Orphan Black

Orphan BlackI think you would like the sci-fi TV drama Orphan Black. It’s made by BBC America in Canada and was originally aired on BBC Three in the UK, distribution has since been taken over by Netflix, where the fourth series has just concluded. I only realised after 8 episodes had already been released, so had the luxury of binging on the majority of the fourth series in a matter of days. Can Netflix do no wrong? (Apart from the Adam Sandler thing, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.)

If you were telling someone new about the show, you might say that it’s about human cloning, nature vs nurture, and genetic engineering, and you’d be right. But that makes it sound like a pretentious nerdfest. Really, it’s about some incredibly interesting characters and their relationships. This isn’t a thousands-of-hours-long American TV epic where there’s enough time to give every single character their episodes, it’s far subtler than that. Each character is fully rounded and distinctive, with the entire spectrum of gender and sexuality being represented in realistic and non-tokenistic ways, and most of them are played by the same actress.

Tatiana Maslany, the lead actress who forms the majority of the cast, is incredible. I regularly forget that the clones are all played by her. Their characters are so incredibly different that, despite having a double-figure roster of clone characters, Maslany can even convincingly play clones impersonating each other. The same goes for Ari Millen, a later addition to the cast, who can flick between murderous machismo and fragile sugar-baby, and embody the entire complex spectrum between the two.

Kudos must also go to the video trickery which allows the clones to seamlessly interact. They don’t make their job easy, taking on challenges like the ‘clone party’ where the various Tatianas all danced together at the conclusion of the second series. For those interested in this digital wizardry, there’s a very interesting video about it here:

The combination of obscenely good acting and clever filming techniques is also crucially executed with style. It just blends into the show, facilitating the story rather than distracting from it, a difficult feat to pull off if Legend is anything to go by.

The show is deep, dark, and twisted at times, but it also has brilliant moments of humour. Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) catty sarcasm cuts through the tension and the farcical nature of Donnie and Alison’s scenes combines slapstick with the blackest of humour. A particular make-it-rain scene is heart warmingly ridiculous. The same goes for Helena, the savage Northern European clone whose lack of domesticity makes her hilarious and ferocious in equal parts.

Orphan Black hasn’t received the attention it deserves over this side of the pond. It’s the kind of show that you’ll make your friends start watching just so you have someone to chat to about it. So hurry up and watch it, I need someone to share my shock / joy / relief / amazement with.

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