Auntie Beeb has gone all Netflixy with BBC America clone drama, Orphan Black, and stuck all the latest episodes up on iPlayer, in one go. Tempting viewers into a binge is understandable but an explanation as to how a third series got commissioned at all is beyond current scientific understanding. The dangers cannot be ignored, however. The over-acting. The stretched plot. The clunky script. Will nobody think of the children?
If you missed series one and two, let me bring you up to date.
The central heroes and villains of OB are nine clones, created some 30 years previously and who have all ended up in and around an anonymous North American metropolis. They’re all played by Tatiana Maslany, who doesn’t do too bad a job at all of acting against herself for most of the action.
Each one has a ‘monitor’ whose job is to get close to a clone and report secretly on her development. The monitors spend most of their time trying especially hard to monitor the clones’ vaginas. With their penises.
Our main clone is South London Single Mum Clone. Having witnessed the suicide of Slightly Dodgy Cop Clone, she assumes her identity and discovers Prissy But A Bit Kinky Soccer Mom Clone, and Nerdy But Sexy Lesbian Scientist Clone. Along the way, Bad German Accent Clone gets killed by a bullet to the head from Feral Ukrainian Who Has Very Bad Table Manners But Is Also An Elite Sniper Clone. (Seriously. Ukey’s character quirk is that she can’t pop a meatball in her own mouth without missing but she can make a headshot from half a mile).
There’s also Dead From A Genetic Disease Before The Action Started Video Diary Clone — the same disease that Sexy Scientist has but none of the others do despite being genetically identical — and Transexual Gay Clone.
The most interesting thing about Transexual Gay Clone is not that he is a clone or transexual or gay. It’s his hair. All the girl clones are differentiated by their haircuts. South London has long brown flowing locks. Ukey has wild white corkscrew curls. Soccer Mom’s face is framed by a thick fringe. German Accent sported a pink, eurotrash crop. Sexy Scientist has cornrows and braids. So what did they do with the only boy clone, to differentiate him? Stick some false bumfluff on the chin and tie Maslany’s hair back a bit. Wigs budget tight that week, was it?
The conspiracy behind the cloning is led by a ‘self aware’ clone who has always known she was the result of some double helix hi-jinx. This Evil So Obviously Has An Upper Class English Accent Clone (along with a severe blonde bob, see above) was last seen with a pencil through her eye, fired at her by South London from a fire extinguisher. Is she actually dead? Let’s hope so. Because then we will not have to endure another of her sex scenes. Evil Clone, you see, gets her rocks off by ordering her bodyguards (one of whom who was undercover from Special Forces and was also Dodgy Cop’s and then South London’s monitor/lover) to strip and sit on a chair, so that she can ride him like a demented android who has only just discovered that she has a fully working clitoris.
That’s not the worst sex that OB has offered us, though. Oh no. Soccer Mom and her wobbly bottomed husband/monitor like a lot of wobbly bottom sex. Most memorably, while she was bent forward over the freezer cabinet in the garage where they were celebrating the successful disposal of the body of a dodgy dead gene scientist that Wobbles had accidentally shot in the head. I promise I am not making any of this up).
One way or the other, all the clones apart from the dead ones have managed to get well doinked, albeit in rather sterile and unsexy ways. But the character who gets to sow the most wild oats is the biggest clone of all: South London’s gay best friend and foster brother, Felix.
Although there’s only one of him, his DNA has clearly been taken from almost every gay character you’ve seen. He’s skinny. He’s camp. He’s an artist. He loves a bad boy (including Transexual Clone). Why, in a post-Omar Little age, OB’s writers think that ‘their gay’ has to be the televisual descendant of Are You Being Served?’s Mr Humphries is yet another mystery that the programme throws up.
Felix and South London’s former foster mother is played by the woman from The Commitments (not the fit one, not the ugly one; the one in between). As well as the guardian of South London’s infant daughter, who serves as the show’s Macguffin (getting kidnapped by Evil Clone, for example), Inbetween Commitment is also a leader of the counter-conspiracy trying to save the clones from whatever it is they need saving from. She’s handy with a shotgun, too.
By the end of series two then, three clones are dead, one is maybe dead, one is in gaol, one is busy having jelly-arsed white goods bonking sessions (coitus indesitruptus, perhaps), one is dying, and one has just come and gone, presumably because someone got the headcount wrong before the next episode. (“How many clones are we supposed to have left now? Is it five? Will five do?”).
To be honest, they were all getting very tedious anyway. Not so much cutting edge sci-fi; more The Clone Bores.
But South London was still running around finding out stuff and now she has uncovered another half to the chromosome capery: Project Castor.
For it wasn’t just her and her ‘sisters’ created decades ago. There were ‘brothers’ brought forth too. One of these, it becomes clear, we’ve met before, as a member of the Proletheans, a clone-obsessed birth and fertility cult that is a cross between the Amish, the Manson Family, and Professor Robert Winston. They’ve already stuck a bun or six in Ukey’s oven.
The classicists amongst you will know that the project’s name refers primarily to the myth of Castor and Pollux (and not, unfortunately, to Face/Off). In turn, this means that South London and all must be Clytemnestras. It’s actually quite a subtle reference for a programme that has given us episode titles such as ‘Effects of External Conditions’ and ‘Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est’.
I doubt that this more delicate touch will last. Expect the new series to be replete with characters such as father figures called Agamemnon and Menelaus. And a beautiful federal agent called Helen Troy.
Also, I would recommend bracing yourself for a full on twincestuous orgy between the brother and sister clones, Ukey taking out Inbetween Commitment with a sniper rifle made of paper clips, and South London’s daughter growing wings. Or a penis. Or wings and a penis. Or a penis with wings. Called Pegasus.
Then this cringe-inducing supply of asexual sex, po-faced cartoon violence and dubious science will maybe, finally be exhausted and we can go back to watching sci-fi dramas that don’t make Blake’s 7 look like Blade Runner.
You can watch the new series of Orphan Black on BBC iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/group/b04210v9. I mean, for god’s sake don’t. But you can.