Orphan Black: Season One (Blu-ray)
BBC / 2012 / 450 mins / TV-14
So, you are standing on a subway platform in the middle of the night. The only other person you see has their back to you, but they are taking off their shoes, folding their coat and placing it on the ground. You walk over to them. They turn around and you are staring at an exact copy of yourself. Your doppelganger says nothing but gives you a solid hard stare before jumping in front of the oncoming tram. What do you do?
If you are on-the-run con artist Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), you grab your twins' purse and see how much money you can get out of her. Unfortunately for Sarah, nothing in ORPHAN BLACK is that simple. After discovering her suicidal doppelganger was a police detective, she is contacted by another person who looks exactly like her who is then shot dead right in front of her. So not only does there seem to be several people who wear Sarah's face, someone has targeted that face to die.
BBC America's high concept ORPHAN BLACK is all about the clones and the mystery surrounding where they came from and why they are being killed off. The first couple of episodes bring us into Sarah's world slowly. We meet her foster brother Felix (Jordon Gavaris) and the dead look-a-like detective's partner, Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) and boyfriend, Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce). We discover Sarah has a daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler) who is being taken care of by Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) while Sarah tries to get her life back on track. Then we meet soccer mom Alison and science geek Cosima (both played by Maslany.) And then things get really interesting.
ORPHAN BLACK is a wildly fun series that has more twists and turns than a DNA double helix. The characters are likeable (or terrifying depending on who we are talking about) and the mystery is intriguing, but they both pale in comparison to lead actress' Tatiana Maslany's performances. She gives each one of her clones not only a different accent (the clone story is international) but a completely different... everything. From body language to idiosyncrasies Maslany shows what a chameleon she is with a vengeance. It is one thing to see an actor completely disappear in a variety of roles that make you say "that is THAT person! Wow!" It is something else to see an actor completely disappear into three roles in the same shot. Maslany is a talent the likes television hasn't seen in a long time and no matter what your views of science fiction are, ORPHAN BLACK is must see TV for her characters alone.
The anamorphic 1.78 transfer is strong and sharp. The palette is intentionally subdued and skewed toward yellows and greens but it looks great. Detail is very good highlighting some truly high end special effects when multiple Maslany's interact with each other.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is likewise very good, but not as immersive or active as one might hope. This doesn't seem to be a problem with the transfer so much as the original mix. Regardless, there is precious little to complain about with this disc...
... except for the supplements. When they are all put together they barely clock in at 30 minutes.
First up is "Send in the Clones," the only truly informative supplement of the set. Creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett tell the genesis of the series and various cast and crew chime in with their two cents.
"Insiders" is four promotional pieces looking three characters ("Sarah," "Felix" and "Beth") and a special effects shot ("Three Clones, One Frame") with much of the interviews taken from the same footage as "Send in the Clones."
"ORPHAN BLACK on "The Nerdist"" is an excerpt from the BBC America series with Maslany as their guest. They also take a brief tour of Felix's apartment set and interview Gavaris.
ORPHAN BLACK starts out slow but after the first few episodes grabs you by the throat and takes you on an extremely twisty ride full of surprises. Even if science fiction isn't your thing, this series is worth checking out solely for Maslany's amazing performances. Highly recommended!