Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn
Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series created by screenwriter Graeme Manson (The Bridge, Being Erica) and director John Fawcett (Queer As Folk, Being Erica), starring Tatiana Maslany (Heartland, Being Erica) as several identical people who are revealed to be clones. The series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her clones, Elizabeth Childs, after witnessing Childs’ suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and its effect on issues of personal identity.
The series premiered on March 30, 2013, on Space in Canada and on BBC America in the United States.
The series begins with Sarah Manning, a con artist by trade, witnessing the suicide of a woman, Beth Childs, who appears to be her doppelgänger and, with Sarah, is one of many clones. Sarah takes on Beth’s identity and occupation as a police detective after Beth’s death. During the first season, Sarah discovers that she is a clone, that she has many ‘sister’ clones spread throughout North America and Europe, and that someone is plotting to kill them and her. Alongside her foster brother, Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris, Unnatural History), and two of her fellow clones, Alison Hendrix and Cosima Niehaus, Sarah discovers the origin of the clones: a scientific movement called Neolution. The movement believes that human beings can use scientific knowledge to direct their evolution as a species. The Neolutionists thus advocate eugenics. The movement has an institutional base within the large, influential, and wealthy biotech corporation, the Dyad Institute. The Dyad Institute conducts basic research, lobbies political institutions, and promotes its eugenics program, aided by the clone Rachel Duncan. But it also seeks to profit from the technology the clones embody. It has thus placed “monitors” into the clones’ personal lives, allegedly to study them scientifically but also to keep them under surveillance.