The Hive Recap: Mingling Its Own Nature With It

OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_09 Here comes Helena...

The Hive Writer’s Notes – Alex Levine

Hey everybody, Alex Levine here, one of the staff writers of Orphan Black, and the writer of this week’s episode, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It." First off, let me just say how much fun it is to play in this amazing world that Graeme and John created, and spin stories for these amazing characters. In season two, the writers room was full of undeniable talent— Karen Walton, Russ Cochrane, Aubrey Nealon, Tony Elliot, Chris Roberts. We also had great help from our creative producers Kerry Appleyard and Karen Troubetzkoy from Temple Street Productions. All these brilliant minds worked together to create and hone the stories you see on the screen. It really is a hive mentality. As far as episode three, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” goes, let me just admit it: I got lucky. Not only did I get to pen the episode that introduces Cal Morrison (the new guy!), but I was also given a more stand-alone story, and a change-of-pace episode. What do I mean by that? Well, as you may have noticed, we are churning story on Orphan Black at a breakneck pace, and our episodes often end in cliffhangers that roll into the next story. But episode two ends with a bit more of a definitive resolution, so episode three is one of the few episodes that really has a fresh start. We find Sarah, Felix and Kira on the run, but at rest. It was a rare opportunity to take a breath, story-wise, and dive into the characters.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_10 Felix and Kira, roughing it on the road.

From a story perspective, one of the hardest parts was figuring out why Sarah would go to see Cal now, and why she would keep it a secret from Felix. But as we honed the story, we fleshed out the reasoning. Sarah’s out of luck, out of money, and her conscience is begging her to take Kira somewhere safe, somewhere "nourishing." So she drops in on her ex, but, knowing that Fee wouldn’t go for it, she hides the truth.


Sarah Manning and Cal Morrison, reunited.

Speaking of the new guy Cal Morrison (Michiel Huisman), I can tell you the conversations around this character and his backstory were long and involved. We wanted him to have a woodsman feel but a science background. I’m thrilled with where we landed, and who we cast in this great role. Michiel is rock solid, and he fit our Cal perfectly, adding his own credibility and depth to the character. And there’s more in store for Cal, as you will see. One aspect of the story I really enjoyed writing was Fee and Sarah’s big fight. That’s where we get to see a glimpse of that brother-sister relationship and some of its less flattering colors: jealousy, pride, pettiness. This is the other side of all that fierce love we see between these two characters at other times. When I saw it acted so brilliantly by Jordan and Tat, it felt so realistic, like one of those rehash arguments we have with our relatives over and over again. At the end of the day, we know they love each other… but at the moment? Not so much. OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_26

"There's no place for me here." - Felix Dawkins

I don’t mean to make anybody jealous, but being on set with director T.J. Scott, director of photography Aaron Morton, and the whole cast and crew is an unbelievable experience. For a storyteller, there is no bigger thrill than watching these great creatives bring the story to life. Remember that big tree in the opening scene? When T.J. saw that tree, he dragged all the scout vans out into the middle of a big field, in the middle of nowhere. And he just starts marching… right to that big, leafless, desolate tree. He knew it would be awesome, and he knew he could get the crew and the cameras out there. And it really paid off. Below are a couple of pictures from the shoot.


The tree from Sarah, Felix, and Kira's opening scene.


Shooting outside Cal's cabin.


There was a trail between two sets out by Johanssen’s ranch, so I got a fuzzy shot of Graeme and Mackie Donaldson on a little bridge.


At the community center, rehearsing the musical.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Paul Jones FX—the team that created the Jennifer Fitzsimmons clone prosthetic. He did such a great job that we could even shoot close-ups of the cadaver’s teeth. He even put skin wrinkles on the feet. Shockingly realistic.

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

The Hive Observations, Unexpected Results, and Mind-Benders


“More like homeless in the country.” - Felix Dawkins

Playing Dead The wonderful Nora McLellen, Brenda the Birdwatcher, spent almost a whole day playing dead. To top it off, at the very end of the shoot, we dumped water all over her ("gas"), multiple times. She was incredible. The flies you hear and see around Brenda and the feast gone wrong? Fake. We used VFX to add in the flies hovering around the dinner and body.

OrphanBlack-Blog-PlayingDead A feast gone wrong.

Double Take Did you notice that the photo Daniel takes of Kira’s is the same photo that Benjamin was taking at the end of episode two? He was making her a fake passport. OrphanBlack-blog-candy

Kira, the candy thief.

Candy Girl The art department had to make an entire new brand of candy for Kira to steal from the corner store—DEW WOPS. You wouldn’t imagine how many meetings and minds it takes to make a new brand of candy. (A lot.) OrphanBlack-Blog-calshack

"It’s what I did, pollinators.” – Cal Morrison

Set Inspection: Cal's Digs The mail piled up in Cal's cabin was all created by our art department. It was going to be featured in a shot so it had to be fake for legal reasons—each piece hand-crafted and aged. Luckily the rain that day helped. A bunch of Cal’s photography is actually work by director T.J. Scott. T.J. directed this episode, and his work fit the exact aesthetic The Hive hoped to achieve. It was serendipitous! OrphanBlack-Blog-Art

Director T.J. Scott's photography decorating the walls of Cal's cabin.

Chris Roberts, our designated science and medical go-to guy within The Hive, came up with the pollinators, military and micro-optics. Props master Geoff Murin created one of Cal’s inventions, a wood and steel windmill. There was such a clear vision of the type of artist and creator Cal was and the whole art department worked really hard to capture it in the props and sets around him. Their work, to help define who this new and important character is, was crucial to Cal’s first episode. OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_30

"She all right?" - Cosima Niehaus, watching Jennifer Fitzsimmons' video diaries

Clone Diaries All of the Jennifer footage was shot before season two officially went to camera. We shot in smaller half-sets around the studio, one of which was season one’s writers' room. Paul Jones gets all the credit for Jennifer’s body in the autopsy. He and his amazing team built an incredible prosthetic body that opened up and had all of the organs and insides ready to go! The lips moved, the head was weighted realistically; it was a fascinating day on set. We love our body horror on Orphan Black. OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_33 Opening Night This episode marked Blood Ties' opening night, and what a night. The poster Alison walks by on her way backstage is actually the very same poster from the real Blood Ties musical, which was used in Toronto and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was designed by Toronto/NYC illustration Jim Mezei. The art department loved it and simply photoshopped Alison Hendrix and Sarah Stabbs into the poster as the play's headliners.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep3_07Johanssen and his bride, Helena.

Wedding Wardrobe The wedding... Well, that was creepy. Costume designer Debra Hansen and her team did amazing work. By combining the white dresses and western suits, they created the creepiest of all weddings. Poor Helena. Capturing the Car Crash Would you believe us it we told you that making the crash look real involved driving the truck directly into a HUGE mirror on the highway and shattering it everywhere? Because it did—among many other steps.

NEXT: Science Consultant Cosima Herter

Some Reflections on the Anatomization of Women’s Bodies By Cosima Herter, Series Science Consultant

The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. Novum Organum, Aph. XLI

Charles Darwin wrote that his interest in the development of emotional expression commenced in 1838, when he was just 29 years old. [1] On a warm spring day, he rode to the zoo, and there he met Jenny, the orangutan. It was the first time he’d seen an ape, and he was profoundly affected by how curiously similar her emotional countenance was to humans. There she was, he described in a letter to his sister, "in great perfection. [And when] the keeper showed her an apple, but would not give it to her, … she threw herself on her back, kicked and cried, precisely like a naughty child." She grew sulky, and threw fits of passionate exasperation, but when the keeper promised her to give her the apple if she would only stop bawling and behave he observed that Jenny seemed to have "understood every word of this." She calmed and composed herself, and finally succeeded in acquiring the apple, which she ate with great content and satisfaction.[2] Darwin was interested in the expression of emotions as an evolutionary development that revealed continuities between humans and other animals, and he presented his exploration of these ideas in his later works, The Descent of Man (1871) and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animal (1872). The same year he met Jenny, we find him contemplating consciousness and individuality in one of his private journals: "Reflective Consciousness is a curious problem," [3] he wrote, and mused that through our sympathy with another who is suffering, in particular, we might find some key to our own individuality. Observing the apes observing themselves gave Darwin some clues about the development of subjectivity in humans, but he did not believe that cognitive capacity develops in equal measure for all bodies. Indeed, he believed it would be inappropriate to argue that males and females of a species could attain comparable cognitive sophistication. "The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes," he wrote in the Descent of Man, "is shewn by man's attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands." [4] Despite evolutionary continuums amongst species, there still remained glaring discontinuities amongst males and females. The same century that Darwin was contemplating physical and psychic continuities between humans and other animals, nineteenth century novelists were self-consciously mining contemporary controversies emerging in the life sciences for literary inspiration – not least were the controversies regarding biological differences amongst the sexes. Anxieties about the effects of science and medical innovations on human identity, through the lens of the body in particular, had a powerfully emotional place in Victorian narratives. Evolutionary debates, biomedical experimentation, and, especially, vivisection held significant sway in the public imagination. Macabre depictions of the crazed scientist’s desire to play God, to create and control life, and exert power over the fragile human soul, often took shape in the form of bodies both torn open and sewn together. These portrayals of mad scientists were not entirely unfounded; biology, as a newly burgeoning professional discipline, was intimately wed with politics, especially insofar as female (and racialized) bodies were concerned. Many feminist historians of science have documented how evolutionary science was highly gendered. Historian Evelleen Richards noted that the Darwinian “reconstruction of human evolution is pervaded by Victorian racial and sexual stereotypes and assumptions of the inevitability and rightness of the sexual division of labor. By asserting the instinctively maternal and inherently modest traits of the human female and the male’s innate aggressive and competitive characteristics, Darwin provided naturalistic corroboration of woman’s narrow domestic role and contemporary social inequalities.” She goes on to say, "there was scarcely an evolutionist who did not take up and pronounce upon the woman question;" indeed, she argued, "anthropologists, psychologists, and gynecologists [forged] a formidable body of biological determinist theory that purported to show that women were inherently different from men in their anatomy, physiology, temperament, and intellect – that women, like the ‘lower’ races, could never expect to match the intellectual or cultural achievements of men or obtain an equal share of power and authority." [5] Long enduring stereotypes of women as less developed analogues of men found scientific rationalization in the evolutionary theories of the day. Jenny the orangutan wasn’t simply a model by which Darwin contemplated similarities amongst species, but a wider symbol of distorted visions of so-called natural inequalities amongst humans themselves. 19th century anti-vivisectionist movements offer an interesting historical window into the fears held by women who were framed as 'naturally' unable to achieve the same degree of psychic development as men, and as such were less socially valued. Anti-vivisectionists were predominantly women, and they were especially horrified by the violent anatomization of animal bodies on the physiologist’s table, not least because, as Jon Turney observed, "their experience of medical practice, and their broader awareness of sexual subordination, formed an important subtext to the public debate about animal experimentation." [6] Animal vivisection posed a threat to women’s bodies insofar as "the vivisected animal stood for the vivisected woman: the woman strapped to the gynecologist’s table," [7] the woman brutally penetrated by the "male dominated biomedical project." The most famous pioneer of vivisection was, of course, the French physiologist, Claude Bernard. Bernard was infamous for his view that to be a true man of science one must cultivate the most hard-boiled, ‘objective’ approach to physiological experimentation; one must ignore the suffering and the pain of his subject, and steel himself against whatever misery he might cause in the service of the greater goal to elevate medicine from a so-called ‘art’ to the status of a full-blown ‘science.’ This attitude is well worth quoting in full: A physiologist is no ordinary man, he is a man of science, absorbed by the scientific idea which he pursues: he no longer hears the cry of animals, he no longer sees the blood that flows, he sees only his idea and perceives only organism concealing problems which he intends to solve. Similarly again, no surgeon is stopped by the most moving cries and sobs, because he sees only his idea and the purpose of his operation. Similarly again, no anatomist feels himself in a horrible slaughter house; under the influence of a scientific idea, he delightedly follows a nervous filament through stinking livid flesh, which to any other man would be an object of disgust and horror. [8] When Cosima is confronted with the suffering and death of Jennifer Fitzsimmons, she is also confronted with her own. While Cosima’s suffering is uniquely hers, she is forced to be simultaneously objective – awkwardly holding Jennifer’s entrails during the autopsy – and subjectively absorbed by the body splayed out in front of her. This is her biology, this is her suffering, and this is the crucible of her hope. It is also the locus of the sisters’ collective hope for both understanding and saving themselves, and ultimately recovering some of the agency they’ve been denied by having been created as experimental subjects. Her autopsy isn’t simply an exploration into the disease that ails them, it is also the medium through which each of the clones’ narratives is obliquely refracted. Her body contains clues to their past and their future as well. The dismembering of the clone’s body serves a mirror by which the history of women’s anatomized bodies, more generally, is painfully reflected. Neither Cosima, nor any of these women, can escape the vision of the medicalized female anatomy that has been preserved through the distorted lens of historic expectations and perverse selfishness of male-dominated science and medicine. And, only by perpetrating the medical violence done to women’s bodies can Cosima both recover her own subjectivity both as an individual and a woman, and offer some sense of a hopeful new future for them all. _____________________ [1.]Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal. John Murray: London, 1872, p. 19. [2.]Darwin, C.R. to Darwin, S.E., 1 April 1838, Darwin Correspondence Database, [3.] Darwin, C. R. Notebook M : [Metaphysics on morals and speculations on expression (1838)]. CUL-DAR125.- Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, ed. Paul Barrett. (Darwin Online,, p.116. [4.]Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. 2nd editions. John Murray: London, [1871] 1874, p. 564. [5.]Richards, Evelleen. “Redrawing the Boundaries: Darwinian Science and Victorian Women Intellectuals,” in Victorian Science in Context, ed. Bernard Lightman, University of Chicago Press, 1997, p. 121. [6.]Turney, Jon. Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science, Genetics and Popular Culture. Yale University Press, 1998, p. 53. [7.]Lansbury, Coral. The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers and Vivisection in Edwardian England. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, quoted in Turney, p. 53. [8.]Bernard, Claude. An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. (1865; English trans. 1927) Dover: New York, 1957, p. 103.

NEXT: Wet Lab & Library

The Hive: Wet Lab & Library

Often when I’m looking for inspiration, or just unable to sleep late at night and need to occupy myself, I spend hours reading the correspondence of Charles Darwin. The Darwin Correspondence Project is a remarkable database of the complete texts and transcripts of letters, both sent and received, by Darwin, which is being continually added to. It’s a tremendously useful, and exciting resource: The letter to which I refer from Darwin to his sister describing his first experience of Jenny the orangutan, can be found here. For interest’s sake, here is a wonderful discussion of Darwin’s research on human emotions while he was working on his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). You can also test your own ability to identify emotions depicted in the very photographs Darwin studied. Another marvelous resource is Darwin Online. Here you can find the complete works of Charles Darwin (and more!) – all the editions of his published texts, manuscripts, his private notebooks and diaries, and various other unpublished texts. Here is an illuminating excerpt, written by one of my favorite science writers, Carl Zimmer, from the introduction to the concise edition of Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man where Zimmer also describes Darwin’s encounter with Jenny. If you are interested in looking deeper into the life and work of Claude Bernard there are several on-line sources one can go to. Here is a good place to start. There is a tremendous amount of excellent literature that explores the histories of both vivisection, and experimental medicine more generally. Of course, the history of medicine isn’t entirely gruesome, and certainly through the various experimentations (some dubious, some not) over several centuries we have inherited an enormous amount of knowledge that has helped thousands, and thousands, of lives. Two places to begin looking: and You may also want to read: James Turner. Reckoning with the Beast: Animals, Pain, and Humanity in the Victorian Mind. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Coral Lansbury. The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers and Vivisection in Edwardian England. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985