I discovered quite by chance that BBC has been showing the third season of the Canadian SF thriller Orphan Black. Curiously, they launched it by putting all ten episodes up on the BBC iPlayer - the internet-based service normally used for storing, for one month, programmes already broadcast, for the benefit of those who missed them. They followed this up by showing the episodes on BBC3 in the middle of the night, without any publicity. Fortunately, our internet connection has at last improved to the point at which we can watch video without constant buffering, so we've been catching up with the series.
To refresh the memory – from my previous blog comments:
Sarah Manning (played by Tatiana Maslany) is a young woman who is down on her luck when she meets her double, who turns out to be genetically identical. When her double dies, Sarah takes over her life. Then she meets another double, and another…. This is a constantly intriguing and frequently amusing drama as the doubles try to figure out their history while being faced with an acute danger – someone is trying to kill them. By the end of the first season, it becomes clear that being hunted is only one of their problems; they are also under covert observation and their future hangs by a thread. Maslany has great fun playing the various, and very varied, doubles and the constantly evolving plot gripped my attention from the start, with one unexpected twist after another.
The second season has the story of the assorted group of clones continuing as they struggle to discover how to respond to the various threats facing them, not least a lethal genetic illness. What makes this so entertaining is that, while it certainly isn't a comedy, there is enough humour in it to balance the drama.
The third season continues directly from the previous one, with the emergence of a second line of clones – this time men (all played by Ari Millen) – providing more complications for the band of "sisters" as they try to find a way out of their multiple problems, with competing organisations taking an uncomfortably close interest in them. The drama is as good as ever, as is Maslany whose performance has rightly won awards. Her pony-tailed Alison still makes me smile every time she appears – a wonderful portrayal of an obsessively conventional suburban "soccer mom" who develops criminal tendencies. As the tension increases in the first few episodes of this season, the dark humour which previously added to the entertainment is scaled down, although the seventh episode switches mood and returns to the original form, with a lot of laugh-out-loud scenes (mostly involving Alison, naturally).
The finale sees the core of the mystery of the sisters' origins revealed and some problems solved – but others still lie ahead. Fortunately, another ten-episode season is on the way. Overall, the result is a multi-layered, constantly developing and gripping plot which puts Orphan Black among the very best SF series.