Genre: Sci-Fi | Action | Drama
Creators: John Fawcett, Graeme Manson
Writers: John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, Alex Levine, Karen Walton
Discs: 2 (3 for DVD, but identical content)
Run time: 450 minutes (10 episodes) plus bonus features
Smart, sexy and pulsating with suspense – BBC AMERICA’s hit new original series, Orphan Black features rising star Tatiana Maslany (The Vow, Picture Day), who recently took home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. This is the television performance that can’t be missed, so join the conversation when BBC Home Entertainment releases Orphan Black: Season One on Blu-ray and DVD on July 16, 2013.
Maslany portrays Sarah, an outsider and orphan whose life changes dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman, “Beth,” who looks just like her. Sarah takes her identity, her boyfriend and her money. But instead of solving her problems, the street-smart chameleon is thrust headlong into a kaleidoscopic mystery. She makes the dizzying discovery that she and the dead woman are clones… but are they the only ones? Sarah quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, racing to find answers.
The cast includes Jordan Gavaris (Degrassi) as Felix, Sarah’s thorny foster brother and her one true confidante; Dylan Bruce (NCIS) as Paul, Beth’s boyfriend – a decent guy with chiseled features, but more complicated than he appears; Maria Doyle Kennedy (Downton Abbey) as Mrs. S, Sarah’s hard-nosed working class foster mother from across the pond; Michael Mando (The Killing) as Vic, Sarah’s volatile ex, aptly nicknamed “Vic the Dick”; Kevin Hanchard (Republic of Doyle) as Art, a veteran detective working alongside Beth who grows suspicious of her erratic behavior: and Skyler Wexler (Carrie) as Sarah’s seven-year-old daughter. The ten-part clone conspiracy thriller, produced by Temple Street Productions, is co-created by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, with Manson also serving as writer and Fawcett as director. Ivan Schneeberg and David Fortier are executive producers on behalf of Temple Street.
Orphan Black is quite simply the best series since Fringe, in every way. Fringe‘s intriguing and very different, fresh, mindbending mythology; the writing, dialogue, and character interaction; the exceptional standout acting; the great ensemble with terrific chemistry; the knock-your-socks-off effects; even the weird science-y bits. It’s all here in Orphan Black. BUT this series is in no way derivative, or even reflective, of our beloved Fringe, except in its outstanding achievements. YOU SIMPLY MUST WATCH THIS SERIES.
The series has been promoted as a clones series since before the first episode aired, so that part will come as no surprise to you. What will surprise you is the breathtaking work done by multi-role breakout star Tatiana Maslany and everyone on the show who works so hard and so successfully to make you completely forget that she is playing more than one role. Editing, lighting, direction, continuity, and of course hair and makeup and likely more, all working together as a team to support the outstanding performance. Saying more would give it away, but just trust me. Breathtaking.
Likewise the writing, both in storylines and in dialogue, is quick, lean, and blissfully unexpected. It rises far above most shows today, and if you are a sci-fi and/or mystery fan in particular, you will love that aspect of this series. Every once in a while there’s a storyline that starts to feel too easy, but don’t worry; a sharp right or left turn is coming. This is not a show that you want to watch while others are sleeping, because you’re sure to let out a loud gasp or shout or “Ooooo!” at some point in every episode. My favorite kind of show.
I call it lean because with only ten episodes, lean is what it is. There is no “monster of the week” storyline in this show ever, there just isn’t the time. But trust me, it isn’t needed or missed. There is no filler here, but only rich development.
Just as it did in Fringe, the writing also allows for some of the excellent chemistry between actors to really shine, whether it’s comedic or dramatic. Of course I have to continually remind myself that I shouldn’t be surprised that Maslany has fantastic chemistry with… herself. But her work with, in particular, Jordan Gavaris and Maria Doyle Kennedy is really something to see.
They do have a science adviser, so I presume that the science-y references are grounded in actual science. I really have no idea. But again, as in Fringe, the scientists are not stereotypical, nor one-size-fits all. If you are yourself a science-y person, you will likely have no cause to be rolling your eyes during your watch.
And the final reason you should watch the show? It’s been picked up for a second season. And if you’ve read my interview with two of the executive producers, the co-presidents of the production company, you’ll know that they do in fact know how they want the series to end. Yes, there will be an end, and it will be satisfying, whenever it comes. So you may watch, happy in the knowledge that there will be more, and then there will be a solid ending.
If you already know and love the show, you will of course already know that you need to own a copy. My review set was in Blu-ray, which can be good or bad for a series, depending on the effects. Happily, you will definitely not be disappointed with the Blu-ray. The stunning editing and effects work on the more-than-one-Tatiana scenes easily holds up to the closer scrutiny provided by Blu-ray, as do the couple of other effects we come across along the way.
The bonus features are short featurettes which we have posted here on SciFiMafia.com before and during the Season 1 broadcast – including my favorite, “Three Clones, One Frame” - but it’s nice to have them here with the season set. There is one longer featurette, however, that we didn’t post, and from which most of the shorter featurettes came. Entitled “Send in the Clones,” it is a great overall look at the series and includes some tiny things that weren’t included in the other featurettes. We also get the Tatiana Maslany portion of the episode of The Nerdist when she was the guest, along with Dominic Monaghan. It isn’t an abundance of bonus features, but it also isn’t a disappointment.
This show about clones is anything but repetitive. It is fresh, vibrant, mysterious, creepy, perfectly paced, and completely engaging. You’d better start watching it in the morning, because once get this Blu-ray set home, you won’t be able to turn it off.
I give Orphan Black, Season One (Blu-ray) Five out of Five Stars.
Orphan Black, Season One (Blu-ray) is available from Amazon now – here’s the link:
Sarah is a streetwise outsider, currently on the run from a bad relationship and painfully separated from her own daughter. When an eerily lookalike stranger commits a shocking suicide right in front of her, Sarah sees a potential solution to all her problems by assuming the dead woman’s identity and clearing out her bank account. But instead, she stumbles headlong into a kaleidoscopic thriller mystery, and soon uncovers an earth-shattering secret: she is a clone. As Sarah searches for answers, she soon learns there are more like her out there, genetically identical individuals, nurtured in wildly different circumstances. And someone is trying to kill them off, one by one.