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"What? You want to know my secret origins? Well... maybe another time..."
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When you are writing a work of fiction you often want the audience to know how a particular character 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.

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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.

Often takes the form of a Whole Episode Flashback or Flashback B-Plot. 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. See also No Origin Stories Allowed, which is when the creator(s) ban this from happening.

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Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Lamput:
    • The third season episode "Origins" is a Whole Episode Flashback of how Fat Doc and Slim Doc came to meet and become friends. The flashback, which begins when the docs find a picture of them from when they were kids while being carried away in a police car, also provides the origins of a couple other characters.
    • When Fat Doc and Slim Doc arrived at the same school, the latter was quite a bully to the former, only making friends with him after an incident involving the two accidentally messing up a science experiment their teacher was performing.
    • A science incident is also the catalyst for the birth of Lamput himself, who is seen at the end of the episode having formed from within a beaker.
    • Once the docs befriend each other, they decide to bully a specific round-looking kid in their school. That kid grows up to be the policeman who makes recurring appearances throughout the series and often arrests and beats up the docs - including in this episode where he thinks they robbed a jewelry store and brings them to the police station for it. Guy's held quite a grudge on the docs for all the bullying they subjected him to.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The fourth-season episode "The Good Samaritan" shows how Robbie Reyes became the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Ghost Rider.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Angel's origin was first showed in both parts of "Becoming" but Angel elaborated on it in "The Prodigal" and "Five by Five".
      • "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.
    • "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 "Lie To Me", and shown in flashbacks in the Angel episode "Dear Boy".
    • While Anya talked about past exploits often, it wasn't until the Season 7 episode "Selfless" that we saw her full origin story.
  • 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.
  • 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 left quite a Continuity Snarl that was never really addressed.
  • 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.
  • On Doctor Who:
    • The Second Doctor story "The War Games" finally revealed Gallifrey and the Time Lords, after six years of the Doctor's species being unknown.
    • 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.
    • Between the Doctor Who TV series and Big Finish Doctor Who 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.
    • Nearly everyone who worked on the series prefers to avert this with the Doctor. Even after 50+ years and 38 seasons (as of 2021), the number of formal revelations of who they were before running away from Gallifrey and became the Doctor and why they fled the planet can be counted on one hand, and their real name remains a mystery. Their granddaughter Susan remains the only relative of theirs depicted onscreen or even named, even though they had to have had a wife and children. Occasionally hints are dropped about their past — the Twelfth Doctor confessed in "Heaven Sent" he fled Gallifrey out of fear of something rather than the boredom he usually claims — but nothing more, leaving the title of the show a never-to-be-answered question. The two attempts at this trope for the Doctor, the novel Lungbarrow in The '90s' Doctor Who Expanded Universe and the episode "The Timeless Children" at the beginning of The New '20s, both provoked very mixed fan reactions, and both retcon the depiction of Gallifrey in preceding televised canon.
  • The 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). Zoe was Mal's old Army buddy from the Unification Wars, Wash signed on as pilot right after Mal and Zoe found Serenity, Jayne was a bandit who tried to kill Mal (until Mal convinced him to turn against his two partners by offering to pay him better), and Kaylee replaced the ship's original engineer after Mal found her having sex with him, and discovered that she knew more about engines than he did.
  • Forever Knight: Nick's vampire origin was shown in the pilot, "Dark Knight".
  • Frasier had this in the episode "You Can Go Home Again" which is also the season 3 finale. In this episode, Frasier celebrates his show's three-year 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 reconciled with Niles and later Martin.
  • The 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.
  • Highlander had "Family Tree" and later "Homeland" for Duncan. For recurring characters, there was "Legacy" for Amanda, "Comes A Horseman" showed Cassandra's origin and there was one for Fitz ("Star Crossed"?).
  • "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.
  • 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 .
  • 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).
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has Snipe Episode Zero. It depicts events leading to the Zero Day and Start of Darkness of Taiga Hanaya.
  • One of the main gimmicks of Lost, was that each episode had a flashback plot delivering information about a specific character's past. Many of the major characters ended up having several.
  • S1 E4 of Misfits has a bit of this, in that it expands on how some of the characters ended up with community service.
  • The Season 8 NCIS episode "Baltimore" depicts how DiNozzo and Gibbs met while the former was a detective with the Baltimore police department.
  • Odd Squad: The Season 1 episode "Totally Odd Squad" is an origins episode for Oprah, as she explains to Olive, Otto and Oscar about her time as an Investigation agent back in 1983 and how she became the Director of Precinct 13579.
    • Another Season 1 episode, "Training Day", reveals who Olive's previous partner was before Otto, and how she grew from being a Shrinking Violet as an agent-in-training to an eventual Shell-Shocked Veteran as an Investigation agent. It also has a brief scene that shows how Otto became her partner.
    • "Oscar of All Trades" shows how Oscar came to be the Lab Director of Precinct 13579.
    • The first part of the Season 2 finale, "Who is Agent Otis?", reveals how Otis became an Odd Squad agent and explains how life was for him before joining the organization.
    • The Season 3 episode "The Weight of the World Depends on Orla" shows how the eponymous agent became the guardian of the 44-leaf clover.
  • Power Rangers:
    • 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.
  • 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-faced freakshow attraction, and a 4000-year-old mummy.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, "Today Is the Day"/"The Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" is a two-part origin episode for Jesse Flores, and possibly also Weavernote .
  • Torchwood has the episode "Fragments", giving the back-story of how the main team members note  were recruited to Torchwood Three.
  • 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).
  • Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger has the origins of Stinger/Sasori Orange and Champ/Oushi Black in Episode of Stinger.
  • WandaVision's next-to-last episode, "Previously On...," uses flashbacks to tell the origin story of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.
  • The West Wing had several of these:
    • "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" is a series of flashbacks to the 1998 Presidential Election [sic], showing how the main characters met and got involved with Bartlet's campaign. When the story begins, Leo is a former cabinet secretary serving as Bartlet's campaign manager, Josh is campaign manager for Bartlet's biggest rival (and future VP) Senator John Hoynes, Sam is a frustrated lawyer for an unscrupulous oil company, CJ is a PR specialist for a movie studio, Toby is a talented (but unsuccessful) political operative looking for a chance to prove his skills, and Donna is a campaign volunteer.
    • "Two Cathedrals" features an extended flashback to Bartlet's childhood, showing how he met Mrs. Landingham and first got interested in politics. As we learn, Mrs. Landingham started out as a secretary at the New Hampshire prep school where Bartlet's father was Headmaster, and she convinced him to confront his father about the wage gap between male and female employees at the school. He tried, but lost his nerve after his father slapped him for protesting his decision to ban several classic novels from the school library.
    • "Bartlet for America" goes into more detail about Bartlet's election, mostly from Leo's perspective. We see how Bartlet convinced Hoynes to become his running mate by telling him the truth about his multiple sclerosis as a gesture of good faith, and we learn about Leo's last alcoholic relapse. It turns out that a campaign donor pressured him into drinking again, and he fell off the wagon so hard that he wasn't able to come to Bartlet's aid when his MS flared up again—an incident that has clearly haunted him ever since.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • The Incredible Hulk (1977): The original pilot episode detailed how David Banner became the eponymous monster and how he ended up on the run.
  • 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").

    Podcasts 

    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.

    Web Animation 
  • The Season 4 Bravest Warriors two-part episode "It Shouldn't Ever Have to End This Way" reveals the exact circumstances under which the Bravest Warriors' parents and predecessors the Courageous Battlers were banished to the See-Through Zone by Beth's father.
  • 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 Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: The third episode serves as this for Epic-Man, explaining how he got his powers and started his superhero career.
  • Season 14 of Red vs. Blue has three examples:
    • The Blood Gulch Prequel Trilogy episodes - “From Stumbled Beginnings”, “Fifty Shades of Red”, and “Why They’re Here” - all show how how the members of the Red and Blue Teams met and ended up in Blood Gulch.
    • The Merc Trilogy episodes - "Club", "Call", and "Consequences" - show what Locus and Felix were up to prior to Chorus as well as their Protagonist Journey to Villain.
    • It's heavily implied that the Freelancer Prequel Duology episodes - “The Triplets” and “The ‘Mission’” - concern the origin of the Red vs. Blue simulation war.
  • RWBY:
    • The aptly named "Beginning Of The End" from Volume 3 explains the backstories of both Emerald and Mercury, and how they came to work for Cinder. Cinder herself doesn't get an Origins Episode until Volume 8, in "Midnight."
    • "The Lost Fable" in Volume 6 reveals the history of both Salem and Ozpin.
  • 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.)

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 


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

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The Murder Hut

This episode details where the Mystery Shack came from, And how Stan came to be in charge of it

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