Orphan Black Just Paid Homage to the Most Horrifying X-Files Episode of All Time

Friday, 13 May 2016 - 2:05PM
Orphan Black
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Friday, 13 May 2016 - 2:05PM
Orphan Black Just Paid Homage to the Most Horrifying X-Files Episode of All Time
If there was any doubt that Orphan Black was amping up the body horror this season, it's been eradicated. In what might be the most horrifying scene in four seasons of a frequently squirm-inducing show, "Human Raw Material" showed us the awful potential consequences of human gene editing in a scene that rivaled The X-Files' infamous episode, "Home."



In last night's Orphan Black, Cosima infiltrated the new designer baby Big Bad, Brightborn, and discovered that they have been genetically testing on babies without the mothers' informed consent. They assure her that they have discovered the genes associated with several different heritable diseases with their research, but she also bears witness to the absolute worst-case scenario: a horribly deformed baby who has a large hole where his/her nose and mouth should be. And as long as we're comparing it to The X-Files, the newborn looked like a cross between the baby from "Home," who supposedly had four extremely rare genetic diseases, and the Flukeman

This scene was clearly meant to evoke a visceral emotional response in the viewer, and definitely positioned Brightborn as a terrifying villain. But to the show's credit, the episode was also fairly balanced in its approach to the ethics of scientific progress. As we discussed last week, there are many uncomfortable ethical implications to designer babies, particularly when it comes to eugenicist attitudes towards race, gender, ableism, etc. But before we even get to that, there's the immediate risk of creating a baby with debilitating, painful, and/or fatal genetic diseases. As Cosima pointed out, and as the White House decried when they issued a moratorium on human gene editing, when we conduct these types of experiments, we're dealing with human lives. 

Cosima is the perfect proxy for this ethical dilemma, because she's a scientist, and so she understands the inherent value of progress, but she's also a deeply empathetic person who would have trouble reconciling Brightborn's "ends justify the means" stance with the image of that poor baby, who likely died soon after it was taken offscreen. She's as horrified as the audience is, but she's also clearly tempted to join Neolution's cause, and possibly even hand over Kendall, for the greater good (and to save herself and her sisters). As much as their research is potentially harmful, it also has the potential to save many, many lives.

It's a little more difficult to sympathize with their position so long as they don't have consent, but to be fair, even if they did have consent of the mothers, they would never be able to get the consent of the children. As Susan Duncan says, in possibly the most cutting line of the series: "Nobody asks to be born." (Ouch. But, yeah.)
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