The Question is: “Who is Jessica Hyde?”
In America, Channel 4 is normally known for their exported edgy comedies such as Spaced, so it’s cool to see buzz on the internet happening for Utopia, a new conspiracy thriller from Dennis Kelly. My Facebook page was alight with messages of people talking about this show today, so I figured I better take a look at it. While Utopia seems to lack the tried and true science fiction trappings of other shows, I’m going to look at it for this site as it seems to be cut from the cloth of a show like The Prisoner or Twin Peaks – too weird to be just a drama in the strictest sense. According to the main Channel 4 website: “The story follows a small group of people who find themselves in possession of a manuscript of a cult graphic novel called Utopia, which is rumored to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. This leads them to be targeted by a government organization known only as ‘The Network’, whom they have to avoid in order to survive.”
First and foremost, Utopia is not for the kiddies! There is gratuitous cursing, brief nudity, torture, and blood, tons of blood. The very first scene, involving a group of killers ransacking a comic book store, immediately got my attention for its audacious, almost Tarantino-like, murder spree. The cinematography alone, as it concentrates on pooling blood around a man’s head, definitely shows that this isn’t your typical TV drama. In fact, a lot of the cinematography in this episode seems to be similar in nature to another recent UK show, Steven Moffat’s Sherlock, that isn’t a criticism either, as I love how both shows look.
The cast includes a few familiar faces such as Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Ian, who previously appeared in Misfits, Paul Higgins from The Thick of it as Michael, and Alexandra Roach as Becky, who previously appeared in minor roles in The IT Crowd and Being Human. The cast also includes Fiona O’Shaughnessy as Jessica, Adeel Akhtar as Wilson Wilson, Neil Maskell and Paul Ready as Network assassins, and finally 11 year old Oliver Woolford as Grant, a juvenile delinquent.
As of episode one, I have very little of a clue as to what’s going on! Shows like this like to pile on many layers of seemingly unrelated plot points, only to swoop in at the end and tie the whole thing up. We established that the main plot centered on a group of comic enthusiasts and their passion for an infamous graphic novel that led to its creator’s suicide. At a near 180 degree change, the secondary plot in the episode includes a high level Health Department civil servant named Michael and his troubles with a blackmailer. He’s at wit’s end, and near the breaking point from being used up as a cog in the government machine. I’m not sure how his dealings with a Russian flu vaccination and Tamiflu reserves tie in with the main plot regarding the comic, but I’m incredibly interested to find out. As long as we don’t have mystery upon mystery with no payoff ala ABC’s Lost, I think the revelations will be exciting.
I’m definitely intrigued with what episode two has in store. Since this has (so far) only been commissioned as a six part miniseries, I assume that the revelations will be fast and if the rest of this show is any indication – crazy. I know that the show may go completely away from being anything related to a science fiction show, but six episodes shouldn’t be too much for this site as I’ve covered horror and other genre TV. With all the lines blurring in these anyway, it’s hard to tell how it will go!
- Utopia: They’re coming to get you (independent.co.uk)
- Review of Utopia: Series 1, episode 1 (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- Utopia and The Undateables: TV picks (metro.co.uk)
- Utopia: episode one (guardian.co.uk)
- Utopia, Channel 4, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Utopia: inside Channel 4’s new unsettling thriller (guardian.co.uk)
- No more Mr Nice Guy: Utopia, Channel 4 (telegraph.co.uk)
- Will Utopia be your new obsession? Signs point to yes. (io9.com)
- Utopia s1 ep 1 (unpopcult.wordpress.com)
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- Six Television Shows That Deserve Huge Cult Followings (glitternight.com)
- 10 end-of-the-world classics for the Mayan apocalypse (betanews.com)
- The Cutting Room Floor Presents: Top Ten Underrated Horror Sequels (geeksunleashed.me)
I work a job with minimal human interaction, in an office setting, for ten hours a day. It was maybe one month before I decided to start bringing my iPod to work to break down the monotony, and a few weeks after that until I got tired of my music. This is when Podcasts came into play. I’ll assume that anybody reading this knows what a podcast is, so I won’t go into the specifics in that regard, but what I will do is try to recommend a good podcast each week that you might enjoy. Without further ado, here is this week’s selection:
The Doctor Who Podcast
I originally got into this show when the hosts were doing another podcast for Doctor Who Online. They eventually left and started this independent venture up. What immediately turned me on about this podcast is that the hosts, while not unanimously praising everything at all times, never let cynicism get in the way of their fandom. Some other “nerd” podcasts (I’m looking at you pro wrestling podcasters) devolve into tireless hate-filled rants against a product that they supposedly like. These guys don’t do that, and even when they do dislike something it’s easy to agree with them because they give good reasons and do not harp on it. The hosts all have different likes and dislikes thus keeping the show chocked full of banter and funny arguments. Keep an eye out for trivia episodes and news coverage, usually the best part of the show for me, as well as interviews and other good bits.
Happy Listening and see you next week!
A few days ago I decided to watch a purposely bad B-Grade Nazi exploitation film called Iron Sky. In the movie, modern astronauts go to the moon to mine hydrogen 3, only to find a fully built factory of the same purpose already there. The astronauts soon discover that they weren’t supposed to find this facility, and are taken down by a group of jack-booted and gas mask wearing S.S. troops. It seems that a handful of fully operational Nazi soldiers fled to the moon during the death throes World War II, and set up shop where nobody would find them.
Iron Sky is a fun movie based on the fact that it is so over the top, in bad taste, and well….bad that it has that same vibe one gets from something like Snakes on a Plane. It also stands as a parody of all the SERIOUS works of science fiction and alternate history that revolve around the discovery of a fully formed group of Nazi remnants in full operational capacity (and ready for blood) in a cartoonish fashion. This really got me thinking – should Nazis really be the “be all and end all” bad guys from here on out? Or are they just lazy writing in all fiction – simply designed to shock and bring back a sense of patriotism that hasn’t been there for seventy years? What about “space Nazis”? That’s even worse…
I can handle a hypothetical situation where a crew of sci-fi guys travel to a planet and a totalitarian regime is in place that may or may not be similar to the Nazis. They can have flags, even red flags, skull based insignia, and even labor camps for that added shock value. The Daleks in Doctor Who might as well be space Nazis, but they are nicely changed in many ways as to be more inconspicuous in that regard. But when you have honest to god, born in Berlin, but somehow ended up in space, Nazis I want to kill people. The worst offender is Star Trek, a show that has dabbled in the Space Nazi theme so many times that every series seems to have a contractual clause to include at least one episode based on it. Here is the plot from a classic episode:
“When the Enterprise approaches the inner planet Ekos to investigate the cessation of communication with researcher John Gill, it is attacked with a rocket carrying a nuclear weapon. This is puzzling as well as dangerous, since neither the outer planet Zeon nor the inner planet Ekos is technologically advanced enough to possess rockets or nuclear warheads. The Enterprise retreats to maximum orbital distance and Kirk and Spock beam down (after having position-broadcasting transponders surgically implanted in case of mishaps).
Kirk and Spock discover that a Nazi movement has swept the planet, complete with genocide of the “Zeon pigs” residing on Ekos. They view a public newscast in which the Iron Cross second class is presented to Daras, hero of the Fatherland. Kirk and Spock are also shocked to learn that Gill appears to be the leader of the planet’s Nazi movement.”
I could just chalk it up to goofy 1960’s TV, and the fact that WWII had just ended less than twenty years prior, but this still goes on today. It was fresh When Edgar Rice Burroughs created the concept of Space Nazis way back in 1938, but it’s 2013. Don’t we have any modern socio-political issues that can be satirized in this way? Are we so worried as a society that we might offend someone that we can’t have space North Korea, Space Al Qaeda, or Space class warfare?
If you have any ideas for what can take the place of space Nazis, please sound off!