Everything you need to know about Orphan Black so far

Back in Black

BBC Americas sci-fi thriller Orphan Black floored audiences with its mind-bending premise back in 2013: what would you do if you happened upon someone who looked just like you? And then promptly killed themselves in a rather dramatic fashion?

From thereon out, the show took off in pursuit of its sultry heroine as she delved into the life of a woman who really did bear quite a striking resemblance to her.

Ahead of the shows third season which premieres this Sunday, weve prepared a handy cheat sheet to fill you in on the cold, hard facts required if you havent got time to binge watch two seasons.

If you havent already guessed: there are lots of SPOILERS ahead!

The basics

Before we get into the nitty gritty background and heavy recapping, lets start with a brief overview. The show opens with a young woman, Sarah Manning, witnessing the suicide of a woman who appears to be her identical twin. Thing is, she doesnt have a twin. In an effort to find out more, she swipes the dead womans briefcase and discovers that this copied version of herself was a cop named Beth Childs.

After a flicker of indecision Sarah poses as Beth, and shortly discovers that shes a member of a group of genetic identicals who were in communication with Beth in an effort to uncover the mystery of their shared origins.

Youre intrigued, arent you? Seriously, if you think youve got time, go and binge-watch the whole lot now. Weve not spoiled more than the first episode. Go on!

The origins

Announced in early 2012 by Temple Street Productions, the first season of Orphan Black was shepherded into production by director John Fawcett and writer Graham Manson. Also responsible for creating the series, the pair also serve as executive producers and generally oversee each seasons overarching story. Shortly afterwards, BBC America picked up the show for distribution in the U.S. and pre-production rolled out.

We had such a long development period with Orphan Black, Manson told Vulture. John and I were working on it together our concept of clones and the depth of what the conspiracy might be and the Zeitgeist issues of the day around cloning and genetics so we have a really good idea of our long game.

Orphan genesis

Theres no question that Orphan Black is more than its most-commonly tagged descriptors suggest. Yes, its sci-fi. Yes its a thriller. But its also a mystery, a comedy, a love story, and in parts a family drama. How and when did Fawcett and Mansion concoct the idea for such an intricate tapestry of themes all collected together in one show?

This was a concept we had over 10 years ago, Fawcett told Collider. The idea for the show was born back in 2002 or 2003, and it started as a feature film.Graeme Manson, my creative partner, and I worked on it together for a number of years, but couldnt solve it as a feature film, so we shelved it for two or three years. But, every time we get together, wed wind up having drinks and talking about the concept of it.

Their inspiration? Fawcett has cited Memento as an inspiration along with other cult TV smashes like Battlestar Galactica, Lost and Six Feet Under.

The casting process

After two seasons of watching Tatiana Maslany lose herself in the personalities, mannerisms and behaviour of ten clones, its impossible to imagine anyone else breathing life into that loveable bunch. But, she was very nearly beat to the punch by Ellen Page. As the casting process fired up in late 2012, Fawcett was torn between the two Canadians, who each brought their own take to the shows defining element: theyd be playing copies of the same person.

This is not a role that you can just offer to somebody. I refused to do that," Fawcett said. "It took me a long, long time [to find the right actor]. And even though I knew pretty early on about Tat, I knew that I wasn't gonna stop until I had basically seen everything and proved to myself 100 percent that this was the person.

She's going to blow your mind through the course of this season, co-creator John Fawcett told The Huffington Post when discussing Maslanys appearance in season one. "If nothing else, even if you go, 'Well, I don't know, this show kinda went off the rails,' she will blow your mind, I promise, she is the one that will make you come back and keep watching.

The story begins...

... with the central character Sarah Manning, a mid-twenties no-nonsense Londoner who returns to her hometown after 18 months away. She dotes on her young daughter Kira who she left in the care of Mrs S. (who was also Sarahs foster mother). Her best friend is the quip-ready, heart-of-gold foster brother Felix, who is always referred to as Fee.

Bonus trivia: Her British identity was an added afterthought, as BBC America - who agreed to air the show in North America - were keen have an Anglo edge in the series. Fawcett and Manson loved the idea which would help to differentiate between the various clones.

Clone Club

After adopting the persona of Beth Childs, Sarah attracts the attention of her fellow simulacra. The group of genetic identicals who dub themselves the Clone Club are introduced across the first few episodes of season. Theres ten known clones overall but the show focuses on a core group.

Proof of their shared genetic material stems from their physical attributes. I.e. they all look exactly the same. However, the good ole nature vs. nurture argument soon comes into play when those characters are given a moment of screen time.


A self-professed geek Cosima Neihaus is the brains of the operation. Her zest for learning is apparent from the right off the bat, as we find her completing a PhD in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental Biology at the beginning of the series. Her studious nature greatly aids the gang in the more sophisticated science-heavy side of things.

She kits herself out in counterculture garb, complete with a nose rings, several tattoos and a thrift-centric wardrobe. When shes not trying to take down corporations, shes also a total badass at tabletop gaming classic Runewars.


The black sheep with blonde hair. Helena is a Ukrainian clone who switches from being a ruthless cold-blooded mercenary to an innocent waif with child-like wonder. When shes not stalking her fellow clones she enjoys eating and singing.

She is frequently accompanied by one of the most jarring, disorienting and downright creepy musical themes of the entire show. If you hear that shrieking riff know that trouble is afoot. And you probably wont be able to sleep after.


A suburban soccer mom, Alison is what you might call high maintenance. She is married to Donnie, an office worker, and has adopted two children Gemma and Oscar. Their domicile brings in a tidy income as shes the main financial supporter of the Clones activities.

When shes not striving to uphold her white picket fence lifestyle, shes popping pills and chugging back the pinot.

Gem Seddon

Gem Seddon is GamesRadar+'s west coast Entertainment News Reporter, working to keep all of you updated on all of the latest and greatest movies and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Outside of entertainment journalism, Gem can frequently be found writing about the alternative health and wellness industry, and obsessing over all things Aliens and Terminator on Twitter.