers at Comic-Con on Saturday, other than an extendedtrailer for the Fox show (which debuts in January). But one thing about the new sci-fi/action show was certainly made clear: Man, do its stars havechemistry!

Dollhouse, about a shady cabal that strips itsemployees or “actives” of their personalities and imprints them with new ones(for a fee, obvs) to do whatever their clients want, stars Eliza Dushku (pictured) as Echoand Battlestar Galactica‘s Tahmoh Penikett as an FBI agent who’s been looking into theillicit organization. Dushku and Penikett sat alongside Whedon for the entireQ&A session, looking very much like the will-they-or-won’t-they pair theircharacters will play on the series.

After Penikett explained to onequestioner that there would be no shooting conflict between Battlestarand Dollhouse because he’d been written out of the Sci-Fi Channelseries, Dushku interjected, “Thank you, Battlestar Galactica! You are astrapping and extraordinary man.” And that left Whedon to joke sheepishly, “I’ll justbe here,” as Dushku scooted her chair closer to Penikett. The duo seemed fullyat ease with each other, whispering and joking throughout the session. At onepoint, Whedon half-heartedly lamented his third-wheel status, joking, “This islike bringing your banjo onstage after the Stones play.”

addCredit(“Greg Gayne”)

The love wasn’tjust between the costars, however, with Whedon declaring himself in a full-onbromance with Penikett, and Dushku announcing her eternal affection for the manwho’s guided her through three series (Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse). “Joss makesme feel smart and sexy. He just fits — like a career brassiere.”

Theaudience — clearly a houseful of Whedonistas — did their part in bringing thepanelists back to reality, first with a question about fan sites dedicated tosaving Dollhouse, which, we should remind you, does not air until2009. Whedon clearly had mixed feelings about the sites, at once thankingfans for their affection while decrying the notion that “it gives people theperception that we’re somehow failing…that’s the part I worry about.” Butgiven the storied and occasionally painful relationship Whedon has had withtelevision (Firefly, anyone?), “let’s face it,” he added, the fans’fear “is earned.”

With 10 minutes remaining in the session, someonefinally got around to asking about the reconceived pilot, now a “prequel” to thepreviously finished episode. “I know that scared a lot of people,” Whedonadmitted. But “the episode I shot had everybody already in place, so to go backjust meant finding different aspects to these people that would lead up to whatI shot, and give what I shot more resonance.”

For what it’s worth, thesci fi auteur seems pleased with the new material and expounded on it at length,noting “it felt organic. It felt right — which I can tell you the [originalpilot] kind of didn’t. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I did some things thatweren’t right for the network. That’s on me…. Also, I made the vital mistakeof not giving Tahmoh shirtless scenes. That has been rectified.”

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