Human cloning is a fascinating idea. Probably only identical siblings can even come close to knowing what it would feel like to have carbon copies of yourself walking around. That’s the premise of the BBC America series Orphan Black.

Tatiana Maslany is Sarah a troubled, punk, single mom who discovers that she is a clone. Rescued from an orphanage, she and her foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), a cheeky out and proud fountain of witty one-liners are raised by Mrs. S (Maria Doyle kennedy) who leaves England with the two in search of a better life for them. The show gets off to a quick start in the opening scene with Sarah’s fateful encounter on a train platform with Beth, a well-dressed woman who looks exactly like her and turns out to be a police detective.

She soon discovers there are more versions of herself out there and that someone wants them eliminated after she takes on the identity of one of the dead clones. Sarah’s plan is to stick around long enough to get a large amount of cash that’s due her dearly departed double and leave town with her daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Felix. Surprise—the plot thickens, complications ensue and she’s sucked into the clone conspiracy mystery while trying to survive.

Along the way she meets her genetic identicals. Alison is an uptight wife and soccer mom with two kids, Cosima is a geek chic, lesbian Ph.D. student scientist, and Helena is the feral, psychologically unhinged religious avenger.  It’s a credit to Maslany’s versatility as an actress and the writing that each character is distinctive, nuanced, and original in her own right. Maslany so uniquely inhabits each of these women, it’s as if a different actress were playing each role.

Orphan Black is fast-paced, twisty, suspenseful, edgy and fun. It can also be laugh out loud funny when the aerobicized, sweater wearing, gun-toting Alison, who just wants a normal suburban life, is on screen.

The weak link on the show is Kevin Hanchard as Beth’s partner Art Bell who always looks constipated. Someone get this guy a laxative or better yet have him killed off in the second season opener by an as yet unidentified new super clone.

Equally annoying is the show’s insistence on not naming where the action takes place. As Mrs. S says, it’s a place where not only the wealthy are allowed to own guns. There are references to Scarborough. There’s a Scarborough in Toronto, one in Maine, etc. From the generic, non-descript look of the city, my bet is on Canada. So, why not say so?

Maslany, who did not score an Emmy nomination for her breakout role has no need to worry. She has a long career and loads of roles coming her way if she chooses wisely and doesn’t lose her mind to Hollywood. There’s also a second season of Orphan Black in store, which is sure to gain viewers after all the buzz and give Maslany multiple new opportunities to shine.

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