Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring Tom Felton, Natalia Tena, Sen Mitsuji, Nora Arnezeder, Fraser James, Philipp Christopher, Nina Wadia, Madalyn Horcher, Siobhan Cullen, Adelayo Adedayo and Wil Coban.Sci-fi, Thriller, USA, 47mins an episode.  All episodes streaming now on YouTube Premium.

Reviewed - EPISODE 1:THE ROAD NOT TAKEN AND EPISODE 2: LOST ON BOTH SIDES

 

In a quest to compete with streaming giants Amazon and Netflix, and prove they have more to offer than cat videos and strangers un-boxing things, YouTube has released ORIGIN, an enjoyable new glossy 10 part original sci-fi thriller series.

 

ORIGIN shares producers with LOST and THE CROWN, with the former being an accurate indicator of what to expect (less so the latter, unless there's a coming corgi influx). The plot concerns mismatched strangers waking up on a seemingly abandoned spaceship transporting new workers to colonise a planet. They've been abruptly woken from their slumber while still drifting in space. Worryingly the crew appear to be missing. There's no explanation, just patches of blood and discarded sandwiches. So these misfits must work together to find the unfortunate truth while uncovering dark mysteries along the way. We get extended flashbacks for a single character per episode, teasing their secrets, and unveiling what led them to this present situation. So, as you can see, you may experience some LOST déjà-vu. Unfortunately, this comparison doesn't do ORIGIN many favours as the opening episodes are nowhere near as strong as LOST's truly excellent world building pilot, but they are still solidly engaging pulp fun.

 

The cast is strong; there's two HARRY POTTER alums (Natalie Tena as Lana and Tom Felton as Logan) and an, ahem, EASTENDERS alum (Nina Wadia as Venisha) alongside many unfamiliar, yet talented, faces. This is the first major acting role for Sen Mitsuji, as one of the de-facto leads Shun, and he's a compelling screen presence who manages to juggle liability alongside a quiet menace. A negative though is that, due to the relatively large cast, no character is developed well enough in the first episodes for me to warm to.

 

I did quite enjoy Felton's performance though, proving his strength is being the love-to-hate villain. He's basically just a slightly more bedraggled space Malfoy; getting annoyed at someone's nervous tapping he responds to; ‘‘Hey we're all frightened'’ with; ‘'Yeah, but I'm doing it quietly’'. He's a jerk; hogging water, swearing up a storm and being snarky and cowardly at every opportunity. We do eventually learn something that makes him more sympathetic, so hopefully, they'll continue to develop his character further, rather than just making him the token asshole.

 

ORIGIN has a tendency to go for the jump scare, but they are expertly executed, and never too cheaply exploitative. There’s one genuinely well-staged horror moment when Lana and Shun encounter large holes, weird dripping space goop and a man showing off his impressively disgusting double jointed gymnastics. I assume it's CGI, although I could be wrong, but because it's filmed relatively subtle. We see just enough to be freaked out and not so much that it becomes silly. I got, admittedly watered down, John Carpenter's THE THING vibes from this moment.

 

The first two episodes are directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and, in spite of his patchy filmography, he's a competent pair of hands and here is successfully returning to the setting and tone of arguably his best film, EVENT HORIZON. His episodes are well paced and slick looking, although you do get a sense from the near future Tokyo flashback that he may have been watching too much BLADE RUNNER.

 

An issue is that everything is too familiar and effectively just a mix of other, better, sci-fi thrillers. It's lacking the extra spark, or a new angle, to give it a truly unique voice. The back stories we get in episode 1 and 2 (conflicted gangster with a cop brother and a bodyguard who got tragically too close to their charge) are somewhat on the nose clichés, and the series doesn't do anything new yet with those stock stories.

 

Overall, it's good but not much more. In this current 'golden age' of television, with new prestige shows seemingly released every week, simply being good doesn't quite cut it. For anyone curious you should give it a chance, you may be hooked (it's in no way a bad show), but for those that have a to-watch list hitting double figures, you are not missing out by giving this particular one a miss.

 

John Upton

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