It's been two years since Orphan Black aired its series finale, tying up the narrative of the Project Leda clones in an emotional and satisfying conclusion. In the time since, the spirit of the show has lived on through various tie-in comics, a potential spinoff at AMC, and even a Japanese remake. Orphan Black: The Next Chapter, a new audio series from Serial Box, sets out to expand the world even further, and does a pretty perfect job of doing so. The first full episode of The Next Chapter, part one of which is released today, serves as a truly thrilling sequel that captures the mystery, humanity, and heart of the original series.
The series (which is available to both read and listen to, with the audio version narrated by series star Tatiana Maslany) picks up eight years after the events of Orphan Black's series finale. The narrative opens on Vivi, a government agent sent to surveil a shady scientist at the Genetic Research Institute of Toronto. During her investigation, Vivi comes face to face with biologist Cosima Niehaus, setting off a chain of events which threaten to destroy the normal lives that the Leda clones have built for themselves.
The way the events of The Next Chapter unfold feel incredibly unique, as it simultaneously is heavily-rooted in Orphan Black's years of lore, while also being relatively accessible to casual listeners. This is especially true for the early scenes involving Vivi, which are so engrossing that a listener might momentarily forget that Orphan Black's established characters are going to show up (making it even more of a thrill when they do arrive). To an extent, The Next Chapter can function as simply a good standalone drama series, albeit one that will hopefully make new fans go back and find out more about Orphan Black's history.
Even with that accessibility, none of the new elements introduced in The Next Chapter feel unearned or out of place in the larger Orphan Black universe. It's clear that the series' mostly-female writing staff has a deep reverence for the source material, particularly with how they handle the time jump. Setting the story eight years later utilizes fans' familiarity for Orphan Black's cast of characters, while organically adding in a lot of mystery. The first episode builds upon the events of the series finale quite well, beginning to answer the question of how the Leda clones and those in their orbit have evolved in the almost-decade that followed. The answer to that question proves to be one of the most exciting elements of The Next Chapter and makes following the series' larger mystery even more unpredictable. In the first episode alone, there are updates about certain characters that feel like fan service in the best way, and ultimately make the overall world of Orphan Black feel so much richer.
While the narrative of The Next Chapter easily stands on its own, it's positively magical hearing Maslany bring everything to life in the audio format. It would be difficult to imagine an audio version of this without her at the center of it, as she embodies the feminist heart and earnestness that Orphan Black has always had at its core. Hearing Maslany voice Cosima and Sarah again is as comforting as being wrapped in a warm blanket, and The Next Chapter is able to capture so much of her Emmy-winning approach to the Leda clones. Fans can also look forward to her portrayals of the non-Leda characters, particularly Evelyne Brochu's Delphine. Maslany's voice work is so effective that it's easy to forget that she's playing every character, a feeling that fans often had while watching her act against herself in the original series.
Maslany's tour-de-force of a voice performance is accompanied by understated but incredibly effective sound design, which will make listeners instantly feel like they're in the halls of GRIT or Cosima and Delphine's house. While the production isn't as labored as some other audio series, it definitely helps transport fans back into the world of Orphan Black, right down to the nostalgia of hearing Two Fingers' theme music serve as an interlude in between scenes.
Orphan Black: The Next Chapter is a genuinely great sequel, one that the original series and its "Clone Club" of fans absolutely deserve. The effective writing and masterclass performance from Tatiana Maslany capture the energy of Orphan Black in spades while bringing in a bit of maturity and a fascinating mystery. If this first episode is any indication, the world of Orphan Black couldn't be in better hands, and it will be a genuine thrill to see what The Next Chapter does next.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Part One of the first episode of Orphan Black: The Next Chapter is now available on Serial Box. Episodes will be released weekly, with a mid-season hiatus after episode five.