Author’s note: Two of the ten episodes were provided for review by YouTube. The series premieres on November 14th on YouTube Premium.
In Origin, the new YouTube Premium series, a group of lost souls wake up on a ship heading for a new life on Athea. But they do not wake up to this new world; rather, they wake on an abandoned ship where something terrible has happened. With only nine days until they reach their destination, they must survive the ship and each other as they piece together what’s become of the crew.
In the first two episodes, we are introduced primarily to Sen Mitsuji’s Shun—a cold and angry young man with a dark past—and Natalia Tena’s Lana, a woman whose protective nature has left her broken. Tom Felton, Nora Arnezeder, Fraser James, Philipp Christopher, Madalyn Horcher, and Siobhán Cullen round out the remaining cast, who don’t get much focus in these opening hours.
The first major standout is the production. These two hours were directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, and he does not disappoint. As a whole it’s visually exciting, as we’re introduced in the first episode to Shun’s past in Lost-like flashbacks which show a futuristic Tokyo with beautiful city skylines, flying ships, and, again, attention to lighting and accentuating its strengths in drawing the eye to the prettier aspects of the scene. It’s Blade Runner-esque in its style, and we get to see plenty of it in these gangster-infused flashes of Shun’s life before blasting off. The design of the ship, with its luminous lighting, curved floors and walls, and endless creepy elevator shafts, is a great set for the horrors unfolding upon our main characters. The ship’s computers are all touch interface, and holographic images fly by as they navigate through the systems. And when the threat starts to make some sense, the make-up department and special effects teams really shine in their creepy and effective designs.
But despite all of the visual flair and eye candy, it still needs something to back it up. In these two episodes, it’s a mixed bag. There’s hints of The Thing and 2017’s Life in its “trust no one” approach as the picture becomes clearer to where the story is heading, distilling a feeling of “been there, done that”. The show holds a little too much walking slowly through corridors and people jumping around corners and scaring each other, though it does point out this fact at one point in the second episode, at least a little self aware of itself. Some characters are cutouts, not adding much outside of panic or anger to move the plot forward. Felton mostly swears and panics in response to almost everything, and as good as he is at it, these two episodes don’t provide him much else to work with. But based on the Lost flashback style, a future episode will surely deliver him more character.
And yet, even with some disappointment, I still enjoyed it. The two episodes left a feeling of intrigue and curiosity, wondering where it will take this familiar story and make it its own. Seeing Shun and Lana’s pasts sell their characters, and if the episodes continue this style, the disappointment in the other underwritten characters will be less of an issue. The threat of the unknown, and the distrust of the other, and the way each person reacts to it based on his or her past, is a good hook to pace out the story. The performances are solid, their backstories giving them something extra to work with. Origin is a struggling but effective opening, and promising enough of a start.