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All card-carrying members of the Clone Club were presumably glued to their televisions Saturday night (or Sunday afternoon) for the Season 2 premiere of BBC America’s Orphan Black. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many members of the Clone Club as there should be, and “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” only brought in 620,000 viewers, which is around 50,000 less than the number of people who watched the Season 1 debut. And if that wasn’t already slightly disappointing news, the sci-fi drama recently became the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit from writer Stephen Hendricks, who states the clone thriller cloned his already established idea. I’m betting he wasn’t one of those 620,000 on Saturday night.
Hendricks filed a $5 million lawsuit with the California federal court against Temple Street Productions as well as the BBC. He claims he wrote a screenplay in the late 1990s called Double Double, registered with both the Writer’s Guild and the Copyright office, that told the story of a twenty-something female who discovers she is one of a series of clones and tries to solve the mystery behind it. In 2004, Hendricks sent the script and a summary to Temple Street, where it was given to studio co-president David Fortier, now one of Orphan Black’s executive producers, who passed on the project.
Cut to 2013, when Hendricks hears about Orphan Black and notices his story being told with someone else’s name on it. According to THR, the suit claims that “the similarities between the Series and the Screenplay are so substantial that it is a virtual statistical impossibility that the former could have been independently created from the latter.” Those are pretty strong words, and the brunt of the blame would seemingly have to be placed on Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, who are both credited as the show’s creators.
I’m not going to point any fingers here, but I will say that if you’re going to conceive a show about a clone, there are only so many things you can do with it that don’t involve discovering more clones and trying to seek out the source. I have to assume that Orphan Black’s lukewarm ratings are the only reasons why all the other networks aren’t putting their own clone dramas into development. But maybe Hendricks’ argument holds more water than the plethora of other groundless lawsuits that visual media attracts.
The silver lining to the series’ relatively low ratings is that viewers in the key 18-50 (ish) demographic totaled over 391,000, which is double the average of those who watched Season 1. One of the main differences between this year and last is Doctor Who is no longer around as a lead-in, so Sarah, Alison and Cosima are left fighting for ratings themselves. Perhaps the great Doctor was the thing keeping more youthful viewers back, which almost definitely won't change when Peter Capaldi takes over. In any case, everyone from infants to centenarians needs to get on this bandwagon.
Season 2 has already started off with some bangs, some booms and a lot of mace spray. Tune in next Saturday night for “Governed by Sound Reason and True Religion,” and let us know if you already had that idea before.