No offense to other shows, but when it comes to symbolically naming characters, Orphan Black kicks major ass. I first noticed something was up when Dr. Aldous Leekie was introduced. Then I started thinking about Beth CHILDS and Sarah MANNING and things just sort of spiraled from there. You will definitely be spoiled if you haven’t finished season one, so beware!
|Spoilers below the kitten!|
“Sarah” means princess. While she starts off the series in the dark as to her clonedom, Sarah eventually becomes the default leader of Clone Club.
“Manning” can be seen as referring to man (as in mankind).
“Elizabeth” means “God is my oath.” Perhaps a reference to the oath she took as a police officer?
“Childs” might refer to Beth’s inability to deal with her identity as a clone and Paul’s role as her watcher. Sarah Manning is more able to process the situation. Sarah’s last name might indicate her relative maturity over Beth.
“Katja” is a form of Katherine, which means pure. Not sure you can make much out of that.
“Obinger,” on the other hand, is reminiscent of the word “harbinger.” Katja is the first clone Sarah meets (as in speaks to). She dies almost immediately after, foretelling Sarah’s grim and complicated future.
“Cosima” means “order.” Cosima is the one who brings order (in terms of information) into the group. She is the one who explains things, who figures things out.
“Niehaus” suggests “new house.” I’m rather stumped on this one. Any suggestions?
“Alison” means “the noble one.” She is the most gentrified (read: richest) of our clones.
“Hendrix” is reminiscent of the word “helix.” As in double helix. As in DNA.
“Helena” literally means “light.” Appropriate for an angry angel, don’t you think? Tomas also tells Helena “You are the light.” Yeah. Bravo, writers. BRAVO.
“Rachel” means...wait for it...“ewe.” As in sheep. As in what Helena keeps calling the other clones. Also worth noting that only mammal ever successfully cloned was a sheep. Who was euthanized because she developed a progressive lung disease. Like the clones seem to be getting. Yup.
“Duncan” means “dark skinned warrior.” Not sure about the ‘dark skin’ part (if anything, Rachel’s slightly paler than the other clones), but she’s definitely a warrior for neolution.
“Felix” means “happy and prosperous.” The latter part doesn’t really apply, but Felix always seems pretty happy. Like “Hendrix,” “Felix” brings the word “helix” to mind. Sarah calls him “Fe” for short. “Fe” is the chemical symbol of iron. Maybe because Felix is what keeps Sarah strong?
“Dawkins” is Felix’s last name and suggests the name “Darwin,” as in Charles Darwin.
EDIT: A couple of commenters have reminded me of Dr. Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist. Thanks guys!
“Mrs. S” Her name is given as Siobhan Sadler, but Felix and Sarah almost always refer to her as “Mrs. S.” Perhaps this is meant to convey a sense of mystery. What does the S stand for? Do we really know everything we should about her? (Answer: no.)
“Kira” means “black.” Is she supposed to be the titular Orphan Black? Also worth noting is that Sarah and Mrs. S call her “monkey.” Before science people start yelling at me, I know men didn’t literally evolve from modern monkeys, but it’s a common enough misconception. Another callback to evolution and science. Cosima also refers to herself as a “science monkey.”
“Paul” means small, but might also refer to St. Paul. One of the most well known stories about St. Paul is his dramatic conversion from “evil” Pharisee to “good” Christian. Maybe it refers to Paul’s conversion from being on Olivier’s side to being on Sarah’s side.
“Dierden” is Paul’s last name. I have no idea what this means. “Deirdre” means “she who chatters,” but that doesn’t seem to apply. I’m reaching here, but maybe it involves him spying on Beth and later Sarah and telling (chattering to) Olivier about it.
“Art” is a short form of “Arthur” which might be a reference to King Arthur. By naming Art after a knight, are the writers perhaps trying to suggest that he is on a quest, like the legendary British king? Of course, Art is questing for the truth and not the Holy Grail. Unless that’s a plot twist for season two...
“Bell” means “beautiful.” It keeps in theme with the knight thing.
“Donnie” is a shortened form of “Donald,” which means “world leader.” No telling how that fits in. Maybe we’ll learn more about him next season?
Neither “Chad” or “Ainsley” seem to mean anything important, which makes me sad.
The Dyad Institute
“Dyad” literally means “something that consists of two elements or parts.” It could refer to the Dyad’s dual image. The completely legal, well publicized institute and the illegal human cloning neolution place.
“Aldous” is the first name of Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World. “Aldis” means “old house.” Maybe that’s meant to contrast with Cosima Niehaus?
“Leekie” brings to mind “Leakey,” as in Dr. Louis Leakey, the famous paleoanthropologist who pioneered studies of human evolution. I’m just saying, there’s no way “Aldous Leekie” is this guy’s real name.
“Delphine” means “from Delphi, Greece.” Delphi was the seat of the Delphic Oracle. Not 100% sure what to make of this, but it seems important.
“Cormier” means “sorb tree.” This is a kind of tree, apparently. I’d never heard of it; we don’t have them in the U.S. I don’t know if there’s any significance here or if it’s just a sciencey name.
“Béraud” (Delphine’s alias) is the name of a famous French surgeon.
“Olivier” means “olive tree.” Is this a theme? It’s French, like “Delphine.” Do neolutionists have a thing for French names? Delphine’s French so it makes sense, but Olivier is not. Just a thought.
“Duval” is also French. It means “from the valley.”
“Kevin” is Olivier’s real name. It means “handsome.” I’m pretty sure it’s meaningless and is just meant to contrast humorously with “Olivier.”
“Tomas” is a form of “Thomas” and means “twin.” I’m thinking that’s not a coincidence.
“Margaret” means “pearl.”
“Chen” means “dawn.” I’m not entirely sure either of these are important.