Orphan Black Season 1

Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black

There are lots of things to like about sci-fi series Orphan Black; they’re all Tatiana Maslany.

She plays a range of different characters – a frustrated housewife, a scattered scientist, an English punk, a Russian assassin – for reasons that I probably shouldn’t spoil … but let’s be honest, your first guess (something-something-clones something-something-shadowy-organisation) will be pretty close to the mark. Her performance has earned rave reviews and for damn good reason – each character is distinct and engaging, and when she’s regularly asked to impersonate one character as another character she succeeds every time.

The problem with Orphan Black is that it doesn’t do enough to shore up Maslany’s impressive work with anything equally substantial. The non-Maslany characters are consistently outshone; they’re simply not interesting characters (and numerous twists revealing hidden villainy don’t make characters interesting all of a sudden).

The plot is engaging initially but I lost interest in the specifics as the season progressed. The fresh mysteries presented in the early episodes are answered with a steady stream of clichés. An irresponsible young mother forced to pretend she’s an experienced cop is interesting, but introducing a mysterious balding “prophet” with aspirations for the next stage in evolution …not so much.

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