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TV Review: Orphan Black

A young woman stands on a subway platform. She turns to see another woman take off her shoes and coat, set down her bag, and turn around. The other woman… is her.

The other woman… steps off the subway platform into the path of an oncoming train.

That’s the first five minutes of Orphan Black, a new show on BBC America (and Space, in Canada). What follows is science fiction. Kind of.

So, given what I just said, what would you do next? I mean, there’s no one around, you look like the person who just died, and she left her stuff on the platform. You’d take it, right? Check her wallet, her purse? Well, that’s what Sarah Manning, the main character of Orphan Black does, and she discovers that Elizabeth — Beth — Childs, the woman who committed suicide, has a pretty sweet life.

Which Sarah takes over.

There’s just a few problems: Sarah doesn’t know who Beth is, what she does, or even how she talks. Luckily for Sarah, who’s British, she can pull off a decent Canadian accent thanks to some videos Beth and her boyfriend Paul took (nothing dirty; just jogging in the park). And when she finds a savings account in Beth’s name with $75,000 in it, she thinks she has it made.

But it’s not that easy. It’s never that easy. For one thing, Sarah stole $20,000 in cocaine from her boyfriend, Vic the Dick, and tried to get her foster brother Felix to sell it. Vic’s on the warpath, and he wants Sarah back. Plus, Beth herself is in a lot of trouble — she had a good reason for jumping off the platform, and it’s not just that she has a mysterious doppelganger.

All Sarah wants to do is get her daughter back — but after disappearing for a year (and we still don’t know where to), and now living someone else’s life, it’s going to be a lot harder than she thought. Even with $75,000 in cash.

Somehow Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) managed to find the one remaining pay phone on a Canadian train platform.

Orphan Black stars Tatiana Maslany (Being Erica) as Sarah/Beth. I don’t want to give too much away of the story, so I can’t tell you why I think she’ll do a good job as the series unfolds, but… I think she’ll do a good job. She switches accents well, face-acts brilliantly when Sarah has to do something she considers unpleasant, and doesn’t overdo it during the scenes* jurer fur unf gb cynl gur trarevp “zbz jub whfg jnagf ure qnhtugre onpx” ebyr.

Joining Maslany are Dylan Bruce (As the World Turns) as Paul, Beth’s boyfriend; Jordan Gavaris (Unnatural History) as Sarah’s foster brother (and obligatory flamboyantly gay character) Felix; and Kevin Hanchard (1-800-Missing) as Art, a police detective with a vested interest in Beth.

Overall I found the show to be interesting enough to keep my attention. Because it’s not an American show, I can trust that, over the next ten episodes (the full run of the first season), the main plots (why did Beth kill herself, how is it that Beth and Sarah are identical, and will Sarah get her daughter back) will unfold at a measured pace, revealing just enough information. I mean, hell, there’s a BIG reveal just in the first episode, although it’s not at all explained. If you’ve read IO9, you may already know one of the underlying plots of the show, but if you don’t… don’t go googling for it. Just set your DVR for Orphan Black and join Sarah… Beth… whomever… as she attempts to unravel the mysteries of her life — both old and new.

One last thing — don’t look up this show on Amazon until after you’ve watched the pilot. The summary on there gives away the main plot.

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Note to Parents: This show is intended for mature audiences. It contains graphic violence, sexual content, drug use, nudity, and profanity. It is not intended for viewers under 18. Of course, you should use your own best judgment when it comes to your children.

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* Use ROT13.com to decipher spoiler text.

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About the Author

Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) lives in Georgia. His fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Escape Pod, and the Crossed Genres anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land. His voice has been heard around the fiction podosphere as well, including here on Escape Pod. Find him online at roseplusman.com, or on Twitter @listener42.

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