Origin

Imagine for a moment the chance for a truly new life, the chance to completely restart and reinvent yourself, to leave your past and all your mistakes behind and become a new person, the one you always wanted to be. That is the opportunity being offered by the Siren organisation in the near future world of Origin. They are offering “tabula rasa,” a blank slate. All you have to do is leave Earth, everyone and everything you’ve ever known, and colonise the new paradise world of Terra. Who would choose the opportunity? How desperate might those individuals be?

Of course, those in search of paradise often have to go through hell first. Something has happened to the transport ship Origin taking these passengers to their new world and instead of awaking on paradise a small group wake from stasis still in transit. Unable to find the crew they explore the ship and try to find out what disaster has taken place, where are the crew, and where are the other passengers…

Now streaming on YouTube Premium, the episode format of Origin is very reminiscent of Lost as a cast of characters with pasts hidden from each other deal with a disaster scenario in the present punctuated by flashbacks of an individual character’s past per episode. Those fond of this “mystery box” style of storytelling will likely enjoy the slow unwrapping, whole for those who are more impatient who have the time to spare all ten episodes of the first season are available from launch day to be binged, although with hints from the cast and crew of a season two, there may well be more questions remaining come the end of the season.

In addition to Lost ( it’s a shame that the title …In Space was already taken), Origin has clear influences of classic science fiction, near-future Tokyo with a noticeable Blade Runner aesthetic to it, while elements of Alien, The Thing, Pandorum and Event Horizon can be seen in its style, the latter perhaps unsurprising considering the involvement of the director of that film, Paul W S Anderson, in this new project.

The similarities between these last three genre yardsticks are also due to the concept of an unknown danger on an isolated location sowing distrust between people already out for themselves; Origin has the definite feel of a thriller about it, as the characters creep precariously down corridors waiting for the inevitable jump shots. What will distinguish this from other science fiction thrillers will therefore be down to the cast and how the mystery plays out through the season.

The focus of the first episode, The Road Not Taken, is Shun Kenzaki (former Australian model Sen Mitsuji), first to awaken and discovers that they have not arrived at the destined planet. Quick to adapt and take charge we see that his assertive nature is drawn from his background on Earth where he was involved in organised crime and violently enforced his will. Mitsuji’s understated performance is a great, and a perfect choice of introduction to the show as we see the type of person drawn to Siren’s opportunity.

For a debut performance Mitsuji showcases with subtlety a person ready to do whatever it takes but also wanting to be something different from his past self, and the viewer then meets Lana Pierce (Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena), again a person who is used to taking charge of situations but who is also hesitant, the psychological scars of whatever events she is running from clearly still fresh and causing her to second guess herself.

A notable graduate of Hogwarts is Tom Felton as Logan Maine, a character on edge from the start and appearing in desperate need of something, showing signs similar to withdrawal. Unrecognisable from his time as Draco Malfoy, Felton gives a great performance as a character who is not quite what he appears.

The cast also including Nora Arnezeder, Fraser James, Philipp Christopher, Nina Wadia, Madalyn Horcher, Siobhán Cullen, Adelayo Adedayo and Wil Coban, as the show progresses the rest of the passengers still on the Origin wake up, but rather than a crew of brave noble souls, these are all people with a past to hide or run away from, a situation ripe for drama and tension between these impressively diverse individuals.

Apparently drawn from many different corners of the Earth to colonise this new world, it gives the show scope for impressively contrasting visuals as we switch from the dark grey of the ship to beautiful location shots around the world in the flashbacks of the lives they are running from back on Earth.

Written by up and coming Mika Watkins whose previous credits include episodes of Troy: Fall of a City and Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Youtube Originals is clearly open to nurturing new talent and with strong opening episodes that would not have felt out of place coming from the more experienced pen of J J Abrams we can see that have chosen well.

Episode One: The Road Not Taken

Episode Two: Lost on Both Sides

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