TV that’s worth your time: Orphan Black

My second tv pick is another Netflix show – the wonderfully dark and twisty Orphan Black. This one is definitely not for everyone but if you enjoyed Killing Eve and feel a lack of wise-cracking, murderous women on your tv, you will like Orphan Black. It’s a mix between The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with our own Maria Doyle Kennedy playing the Giles role – paternal, bit of a worrier but also a secret bad-ass. It’s full of strong women and government conspiracies; no aliens but lots of dodgy science.

Orphan Black is an hour-long, Canadian sci-if thriller, co-produced by the BBC. It’s about Sarah Manning, a “troubled young woman” who is attempting to turn her life around, reconcile with her family and get her daughter back. When she sees a woman who looks exactly like her on a train platform, things quickly start to get weird. Sarah discovers that she is a clone, and one of many. Things spiral out from there, as the clones learn of each other’s existence, the experiments that made them and the danger they are in. There are five series of the show, and while some are better than others, they are all engaging and fun (in a fairly twisted way). The show finished up last year, which is good news for people who doesn’t like to start things unless they know they can watch up until the end. It even finished with a fairly satisfying ending, so no worries about unresolved cliff-hangers here.

All the clones are played by Tatiana Maslany and she is phenomenal in all the parts, to the point where there is a small part of my brain that doesn’t really believe they were all played by the same person, in my head all these different women actually exist. The cast around her are also very good, I’m very fond of the actress who plays Kira, Sarah’s young daughter, and the wonderful Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mrs. S, Sarah’s foster mum.

It’s a good show to get into over the holidays because it’s really diverting and with five series all available on Netflix, it’s perfect for a really time-consuming box-set binge. The show has many themes including religion verses science, medical ethics, government verses big business, the lies you tell to protect people, love and death. For me another big theme is family, both the family you’re born into and the one you build yourself, and the lengths a person will go to protect their family. It also touches on how all families have their quirks and how those quirks become normal to those on the inside. Despite that, if you are someone who is not having a “traditional, happy-family Christmas”, I think this show is a great distraction and anecdote to that. There are no portrayals of typical families here, and the dysfunction on display might make you grateful for your own family’s particular brand of crazy this time of year.

Orphan Black is a good show for anyone who wants to get engrossed in a long, conspiracy-driven thriller. It keeps you guessing, makes you care about the odd-ball collection of characters and throws up some ethical questions around biological and creation.

If you like that, try this:

Happy Valley – another BBC show that’s available on Netflix. It’s a police drama, written by Sally Wainwright. It’s not one to watch late at night when you’re home alone. I found the first series very unnerving, and the second series is even better than the first. Great writing and wonderful performances, definitely worth your time.

Utopia – available on All4 this is another terrifying show, this time written by Denis Kelly. Some of the ethical science questions thrown up by Orphan Black also come up here but it is a much bleaker show. It’s like a darker, more depressing Black Mirror. I’m probably not selling it very well but it is really good!


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