1899 Didn’t STEAL Anything

Caitlyn Wilson, Op/Ed Editor

1899: Why are people hating the show?

The show 1899 is rated TV-MA as it is a mystery-horror show and has strong language, sexual violence, and smoking while also having some graphic violence. It is not recommended for ages 17 and under so viewer discretion is advised.

Despite Netflix’s new show, 1899, being a success among the general public and critics, author Mary Cagnin has come out against the new show that Netflix released on November 17, 2022, claiming that the show has stolen from her book. Now, many people have stopped watching the show in support of Cagnin, including me for a short time, but a closer look is necessary to reveal whether or not Netflix writers have plagiarized their new show.

I have taken it upon myself to read the book from the author criticizing the show: Mary Cagnin. Cagnin has been claiming on Twitter that the new show 1899’s imagery is exactly like her graphic novel Black Silence which came out in 2016. Her accusations, while not completely true, are so vague and so similar to any other dark sci-fi movie tropes that they seem outrageous to even consider. Of course, you wouldn’t know this from just watching the show or reading the book. When I saw that she was claiming plagiarism, I immediately stopped watching the show, only 2 episodes in, and I started reading the book. However, after finishing the book, I went back to the show, for the first two episodes seemed nothing like the book at all.

To me, it seemed like the supposed imagery that was plagiarized was traditional imagery that we have come to know and love in the dark sci-fi genre. In a world full of thousands of stories being created and put


published every day, to look at a few examples of common character tropes and imagery and say that it is plagiarism, is preposterous.

1899 is a show about a migrant ship coming from Europe to America full of a multicultural crew when they discover a ship that has been missing for 4 months which causes mysteries to arise. Black Silence is a book that has a multicultural crew who are on an interstellar journey to a planet.

Mary Cagnin has pointed to the similarity of the multicultural crew as a clear sign of plagiarism when this is a trope that is displayed in the original Star Trek movies which debuted in 1966. Cagnin also pointed to the posters and the symbolism of the pyramid within the eyes as an example of plagiarism. While this seems like solid evidence, it doesn’t hold up when you consider that all throughout mysteries that are in secluded locations, a big pyramid or shape of any kind, is actually quite common. The shapes within the eyes mean different things for each story, but they both make sense to be there, making the imagery necessary but not plagiarism.

Cagnin has further pointed to the profession of a character, a doctor, as another example of plagiarism yet the characterization of the two characters should not be more dissimilar. Granted they both have a similar origin story, but their growth and development from chapter to chapter or episode to episode are wildly different and hold almost no similarities.

In my opinion, when writing a certain type of story, it is realistic to see certain similarities, when out of context, look like they were taken from one another, but are very different when within the plot.

Another point to make is that these stories are entirely different. An example of this would be that the multicultural crew doesn’t do much for the plot in Black Silence, whereas in 1899 it becomes woven into LGBTQ+, and racial divides within the ship, and is prevalent for a lot of conflicts and the main reason the setting and ship feels the way it does. Also, both writers worked on an original show called Dark, which shares many similarities within the artistic area to 1899.

These clear differences in the plot and the execution of these tropes in 1899 create a distinct and different atmosphere that, while unique to both, are not the same in any way or plagiarized.