YouTube Red is getting into sci-fi with its newest series Origin, and it looks like it’s trying to give Syfy’s Nightflyers a run for its money. It’s actually a horror story set on an isolated ship, where passengers who were trying to escape their past are faced with an unknown entity. It’s a cool premise—although unfortunately, I’m a little iffy about the outcome.
Origin’s teaser trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, along with a 12-minute extended look at the first episode. The Paul W.S Anderson-directed series stars Harry Potter alumni Tom Felton and Natalia Tena as Logan and Lana, passengers on a ship that’s bound for a distant planet called Thea—at least, that’s how I think it’s spelled (y’all can correct me on that later).
The probably-shady Siren Corporation is funding expeditions for anyone wanting to leave Earth, a clean slate for anyone with marks on their personal record. It’s the perfect opportunity for our 11 heroes, who all have pasts they’re trying to escape. For example, the extended look showed Shun’s (Sen Mitsuji) backstory as a Yakuza who got his police officer brother killed, and writer Mika Watkins said each character’s past will be explored in flashbacks at some point during the season.
“It’s not just a TV show based on a spaceship,” Anderson added. “Sixty per cent is on board the origin… but also 40 per cent of the show dives into one character’s backstory, to show how they messed up their lives so badly. That was very, very exciting for me, because you’re getting to do two shows.”
The protagonists wake up on their ship Origin to find most of their fellow passengers and crew have abandoned them. Why did they leave? Well, the mysterious black goo that seemingly causes people to create jump scares and contort their bodies into weird freaky shapes might have something to do with it. (Side note: I will say I found it curious how the 12-minute preview censored any use of the word “fuck,” but showing a guy’s eyeballs bulging and bursting out of his face was totally acceptable.) The series looks to be a return to form for Anderson, who directed the first two episodes of the series, seeing as how he previously helmed the cult classic sci-fi horror Event Horizon.
“[Origin is] the first time I’ve been in deep space since i did a movie Event Horizon (crowd cheers), and I never really wanted to go out into deep space again because I was really happy with that movie. Then I read Mika’s script and she inspired me to go back into space,” Anderson said.
I will say the story is interesting, and the writing has its moments. Unfortunately, what really took me out of the experience were the performances. These appear to be good actors—Tena in particular is really talented—but the moments I saw were pretty bland and lifeless. And some of the character decisions, which already didn’t make sense on their own, were only made more irritating by the acting disconnect. For example, during the tensest scene shown—where Lana and Shun are attacked by one of the black goo’s victims—the audience started laughing as Lana repeatedly got in close to the victim’s face as he whispered some inaudible warning, only to have him jump scare a scream into her face. It happened at least two or three times, and it didn’t make sense even once.
It seems like sci-fi horror is kind of the new trend to beat. We’ve got Nightflyers, along with the upcoming The Predator reboot. I’m not sure what place Origin will have in the mix, but I have a feeling it’s not going to make a huge splash. Origin is set to arrive sometime this autumn on YouTube Red.