[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Thursday’s season 4 premiere of Orphan Black.]
Orphan Black turned back the clock for its season 4 premiere. The episode was actually a prequel installment, going all the way back to before the events of the series debut as we saw what led Beth Childs to throw herself in front of that train— the event that led to protagonist Sarah Manning assuming Beth’s identity.
Not only did we get our first-ever Beth-centric episode, but we met another new clone (the mysterious M.K.), saw many familiar dearly departed faces (Olivier, Paul, Dr. Leekie), and met a potential new foe (Detective Duko). EW spoke to show creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson to get their take on the season premiere throwback. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, you all told me we were going to link back to season 1 in a big way, but what you didn’t tell me is that you were going to kick things off with a huge prequel episode showing the events leading up to Beth’s death, which happens in the very first scene of the pilot episode. Where did that idea come from?
GRAEME MANSON: I think we sort of got it in our pockets near the end of last year.
JOHN FAWCETT: We have been talking about a Beth episode since the very beginning. I mean, I mentioned it to you at our very first Comic-Con in San Diego. I said that maybe we should do a Beth episode, and it got a massive cheer from the audience. So just from that experience back in summer 2013, it was pretty clear that that was an idea that I know we were interested in, and it sounded like the fans were interested in.
MANSON: Then, as we decided that season 4 would be a return to the roots, it really made sense to set the table with a pure Beth episode. To keep that secret was a challenge.
How much fun was it to bring back people like Olivier and Paul and Dr. Leekie that we haven’t seen in a while?
MANSON: That was one of the big exciting things for us about this episode. It was like we could go back to the well of these characters — some of whom met horrible demises — and we could resurrect them and put them back on their feet.
Pretty much all of them met horrible demises, let me just say.
FAWCETT: Well, it’s that kind of show.
MANSON: But it was a very different experience, writing this as the premiere, because we always end a season with a number of climaxes and a number of story threads. Having been the writer on the first episode, it was a great relief actually picking up all those threads to the second episode, and this one was really able to standalone. It was a lot of fun to write, and a lot of fun for John to direct.
FAWCETT: I remember just reading Graeme’s first draft of it too, and every three pages is a character from the past. So, going to shoot that was really fun because it was kind of like old home week, right? It was kind of a little weird reunion. My first day of shooting was with Matt Frewer.
Who is so great as Dr. Leekie.
FAWCETT: He showed up on set and it was this amazing reunion. He was really excited to be there. Our crew has been the same for pretty much the whole time, so it’s like everybody knows each other. It was great.
Did you guys talk about also re-staging that train sequence that kicked off the entire series again? Did you think about re-staging that from Beth’s perspective? Was that ever something you guys talked about?
FAWCETT: Yeah, we definitely have talked about it.
Clearly you all are playing coy on that one. Fair enough. Was there ever any concern or discussion about essentially sidelining your main character of Sarah for pretty much the entire episode until that very last scene?
MANSON: I guess we found the whole concept of having Beth back too interesting, and too much of a cool setup. We know that Sarah is going to hit the ground running when she lands in the story, and she’s going to lead us through. She’s our main girl. So no, we thought it was a cool break, actually.
FAWCETT: Super cool break. We loved the idea that the opening episode was a flashback. We were going to be stealth about revealing it, but the important thing for us is that it wasn’t just a super cool thing to do. It actually is part of the story, the fabric of the season. It’s a little bit about Sarah. Things that we see and discover through Beth’s eyes in the opening episode, we will need later. It was always about putting Sarah in Beth’s footsteps, so it felt like the right thing to do.
I think it’s nice because we really like the idea of returning to a feel of season 1. The world had gotten very big with us. Our mythology had gotten very big through season 3. We wanted an ending at the end of season 3 that really left us in a somewhat safe place, a place of resolution, so that we could re-set in a scarier place where Sarah was in season 1. She just didn’t know what was going on, and the best way to do that was kind of a Sarah-Beth reunion in a way.