'Origin' Early Buzz: YouTube Premium's New Sci-Fi Show Has Potential

The reviews are in for YouTube Premium's next big original science fiction series Origin, and almost all of them include a variation of this line: "it's like Lost, in space." Puns aside, that's some high praise – but does the comparison extend beyond the show's use of flashbacks to explore the backstories of its characters? Read some excerpts from the reviews below to find out.

Origin Early Buzz

Origin has a familiar premise, which /Film's Jacob Hall laid out well in a piece from this year's San Diego Comic-Con:

Origin unfolds across two timelines. 60% of a given episode takes place on the Origin, a ship built by the powerful Siren corporation that is transporting colonists to a distant and habitable planet called Thea. The other 40% is comprised of flashbacks to the various colonists' lives on Earth, exploring why they decided to drop everything, leave their lives behind, and journey into the great unknown. As you'd imagine, the cast of characters (engineers, doctors, criminals) all had a damn good reason to want a fresh start...and as you'd also imagine, that fresh start hits a brick wall on board the Origin, where things go terribly wrong.

11 of the colonists wake up and find their massive, maze-like, and inexplicably lit-like-a-haunted-house spaceship (shades of both Event Horizon and Alien here) completely abandoned. Something bad happened and the vast majority of the crew and passengers took off in escape pods. What happened? Why was this group left behind? And what is on the ship with them? Cue screaming, running, and lots of goo dripping from ceilings.

Now that we're all on the same page regarding what the show is about, is it any good?

Josh Bell at ComicBookResources says the show gets off to a mostly strong start, capitalizing on its hooky premise and leaning into its B-movie roots:

Low-budget sci-fi movies from Cube to Circle have pitted short-tempered, distrustful people against each other while trapped in unfamiliar, deadly spacecraft, and Origin works by playing off of expectations for movies like that, following some while subverting others. While the characters bicker and scheme, they also manage to make substantial progress in figuring out their dilemma, and creator Mika Watkins resists the slow, deliberate pacing of most prestige cable and streaming dramas. While there are no doubt plenty of shocking twists yet to come over the rest of the 10-episode season, the early episodes establish important building blocks for future development...

The performances (especially from Harry Potter's Tom Felton as an angry, impatient know-it-all) are a bit broad, and the dialogue is not exactly sophisticated, but that's mostly what the material calls for. This isn't complex, cerebral science fiction; it's the kind of thing Syfy would air to fill the spaces in between its more critically acclaimed dramas with higher budgets. And aside from some swearing and a few moments of excessive gore, Origin could easily be a Syfy series, sitting comfortably alongside the channel's various Canadian imports. The sets are mostly the kind of monotonous empty corridors recognizable from dozens of low-budget B-movies, although the special effects for the occasional exterior shots are surprisingly convincing.

Merrill Barr at Forbes praises the show's hiring practices, specifically regarding the director of the first two episodes:

The most genius creative decision made by Origin is the one that brought Paul W.S. Anderson on board to direct the series' first two episodes. The reason this is important is that Anderson is the man responsible for one of the most beloved haunted ship properties in modern history, Event Horizon.

Origin is a show that asks Anderson to dive back into that well and, in doing so, has been given a chance to play with a very fertile foundation set up by the end of the second episode.

ScreenRant's Kevin Yeoman was also impressed with Anderson's directorial work:

The main narrative plays into Anderson's wheelhouse, as it is driven primarily by a variety of jump scares, growing paranoia, and a need to move quickly from one end of what appears to be a truly massive and impressive set to the next. The first two episodes are largely concerned with world building and putting out small but meaningful fires in order to introduce each character and establish a consistent tone. That tone is fairly dark and serious, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Each new encounter is made to feel more ominous than the next, as the travelers learn to trust (or distrust) one another, as each persons' surface-level quirks are forced to act as a stand-in for actual personalities until it's their turn to swing for the flashback fences.

Alexis Gunderson at Paste draws comparisons not only to Lost's flashback structure but also basically says Origin borrows some key details from Lost characters for a couple of characters of its own.

The monsters the stranded passengers face, meanwhile—other than each other, of course—seem to be of a possessive alien type not unlike those recently seen on The ExpanseKilljoys, and Dark Matter. And the desolation of their situation as the only humans left alive (or at least, in contact) in the vastness of deep space? That's basically a carbon copy of the premise behind Battlestar Galactica, Passengers, and, obviously, the actual Lost in SpaceOrigin hits all the right notes, but until it can get a chance to turn them into a new song, all that can be said of it is that it is a compelling mimic.

I think Vinnie Mancuso at Collider crystalizes the majority of the critical reaction to Origin in this paragraph:

Overall, Origin is fine. It's good, even! The twists come jarring and fast, the gooey, bone-bending body horror is wonderfully executed under the guidance of special effects supervisor Max Poolman (District 9Dredd), and every episode so far—again, much like Lost—ends on a perfectly thudding cliffhanger that will usher you directly to the "next episode" button. But it could have been more. There's a moment that even proves it could have been more. Deep into Episode 2, after a series of cheap, sudden-bang jump scares, Felton's always-surly character yells "Can everyone just stop hurling themselves around corners?"

I love that. I genuinely love that, and it makes me think of a series that not only revels in the tricks and tropes of its inspirations but also worked a bit harder to subvert them.

It sounds like the show still needs to carve out its own identity to move out from the shadow of other, more memorable pieces of pop culture. Will audiences be willing to go along for the ride as it tries to do that? We'll soon find out – the first season of Origin is available on YouTube Premium right now.