Clones and Genetic Memories – Chapter 2 draft


Clones and geneticS memories continued

Many other films use a similar trope, the clone that does not know it is a clone Moon (2009) Directed by Duncan Jones. Sam is a clone that is not aware that it is a clone until it meets another clone, as in the film Oblivion. This film also shares similarities with Blade Runner in regard to cloning life expectancy (3 years).

Genetics and cloning in The Island
The Island – inside the facility

The Island (2005) Directed by Michael Bay. The big secret is that everyone working in the facility is supposedly a survivor in a Dystopian future and is in fact a clone. They are unaware that they are clones and that their sole purpose is to provide spare parts to their owners should their owners become sick or injured. While they do not have a complete memory of their true lives and identities and no memory of the very much safe and undamaged World outside, they have genetic memories in order to be able to function and additional prosthetic memories of why they should stay in the facility.
Genetic memories while still, an area of research in the scientific world appears to offer a solution for cinema to explain how newly created and bioengineered beings that is clones can function almost immediately and complete with memories of the original subject up to the moment of activation. Just like human babies they are born with the abilities to do things, memories that control autonomous functions, for example learning to walk, do they learn this, or is it programmed into the DNA and they just remember how to do it, genetic memory?

Genetic memories

Genetic memory, simply put, is complex abilities and actual sophisticated knowledge inherited along with other more typical and commonly accepted physical and behavioral characteristics. (Treffert, 2015)

In Science Fiction films the trope of genetic memory creates the possibility for a way of defining how clones are able to remember the original subjects’ memories. Genetic memories are memories that are encoded in genetics and may be passed on through the generations. Explicitly in the film examples, I have chosen, genetic memories are passed on from the original subject and embedded within the clone’s genetics, as part of its very DNA. The general belief is that while cloning has been proven, creating a clone with complete memories of the original would not be so easily achieved. As Evans writes “[f]or most cloning depicted in the film, there is no cloning of memories. Only the biology is duplicated ( . . . ) Duplicating a person’s memories and learning is many orders of magnitude more difficult to accomplish than copying the genetics ( . . . )“ (Evans, 2011)

Genetics and cloning of Ripley
Alien Ressurection

Another many-time replicated trope is the idea of the clone who remembers their past life. Alien Resurrection (1997) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. This film depicts a form of genetic memory remembered in a clone, Ripley 8, although in this film it is the xenomorph that is credited with the ability to retain memories across the generations. In the final scenes of Alien3 (1992) Directed by David Fincher, Ripley’s character is shown falling into a furnace clutching the xenomorph to her chest, almost certainly to her death. Alien Resurrection opens on the premise that the scientists are attempting to recreate the xenomorph Queen from Ripley’s clone created through the recovered genetic material. By surgically removing it from the body of a fully grown clone of Ripley. We see Ripley 8 (clone number 8) who exhibits a combination of human and xenomorph genetics combined with Ripleys DNA beginning to remember her past life in the canteen scene, which surprises the scientists who despite the initial desire to terminate Ripley’s clone, ending experiment because of this, but decide not to, to see what happens. While not an authoritative source of information the consensus among fans contributing to the Alien Anthology Wiki , which states that “[t]he Xenomorphs possesses the ability to pass on their memories genetically, and because of this Ripley 8 has “inherited” vague memories that belonged to the original Ellen Ripley as well as the Xenomorph”. (Ripley 8 | Alien Anthology Wiki | Fandom, no date)
Another example of the clone remembering their past life through genetic memories.

Genetics Leloo
Fifth Element – Multipass

The Fifth Element (1997) Directed by Luc Besson is another excellent example of a film where genetics DNA and genetic memory are key to the progress of the narrative. When the Fifth Element is transported back to the Earth in a spaceship and is destroyed on route by the Mangalores, there is only one survivor. The only survivor turns out to be just a severed hand holding a case. The scientists use the DNA material from the hand to create a clone. Leeloo is fully grown and complete with all her memories, grown in a machine, we see the cloning method as each layer is formed, the bones, muscles, and veins with the final process, exposure to ultraviolet rays to form the skin. Leeloo is complete both in mind and body, the genetic memories encoded into her DNA. The memories are not complete, a scene shows her watching television, rapidly scrolling through images to catch up on recent Earth’s history, martial arts, and society.

Star Trek: Enterprise – Similitude

A final example of this trope, the clone remembering the donor’s life’s memories can be watched in a science fiction television series Enterprise (2001 – 2005), in Series 3 episode 10 Similitude (2003). Trip is injured when the engines malfunction and the only solution offered by the ship’s doctor is to grow a clone from Trip’s DNA using an alien larva. This rapidly growing clone with Trips genetics and with a lifespan of just 15 days will have its organs harvested to heal a dying Trip. As the episode progresses the clone grows to adulthood with all of Trips memories complete. As in Alien Resurrection, it is the xenomorph that is credited with being able to recreate the memories from the donor’s DNA. (‘Enterprise’ Similitude (TV Episode 2003) – IMDb, no date)


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