For months now, the internet has been awash with rave reviews and articles about BBC America’s new sci-fi show, Orphan Black. The show premiered in March in 2013, and since its debut it has taken the world by storm. Throughout the show’s growing popularity, I’ve heard many people ask, “But what is it about?” To that, I simply smile and say one word: clones.
Clone shows and movies have been done many times before in the past, from the light-hearted ‘Parent Trap’ to films with a little more intensity like ‘Never Let Me Go’. But Orphan Black goes the extra mile; not only does it encompass the drama of a ‘clone show’, but it manages to encapsulate a myriad of other aspects and genres. For one, it manages to maintain a dramatic edge without being over the top or cliché; from the moment it begins, it hooks the viewer in with exciting incidents and compelling characters that make it almost impossible to tear your eyes away from it. In terms of the characters themselves, while there is an excellent extended cast, the ‘main’ cast, if you will, is simply comprised of the one person who brings such a dynamic quality to the show that makes it as phenomenal as it is; Tatiana Maslany, who won a Critics’ Choice award for the show in June.
Tatiana Maslany, Comic Con 2013.
Somehow, she has achieved the seemingly impossible task of playing a multitude of characters on one show and making it look easy, which only endears her to her fans even more. Maslany is captivating to watch on screen, and her ability to act so convincingly as different people (including doing a variety of accents, all of which are practically impeccable) is what really draws people in to the show at the start. She is so adept at creating entirely new personas for each of her clones, it just stuns me every time to see one single person with so much talent; and I know it may be difficult to believe if you have not yet seen the show yourself, but Maslany has actually managed to make the clones seem like entirely different people, in altering their movements in subtle but important ways, and changing the way they speak using their lips and their reactions to things (and as you can imagine, this is utterly baffling considering they are all played by the same actress).
3 of the clones: Sarah Manning (left), Alison Hendrix (middle), Cosima Niehaus (right)
However, this isn’t the only reason Orphan Black has become so popular in such a short space of time – the show definitely holds its own in terms of the structure and plot lines, and while it can be quite science-based at times due to the involvement of the DNA replication involved in the process of cloning, the plot remains engaging and easy to follow, with thrilling twists and turns along the way to keep the viewer hooked.
In addition, the humour of the show is not to be ignored – in particular, the character of Felix, played by Jordan Gavaris, who is the stepbrother of the show’s protagonist Sarah, provides the show with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek commentary, as well as providing representation for the LGBT community with his character being openly gay. The LGBT community also receives more support from the show in terms of Cosima, one of the many clones portrayed by Maslany. Cosima’s character is presented extremely well in that she is not defined by her sexuality; her romantic interest in French student Delphine simply happens along the way, and the fact that they are both women is not ignored nor is it highlighted in any way – it is simply treated as any other romantic plotline.
Also, the fact that the show is female-led is definitely something to be revered; while there are male main characters (Felix, Detective Arthur Bell, Paul Dierden), the spotlight is focused on Sarah (one of the main clones) and her quest to discover more about her past and how she came to be. This is extremely refreshing in a time where so much of the media is overrun with patriarchy and misogyny, and makes Orphan Black even more compelling to watch.
The diversity of the show not only extends to the LGBT community; there is also a range of different backgrounds to be seen in the plethora of characters, with Maslany herself playing clones from England, Canada, America, Ukraine, and France, to name a few.
To sum up, this show is everything you could want a show to be; it has drama, romance, humour, a phenomenal cast and thrilling storylines, all wrapped up in a sci-fi blanket. So if you have some time to spare this weekend, watch Orphan Black; trust me, once you’re a member of the Clone Club, you’ll never look back.
5/5. Utterly brilliant in every possible way.