YouTube Goes To Space With Sci-Fi Thriller Origin

We talked to the cast and creator of YouTube Red's Origin, the streaming giant's next foray into original drama.

On November 14th, YouTube will combine the chocolate and peanut butter of genres (horror and science fiction, obviously) with a relatively new format: the streaming service original drama.

The show is called Origin. It boasts two former Harry Potter actors in Tom Felton and Natalia Tena (the latter of whom is perhaps better known for Game of Thrones), high production values, and a new showrunning voice in Mika Watkins.

“I think it’s a very versatile show,” said Tom Felton when Den of Geek talked to the Origin cast and creator at last month’s New York Comic Con. “I think people of all ilks will enjoy it. If you’re into sci-fi, if you’re in to characters, or if you’re into the idea of the near distant future and what’s going to be available to us.”

One part Alien (it even has Alien vs. Predator director Paul W.S. Anderson behind the camera) and one part Lost, it follows a group of strangers who wake up on an abandoned ship. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn more about what brought each character to this ship bound for a distant planet called Thea. In the ship-set timeline, the group slowly begins to realize one of them is not who they claim to be. Also, people start dying.

At 29 years old, Origin creator Mika Watkins is quite young to be a showrunner—but it feels fitting to have a young person at the helm of a YouTube show. After all, the platform’s primary user demographic skews young. Watkins, who only six years ago was interning on The Crown, now have a 10-episode, multi-million dollar budgeted show about to premiere on YouTube.

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Luke Hyams, YouTube’s head of original productions for Europe, told The Guardian of the hire: “The decision to put Mika in charge of the show was not one that was taken lightly, but we really believed in her. What impressed us about the project was it had the ability to create such a rich international picture of the future.”

For her part, Watkins—who previously wrote for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, BBC’s Troy: Fall of a City and the CBBC teen mystery, Dixi—has grabbed the opportunity and run with it, taking into account the modern storytelling format YouTube represents.

“We wanted it to be binge worthy, so it’s quite hook-y,” said Watkins of the show’s pacing. “So, at the end of every episode it’s quite like ‘Oh I really want to see the next one,’ hopefully,” said Watkins, adding that knowing that all of the episodes would be dropped at once “definintely influenced” how she told the 10-part story. 

What resulted is a show with a much more diverse cast than at least American viewers are used to seeing on TV, with much of the first episode told in Japanese as we learn about Shun (Sen Mitsuji), a Japanese man who has ended up on the mysterious ship and immediately surfaces as a potential leader for the panicking ragtag crew.

While the story very much takes place in our future, the story grounds itself in the stories of people who can relate to—”I like the human aspect of it because it feels like it’s not too far away from us,” says Felton—and gets into the viewer’s own head by asking the same question of each of its diverse characters: What would make you want to leave Earth for the uncertainty of a distant planet?

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Den of Geek had the chance to ask the actors themselves if they would make the apparently dangerous trip to Thea. Their answers?

“I really like Earth,” said Philip Christopher who plays Origin‘s most openly hostile character Baum Arndt. “I don’t like space. You die in space.”

“I do second that,” said Felton. “There are a lot of good things about Earth that I’d like to stay here for.”

“I think the pitch is wrong, like if you’re gonna go to another planet, wouldn’t you want to see a little bit of space?” asks Mitsuji. “You fall asleep on Earth and then you walk up there. I would want to see a little bit of space.”

“Maybe if you woke up for like an hour,” acquiesces Felton.

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“Maybe when they’re landing, they could wake you up,” jokes Watkins.

Origin drops in its entirety on YouTube on November 14th.

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.