Send in the clones

Dave Bartlett
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‘Orphan Black’ deserves all the praise it has received

“If the ending of ‘Orphan Black’ delivers, the show will have all the makings of an instant classic.”

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima, one of the many characters she plays in “Orphan Black.” — Submitted photo

I wrote that when I reviewed the first handful of episodes of the Canadian-American co-production when it aired on Space in the spring.

After far too long a delay, I’ve finally got around to finishing the premiere season and can’t wait for 2014 and Season 2. Is instant classic too dramatic a title? Maybe. But “Orphan Black” is a damn fine show and the payoff was completely worth it.

It received so much critical acclaim the main CTV network re-ran the science fiction show this summer.

I also wrote in my original column how the mystery of the show unfolds gradually, like taking apart an origami animal to see what picture is drawn on the paper. That continues, though the broad strokes of the plot start to come together by Episode 5 and the pace ramps up.

It’s also around this time you meet the series’ major villain and it’s none other than “Max Headroom” himself, the ever-creepy Matt Frewer.

I wonder how much of the show’s inspiration was drawn from the Raelian movement.

A little more than 10 years ago, when I was still studying journalism in Halifax, the religion — which believes humans were created by aliens — held a number of public events and then made headlines when it claimed it had cloned the first human through its corporate arm Clonaid.

Investigations were launched by a number of states, including the U.S. and South Korea, but ultimately the religion, still active throughout the world, and its claims were written off when the headlines ceased as a hoax and PR stunt.

Frewer’s character, Dr. Aldous Leekie, is more cold scientist than alien cult leader, but right from the start he gives you the willies and you know he’s up to no good.

But it’s the mastery of the multiple characters played by lead actress Tatiana Maslany that gets more and more impressive as the series goes on.

Maslany pulls off so many diverse characters, sometimes in the same scene, and it seems so effortless and believable.

By Episodes 6 and 7, the original protagonist — street-tough Sarah is — is joined by soccer mom Alison; hippy-scientist Cosima and the zealous clone-killer Hellena, all played by Maslany, who even masters each characters laugh and cry of anguish.

You can even tell when she’s one character pretending to be another, once the main group of clones start to get together to help unravel who they are, where they come from and for what end were they made.

The show is rounded out by a fantastic supporting cast, but due to its size and the number of clones played by Maslany, it gets limited screen time.

Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah’s foster brother Felix, also a small time hustler and painter who lives in a pretty cool loft at the end of a graffiti-filled hallway.

He’s the comic relief and steals a few scenes when he has to bail out the very suburban Alison.

The character of Paul (Dylan Bruce) comes to the forefront about half-way through the first season. At first he appears to be merely the boyfriend of police officer Beth Childs. Childs is the clone who kills herself by jumping in front of a train in the opening scene, allowing Sarah, the on-the-run protagonist, to assume her identity and hide from her drug-dealer boyfriend Vic (Michael Mando).

I won’t give it away, but Paul is much closer to the plot than originally thought.

The nasty Vic plays a smaller role in the overall story, but you almost feel sorry for him after the scene where he meets Paul.

At first, Beth’s police detective partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) tries to chalk up Beth’s strange behaviour to post traumatic stress — she recently killed a woman and has been suspended.

But he starts to suspect something more sinister is happening and is almost brought into the conspiracy a couple of times. You certainly get the feeling he’ll play a larger role in Season 2.

For anyone who turns their nose up at Canadian-made drama, look no further for quality home-grown, and the Toronto-shot, “Orphan Black.”

 

‘Amazing Race Canada’ wraps-up

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Canadian version of “The Amazing Race” and hope there will be a second season.

I spent a month driving across Canada about 10 years ago and felt cheated about how much I didn’t get to see, and how little time I had to spend in each place.

When you consider how little of our nation’s culture made it into the season, it makes you realize how little of the world’s culture gets captured in the full version of the race.

It was great to see two deserving teams cross the finish line first. Both winner (the Tims) and runners-up (brothers Cory and Jody) battled through some tough challenges — despite Tim Sr.’s Parkinsons and Jody’s prosthetic legs.

 

Send tracts from obscure alien cults and other comments to Dave Bartlett at talkingtelevision@gmail.com.

Geographic location: Halifax, U.S., South Korea Toronto Canada

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