I've never been the biggest fan of Canadian sci-fi. It's always looked a lot cheaper than the far more solid U.S. or British product, it just looks a lot--- greyer. And without one important exception, BBC America's Orphan Black would be little different than Stargate SG-1 or The Outer Limits--- clever concept, interesting production, but little original. However, there is one key element that this series has that other shows don't--- Tatiana Malsany.
Orphan Black is, first and foremost, a show about clones. We met Sara last year, running into a doppleganger of herself, seconds before she committed suicide. A grifter by trade, she took on Beth, a police officers identity, hoping make some money. Then she, like the audience, got sucked into the world, and found out that Beth was her clone, and that she was not the only one.
To date, we have met six clones of Sara, all played by Maslany, all radically different from each other. There's Helena, the Eastern European one, who seems to be leading a global movement against the science that's created them. There's Alison, the suburban, alcoholic, gun-toting housewife, who very quickly becomes Sara's ally. There's Cosima, the scientist who works for the company that seems to be controlling the clones (and who's having a lesbian affair with the woman assigned to monitor her) and is run, in part, by Rachel, the ruthless, corporate menace. And just this past episode, we discovered a video diary by Jennifer, a woman who made the diary when she developed symptoms of a fatal, as yet undiagnosed disease, which Cosima is suffering from.
Get all that? Like another Canadian sci-fi show, The X-Files, trying to follow the mythos of this show can be difficult for those of us, like me, who didn't catch all of the first season. However, one has the sinking feeling, that even if you watching from episode one, it would still be nearly impossible to follow, because the creators keep adding more elements. Everyone is chasing Sara because she has an eight year daughter--- significant because all the other clones have been infertile. There's a scientific cult run by Black that seems to be bent on using the financial possibility of these clones. There's an anti-science sect that's following them that Helena seems to be leading, and now there appears to be a more fundamentalist group that seems to be recognizing Helena as a savior. And a lot of different people are chasing down Sara, and none of them seem aware of the others existence.
What makes Orphan Black sing, is the work of Maslany, who not only plays every version of herself with distinct differences, on more than one occasion she has been playing versions of other clones. Maslany is impossible to look away from, and she makes half the actresses on TV today look like blatant amateurs. Watching each one of her characters react to the endless convolutions of the plot is mesmerizing, Emmy worthy work. Perhaps this series, which has a huge internet following, can be another X-Files, but it can only remember that the series was better when it wasn't about to mythos and was about the people. There are other actors and good writing to explore--- let's hope Orphan Black does drown in the conspiracies/