Aside from the fact that Tatiana Maslany and Orphan Black were robbed in the Emmy nominations, the Canadian science-fiction show is gaining a lot of traction in the television industry. I remember seeing promos for Orphan Black way back in January, before the show premiered on BBC America on March 30. It looked interesting so I checked out the show and watched the whole first season as it aired; I fell in love with the characters and the story. Recently I’ve noticed more and more of my friends are watching Orphan Black and falling even more in love with the show than I did. But I’ve been wondering why the sudden influx of fans? Is it because of their appearance at San Diego Comic-Con? Or maybe the greatness of this show is spreading through word of mouth? Since I’m unsure of the reason why Orphan Black’s following is growing, I thought I’d list why I love the show, plus include a handy helpful guide to the characters and science of Orphan Black at the bottom. I’ll make a convert out of my readers yet.
Orphan Black is completely devoid of vampires, werewolves, and the new darling of sci-fi & fantasy shows, zombies. In a time when young adult dystopian novels are being turned into movies left and right and The CW is green lighting nearly a whole line up of sci-fi and fantasy shows, Orphan Black manages to separate itself from the pack with which it could be easily lumped. Seriously, when was the last time we’ve seen clones in sci-fi as the basis of the show rather than a single episode/story arc? I can’t think of a show or film that’s ever done anything remotely similar to Orphan Black. But it’s not enough to have a fresh concept, the show has to have substance, which Orphan Black does, in spades.
It’s Really, Really Good Sci-Fi
What makes science-fiction and fantasy so great is that it allows people to talk about certain things through this fantastical, futuristic lens. So, for example, many of you know about my love of Teen Wolf, which is supposed to be a silly show about teenaged werewolves; but what makes it so great is that the show delves into issues like family, growing up, the difference between right and wrong, and how to make difficult decisions. Similarly, Orphan Black not only tackles the obvious topics of scientific advancement through Neolution, or self-directed evolution, but also what family means, how to create your identity, and what it means to find yourself. Orphan Black deals with some of the most basic human issues but through a very unique lens.
Complex Stories & Characters
But these issues and clones wouldn’t be anything without their complex stories and histories. When I say complex I’m not talking about Doctor Who where you think back on some of the episodes and you can’t explain what happened even if you tried. Orphan Black is less about the science-y wience-y and more about the actual people in the story. They have fully developed histories, such as Helena who was raised by the church and conditioned to believe certain things about her clone-ness. Then there’s Sarah, who grew up in a foster home; Allison, a soccer mom from suburbia; Cosima, a graduate student studying biology; and Beth, a cop who kills herself in the series premiere. But those are just the clones, then there’s Felix, Sarah’s foster brother, and Paul, Beth’s boyfriend who gets sucked into the craziness of the clones. Although some of the characters still have some backstory to be revealed, the audience is always given hints as to who the characters are and what in their lives made them the people they have become.
As I said during my SDCC coverage, the cast of Orphan Black–Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, and Dylan Bruce–are absolutely adorable and I stand by that. Not only do Gavaris and Bruce heap praise on Maslany for her ability to transition from character to character throughout a single day, they also really seem to get along incredibly well. Additionally, they’re exceptionally intelligent and they talk about their characters as if they’re real people, which makes those characters seem even more authentic. All three of these actors work very hard and put a lot of thought into creating their characters. Maslany has even said in interviews that she has different mannerisms for each of the clones–Sarah is constantly fidgeting, Allison holds hands close to her face, and Cosmia talks with her hands. Not to mention that Gavaris isn’t even British! (Though his accent fooled me.) Although the writers created these characters, it’s the actors who bring them to life.
So that’s why I love the show, but if you’re still confused, here’s a quick guide to get you started in the Orphan Black universe: