ORPHAN BLACK Gets Overthought – Brilliantly

In other words, we agree with just about everything in this article we ran across on The Mary Sue. And why not?


by Isabella Kapur

As BBC America’s Orphan Black heads into its second season, many critics have focused onTatiana Maslany’s supremely impressive feats of acting and the many compelling female characters as the draw of the series. If you haven’t watched the show, you’ve still likely heard that the lead actress plays no fewer than seven distinct characters, just in the first season. However, Orphan Black also stands out as a piece of science fiction, and it does so in a very relevant manner. The series is a distinctly modern science fiction story and focuses on two crucial themes: individuality and gene patenting. By posing serious questions about humanity,Orphan Black serves as an effective analogue for real life events, which elevates its science fiction status. Read on to find out how the show is reflecting our society, perceived stereotypes, and why they’re way ahead of the sci-fi game.

[Editor’s Note: This article deals quite extensively with the first season of BBC America’sOrphan Black. Plot points are mentioned, and there may be some spoilers, which I will try to cover with spoiler bars. If you are extremely concerned about spoilers, seriously, go watchOrphan Black, you won’t regret it.]

I would like to preface my discussion with two disclaimers about my own bias and that of the material I’m discussing. Like any television show, Orphan Black’s science isn’t perfect, and it’s secondary to the plot. Most noticeably in Season One, more than an episode’s worth of drama is spent on the idea that the clones will all have the same fingerprints (some of the clones tend to be more violent than others). I have a clone (my identical twin), and I’ve tested. Google agrees with me. Identical genetics do not mean identical fingerprints.

Regardless of my bias on the topic of clone genetics, and regardless of Orphan Black’s occasional scientific misstep, the show’s scientific focus is, overall, refreshing and enjoyable. The show focuses on biology for its feats of futuristic fiction, not silicon and metal. In fact, the show’s clone premise is what makes it particularly modern. While we see a lot of sci-fi stories focusing on war, the consumption of our world by technology, or the exploration of aliens and other planets, Orphan Black focuses on humans, here and now, in a fantastic way. Sci-fi has a long and well-documented history of allegory, and Orphan Black brings that allegory into the present with an original story and unusual perspective.

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