and i'm all like: catch me.. again

well, blame @sexysilverstrider as usual;;;

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Orphan Black and Mass Effect: Weaponized Sterilization

Clearly I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the themes and narrative elements of Oprhan Black extend to video games. So as I watched episode 6,  “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”, I started think a lot about Mass Effect and the Krogan Genophage.

Be warned, I’m going to discuss and spoil plot elements for Orphan Black up through episode 6 of season 3 and some brief elements of the Mass Effect trilogy. If you don’t want to be spoiled for either, this is your warning to stop reading. But I suggest playing the Mass Effect series. It’s well written and moving game play that will stick with you long after finishing it. 

For the uninitiated, Mass Effect is a video game trilogy that takes place in the future. You play as Commander Shepard, an Alliance military commander that is out to save the universe from a threat known only as the Reapers. This game is very plot driven and complex so I will be focusing on one small aspect of the story: Krogan sterilization. The Krogan are an alien race in Mass Effect that are dwindling in numbers because they are mysteriously unable to successfully repopulate. Through the course of the series, the player learns that the cause of the inability of the Krogan to reproduce is due to a forced genetic mutation, called the Genophage, that causes the number of viable births to drop dramatically. Essentially, the Genophage is a weaponized way of keeping the population “under control”. While the initial goal of the Genophage was not forced sterilization, the long term effect was the same and has left the entire race on the verge of extinction. 

In the most recent episode of Orphan Black, Dr. Coady touts the benefits of having a weaponized virus that would sterilize the enemy. “We could end wars in a single generation without spilling a drop of blood”. She says that it could literally “rewrite the very nature of humankind”. While Coady’s intent might be well-placed, her methods and scientific journey to get there is questionable at best and completely unethical. 

In both Mass Effect and this story thread in Orphan Black, unethical science has removed the agency of others in order to stem war. In order to achieve that end, the agency of those affected is completely removed and ignored. And for Orphan Black in particular, the theme of bodily autonomy and reproductive agency of women is again highlighted as all reproductive choice is forcibly taken from them. As their humanity and agency has been ignored and removed; these women have become nothing more than a testing pool for a weaponized virus that intends to perpetuate forced sterility for those that are labeled as enemies and outsiders. Dr. Coady justifies this behavior as not only beneficial to the Castor group, but ultimately to humanity as a whole. In her mind, the ability of science to end war trumps the unethical means she takes to achieve it. 

While the Genophage storyline for Mass Effect has ended, the transmittable disease that Castor is spreading, has not. There are a range of possibilities that the rest of season 3 and beyond could take us in terms of perpetuating, destroying, or curing the disease that is killing both the Castor and Leda and the numerous women that have sadly become inflicted through contact with Castor. I’m excited to see how the clone illnesses and potential for weaponized viruses play out through the rest of the series. 

(Also, I’m not sure how much interest there is in Clone Club, but I’ve been thinking about posting a list of video games with similar themes, plot points, and concepts to Orphan Black. If that’s something enough people are interested in, let me know and I can make that available to everyone in Clone Club. I appreciate everyone’s notes and tags on the things I’ve written. You guys are fantastic!)