The Hive Recap: Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_02Rachel's lost it.

The Hive Writer's Notes – Alex Levine

Hey #CloneClub, Alex Levine here. Hope you enjoyed episode 2.09, "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done," or as I like to call it, The Empire Strikes Back. Seeing as it was the penultimate episode of the season, and this season is all about the war between Sarah and Rachel, we wanted to show just what Rachel is capable of—to dig deep and pay off on all the compelling aspects of her villainous character that we’ve shown up to now. At the end of last season we introduced her as "Pro-Clone," and we’ve spent part of the last ten episodes exploring this character’s humanity (or lack thereof). An old professor of mine wrote a book called The Corporation, which was turned into a documentary by the same name. His thesis was that a corporation, left unchecked, behaves much like a psychopath. So it’s fun to consider: is Rachel, who was raised mostly within the ethic and structure of a corporation, a psychopath? My opinion: the jury is still out. In terms of this episode in particular, I can tell you that the writers had several discussions about when and how to reveal that Rachel was making a move. We also wrestled with what might push her to do something so rash as to imitate Sarah and abduct Kira. Some of us wanted her to be truly torn between her allegiance to Dyad and her allegiance to her newfound sisters. Others felt her intentions needed no grand justification beyond what we had already established. But it might surprise you to learn that the scene of Rachel in the black room—watching the video of herself as a child, and then surveillance shots of Sarah and Kira—was added after the show was shot and cut. The content of the scene—Rachel’s nostalgia for lost family, and her obsession with Sarah’s status as a mother and Kira—had been previously scripted, but was left by the wayside in subsequent drafts. But when the show was cut together, it was missing. The black room scene is vitally important in driving home her wants, her intention.


Rachel Duncan: Psycho-Clone?

As you can imagine, there was also a lot of discussion around how best to pull of this latest switcheroo. We had to figure out the geography, the tactics, and, of course, how much to disguise Rachel. It was up to Tatiana, of course, to calibrate the performance. As spoiled spectators, I can only judge the results by whether people were indeed fooled. And many have told me they were. But either way, the story works because Rachel fools Mrs. S and Benjamin... and even Felix. As for Helena, this was one of the juiciest storylines one could hope for. We were challenged by the fact that Helena had gone back to the Prolethean ranch many episodes ago, and though we intended to drop in on Helena in subsequent episodes prior to 209, we had too much story to juggle and we simply couldn’t fit her in. So in returning to her story line, we had to justify what she had been doing, and why she’d been so compliant. For that we turned to the naïve, childlike persona that forms part of Helena’s character. We see it in her love for Sarah, in her fascination with children, in her simple desire to be a mother. At the same time, this was our one and only chance to pay off on Johanssen’s storyline. And as always, we were tasked with finding the unusual, the new, the fresh attack. It would have been easy to develop a plot line where the Proletheans were building a fertilizer bomb for some nefarious purpose, but this is Orphan Black, where the stories are deeper, more personal, and hell, just a whole lot freakier. And we knew we were building to the ultimate revenge scene with the insemination rod (a concept that had been in John Fawcett’s mind since we convened for season 2 development). We also wanted to fully realize the budding relationship between Mark and Gracie—two great young actors I’m sure you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of. As to Alison and Donnie’s storyline, I have to give credit to staff writer Aubrey Nealon—he’s the guy who realized, at the eleventh hour, that this was Donnie’s day to shine. The strongest arc in that story line was Donnie’s, and it really came together at that point. Plus we all wanted to see that “#donniesjunk” hashtag trend once again.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_21Mrs. and Mrs. Homicide Hendrix

A couple of interesting factoids about this episode:
  • The clinic was actually the interior of Bridgepoint Health Centre—the very building we use for the Dyad Institute. Bridgepoint is connected to the old Don Jail, which serves as an establisher for Cosima’s lab (the old wing).
  • We rebuilt an exact interior replica of Alison’s garage (previously established) in our sets, and built it four feet off the ground, so we could “dig out” the grave.
  • The Helena revenge scene was sparely scripted and had little dialogue, but the actors were given free rein to improvise, partly because we were running out of time. The use of the pipe, the other props, and much of the dialogue (“you think I’m trying to be funny”) was all improvised. So all props to Tatiana and Peter Outerbridge (who plays Johanssen); boy did they bring it. And kudos to TJ Scott for letting them run. Another great TJ episode. Working with that guy is the best.

NEXT: The Hive: Observations, Unexpected Results, and Mind-Benders

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_21"I'm not as perfectly comfortable with manslaughter as you." – Donnie Hendrix

The Hive Observations, Unexpected Results, and Mind-Benders

The Hendrix Garage of Horrors During the filming of episode 2.09, we were also prepping for the season 2 finale. In the photo below, John and Graeme are deep in prep mode, talking story during a lighting set up on set. We had to build a replica of the Hendrix’ garage to film Tatiana and Kristian jackhammering the cement. In previous episodes we shot in a real home, but for this episode the Art Department built a duplicate garage, designed with a floor that could be demolished.

RlW1cQW9qo5Jq-CLv97iiMfXZXtv6tYsAx1fSEhHphUGraeme and John talk season finale on the set of episode 2.09.

Seeing Doubles KATHRYN ALEXANDRE! Tatiana's brilliant acting double made her on-screen debut this week as the midwife who assists Johannsen with the IVF. It was an awesome opportunity for Tatiana to work with Kathryn in a completely different capacity. Everyone at The Hive was thrilled that Kathryn got a moment to shine!

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_07Tatiana Maslany's acting double, Kathryn Alexandre.

Look-Alikes At the end of episode 2.09, we reveal that Johannsen is impregnating all of the women on his farm with his own sperm. So for the nursery scene, we had to find 20 or more children that somewhat resembled the actor Peter Outerbridge. Creepy! Home Videos In the photo below, John Fawcett and First Assistant Director Joanna Moore are shooting the home video footage of little Rachel and her father, Professor Ethan Duncan, reading stories. Fun fact about this scene: The two-walled set was built in the old morgue from season 1.

s7TFnHTsJ5JWZvtv3NWR0iP9BckOZftJnpeAZful-ckBehind-the-scenes of Rachel's home footage shoot.

Set Inspection: Pediatric Clinic The pediatric clinic where Kira gets her bone marrow procedure is actually the same hospital that we use for the exterior of DYAD. It's also the set of Helena’s first appearance in season 2. In order to make sure that the bone marrow transplant looked authentic, we had a specialist on hand to guide the actors through the procedure. What you see is as authentic as it possibly could be! Director TJ Scott executed a beautiful and emotional scene.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_25"What kind of mother am I?" – Sarah Manning

Old School Technology Check out the working computer that the art department sourced for Duncan and Scott. It was awesome to see it actually function. The cipher decoding is a real playback in that screen – not a VFX.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_11Anyone have a computer with a floppy disc drive?

Six Feet Under The hole the art department designed in Alison’s garage was the perfect spot for some awesome TJ Scott low angles. Really makes the tension in this scene work.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_01"God I hate this garage." – Vic

Smile! Donnie rocks. Case in point: The scene of Donnie telling off DeAngelis and Vic. Priceless. Did you catch the DeAngelis and Vic selfie? Unfortunately an actual photograph wasn't taken that day on set. It's too bad—it would have been one for the books.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_04"Have a shitty day." – Donnie Hendrix

Creepy Improv Tatiana and Peter improvised most of the Johanssen torture scene. They had a lot of fun on set that day—in a creepy way. Rachel/Sarah Cloneswap The Hive love how Tatiana and the Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe teams executed the Rachel-as-Sarah cloneswap.  The clone switch troupes is one of our favorites, and its always fun to have a new clone impersonate Sarah. You never quite know how Tatiana will play it. Inside The Hive Here’s a peek inside the heart of the OB Hive. Pictured below are Graeme Manson and producer Karen Troubetzkoy pitching the final outline to our network executives for the season finale. Tune in for the epic finale next week!

JYOh_igbKYua4LrAq9xAe9pawNG7UnrtDY3rtY5fhT8Creator Graeme Manson and producer Karen Troubetzkoy pitch their season 2 finale plans.

NEXT: Series Science Consultant, Cosima Herter

Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy By Cosima Herter, Series Science Consultant

Do you feel science in science fiction is often seen as the "bad guy?"unnamed pets There does seem to be a rather tenacious obsession in popular culture with characterizing "science" as a kind of wickedness, as human hubris that openly and shamelessly eschews any kind of moral governance. The bio-meddling mythologies of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau, for example, have so deeply penetrated our modern conceptions of “science” that it has almost become convention to regard it as a reckless pursuit, blind to its consequences, and to regard "scientists" as unrepentantly divorced from emotional and ethical responsibility. “Science,” reified through this framework, is represented as some kind of diabolical force that, once let loose in society, takes on a life of its own, wreaks havoc, and swallows whole its practitioners only to spit them out as sinister, bile-soaked half-wits who are no longer capable of comprehending their own humanity. Over and again we encounter science as Icarus: flying too close to the sun, destined to drown in its own conceit. This is a depiction of science not as a constellation of disciplined practices and methods of formulating questions that direct our investigations into the workings of the natural world, but instead as an incredibly effective moralizing allegory of the petty ambitiousness of mankind. As an actor in morality tales, science is indeed often the "bad guy." There is a notable exception, where science is usually depicted as an unreserved "good guy." In television we sometimes see science less fiendishly portrayed, particularly when clothed in the soap-operatic romance of popular medical fiction. This is no less science fiction and, usually, no less of a morality tale, but simply a different species of science—medicine. Our naked vulnerabilities, quests for survival, and faith in the sanctity of life are given voice through the dedicated attempts of the doctor desperate to save his ward. This is science as Asclepius, ears licked clean not by the serpent of evil, but rather a more ancient totem of wisdom and rehabilitation. Here the fallibility of science dons the cloak of the healer, here science is a crucible of hope. No less complicated by ethical dilemmas and naïve reachings into the unknown, but here science seeks to save, not to destroy; it is marshaled into the service of humankind, not sunk into the depravity of selfishness. These are the polar tropes we often see mobilized in fiction, and we have a complicated relationship with these stories. They often shape the way we think about what science is, who scientists are, and what they actually do. And, perhaps more importantly, they shape what we think science and scientists should be allowed to do. We would profit to understand scientists as a diverse community of thinkers and investigators held together by the integrity of practices and methodologies with built-in checks and balances. Science is not separate from society. Indeed, it is a product of culture as much as it is producer of culture. Scientists spend years developing and honing expertise in their relative fields, making careers out of questioning, exploring, experimenting, analyzing, correcting their mistakes, and attempting to make their research socially useful. They are neither perpetrators of sinister agendas to control the world nor idiot savants who have no sense of their social responsibility. Indeed, scientists are often self-policing, and have been known to impose voluntary moratoriums on their research until they could determine the range of risks involved. The 1975 Asilomar Conference, led by biochemist Paul Berg, on the risks and biohazards of recombinant DNA, is one of the most famous cases in point.[1] Out of this meeting a whole host of guidelines and safeguards were developed to address the responsibility of investigators and institutions, and initiate protocols and processes for research oversight in regards to recombinant DNA and gene transfer research. These continue to be built on to this day, both internally, within the scientific community, and from top-down governmental agencies who seek to protect the public and appease anxieties.[2] But, they also remain highly contentious amongst certain factions of scientists themselves who rail against heavily imposed governance as too prohibitive, often arguing that the risks of new research do not support the need for so much public paranoia. In this view, "science," per se, isn’t the "bad guy." Rather the villain is seen to be the over-regulation that restricts valuable experimental research. Today, synthetic genomics (especially as relates to both medicine and agri-science) and gene transfer research seem to the head the list of some of the most controversial and anxiety producing biological research being done today. Bioengineering and biotechnology are simultaneously fascinating and frightening to me because they evoke the very myths of the crazed or power-hungry characters in the most disturbing dystopic science fictional narratives. Constructing artificial life forms, genetically modifying our food, pulling apart bodies molecule by molecule, standardizing biological parts, building disembodied organs cell by cell with bio-printers, redesigning organisms according to our needs and vanities, and violently interfering with reproductive mechanisms all arouse horrifying visions of scientific naïveté (if not amorality) that are not easily ameliorated by either calm reflection or deliberative debates amongst experts and pundits. But bioengineering shouldn’t simply be viewed through the framework of fear. Synthetic biology isn’t simply about mad scientists playing God. For many researchers and supporters it offers new possibilities for curing the previously incurable, for creating new vaccines and treatments, and for producing new fuel sources in an era of diminishing natural resources, ecological disasters, and geopolitical conflicts. What then is synthetic biology? One of the most prominent researchers in the field, Craig Venter, defined it as: Synthetic biology is an emerging area of science and technology, using developments in the engineering and biosciences to create new biological parts or to redesign existing ones to carry out new tasks. As one leading researcher noted—it moves us on from reading the genetic code to actually writing it.[3] It builds on advanced research in DNA sequencing, and synthesis, to not only help study genomes, but to engineer and assemble them as well. The hope for synthetic genomics through advancing synthetic biology research is summed up in a recent article by molecular biologist, Daniel Gibson, Associate Professor in the Synthetic Biology group at the J. Craig Venter Institute: The synthetic genomics vision is to take synthetic biology to an entirely new level where complete genomes are designed, written and activated, in a fully automated pipeline, to create new biological operating systems of cells that predictably carry out their programmed instructions. […] Once the synthetic genomics vision is realized, cells with extraordinary properties will be produced. The applications are endless with these new technologies, and there is now great potential for transforming carbon dioxide, plant biomass and coal into high-value products such as medicines, foods, biofuels, plastics or chemicals, and for creating new vaccines.[4] Let’s take gene therapy as an example. This is a burgeoning field of experimental clinical therapy that builds on engineering principles in order to treat disease by utilizing genes introduced into the body by some kind of vector (often a bioengineered virus, or more recently, stem cells) instead of pharmaceuticals or surgery in an effort to alter mutated genes that do not function properly. The promises for medical advancement and treatment for various maladies such as ocular disease, cancer, and severe immune deficiencies are enormous, but so too are the risks. Scientists face innumerable challenges of how to control dangerous side effects such as targeting the wrong cells in the body, infections, tumors, and rejection by the immune system. The conundrum is that only through further research and clinical trials can the dangers be effectively assessed and overcome. I have an enormous respect for what science can accomplish—indeed, has accomplished—but I’m also careful not to give science more credit in having the ability to dictate the course of humanity than it deserves. "Science" isn’t a bad guy or a good guy. This isn’t to say that it’s completely neutral, however. But, "science" doesn’t make decisions, people do. Science and technology are tools that both derive from social needs and shape social needs and relationships. I firmly believe that to best understand the scope, reach, and consequences of science in society, it needs to be placed in both its historical and philosophical contexts. Science is political—it emerges out of ideological contexts and its applications have ideological aims and effects. What science fiction often offers us—whether through a dystopic or a utopic lens—are alternative ways to contemplate the effects of science and technology in our everyday lives. More interestingly for me, however, is how these fictions often bring into stark relief the ideological and political arrangements out of which science emerges and is applied. _______________________ [1] I also addressed early research on recombinant DNA and the self-imposed moratorium led by Paul Berg in the episode 2.01 commentary. [2] For an excellent summary of the Historical and Policy Timelines for Recombinant DNA Technology, from the National Center for Biotechnological Information (U.S.A.) site, see: [3] Venter, C. From Reading to writing the genetic code. Talk to Cornell University. 17 November 2008. Quoted in, Synthetic Biology Dialogue, pg. 14. [4] Daniel G Gibson, "Programming biological operating systems: genome design, assembly and activation." Nature Methods. Vol.11, No.5. May, 2014, pp. 521-6. p.525. I’ve also included a number of websites and resources in the Wet Lab where you can look into these issues more thoroughly.

NEXT: The Hive Wet Lab and Library

The Hive Wet Lab & Library

Want to learn more about synthetic biology and genetics more generally? is an excellent site run by The Tech Museum of Innovation (supported by the Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine) with some excellent, brief discussions. You can also ask a geneticist questions! I also really love the Cold Spring Harbor website, DNA Interactive. is a very informative open source website containing all kinds of resources and facts regarding synthetic biology. Go here for definitions and FAQ’s. If you prefer videos, here is one offering a quick explanation of synthetic biology: Below is an extended explanation of synthetic biology, “Hacking genomes and Synthetic Biology.” Here are extended explanations of synthetic biology, "Synthetic Biology: Promises and Challenges," and “Engineering life through Synthetic Biology." For further reading also see: “A Critical Perspective on Synthetic Biology” by Michel Morange, published in International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, Vol. 15 (2009), No. 1, 21-30. In the UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council recently initiated a series of “series of public workshops and stakeholder interviews on the science and issues surrounding synthetic biology" called "Synthetic Biology Dialogue." In the US, the National Center for Biotechnological Information hosts a really informative website where you can learn about "advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information." In particular, you may find the "Oversight and Review of Clinical Gene Transfer Protocols" extremely useful for understanding “the state of existing gene transfer science and the current regulatory and policy context under which research is investigated." An historical timeline on the Role of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee: Historical and Policy Timelines for Recombinant DNA Technology. On Paul Berg and the 1975 Asilomar Conference, "Recombinant DNA Technology and Researchers' Responsibilities." The 1975 "Summary Statement of the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Molecules," published in the PNAS. The open letter to the editor (published in Science, 1974) by the seven member committee on recombinant DNA, "Potential Biohazards of Recombinant DNA Molecules." Berg, in 2004, discussing the Asilomar Conference, the history of recombinant DNA, and ethical issues involved with more recent research in embryonic stem cell research: "Asilonmar and Recombinant DNA." An interesting interview with Paul Berg discussing recombinant DNA research and the development of public policy on biotech research: On gene therapy, refer to Genetics Home Reference: "What is gene therapy?" and Mayo Clinic's "Gene Therapy." If you have access to the science journal Nature, they’ve recently published a special issue on synthetic biology (it you’re a student you’ll likely have access to this through your university or college library account). Access Nature Volume 509 here. From that issue, here is one physician’s view on the difficulties and controversy surrounding the regulation of synthetic biology research: "Time to settle the synthetic controversy." And here is a response from some Science and Technology Studies authors at UC Berkley who argue that debates on the governance of biological research would do well to take seriously input from historians and philosophers of science, technology, and medicine when trying to make sense of the impact of synthetic biology on society. "The point of supporting synthetic biology,” they write, “is not about making sure that science can go wherever it wants: it is about making the type of society people want to live in." - CSTMS scholars in letter to Nature on synthetic biology. If you’re interested what kinds of projects are occurring in the province of synthetic biology here are few videos with two of the most prominent researchers – Craig Venter and George Church—in the field to get you started. Craig Venter on synthetic biology and designing 'life' (in three parts): Part 2, Part 3 Craig Venter on reading, writing, and reprogramming the genetic code: George Church, geneticist and molecular engineer at Harvard, and the initiator the Personal Genome Project: On the Personal Genome Project (PGP): George Church on the analogy between computers and genomes: George Church on "extreme engineering" and the practical art of bioengineering (not the best quality, but an interesting lecture nonetheless): And finally, two of my favorite pieces of sci-fi literature are Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau, and you can find these can both in the public domain. The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells, 1896. Frankenstein; The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley, 1818: