|“||We are your biological imperative now.||”|
–Cosima, Variation Under Nature
A human clone is the biologically and genetically identical being created through copying DNA fragments, cells, or organisms.
Although clones are supposed to be biologically identical, the clones in the show have differences in some portions of their genome. These portions have certain encryptions which translate into the clones' tag number, used to tell them apart, and the patent for their creation.
Clones are the central subject matter of the show, Orphan Black. In the series, they seem to be called orphans during promotional statements or synopses. Also, the title of the series "Orphan Black" has a meaning that, according to the creators, is a clue in the unfolding mystery that may be connected to the clones and will be revealed at one point later in the series.
According to clues in the episode "Entangled Bank", Orphan Black refers to orphans "in the black", meaning orphans who were undocumented, who have become the subjects of medical experiments.
Also, the episode titles of the show convey certain observational terms that seem to imply that the clones' actions and differences because of "nurture", the concept that they will turn up differently because of their different environments, are being observed.
|“||Just one, I'm a few, no family, too. Who am I?||”|
Clone club is a term used by Cosima and has since also been used in the real world to refer to the group of clones. The supposed "first rule" of the club is that outsiders, particularly non-clones, cannot know about the clones' existence. As of now though, several people are in the know.
Apparently, the clones' mothers were either desperate enough for children and have opted to undergo in-vitro fertilization, like Alison, Cosima and Beth's parents, or were possibly women who, like Sarah and Helena's apparent birth mother, Amelia, were approached by scientists posing as couples who wanted children of their own, but needed a surrogate.
- As of Season 2, 13 clones from Project Leda have been introduced, namely (in order of appearance):
* Charlotte was created 20 years after the other clones from Project Leda, due to repeated attempts at making more clones from the same batch. According to Marion Bowles, Charlotte is the sole survivor of 400 attempts to recreate a clone from this batch.
- Unnamed soldier clone (last seen on army base, uniform name tape is Miller but credited as Corporal Styles)
- Unnamed captive clone (last seen in Marion Bowles' mansion)
|“||This organism and derivative genetic material is restricted intellectual property.||”|
–The patent in the clones' genome, Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The female clones are the fruits of a labour known as Project LEDA. Named after a Greek myth known as Leda and the Swan, the project was initially a military operation, circa 1977, which the Dyad Institute took over. The lead scientists, husband and wife team Professors Susan and Ethan Duncan were apart of one of an unknown number of implantations teams who are believed to be the clones creators. It was deemed irresponsible to create clones capable of reproduction so, as a precaution, they were made barren. However, one clone, Sarah Manning an apparent "failure", was somehow capable of conceiving a child.
It originally was believed that the military shut Project LEDA down, while in actuality it was only compartmentalized into two autonomous operations. Dyad carried biologically female clones to term, whilst the military faction carried biologically male clones to term. This is known by the name Project CASTOR.
Monitors, usually under the guise of a partner or a friend, have been planted into the clones' lives with the objective of observing and keeping tabs on them and later on reporting their conditions to a higher authority. The monitors, though, are apparently clueless of the real reasons why they are observing the subjects; they are kept on a "double-blind" so that they can't skew or affect the results of the experiments.
Paul himself was/is Beth's monitor. After Beth had committed suicide and Sarah assumed her identity, Paul was initially unaware of who he was truly observing.
Seemingly, there are several dynamics and groups to maintain these experiments. The monitors answer to supervisors, like Paul answers to Olivier Duval, who in turn works for Aldous Leekie, the head of The Dyad Institute. Leekie is apparently only responsible for overseeing data collection and still has a superior on the project. Whether Project LEDA and Neolution is part of the Dyad Institute or the group of creators themselves is yet to be clarified.
|“||She was just one of a few, unfit for family, horse glue.||”|
Years after their experiments, a group of crusaders, who call themselves "Proletheans", has begun killing them off, one of them being Maggie Chen who apparently helped create them. This group are apparently religious fanatics, with a fish glyph, a universal symbol for fecundity, as their emblem.
While the Old World brotherhood used to be completely against the idea of synthetic biology, the age old divide between science and religion has merged under the messianic vision of Henrik Johanssen. Under his leadership, the sect now believes in the righteousness of pushing biological advancements, as long as it is done in the name and under the commandments of God.
With them was another clone, Helena, whom they led to believe is the original and has since turned against them, as well as Mark Rollins, who later eloped with the daughter of the group's leader. It is at this point unknown if Henrik and the other Proletheans knew of Mark's identity as a clone or not.
|“||Don't know your mythology, do you, Cal?||”|
The cloning projects were aptly named after the Greek and Roman mythological figures Leda and Castor.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers, together known as the Dioskouri. Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.