Origins Episode

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bodyworld_originstory.png

"What? You want to know my secret origins? Well... maybe another time..."
Linkara

When you are writing a work of fiction you often want the audience to know how what is came to be. Often this is achieved in the first episodes or issues, but almost as often, for whatever reason, this can't happen. Perhaps the character was originally meant to be mysterious, a figure robed in secrets and mystique, and now their past has emerged. Alternatively the writers might not have had an origin laid out for them, perhaps due to the fact that they were meant as a minor character and gained a fanbase or were simply a Monster of the Week that happened to come back once or twice. Or it could be that the thing without the background is more than just a character; perhaps the entire universe has a history that the author wants to get across, and there is no way of doing that at the same time that a first episode finds its audience.

An origins episode is an episode, issue, chapter, or a multi-part story arc that exists primarily to examine the origin of a character or setting after the work has been going for a while. Many prequels qualify, but not all. Likewise whilst many things have had extended flashbacks it does not necessarily count. However the episode or issue need not be all set in the universe's past to qualify, so long as exploring that past is the point. Done well, these works help build the universe's mythos and continuity; done badly, they just feel like the author trying to show how clever they are. Worse still are the origins episodes where the writer does not bother to check their own continuity and creates a mess of plot holes and poor characterization.

Compare with a Pilot Episode, which usually sets up the origins of the main characters and setting in the first episode. Television characters can have an Origin Episode of sorts if they receive A Day in the Limelight or a Lower-Deck Episode. See also Start of Darkness, for when the Origin Story shows the rise of a villain.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • Bleach anime:
    • Episode 32 "Stars and the Stray" told the story of Rukia Kuchiki's origin, as remembered by Renji Abarai.
    • Episode 97 explains how the Bount were created. Soul Reapers were carrying out a project to create immortal souls and an experiment got away from them, causing a number of human beings to become the Bount.
    • During the Zanpakutō: The Alternate Tale arc, Koga's origin story was told in episodes 250 and 251.
  • The "Teresa of the Faint Smile" arc of Claymore tells Clare's origin.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • There was quite a big arc in the manga that explained Hoenheim's and the Homonculous' origins.
    • Not long after the starting chapters, the story also flashes back to how Ed and Al ended up in their situation.
  • The last chapter in the fourth volume of Hidamari Sketch—one of the few not in yonkoma format—was spent on explaining the origins of Natsume's tsundere attitude towards Sae.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
  • The tenth episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is dedicated to Homura's backstory, finally explicitly explaining her mysterious powers, behavior, and motivations.
    • The first volume of the spin-off manga The Different Story functions as one for both Mami and Kyoko - specifically focusing on how they drifted apart after Mr. Sakura's Pater Familicide.
  • One Piece has a rather odd one starting how Luffy got his powers and his inspiration to be a pirate in the first chapter. A couple of story arcs down the line and a flashback arc fleshes it out a bit more showcasing further motivation to why he does what he does. The rest of the crew stories are told individually as we either first meet then or they're on the verge of joining soon.
  • It's not until near the end of Anatolia Story that Urhi's Tear Jerker of a backstory is revealed, along with why he's so loyal to Nakia.
  • Pretty much every character in Fruits Basket has at least one flashback showing a significant moment that lead to them being the way they are. Most notable are the flashbacks of how Kyoko ended up meeting and marrying Katsyua and how Akito's mother got married to her father and manipulated him into raising Akito as a boy.
  • During Burst Angel, after many episodes of fighting the villain of the week, the final four episodes are dedicated to Jo's origins, mainly episode 23.
  • Lupin III, in possession of Negative Continuity, has a weird relationship with introduction episodes, prequels, and Character Development.
  • The final two episodes of Shamanic Princess are whole episode flashbacks that detail the lead-up to the events of the preceding episodes.
  • Mekakucity Actors: Episodes 6 and 7 serve as joint-origin episodes for Ene and Konoha (episode 6 focusing more on the former, episode 7 on the latter), who used to be Takane Enomoto and Haruka Kokonose, respectively, how they ended up in their current bodes and their ties to Shintaro and Ayano.
  • Fate/Zero: Episode 5 and 6 of Season 2, are an origin story for how Kiritsugu became the way he is.
  • Kara no Kyoukai is a weird case. It starts In Medias Res and then jumps back in time twice: part 2 is chronologically the earliest chapter and is an origins episode for Mikiya and Shiki's relationship, of all things; while part 4 is the origins episode for the Shiki we see throughout most of the series—the composite personality built from the remains of her original split personalities that were shattered at the end of part 2.
  • In Mushishi, the story "One-Eyed Fish" explains how Ginko got his unusual appearance of silvery-white hair and green eyes. Oh, and also his name.
  • The animated film Arcadia of My Youth provided a canon origin story for Captain Harlock, albeit with a liberal dose of Retcon. Maetel Legend OVA, meanwhile, was an origin story for both Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 and Emeraldas from Queen Emeraldas (and other assorted Leijiverse media), as well as a Fully Absorbed Finale for Yayoi Yukino from Queen Millennia: Yayoi becomes La Andromeda Promethium, the evil mechanoid queen, and sends her non-identical twin daughters Maetel and Emeraldas into exile on a secret quest to find a way to defeat her.

  • Pokémon:
    • The episode "Go West, Young Meowth" explores Meowth's origins, in particular the fact that he taught himself to speak human language in an attempt to impress a female Meowth named Meowzy. However, this backfired when Meowzy told him he was a "freak".
    • The XY Episode "A Trip Down Memory Train" explains how Clemont first met and caught Bunnelby.
  • The entirety of Space Patrol Luluco is revealed to be one for The Studio Trigger mascot "Trigger-chan".

     Comic Books 
  • Donna Troy sets the record for the sheer number of these. A character created by author miscommunication (someone put Wonder Girl in Teen Titans not realizing her earlier appearances were teenage Wonder Woman in the past), she had to have her origin told after the fact. But no two writers seem to agree on what it should be, and by now she is nigh unusable; the question "who the hell is she?" is now unanswerable. Every attempt to fix it just tosses another Retcon on the already-enormous pile. However, the last Cosmic Retcon has left the slate blank for a single origin to be established, and stick. We haven't re-met her to know which one it'll be.
  • ElfQuest T.O.S. #13: "The Secret of the Wolfriders"
  • Judge Dredd has had two very well-received ones:
    • First was Judge Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend, commissioned for the launch of the Judge Dredd Megazine. In it Judge Death employs a journalist to interview him and spread his message, to explain to the people of the world why they are better off dead. Death was a creepy little boy.
    • Later there was Origins to mark the 30th anniversary of Judge Dredd where Dredd explains the secrets and history of the Dredd universe (straightening up the continuity along the way) whilst on a mission to recover something that might unravel those secrets.
  • X-Men: The Wolverine Origin comic. And The Movie, for that matter.
  • DC Comics had an entire series, Secret Origins, in which each issue was an Origins Issue for a different character (either one who had never been given a proper origin in their own series, or an established character for whom DC wanted to establish a new baseline origin following a Continuity Snarl or similar problem).
    • Likewise, Marvel's Uncanny Origins.
  • The Phantom Stranger had four of these in the same issue, all contradicting each other.
  • Strontium Dog had two long-running stories in this vein: "Portrait of a Mutant" examined Johnny's early life, his time in the mutant resistance, and how he eventually took up bounty hunting; it was framed as Johnny telling Wulf and the Gronk why he's so eager to claim the small bounty on Nelson Bunker Kreelman. "Max Bubba", framed as Wulf's reminiscenses, told the story of how Johnny and Wulf first met and teamed up.
  • The Astérix book How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion.
  • The focus of "Zero Month" in The New 52.
  • Issue 7 of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man deals with Beetle's origins as Tombstone's daughter and how she went from a highly-educated woman with steep criminal ambitions to an up-and-coming supervillain. Issue 14 dealt with Overdrive's origins as a racecar driver who dreamed of becoming a superhero.
  • Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale tells Book's origin story.
  • The Yesterday Quest was the origin story of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.
  • Diabolik has a few such episodes, most of them published in the "Il Grande Diabolik" series:
    • "Diabolik, Who Are You?" is Diabolik's first. Yes, first, because in here Diabolik only explained where he came from, glossing on the period between him leaving King's Island and arriving to Clerville and refusing to tell some parts. It's also the only one in general published in the regular series;
    • "Diabolik and Ginko: Storm of Memories" is the story of the first encounter between the titular Villain Protagonist and his greatest opponent;
    • "Eva Kant: When Diabolik Wasn't There" is Eva's;
    • "Ginko: Before Diabolik" is Ginko's;
    • "The Years Lost in Blood" is Diabolik's second, showing how he aquired some of his skills, his trademark suit and Walter Dorian's identity;
    • "The Mysteries of Vallenberg" includes a sequence that provides Altea's;
    • "I Am Diabolik" is Diabolik's third, about his arrival in Clerville;
    • "The Shadow of the Moon" includes sequences that complete Diabolik's (about his time at King's Island), Ginko's and Eva's;
    • "The True Story of King's Island" provides one for King, Diabolik's father figure. It also shows that it wasn't by chance that King's men saved the infant Diabolik from a shipwreck... And that was before he found out Diabolik's real identity, unknown even to the King of Terror himself.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has several of these in it's comic series
    • A lot of them were specifically toward the villains. Sunset Shimmer's (the antagonist of the first Equestria Girls movie) origins are told in the first annual and a five issue mini-series called Fiendship is Magic went into the backstory of Tirek, King Sombra, The Dazzlings (the antagonists of the second Equestria Girls movie, Rainbow Rocks), Nightmare Moon (after she was banished), and Queen Chrysalis.
    • A two part arc showing how Shining Armor and Princess Cadence first met.
    • A comic showing how Twilight first came to take care of Spike after he was born.
  • There was an issue of the UK G1 My Little Pony comics that showcased the origins of the Twinkle-eyed ponies. They were kept by a wizard as slaves and forced to live underground mining gems. They end up becoming blind due to the lack of light. Applejack saves them and they begin to use gems as replacements for their eyes.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Several characters from the main series have been given their origin story albums, namely Pilou, Ghorghor Bey, and Lord Parsifal.

     Fan Fiction 

     Film  

     Literature  

     Live Action TV  
  • Frasier had this in episode "You Can Go Home Again" which is also the season 3 finale. In this episode, Frasier celebrates his show's three years anniversary and Roz offers him a videotape which contains his first broadcast. As he goes home, Frasier listens the tape and we see what happened when he arrived to Seattle, met Roz for the first time and reconcilied with Niles and later Martin.
  • Torchwood has the episode "Fragments," giving the back-story of how the main team members note  were recruited to Torchwood Three.
  • Lost has these reasonably often.
  • Notably averted in Burn Notice: the made-for-TV-movie "The Fall of Sam Axe" pointedly showed how Sam managed to get his honorable discharge from the Navy SEALs despite his womanizing attitude, but in the timeline of the movie, he already knows Super Spy Michael Westen, seeking advice with his personal problems. Throughout the entire series, it's never been revealed exactly how a CIA spy and a Navy SEAL met and became best friends.
  • White Collar episode "Forging Bonds" dedicated to how Neal started his Con Man career with Mozzie, how he met Kate, how Peter started pursuing Neal and how Peter and Neal first met.
  • How I Met Your Mother has the episode "How I Met Everyone Else", which showcases how the core group (except Robin, who joined the group in the pilot) met and became friendsnote .
  • On Doctor Who it only took 11 years and four Doctors battling the Daleks before we finally got to see how they were created by Davros, after which point he became a recurring villain in Dalek stories.
    • The Second Doctor story The War Games finally revealed Gallifrey and the Time Lords, after six years od the Doctor's species being unknown. The Seventh Doctor novel Lungbarrow actually reveals the details behind the Doctor's origin story.
    • Between the Doctor Who TV series and audio adventures, we've had the Ice Warriors' origin story with the Second Doctor, the Daleks' origin story with the Fourth Doctor, the Cybermen's origin story with the Fifth Doctor, the Sontarans' origin story with the Sixth Doctor, and the Cybus Cybermen's origin story with the Tenth Doctor.
  • The X-Files had several origin episodes, including one for the Big Bad ("Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man") and the Lone Gunmen trio ("Unusual Suspects").
  • Xena: Warrior Princess had several over the course of the show, showing how she developed from a village girl into an evil Warrior Princess. (She had a Heel–Face Turn during her guest appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before she got her own show.)
  • "Three Stories", a Season One episode of House, reveals how House's leg turned out in such a bad state: he suffered an aneurysm while playing golf. His drug-seeking behavior caused the other doctors to brush off his pain as a withdrawal symptom. Soon, however, the aneurysm caused an infarction and muscle tissue to die. House refused to have the leg amputated, even though the bypass he demands and ultimately undergoes causes such severe pain that it gives him a heart attack. While in a medically-induced coma, his girlfriend and proxy authorized him to undergo a partial amputation that would only remove the necrotic tissue while leaving the rest of his leg intact, but it leaves his leg's mobility compromised on top of leaving him in chronic pain.
  • Community had the aptly titled "Heroic Origins", in which Abed charts the group's connection through random interactions before they all started at Greendale, eventually leading to reveal how they all came to choose the school.
  • Chuck eventually showed us the backstory as to how Sara became a CIA operative, starting as a young teen when she was a grifter with her father.
    • "Chuck Versus the Tic Tac" reveals Casey's origins: A Marine Corps sniper in Honduras named Alexander Coburn who faked his death to join a special forces unit. Unfortunately, it's left quite a Continuity Snarl that has never really been addressed.
  • Highlander had "Family Tree" for Duncan, and for recurring characters, there was "Legacy" for Amanda, "Comes A Horseman" showed Cassandra's origin and there was one for Fitz ("Star Crossed"?).
  • Forever Knight: Nick's vampire origin was shown in the pilot, "Dark Knight".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Angel's origin was first showed in both parts of "Becoming" but Angel elaborated on it in "Somnamublist".
      • Becoming also gave some more of Buffy's origin story (at least, within the TV show, given the movie is largely considered discontinuity by the TV series) showing her first meeting with her Watcher, Merrick, and her first patrol and slaying.
    • The episode "Fool For Love" was Spike's official origin episode. 'Lies My Parents Told Me' gave more details about that origin. And the cross-over episode with Angel that "Fool For Love" was a part of, called "Darla", was the origin episode for, well, Darla.
      • Related - Drusilla's origin and siring are described on Buffy in season 2 episode Lie To Me, and shown in flashbacks in the Angel season 2 episode Dear Boy.
  • The Tribe had two of these in the second season; one focused on Zoot and Ebony; the other focused on Lex and Ryan (though the latter example was submerged as a very long flashback).
  • Power Rangers Samurai even went so far as to have its Origins episodes titled "Origins". It probably has something to do with the fact that said episodes were delayed until midseason, instead of being shown at the beginning as usual.
  • Power Rangers RPM had origin episodes for the Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green Rangers as well as for Dr. K. All ended with them going to or arriving at Corinth (except Green, who had to leave) and don't include how they were selected as Rangers (again, except Green who we already saw acquire his powers.
  • Suits episode "Rewind" shows Mike starting using his Photographic Memory to earn money cheating at tests, his friend Trevor start dealing marijuana and Harvey blackmailing Hardman into resignation. Also doubles as a Start of Darkness episode.
  • S1 E4 of Misfits has a bit of this, in that it expands on how some of the characters ended up with community service.
  • Kamen Rider Double has nearly half their riders be given Origins Episodes, mostly as part of a movie (or in the case of Kamen Rider Eternal, a whole movie).
  • The Tales from the Crypt episode "Lower Berth'' provides the odd origin of The Crypt Keeper. An unholy product of the love between a (literal) two-face freakshow attraction, and a 4000 year old mummy.
  • Firefly episode "Out of Gas" features flashbacks showing how each of the main characters ended up on Serenity (except for Book, Simon and River, who came aboard in the pilot episode).
  • Greek episode Freshman Daze gave the background stories for Casey, Cappie and Evan (with more information on Ashleigh and Frannie) through flashbacks to their freshman year, including the origins of the love triangle that drove most of their storylines.

     Radio  
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • The first episode, appropriately enough titled "First Day", relates Mr. Conklin's arrival as newly appointed principal.
    • In "Borrowing Money To Fly", it's Miss Brooks' arrival in Madison that's explained. In this version, Mr. Conklin has already long been comfortable ensconced as principal of Madison High School.

     Video Games  

     Web Animation  
  • The Homestar Runner short "Hremail 7" explains the origin of Strong Bad Email. And, in the process, messes up what little continuity the HR-verse has.
  • The Shut Up Cartoons segment Oishi High School Battle has Oishi Orgins, or, as the title says, Oishi High School Battle Orgins. Oishi Orgins explains several things, such as how Oishi's father got fired (like the intro song says) and how Oishi got her dog Noodles. (Which was due to the creature transporter machine going haywire after a demon attack, thus resulting in this event.)

     Webcomics  

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  
  • DuckTales:
    • The five-part series opener sets up the show's scenario. Known collectively as the "Treasure of the Golden Suns", the individual episodes are as follows; "Don't Give Up The Ship", "Wrongway in Ronguay", "Three Ducks of the Condor", "Cold Ducks" and "Too Much of a Gold Thing".
    • "Launchpad's First Class" explains how Scrooge and Launchpad met.
    • "Once Upon A Dime" relates much of Scrooge's early life.
  • Gargoyles has both this and a conventional first episode origins set up. The first five episodes established the main characters (heros and villains) and their situation. Later MacBeth was introduced, and they then combined a multi-episode arc with telling the origin of MacBeth (he really is Macbeth) and his history with Demona.
    • Five Episode Pilots were a staple of Disney television animation in the 80s and 90s, with the pilot movies showing how all of the characters came together. Some characters (such as GizmoDuck) would be introduced and receive their specific origin stories later in their respective series.
  • Darkwing Duck received several origin stories throughout the run of his series, many of which were contradictory, though the origin given in "Clash Reunion", which also establishes the origins of his enemy Megavolt, appears to be the true origin.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie didn't originally set out for this—the first story pitch was to have been all of the show's main villains fighting with each other over who will rule Townsville. Creator Craig McCracken found it left little screen time for the girls themselves, so it became an origin story and their haphazard first adventure.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Storm" gives the backstories of Aang and Zuko via Flash Back.
  • Its Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, has one in Beginnings, a two part Flash Back that explains how the Avatar Cycle began, as well as what is causing the spirits to go berserk and start attacking humans once again.
  • This was the plot point of the Aladdin: The Series episode "Seems Like Old Crimes", which focused on Aladdin telling everyone the story of how he and Abu first met, long before the events of the first movie.
  • Teen Titans avoids the heroes' non-hero lives, and starts with the team already established, but an origin story appears near the end of the series, covering the team's first meeting.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the direct-to-movie origin episode of the Bat in the Batman: The Animated Series canon.
  • Code Lyoko had a special double-episode prequel titled XANA's Awakening that narrate how everything started.
  • The third Recess movie (And second Direct-to-Video movie), Recess: All Growed Down featured an origins story of how the gang all met.
  • Kim Possible "A Sitch In Time" shows the backstory of how Kim and Ron met and the first mission that started their careers as crimefighters. Ironically, their first mission was because of a typo, so you might say it was destiny that led to them becoming heroes.
  • The Venture Bros.' "The Invisible Hand of Fate" revealed the start of Billy and Pete's friendship and Phantom Limb becoming a supervillain, as well as explain how Brock became the Ventures' bodyguard.
  • The World of Quest episode "The Fall of Odyssia" explores how the eponymous Quest came to the service of the royal court — specifically, becoming Nestor's nanny for life.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The season four premiere serves as one for the Elements of Harmony.
    • In season one, there was "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", which explains how all of the mane six got their cutie marks (and how Spike was hatched).
    • The season two episode "Hearth's Warming Eve" has a winter pageant about the founding of Equestria.
  • Regular Show has "Skips' Story" which explains how Skips gained immortality.
  • Adventure Time:
    • While the episode "Holly Jolly Secrets" doesn't reveal Ice King's origin until the end, the episode is about Finn and Jake trying to figure out the Ice King's "evil secret" by watching his video diary.
    • "Orgalorg" tells the origin of Gunter the penguin, of all characters. Specifically, he's actually the itular Eldritch Abomination, and he was trapped on Earth in the form of a penguin for trying to harness the power of a comet.
  • Samurai Jack had the hour-long prequel episode "Birth of Evil", which detailed Aku's origin, and the original battle between him and Jack's father, along with how Jack's sword was forged, ending with Jack's actual birth and his father deciding they needed "a plan". (Which was used to train Jack as an adult when Aku escaped in the first episode.)
  • The first episode of All Hail King Julien serves as this for the Madagascar franchise, as it explains how Julien the lemur became king, and how he made partying the norm in his kingdom.
  • The Old Grey Hare: In a flashback we learn that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd have been chasing one another since they were baby's! And even then Bugs outsmarted him!
  • Freakazoid! has a two-parter episode that explains how Dexter Douglas became Freakazoid. You can even see a man fighting a bear.
  • The Darker and Edgier Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends 1-hour special "Good Wilt Hunting" which reveals Wilt's backstory. He was created by a Michael Jordan Expy to teach the kid basketball. In a big game against rival imaginary friend, Foul Larry, Wilt lost to save his creator's life from a falling Larry. His arm and eye were crushed by the weight of the massive Larry (who's as tall as Wilt but with more muscle) falling. Wilt was so ashamed (hence his apologetic manner) that he ran away, amputating his mangled arm too. Unbeknownst to him, the kid was quite grateful and became a professional basketball player too. Eduardo is also revealed to be created by a little girl who needed a scary-looking imaginary friend to protect her from bad guys yet be sweet enough to play with her baby brother while Coco was found on a desert island by two biology students note  in the same episode.
  • The 1993 Biker Mice from Mars series had a three-part episode called "Once Upon a Time on Mars", which explained in full detail how Modo got his robotic arm and lost his eye, why Vinnie wears a metal plate over half of his face, and what the Biker Mice went through during the Plutarkian invasion of Mars before they left their home planet and ended up on Earth. The 2006 revival also had a three-part episode called "Once Upon a Time on Earth", which explained how the Catatonians started their war with the Martian mice and how Ronaldo Rump became rich.
  • The Defenders of the Earth episode "The Adoption of Kshin" is another example, using flashbacks to explore how Kshin came to lose his real parents and how he and Mandrake first met.
  • Steven Universe:
  • Gravity Falls episode "A Tale of Two Stans" shows how the Author came to Gravity Falls and wrote the Journals, and why Stan started the Mystery Shack.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode simply titled "The Origins" detailing how Darwin came to live with the Wattersons.
  • The Simpsons has five of these presented as Whole Episode Flashbacks — "The Way We Was" (showing how Homer and Marge first met and began dating), "I Married Marge" (which details the circumstances behind their marriage, how Homer came to work at the nuclear power plant, and culminates with the birth of Bart), "Lisa's First Word" (which had the family move to 742 Evergreen Terrace, Lisa's birth, and how Bart dealt with having a younger sibling), "And Maggie Makes Three" (which is about how Homer had to deal with Marge's pregnancy with Maggie), and "The Way We Weren't" (which reveals Homer and Marge's Forgotten First Meeting).
  • The Wild Thornberrys had this happen in the episode "Gift of Gab" and the TV movie "The Origin of Donnie". The former explained how the Thornberrys encountered Eliza's chimpanzee friend Darwin and gave a more detailed explanation for how she gained the ability to talk to animals, while the latter explained the backstory of Donnie and how he came to live with the Thornberrys.
  • Goldie & Bear's season finale of the first season introduces Goldie's father Mr. Locks and flashes back to the time when Goldie and Bear were not the best of friends because of the notorious "porridge incident."

Alternative Title(s): Origins Issue, Origins Arc, Origins Chapter

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OriginsEpisode