There has been a significant boon in science fiction television shows and films as of late. The commercial success of superhero and comic book based films has brought what used to be seen as “niche entertainment” to the forefront. Among the hits and misses that have come out, a stand out player appeared on the scene last year and really turned some heads: BBC America’s Orphan Black.
I was lucky to catch the pilot after a Doctor Who episode, and found myself pleasantly surprised. Especially since BBC America had been running promos for the show ad nauseam. This might be cheating a bit on the “anglophile” classification since this BBC America Original is shot and produced in Canada, with a predominantly Canadian cast. But that makes it no less brilliant.
The opening scene of the pilot introduces us to a British (that counts!) Sarah Manning waiting on a train platform as she watches a woman methodically put away her purse, shoes, and jacket in a corner. Sensing something is wrong, Sarah approaches the mystery woman only to get a glimpse of her face before she flings herself in front of the oncoming train. That face? An identical copy of Sarah’s. Sarah quickly discovers it wasn’t just the woman on the platform that shared her face, but a number of other women. And we’re off running.
Tatiana Maslany, the lead of the show, has a daunting task of playing several characters and making them distinct. But she does it brilliantly. She handles it so well that you quickly forget you’re watching the same actress when you meet another of Sarah’s look-alikes. (Please refer to her Critic’s Choice Television Award and TCA Award as further proof.) If the premise of the show isn’t intriguing you, then watching it for Maslany’s performance alone should. Though the supporting cast is nothing to shrug at. Their characters are fleshed out and are an integral part of the show, and not just window dressing for Maslany to strut her stuff around.
If you’re looking for a well acted, suspenseful, and twisty thriller with strong sci-fi roots, don’t look any further than this. And there isn’t too much to catch up on. We’re one season in, which is only 10 episodes. And the second season doesn’t start until April 2014. So, you can take your time. Though, once you start, I’m fairly certain you won’t want to.