It’s hard to have not noticed that the Olympics have been on for 2-3 weeks recently but I’ve not watched a second of it as I can’t bring myself to support anything to do with TeamGB on the account of being ExcludedUK though I have watched athletes from the Refugees team on Twitter as I feel an affinity to them.
Anyway just by chance I stumbled across a relatively recent television show that aired for 5 years called Orphan Black and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. It is about a lady who witnesses someone who looks just like her, commit suicide by jumping under a train… something I often think of doing myself and indeed just 4 days ago helped a lady on the tube who was feeling similarly.
In Orphan Black this lady, Sarah, assumes the identity of the dead woman only to find she is a police detective and in fact the reason they look alike is that they are clones. Not just two clones but several of them, potentially dozens, maybe hundreds.
The clones are all unaware of their situation and are the property of a hi-tech organisation who are manipulating their lives and in some cases outright experimenting and killing them under the auspices of helping the wider human race whilst also running a programme of life-extending treatments under the control of a mysterious Victorian man.
Things quickly get out of hand for Sarah and it seems the organisation has a special thing for her as she is the only clone who has had a baby though her life and health are such that she’s long been unable to care for it.
It turns out every clone has a Monitor in their life to keep tabs on them. Maybe their spouse, maybe their boss, neighbour or best friend. Some of the clones are being murdered and others are suffering from a genetic fault which will lead to their deaths unless it can be genetically engineered out.
There are many reasons to watch Orphan Black but the main one is actress Tatiana Maslany who plays over a dozen characters or clones. They all have very distinct personalities and and life-styles and there is no-way in the world one could ever mix them up. In fact for one I had to check it was the same actress playing a certain part!
It’s a really clever and gripping well told story and as well as all the drama and intrigue it has incredible funny moments and sense of family. None more so when either 2 or more clones are on-screen at once or when due to various plots one clone has to stand in for another and it totally comes over as one character pretending to be another character, not the actress just playing a different side to the character.
One of the characters who isn’t a clone is Sarah’s brother, Felix. He is one of the most fun characters I can remember seeing, a very life-loving, vice loving gay artist who lives in the loft of a warehouse. Both Felix and Sarah were adopted from London and have the best London accents even though the actors are Canadian. The situations he finds himself in on behalf of his clone sisters are way beyond any brother should have to face but he nearly always does with some grace albeit with some profanities and the occasional naked behind.
The story follows Sarah as she meets other clones as they attempt to resolve the situation they are in, often using force whilst at the same time living their lives whilst at risk of abduction and murder.
One of the clones is Alison who is top right of the photo montage above, who is a regular American house-wife who is a world away from some of the other characters in a hilarious suburban existence with her husband Donnie whilst dealing with drug dealers and ex-boyfriends or her clone Sarah who doesn’t realise he is chasing the wrong woman.
One of the characters I really like is Cosima, I think it were real life, she’d be the one I’d be friends with. A brainy scientist who is racing against the clock to save her own life and the lives of others whilst treading a very fine line with the cloning organisation who very much have their own hidden agenda.
My absolute favourite character though is Helena, a young lady born as the twin sister to Sarah in London but then with the forces of evil approaching, was sent away and abandoned, suffering a terrible cruel life at a Ukranian nunnery before coming to Canada. Helena makes her initial entrance for just a few seconds when she tries to assassinate Sarah but then disappears for a while before making this shocking debut below.
I really like the journey Helena goes on. At first she is terrifying and is always a legitimate psycho killer, lacking all social graces and liable to kill any one who wrongs or who she doesn’t trust, including some of our heroes. But over the course of 5 years she slowly becomes one of the family and rather than be terrified when her distinctive music comes onscreen, we are relieved because we know she is going to sort out whatever baddies are currently threatening or actually injuring and killing our beloved clone friends.
Despite her nature, I think Helena is the most honestly open and loving clone and in some ways the most vulnerable. She is also funny even if not always intentional, calling Donnie “strong like a baby Ox” and labelling Felix, “Sestra-brother”. Whether she is hallucinating talking to a scorpion about mango’s or in the midst of dishing out unspeakable but deserved violence, she is always entertaining. And she never loses her edge, minutes after a failed suicide attempt that left her near death in an attempt to stop her unborn babies being experimented on, she kills the midwife in the penultimate episode. Helena will always be my Candy Girl! Sarah too goes on an incredible journey and shows such guts to see things through despite all the suffering she and her daughter go through.
And if that isn’t enough Tatiana also plays Rachel, one of the least likeable characters on the show who is a senior figure in the cloning organisation, Neolution.
Especially in the times we live with talks of conspiracies, vaccines, hoaxes, suspicious organisations and even worse governments, the show is even more contemporary with ever as it muses through what rights people have over their own bodies. For myself it very much feels like what it is to be Excluded too and I have spoken to some others and they feel very much the same.
Various people get killed, some good people turn out to be bad and some bad people turn out to be good and I was so happy how it ended with the story completely wrapped up and everyone who made it free to live out their lives.
I watched all 50 episodes of Orphan Black in about 3 weeks and only finished last weekend. It was never a hit show with only a few hundred thousand people watching it each week when it came out but almost everyone who has seen it, totally loves it. It’s only been 4 or 5 days and I miss Orphan Black so much. The camaraderie and family feeling and the action, the laughs, the suspense and the horror and wondering what on Earth will happen next.
I really recommend Orphan Black, I’ve never been into a television programme or indeed missed it so much when it is over. The pain is real!