The Road Not Taken
Lost On Both Sides
Fire and Ice
A Total Stranger
YouTube’s Original Series Origin has the potential to be a big sci-fi hit. The unnerving atmosphere, the set design on board the spaceship and the imminent sense of dread suffocating large parts of the show sets Origin up as an impressive sci-fi early on. Unfortunately Origin squanders its potential with a patchwork of clichés and predictable plot points that eventually run out of steam midway through its run time and never looks like recovering as it shuffles toward the finale.
Origin’s story begins with a spaceship floating through the unforgiving void of space toward a habitable planet. One by one the passengers wake up to discover the ship abandoned and a good portion of it destroyed, including the satellite and radio. It soon becomes clear something’s slithered on board and infected the crew members, leading to a fight for survival as all is revealed. At least that’s the way the series progresses for the first five episodes.
The fifth episode sees the initial danger pass and with it, a much slower pace infecting the show, transforming it into a more psychologically charged horror. Expect some serious vibes of The Thing here as you question the motives of almost every character until all is revealed in Origin’s somewhat underwhelming finale.
Sprinkled throughout the episodes are numerous flashbacks that work to flesh out each of the characters but much like Lost, these vary in quality and relevance to character progression. There’s an overwhelming feeling of the show being padded out too, with numerous episodes running over 50 minutes and at least a third of that time used with flashbacks. When used correctly it works really well to emphasise character traits but oftentimes it destroys the tension built during various moments on board the spaceship. One such example sees one of the crew members scrambling to protect one of their own while skipping to sombre, tranquil flashbacks.
While the ideas are interesting enough and there’s a good dose of mystery here as you try to piece together what’s happened, Origin lacks any credible originality in its plot in the process. The episodes rely heavily on jump scares for the horror so expect at least 3 of these in each of the episodes too. Clunky dialogue and some questionable acting hold the show back as well with most of the cast slotting nicely into the archetypal tropes we’ve come to expect from a dysfunctional, cobbled together gang in this genre.
Smart hacker lady Lee (Adelayo Adedayo) spends her time piecing together what’s happened via the various computers on board. Strong female Lana (Natalia Tena) acts as the main character for much of the run time. Science guy Henri (Fraser James) has a morally conflicting episode dedicated to himself midway through and Logan (Tom Felton) progresses from an arrogant jerk to a caring crew member perfectly through the 10 episodes. The stand out by far though is Shun who mixes an interesting, tragic back story with a steely determination on board the ship that makes him an absolute scene-stealer. Despite the clichés, the handful of characters actually do really well here with some good chemistry between each of them.
For all of its flaws and clichés Origin is still an enjoyable show. There’s just enough intrigue to see you through to the end to find out who or what this alien presence is while the plot itself is endearing, even if it does feel largely predictable and familiar. The setting works well though with its cold, dark steel reinforcing the unforgiving nature of the ship and it’s used to good effect throughout the run time.
Those looking to YouTube’s Origin for a similar level of quality seen with recent science fiction and horror shows will almost certainly be left disappointed. Despite some initial promise early on, Origin fails to inspire beyond its heavily clichéd but reasonably enjoyable storyline. For those who love sci-fi and can accept a predictable adventure in the process, there’s just enough enjoyment to see you through to the end but it’s unlikely to be a show you’ll be clamouring for a second season of anytime soon.
Verdict - 5.5/10