It's back – the phenomenon that is Tatiana Maslany marches back to amaze us, again.
Orphan Black (Saturday, CTV, Space, MTV Canada, 9 p.m.) starts its third season with an idyllic scene. Maslany, as several of the show's clones, and other characters are in a pleasant outdoor party situation. The music on the soundtrack is a version of the Beach Boys' Wouldn't It Be Nice. "Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true …"
Well, of course, it's not nice. It's not real. Soon, we are thrust into the situation of the utterly unhinged and tortured Helena. What comes true is horrible. Then, we are quickly immersed in the complex spiral of conspiracies that is Orphan Black. And as a bonus treat for followers of the series, Maslany does one of those delicious sequences playing one clone who is pretending to be another. This one is particularly piquant.
Maslany is as adept and awe-inspiring as ever, playing Sarah and multiple characters, the clone sisters who are the result of this thing called Project Leda. And Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah's foster brother, Felix, with lip-smacking relish. It's admirable that he's given the space to do it. But it's the complex conspiracy-theory backstory that diminishes Orphan Black a bit, as usual.
Yes, the series delves into such themes as female identity and the clash of nature versus science, but it is far from a serious probing of issues. At times it's trite, more devoted to surprising twists and turns than to sociological importance and psychological depth. Mainly, one suspects that is why the series has not been nominated for various awards. Maslany is deserving of major praise but, around her, the show can be thin stuff.
Mind you, for entertainment value, it's terrific. The good news about this new season (and turn away now if you want to know nothing) is that Project Castor is about to go to war with Project Leda. As was made clear at the end of the second season, some military types had been developing male clones, Project Castor, to parallel the female clones. We've already met one, Mark (Ari Millen) and, as it happens, Millen is about to do a Maslany-type feat, playing several characters.
It's episode two before all becomes clear about the general outline. But it's a good move – it isn't all about Maslany any more and the entertainment value is heightened.
Also airing this weekend
Mummies Alive (Sunday, History, 10 p.m.) is a good, new pop-science series. As narrator Jason Priestly says: "Mummies – time travellers from the past. Who were they and how did they die?" That's the gist. The visually spectacular series looks at mummified remains and then constructs a rich history around them. It's what you see on the CSI shows applied to ancient mummified remains. The first episode, The Gunslinger Mummy, is about what had been on display at a Seattle curiosity shop for years as a novelty item. There were legends surrounding it – mainly that it was an Old West gunslinger who was shot in a saloon, stumbled into the desert and died there. Of course, the true story becomes apparent. The second episode is richer still – about a 2,400-year-old mummified corpse that was found in a bog in Ireland. Obviously, the program doesn't have the emotional depth of Seamus Heaney's The Tollund Man, about a similar corpse, but Iron-Age Ireland is brought to life.
Don't forget to catch up with Veep (Sunday, HBO Canada, 10:30 p.m.), which is even sharper now that main character Selina is president. This week: "The president's staff prepares for her state visit with the Israeli prime minister." Uh-oh.