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)