Last week, the Orphan Black TV show was renewed for a fifth and final season on BBC America and Space (Canada). Co-creator and showrunner Graeme Manson says the creative team knew the series would end after five seasons for quite a while, now. In the wake of the fourth season finale, he talks about the decision to end the show, the upcoming season five, and spin-off possibilities.
The Canadian sci-fi clone thriller, created by screenwriter Manson and director John Fawcett, stars Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning and her many clones. The Orphan Black TV series cast also includes: Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ari Millen, and Kristen Bruun.
The Hollywood Reporter asked Manson about the decision to end the Orphan Black TV show, the upcoming fifth and final season, and the possibility of a spin-off. Here’s more:
Whose decision was it to make the fifth season the last season of the show?
It was very much a decision with John [Fawcett] and I and, to a certain extent, Tatiana as well. It’s a creative decision.
Why is the time right to end the series?
Four seasons on Orphan Black, we chew up a lot of story every season. We chew up a couple seasons worth of story every season; it’s a fast-paced show. I think we’ve done a good job of keeping the show sharp and relevant with packing all that much stuff in and our biggest fear is repeating ourselves. We just didn’t want the show to become watered down. We really think it’s cooler to cancel yourself. (Laughs.) To go out on your own terms telling the story that we want to tell. That’s the way we presented it to our networks and they were good enough to agree with us and to not want to drag it out and get other showrunners involved or anything. John and I made a pact that we would stay with the show until the end, and for a long time we’ve had a pretty good idea that season five would be the furthest that we could take the ball down the field.
Did it affect the way you crafted season four knowing you thought of season five as the endgame?
I guess it played it a part. We were feeling it ramping up but we knew it wasn’t a done deal. We knew that there was a possibility it would go longer, etc., but that this was what we wanted to do. We felt like we were setting up a really good runway for what we want to do in our final season, but we were leaving the door that we would have to stretch it out again and push the end point down the road. But that possibility did risk the issue of watering down the show and watering down the sharpness and the concepts and starting to repeat yourselves and seeing a new Tatiana clone for the sake of seeing a new Tatiana clone, rather than a deep-seeded story need and a strong desire from all of us to create a new character.
Are there any other changes you foresee for season 5 tonally or structurally now that it’s confirmed next season will be the last?
I don’t think tonally or structurally, but I’ll tell you one thing is that John and I and the writers cannot wait to be working toward a solid end point. It’s one of the big challenges of serialized shows is you’re looking at the end of the season you’re working on, be it season two or season three or season four, and you have to consider where you’re going in the future. … You have to consider more than just one season when you’re working out where you’re going to at the end. On a show like Orphan Black, we would have a very loose idea of what we wanted to do at the end that only solidified itself once the mysteries of the season had played out and the scripts were written for six or seven episodes. Then we’d go, “Oh, OK, I feel what the season finale should be.”
This season will be different because we’ll be going, “Here’s the whole ball of wax and what it all boils down to and what we’d like to see at the very end.” Then we can work backwards and really build a really intricate season that doubles back on itself and that sets things up early. We always try and do that, but it gets easier and I think we can even be more thorough when we know our end point, when we’re literally planning the finale at the same time we’re planning the premiere.
Have you and John had the series finale of the show in mind since the beginning? Or has that evolved has you’ve been working on the show?
We always had our concept, yes. It was loose enough, but also specific enough that we felt like we knew where we were going. And then we’d be like is season three the time when we’re going to get there? No, feels like we’re going to get another season so we can’t do that. But that sort of flagpole we planted a long time ago. I believe that there’s elements of the finale and the end point that we were considering… I believe that there were elements of it in the original pitch even before we had a show greenlit.
Have you and John started working on season five yet?
We’re always throwing ideas around. John and I have been on the phone and we’ve been spending a little time on it as we sort of cross paths between Toronto and Vancouver this spring. We’ve been grabbing our time on Skype and in person and we already have some pretty juicy ideas of where everybody lands and where we kick off next season.
Have you considered any spin-offs? Has been there talk of that?
Yes, there has been some loose talk of that, but I can’t say where it’s at right now. We’re completely consumed with this. We’ve always jokingly said we ‘d love to do a movie, but those aren’t things that, at this point, that we know are going to be happening at all. I think we’re looking forward to a rest. (Laughs.)
What do you think? How did you like the fourth season finale? Do you agree season five feels like the right time to end the Orphan Black TV series? What kind of Orphan Black spin-off would you like to see? Tell us.