Most of you reading this will probably be aware of a rather successful movie called 'Fight Club'. It involved a secretive, underground group who would fight each other to get out the stress of living in a crappy consumerist culture. Do you remember the first rule of Fight Club? Sure you do: don't talk about fight club. It was the same as the second rule too, in case you forgot I'm here to tell you about a little known, but excellent TV show called Orphan Black which has it's own club - a clone club. Their motto is the exact opposite: talk about clone club! Why? Mainly because this show is brilliant and it needs to gain more followers or else it is at risk of being cancelled. Believe me, that would be a real shame, and I'm here to tell you why.
Minor spoilers for the first two episodes of season 1 follow!
For the uninitiated, Orphan Black follows a small time criminal, Sarah, who while impersonating a cop who looked remarkably like her to escape her past gets drawn into a conflict between a powerful corporation and a group of women who also look similar. They are her clones. Or she there's.... or someone's...
As the series goes on it explores their origins, their humanity and their individual problems, because each clone, despite having the same basic genetic make up, is very different in character.
Season 3 starts in April and despite having a stellar script, compelling characters beautifully, individually portrayed by one single actress, and twists that can take even the most jaded TV viewer by surprise it only has a small following. The Season 2 premiere, for example, only captured around 1.2 million viewers, which includes DVR ratings. Most put this down to the SF concept and Saturday night being a notoriously tough slot for a show whose main demographic would rather go out at the weekend than stay in with the telly.
So, that's why I invented the first rule of clone club - the affectionate name given to the group of clones in the series and the show's fans. That rule is: talk about clone club! More people need to know about and watch this truly fantastic show.
I'm serious when I say this whole show would have completely fallen flat on its face at the starting blocks if the lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, wasn't the most capable and talented actress I've seen.
She is able to draw out from herself and construct these vastly different personalities and portray them on screen as if they were each leads in different TV shows, for they are all deep and complicated characters. We have the small time crook, trying to protect her daughter, but dragged into protecting the clone club too; the alternative and gay scientist; the uptight soccer mom convinced she's being spied on; the programmed Russian killer who you can't help liking; the bitchy corporate leader with a damaging pride and so on. These are just the main characters too. From time to time, another clone pops up and joins the club, and some of them are pretty radical. Let's just say that boundaries are truly pushed!
The real beauty of the acting comes into play when, for whatever reason, one of the clones has to pretend to be one of the other clones. The nuances in acting then really show Tatiana's talent and I am now completely in awe of this woman. I'm a fan for life.
While the idea of cloning is very much a science fiction concept, the details of this and the implications are not necessary to understand and enjoy the story. It is soft SF. At it's core, Orphan Black is simply a character driven drama that uses a SF concept as a jumping off point. Anyone can enjoy it. It just happens that the characters are all played by the same actress.
That being said, if SF is your thing then there are certainly hints and mentions that will give you plenty to contemplate on that front. I'm impressed by the balance it achieves.
In a move that is bordering on genius, the creators of Orphan Black have already planned out the major points of the entire story. So though they do not know exactly for how long it will air - that depends on how many seasons they can get approved - the major beats will play out the same. This is yet another reason why I don't want the show to be cancelled too soon as the story won't be as compelling if a final, rushed season dumps upon us 3 or 4 years worth of plot twists. Still, I would rather have that than the lack of closure brought by the cancellation of shows like Firefly.
Season arcs aside, the twists that occur in each episode are often shocking and unexpected. In certain moments (I don't want to spoil anything) I remember watching and feeling more tense before the reveal, and then exhilarated afterwards, than I have in watching TV in over a decade. I've been scared, I've been thrilled and I've jumped a fair few times. This really is top quality stuff. Hell, if it can affect me, someone who has watched the best of the best and the worst of the worst for over 30 years, it must be good.
Remember in the old days when people made up new stories instead of basing them off of books or comics, other TV shows or movies? Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking that every major TV and movie studio has. Also, if you've read my other article on how all your favourite franchises are fan fiction you'll understand how rare it is to get a completely original story.
The best thing about that is that no one has any idea what is going to happen next. Not even a clue. Season 2's finale hit us with a major game changer showing the fans so far that there really is no boundary to how this show can change. So speculation is really buzzing about where the next season will take us.
Let us not also forget how terrible it would be for TV in general if Orphan Black wasn't able to complete its maximum run. Watching this show is sending a message to the major TV networks saying yes to SF, saying yes to original stories, and saying yes to bold, new and dangerous shows. The alternative is you let this show die and suffer another few years of stale remakes and repeats. Your choice.
The Supporting Cast
It's a bit rude of me to put them so far down the list, because they also give the show its distinct style. From the gay roommate "Fee" (Felix) to the bungling criminal Vic, Donnie the lazy husband and Paul the mystery guy, each lends another layer to an already sparkling cast. It is because of them that the show can touch on many different genres. Sometimes it's a buddy, police procedural, at others it's a touching family drama. It's like an anthology of shorts woven together by the ever present Tatiana. Yet each story is as compelling as the next. It doesn't matter if we are with the scientists trying to decode genetic samples or with the crazed housewife and husband trying to pass off as normal at a house party disaster. The supporting cast make this a varied and believable world. My hats off to them.
Have I got you convinced yet? Are you ready to talk about clone club? All I'm saying is give the first episode a try and if you aren't hooked I can only assume you are tapped into some higher state of consciousness where you regularly get much better feels than we do down here on three dimensional Earth, because I've not seen anything this good, possibly ever. It instantly graduated into my favourite shows of all time... a feat that even took Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3 years to manage.
Now is the perfect time to spread the word too, which is kind of why I wrote this article. You just have time to comfortably watch seasons 1 and 2 before the new third season airs on BBC America in April. That's also what you should be telling people when you talk about clone club.
So sit down a couple of minutes more, watch the trailer for the new season 3 and considered your appetite wetted.
Now, go and talk about Clone Club!