Sunday, 22 September 2013


The new thriller serial Orphan Black from BBC Worldwide North America centres on the theme of multiple human clones, presumably using the same technique as produced Dolly the sheep. From the artistic point of view, it's probably better that the exact mechanism is not described in detail. However, I trust that the series will gradually uncover and discuss the motivation behind the secret cloning programme, along with the expected thrills and other revelations. Certainly, if I were an evil genius I would want a production line of attractive young women as in Orphan Black, not a generation of new Hitlers.

Natural Selection, a TV movie starring C Thomas Howell, also turned on the plot device of cloning. It came out two years before Dolly was born and I wonder whether writers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer were au fait with the research at the Roslin Institute. They were certainly tech-savvy enough to create a realistic depiction of the work of a computer programmer, rare for Hollywood in those times.

Life and art are converging. Ten years ago, commercial cloning of pets began. Recently, an outstanding eventing horse has also been cloned. It is not clear whether the problem of premature ageing, as shown in Dolly and her fellows, has been solved. If this is not inherent in the process, and the difficulty of maintaining the integrity of DNA during transfer can be overcome, then I believe that in most of our lifetimes, some scientific institute is going to ignore ethics and produce a human clone.

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