Back in (Orphan) Black

Orphan Black

Being addicted to TV shows while trying to write a novel is a futile endeavor. That’s why I have a rule: Follow no more than three series at a time.

I’m sure I am missing out on some terrific storytelling for the sake of attempting my own. But I also can’t hear every great album ever recorded or taste every delicious dessert ever baked. Life is making choices, and I want to publish a novel one day. Thus, three shows. If I want to pick up a new one, an existing one has to go.

Thank Zeus, then, that The Walking Dead just ended. Orphan Black is back and I’m not going to miss it.

BBC America’s sci-fi mystery resumes this Saturday night nearly a year after season one ended in a cliffhanger, and it’s well worth your hour. If the term “sci-fi mystery” turns you off, don’t let it. You don’t have to be a Star Trek geek to love Orphan Black (though I’d adore you even more if you were). This show is very soft science fiction: No space ships, no aliens, no laser beams. It’s all concept and story, Earthbound, and features little in the way of technical effects, aside from the ones you won’t notice.

Whatever your taste in TV drama, you should watch it for one reason, and that’s lead actress Tatiana Maslany. Brilliant is too tepid a word to describe her performance, for Maslany plays not one, not two, no three, but eight (!) characters, many of whom routinely interact. At several points throughout season one, Maslany even played characters impersonating other characters. Often I forget it’s one actress, like when I get a crush on one character while simultaneously being irritated by another in the same scene.

I think awards shows are self-congratulatory marketing tools at best, but if this woman does not win a best actress Emmy next year, that event is rigged.

Here is a gallery of her characters (a few didn’t make it to the end of the season, but I’m sure she’ll introduce new ones to replace them):


orphan Black sarah


orphan black beth


orphan black alison2


orphan black helena

Cosima (My crush. Hey, she’s a sexy science geek. Can’t not)

orphan black cosima2


orphan black katja


orphan black rachel


Orphan Black jennifer


How about you? Do you allow for TV time? What’s your show?

52 responses to “Back in (Orphan) Black

  • Richard Leonard

    I don’t watch much TV. I have a running joke with myself that if I thief stole my
    TV I wouldn’t notice until a week later.
    I’d love to get into a sci-fi drama or something but I fear losing it or having it eat into my writing time (which I tend to not use as efficiently as I should, which frustrate me, too)
    Must say I’m impressed by Tatiana Maslany’s work if she plays 8 characters.
    Then again my daughter’s got a copy of The Walking Dead Season 1. Might steal that from her one afternoon…

  • nrhatch

    I watched an episode or three of Orphan Black and met these characters cloning around. Very well done.

    Right now, I’m enjoying Elementary (Sherlock in NYC), Aerial America (fly overs of the 50 states), and that’s about it. I’ve lost interest in Person of Interest and Mentalist ~ two soap operish.

    • ericjbaker

      I’m in an out with Elementary. I like it quite a bit, but networks feel the need to wring 24 episodes a year out of these things, and they end up being generic. 13-16 episodes and Elementary could really stand out from the pack even more.

  • Arkenaten

    Hardly ever watch TV these days. We have/had a telly in the kitchen and it went Kffftpopsqueak…two or three weeks ago; just after the 20/20 Cricket World cup.

    Probably in disgust after South Africa blew another chance at a trophy. Sigh….so now there’s nothing to switch on even for a bit of background noise while I’m cooking dinner or munching my Cornflakes.

    Much prefer a good movie or the Facetube.
    My Missus is an avid Vampire Diaries fan as are my kids. My son is a TV fanatic/fundie like you.
    I’ll watch a bit of Soccer and Cricket but that’s the lot.

    • ericjbaker

      You can have my TV. It’s still in the basement, refusing to grow legs and walk outside. It’s also mad about the cricket outcome, whcih is weird, because they dont’ even show that here.

  • matttblack42

    This sounds interesting, but unfortunately I too, have a “One show at a time” rule, and I’m currently obsessing over the new
    Season of Game of Thrones. But if the first season is already on Netflix, I might be willing to give it a try.

    • ericjbaker

      Games of Thrones has conquered the world. I dont’ watch it, but you seem to be in good company on it. Orphan Black is only about 9 episodes a year, I think, so you could kill it in a weekend if you need a break from your project.

  • Michelle Proulx

    I definitely watch too much TV! On my “follow” list are Game of Thrones, Glee, Big Bang Theory, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Modern Family, Community … oh, and I’ve started watching K-dramas, so those as well. I do feel bad about watching so much TV instead of writing, but at the same time I’ve gotten some pretty great ideas from TV, so I guess it’s all right 🙂

  • Kevin Brennan

    I don’t know… I got sucked into Mad Men, and it’s turned into a repetitive angst loop. Yet I can’t look away.

  • Uzoma

    I love watching TV series and I follow a good number of them. Now Game Of Thrones is back, it’s added to my addiction. I also follow others like Hannibal, Elementary, Continuum, Vikings, Reign, The Blacklist, Arrow, Resurrection (ha! I’ve to stop at this point). I will miss The Walking Dead, though I wish its fifth season will start this year. I’ve not heard about Orphan Black. I’d like to check it out.

    Does TV get in the way of my writing? Not at all. I usually write very early in the morning.

    • ericjbaker

      Like I was saying in an earlier comment, I can’t write all the time and think about nothing else, because eventually you build a closed system that chokes itself off. You need stimuli and input from outside sources. On the other hand, I can’t give up writing to flip channels. We all have to find the balance that works best.

  • livelytwist

    I work full time and write, so TV gets in the way of my life. People in my life many times have to take a back seat to my writing (and reading), so too much TV would be unfair. But like you, I try to limit my TV series to three, and they’ve just ended.

    You’ve got me pining for Orphan Black and yes, Cosima is cute. But clay season (tennis) is about to begin. I gotta say no 😦

  • Dave

    Man. How disappointing. I went to add Orphan Black to my Netflix streaming list and it’s not there. Dang it! Guess I’ll have to wait to enjoy it.

    Big Walking Dead fan. And Breaking Bad. Currently watching Lost (never finished it before … kept having people tell me to finish, so I’m working on it), and Orange is the new Black. We watch too much reality drivel, but I really don’t like to admit it, but I guess I just did. The reality show stuff actually does get in the way of my writing, which is why I’d like to slowly wean myself off them. They have no redeeming value 🙂

  • Jill Weatherholt

    If it weren’t for you, I’d never know what’s on TV, Eric. I’ve never heard of Black Orphan, but I hope the actress is being compensated for playing eight actresses…very impressive.
    I don’t watch much TV for the same reasons as Livelytwist mentioned. I would like to watch Breaking Bad from the start. I only discovered it toward the end of the series, but I got sucked in.

    • ericjbaker

      Funny thing, I used to write for an entertainment site and had to be up on the latest shows and music. I watched the debut of Orphan Black, because finding semi-obscure new shows with breakout stars is the kind of thing you write about on entertainment sites, and I ended up digging it. I forget when I’m talking to fellow Gen-X’ers that they aren’t always as on top of the latest Nicki Minaj or Ke$ha single. People probably think I’m a stuck in a teenage mentality.

  • skywalkerstoryteller

    We watched Orphan Black, and I’d forgotten about it. We’re using a Roku now, so I’ll have to check and see if it’s on Hulu or Netflix. You are right about her being a talented actress. And yes, Brian and I are TV junkies. But, with Roku we’re able to see a lot of series – been watching a lot of British Detective shows. They have 4 show series that are sweet.

  • Janna G. Noelle

    I don’t watch much TV (or even own a TV set), as I want to devote as much time as possible to writing and reading and the day is already not long enough. I’ve only had Netflix since January (which I only ever watched on the weekend), and then stopped watching it for the 40 days of Lent. The only show I follow is Game of Thrones, usually one session in arrears (although, I’m currently all caught up, having spent Easter weekend with my sister, who has all the extended cable channels). That said, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Orphan Black. As well, it’s a Canadian show, so I plan to check it out.

    • ericjbaker

      I just knew you were one of those young people who eschews TVs and land lines! You scruffy young tearaway, you!

      After Orphan Black is over in 8 weeks, and after Hockey playoffs are over (RIP to your 2013-14 Canucks), I’ll be TV-free until the fall and Doctor Who, unless something super awesome debuts in the meantime.

      OB is only 9 episodes a year, which can be done on a break day from writing.

      • Janna G. Noelle

        one of those young people…
        I don’t think we even know what the age gap between us is. I suspect it’s not as large as you might suspect.

        That said, I’m not a hockey fan either, so the Canucks’ rest can be as peaceful or as turbulent as it may be; it will have no bearing on me and mine.

        The most I’ve ever binge-watched in a single sitting is 4 episodes of a show. After that, my backside starts to hurt and my eyes feel like sandpaper. See – told you I’m not really that young!

        • ericjbaker

          I’d guess early thirties for you, based on your life stories and pop culture references. That’s what I thought before I ever saw a picture of you. When you finally posted one, I thought you looked about 21 or 22. Some people who get perpetually mistaken for much younger find it insulting, but that’s hardly tragic in my mind.

          A Canadian who doesn’t like hockey? I’m sorry, I don’t have a mental box for that. Too complicated. My cognitive dissonance siren is wailing.


        • Janna G. Noelle

          Your guess is mostly right; technically, I’m in my mid-thirties, currently in my 36th year. I do get mistaken for younger quite a bit, which I would attribute to good genes and clean living, although I quite objectively see the 30 in my own face.

          For you, I guess early 40s based particularly on your musical references, which are congruent with those of my sister who is that age.

          As for hockey, I do like to play it, but watching it, not so much. I find all the violence and macho posturing distasteful and distracting from the beauty of the game.

        • ericjbaker

          No way do you look even 30. Keep it up whatever you’re doing.

          Brilliant idea for a Game of Thrones – Orphan Black crossover: Game of Clones! I want to see if Tatiana Maslany can play Peter Dinklage’s role.

          I recall you saying in the past you are not a hockey fan. I can’t help it, though, You live in Vancouver. Every so often I have to make a Canucks reference.

  • shelleyhazen83

    I am just now getting into Orphan Black. Haven’t watched the first season yet but a binge-watch is on my schedule before I start season 2. I don’t really have time to watch TV, but I do have a list of series I love. Game of Thrones (duh), Marvel Agents of Shield, Ripper Street (also BBC America and awesome), and Major Crimes on TNT (coming back soon). And I love me some Boardwalk Empire. TV is so great right now!

  • B.L.W. Myers

    I like Orphan Black–prepare for a battle for Cosima. And watching Maslany play characters impersonating other characters was amazing. Imagining the layers of character work boggled my mind.

    I like New Girl, Parks & Rec, Elementary, and The Following, but often fall a few weeks behind and watch in mini-binges. I really enjoy Sherlock, and am in a love/hate relationship with Dr. Who. And I binge-watch Game of Thrones after finishing each book (currently paused in the middle of season 3).

    • ericjbaker

      You and I are going to battle for Cosima? Can’t you take a different one? Given my dating history, Helena is probably most appropriate.

      I love Doctor Who, but I think it lost something when Russell Davies left as executive producer. Stephen Moffet comes up with awesome villains and fascinating, complex plots, but he’s a little too transparent with his fixation on hot girls in tight skirts (Not that I have any problems whatsoever with Jenna Coleman in a tight skirt, but there has been a loss of heart and soul in recent seasons)

      • B.L.W. Myers

        I agree, the tight skirts are a bit obvious–I like Coleman, but I don’t like how the show uses Clara. It feels a bit like Coleman’s talent is wasted. I’m also one of the many who was hoping for a riskier casting choice for the next Doctor, so I’m becoming disenchanted.

        And who are we kidding–there’s no need to battle for Cosima. The girl knows how to get what she wants. She’ll settle the matter 🙂

        • ericjbaker

          Jenna Coleman is a good actor, but I agree. One episode she’s leading a battle against the cybermen, and the next one she’s a ditz who can’t bake chocolate-chip cookies without burning them. At least with Capaldi, we should be done with 7 seasons of “I have an unrequited crush on the Doctor” subplots.

        • ericjbaker

          And, given Cosima’s tastes, i think we know how this is going to end for me: Not well.


  • kriskkaria

    I do allow for TV time, but not much. My favorites are The Mentalist, The Big Bang Theory and NCIS. I usually watch reruns of NCIS and the Big Bang since I don’t make time on weeknights.

    • ericjbaker

      I should love Big Bang Theory, given all the references to the kinds of things I dig, but I have a hard time getting into multi-camera sitcoms for some reason. The acting seems stagy and the pauses for audience laughter are awkward (not just BBT, but all multi-cam comedies). 30 Rock was the last sitcom I watched, and that was single camera with no laugh track/live audience.

      I know; no Game of Thrones and no Big Bang Theory. I’m practically a communist.

  • 1WriteWay

    Oh, my, TV can really inspire the comments 🙂 Orphan Black sounds so interesting, but I guess we’ll have to wait until (if ever) it pops up on Netflix. Currently, we’re near the end of season 3 for Voyager, having finished off Star Trek: The Next Generation a few months ago (my all time favorite). Voyager took a long time to grow on us, but now most evenings we elect to “journey into the Delta quadrant” while we eat our dinner. We’re not really big on TV in part because we’re low-tech with options: just basic cable (which out here means no Comedy Central or BBC America) and Netflix (streaming and DVD). We had Hulu for awhile so we could watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report, but the buffering issues with Hulu got totally out of hand so we canceled. We do enjoy Parks and Recreation (Ron reminds my husband of one of his former bosses) and My Name Is Earl, and we were sorry 30 Rock went off. I hate laugh tracks so we’ve never watched some of the new comedies like Big Bang Theory. My husband might watch a few minutes while channel surfing.
    For me, it’s not so much that I feel I should be writing instead of watching TV. Actually by the time we get home and feed the cats and then feed ourselves, I’m too tired to do anything other than watch TV (and knit). On the weekends, we’re busy doing “stuff” (not sure what stuff, but whatever, the weekends go by way too fast). Still, I love to hear recommendations from people whose preferences may be similar to mine 🙂

  • susan

    oh yea! another Orphan Black fan 😀 yes brilliant doesn’t begin to describe her. And she’s Canadian ya know, just saying…. the other show I love is Blacklist. The writing is brilliant

    • ericjbaker

      Yeah, there are some good Canadians. Maslany. Geddy Lee. Wayne Gretsky. We’ll let you slide for Beiber, but just this once. 🙂

      I watched Blacklist for a while, mostly for James Spader and because it’s a fun show a lot of the time, but I got tired of the explosions and the emotionless killing. The “redshirt” problem, if you will: These guys over here are just faceless cannon fodder, so who cares if they die.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Character Study: Sarah Manning from Orphan Black (and, yes, a hero IS a special snowflake) | A Frame Around Infinity

    […] recently, my blog-buddy Eric J. Baker wrote about Orphan Black, recommending everyone give it a try.  Plus, with the second season […]

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