Orphan Black’s Silly Patient Notion


Orphan Black

I started binge-watching Orphan Black on Amazon Prime Video the other day, and I was enjoying it immensely until right up to the tail end of the first season. Tatiana Maslany’s acting definitely lives up to its billing, and it’s certainly a shame that she’s been snubbed at the Emmy’s for two years running.

However, the show wandered off into the weeds a bit with the whole “We’re patented!” reveal in Episode 10. Now, I won’t debate intellectual property here (I’m pro-IP), nor patents specifically (I’m pro-patent), but regardless of your position on IP you have to agree: patents are being terribly misrepresented in the show, at least through the end of Season 1.

Throughout, and rightly so, much has been made of the fact that the clones are victims of an illegal scientific experiment. That’s valid–whether or not you agree that cloning should be illegal (I don’t, necessarily), it certainly is, and there’s just no way for illegal cloning to have any legitimate patent implications. It’s not even necessary to say that such a cloning patent would have no legal standing–merely submitting the application would be a quick way to get arrested.

On a similar note, what about those agreements that the Neolutionists put in front of the clones to sign? From what I can tell, they’d be summarily dismissed at court, in the same fashion and for the same reasons that protection agreements signed with the mob would be invalidated. The writers seem to be forgetting that illegal activities are, well, illegal.

And so, it’s quite silly to propose that the clones are legitimately anyone’s IP, no matter how interesting a science fiction trope it might represent. The writers could have posited a culture in which such a cloning program is legal, to include the idea that a human being of whatever genetic makeup could indeed be someone’s property (which would, of course, be slavery). If they had, then sure, depicting the clones as concerned about their legal status would make some sense. But they didn’t, and doing so would dramatically reduce the show’s tension in general. It’s something of a Catch-22, whether the writers realize it or not.

I’m going to go ahead and purchase Season 2, simply because Maslany’s performance is so incredible and, otherwise, the writing has been generally good. But I do hope that the whole “patent” notion is taken out of the storyline. Simply put, it’s ridiculous.


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