Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black, Gregory E. Pence (2016)

Friday, May 20th, 2016

A fascinating look at the science behind Orphan Black.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

Bioethics is one of today’s most exciting new fields. Orphan Black is one of the most exciting shows on television. Bioethics explores ethical issues in medicine and science. Orphan Black dramatizes ethical issues in medicine and science. What could be more appropriate than a marriage of the two?

Even casual fans of BBC America’s hit television show Orphan Black have no doubt wondered about the science that drives the plot: How much does the show get right, and where does reality diverge from the fictional world of our favorite sestra orphans? What are the moral and legal implications of cloning? Is it possible to own a person – or a piece of one, in the form of DNA patenting? If the Ledas (and Castors) share the same basic building blocks of life, how could they look, behave, and think so differently? What (if anything) does the creators’ choice to write Cosima as a lesbian, and Tony as a trans man, say about the idea that gender identity and sexual orientations are “lifestyle choices”? (Spoiler alert: it’s not what you think.) How does cloning fit into the history of eugenics, and how does the show acknowledge this connection? WTF is the Castors’ malfunction?

Well, wonder no more. Bioethicist and fellow Clone Club member Gregory E. Pence has got us covered. In What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black, he examines the science and ethics of the show, giving us a greater understanding of both genetics and bioethics – and our favorite science fiction drama.

(More below the fold…)