Orphan Black: Orphally Watchable


 Moving into rented property in Oxford meant spending a week in TV purgatory without the presence of either a laptop or the Internet. The Social Sciences library essentially acted as my temporary source of iPlayer access – sitting next to faceless graduate students, each poised in the same, pained pose over some keyboard or book, an identical look of concern etched into their faces. It was in this setting that I settled down to the first two episodes of Orphan Black.

We open to a woman, Sarah, arriving in an unmarked city on a train. She then witnesses another, seemingly identical individual, throw herself onto the tracks. Sarah, clearly quite the opportunist, hurriedly steals the woman’s bag, and quickly assimilates herself into the deceased (Elizabeth)’s life. This is where things start getting more complex; shaded cops in blacked out cars, spontaneous sniper fire and gay orphaned friends all push both Sarah and ‘Elizabeth’ into a kaleidoscope of mild surreality and towards the realisation that her life may not be all that it seems.
I won’t ruin too much (though the entire series is already online for those too keen to restrict themselves to BBC 3’s schedule), but in essence Orphan Black is a sci-fi adventure about ‘duplicates’, each played by Tatania Maslany. The sheer range of characters she plays is impressive – accents, postures, personal quirks are all created and presented with a relatively convincing skill. There is chemistry between herself and her foster brother, one Jordan Bavaria, though his English, mildly camp personality does get slightly tiresome given much of his screentime is dedicated to acting as Sarah’s confidant.

It becomes increasingly clear that the show is almost a one-trick pony in that every story arc and new development relies on Maslany taking on a new guise, but it remains an accomplished and diverse performance, especially when the technology used to create the multiple duplicate scenes is considered.

Stylistically Orphan Black places itself perhaps as the lovechild of the venerated Utopia and the (perhaps rightly) cancelled Heroes, with a slight dash of Misfits where necessary. It is ultimately an interesting show, and one worth dedicating time to if you have an hour to spare, but there is nothing groundbreaking at play – clones have been discussed time and time again in and out of television and film over the past few years.

But why is it so recurrent, and why has Orphan Black received quite a large amount of praise? Well, sitting at one of a dozen or so identical computer terminals, staring at a screen like the scattered individuals placed around me, each returning to the same library on the same day like clockwork, each wearing the same clothing brands and fussing over the same books – perhaps we all feel some sense of familiarity with the themes running through the show.

PHOTOS://nerdophiles, releasedonkey

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