Friday Aug 18, 2023

#250 Orphan Black: The Next Chapter with Madeline Ashby

We are celebrating the 250th episode of DNA Today and the 10 year anniversary of Orphan Black premiere with Madeline Ashby who was a writer for Orphan Black: The Next Chapter. In our conversation we will dive into some of the genetic concepts explored in the show. Warning there will be spoilers for both the TV show and the podcast!!!


Madeline Ashby (she/her) is an author among many other creative roles and talents. She graduated from the first cohort of the M.Des. in Strategic Foresight and Innovation programme at OCADU in 2011. It was her second Masters degree. (Her first, in Interdisciplinary Studies, focused on cyborg theory, fan culture, and Japanese animation!) Since 2011, she has been a freelance consulting futurist specializing in scenario development and science fiction prototypes. Her work has appeared in BoingBoing, Slate, MIT Technology Review, WIRED, The Atlantic, and many other notable places. She penned a trilogy of novels starting with vN: The First Machine Dynasty along with other books. Check out her IMDb profile for more info.


She is also a writer on our host Kira Dineen’s favorite science fiction podcast of all time: Orphan Black: The Next Chapter. Orphan Black is a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller that explores a world of clones. The main character Sarah runs into someone who looks like her twin, and Sarah figures out she is actually her clone. The story takes off from there of Sarah discovering she is just one of many genetically identical clones, each with their own unique personality and skills. They all navigate a treacherous web of deceit, corporate intrigue, and scientific experimentation. The show ran for 5 years between 2013-2017 before the podcast spinoff was announced. 

On This Episode We Discuss:

  • The motivation behind continuing the Orphan Black story in podcast format
  • How the show explores the issue of genetic privacy and the downstream effects on relatives of the clones and real-world considerations in genetic data sharing and data privacy
  • How plausible the idea of bio weapons and designing viruses to attack specific individuals based on SNPs, touched on in the show, is in reality and the ethical implications
  • Ethical violations explored in the podcast including uninformed, forced vaccination, and how they parallel real-world bioethical concerns
  • Storing genetic data in the podcast and tv show versus the real-world


We talked a lot about science fiction on this episode, but we wanted to share some exciting developments in the real-world of genetic research that could allow same-sex couples to share biological children someday:

TIME: Get Ready for Embryos From Two Men or Two Women

NPR: Startup aims to make lab-grown human eggs, transforming options for creating families 


Stay tuned for the next new episode of DNA Today on August 25th, 2023! New episodes are released every Friday. In the meantime, you can binge over 250 other episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, streaming on the website, or any other podcast player by searching, “DNA Today”. Episodes since 2021 are also recorded with video which you can watch on our YouTube channel.  


DNA Today is hosted and produced by Kira Dineen. Our social media lead is Corinne Merlino. Our video lead is Amanda Andreoli. Our Outreach Intern is Sanya Tinaikar. Our Social Media Intern is Kajal Patel. And our Graphic Designer Ashlyn Enokian.

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