Utopia (UK TV series)

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Utopia
Utopia - Capture d'écran.jpg
Genre Thriller, Drama
Created by Dennis Kelly
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden
Wayne Che Yip
Alex Garcia Lopez
Starring Alexandra Roach
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Paul Higgins
Fiona O'Shaughnessy
Adeel Akhtar
Steven Robertson
Oliver Woollford
Neil Maskell
Paul Ready
Geraldine James
Ian McDiarmid
James Fox
Michael Smiley
Composer(s) Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 12 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Karen Wilson
Jane Featherstone
Dennis Kelly
Producer(s) Rebekah Wray-Rogers
Editor(s) Luke Dunkley
David Charap
Location(s) Liverpool[1]
Cinematography Ole Bratt Birkeland (Series 1)
Lol Crawley (Series 2)
Running time 60-70 minutes (including advertisements)
Production company(s) Kudos Film and Television
Broadcast
Original channel Channel 4
Original run 15 January 2013 (2013-01-15) – present
Chronology
Related shows Utopia (U.S. TV series)
External links
Official website
Production website

Utopia is a British conspiracy thriller that debuted on Channel 4 on 15 January 2013.[2][3] The show is written by Dennis Kelly and stars Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, Oliver Woollford, and Neil Maskell.[4][5] A second six-part series of Utopia was commissioned by Channel 4 and went into production in late 2013.[6] Series 2 started airing with a double-bill spread over two nights on Monday 14 July and Tuesday 15 July 2014.[7] Kelly stated in June 2014 that a 3rd and 4th series were being mooted.[8] The second series ended on the 12th August 2014

Plot[edit]

The story follows a small group of people who find themselves in possession of the manuscript sequel of a cult graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments which is rumoured to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. This leads them to be targeted by an organisation known as "The Network", which they must avoid to survive. Using the manuscript, they must uncover the meaning hidden in its pages before the disasters depicted become reality.[9]

Cast[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Fiona O'Shaughnessy as Jessica Hyde, a woman who has been on the run from The Network for as long as she can remember. Her father, Philip Carvel, created the Utopia manuscripts.[10]
  • Alexandra Roach as Becky, a soon-to-be post-grad student. Her mother died when she was young; in her late teens, her father contracted a mysterious illness. Convinced there is a conspiracy surrounding her father's death connected to the Utopia manuscript, she is determined to find out the truth. She is revealed to have the mysterious Deel's syndrome, for which she has been taking medication to stop the symptoms.[11]
  • Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Ian Johnson, an IT consultant in his late twenties, who still lives with his mother.[12]
  • Adeel Akhtar as Wilson Wilson, a survivalist geek and a conspiracy nerd. He is tortured by Arby and Lee on Jessica's whereabouts and has his right eye gouged out with a spoon by Lee. After learning of what Janus' true purpose is from Letts, he begins to doubt whether or not the group is right and eventually chooses to side with the Network.
  • Oliver Woollford as Grant Leetham, a troubled 11-year-old boy. Originally pretending to be 24 years old on the forum the group first contact each other on, Grant ends up with the Utopia manuscript which he later hides with Alice, a girl he meets. He is later framed for a mass murder at a school by Arby and is forced to go on the run.
  • Paul Higgins as Michael Dugdale, a senior civil servant who, while having an affair with Anya, a Russian prostitute, gets her pregnant. As a result, he is blackmailed by members of The Network and is forced to complete tasks for them.[13]
  • Neil Maskell as Arby, a killer for the Network who is searching for Jessica Hyde and the Utopia manuscript. Arby's name is later revealed to be initials for "Raisin Boy", with his real name being Pietre. At the end of Series 1, it is also revealed that he is actually Carvel's son - and therefore Jessica's brother - who underwent experiments that left him traumatised and emotionally disconnected.[14]
  • Geraldine James as Milner (Series 1-2), an MI5 agent and member of the Network whom the group turn to for help. It is later revealed that she is actually a senior figure within the Network and had been acting as a triple agent all along in order to capture Jessica Hyde. Rose Leslie plays a younger Milner.

Recurring cast[edit]

  • Ian McDiarmid as Philip Carvel, a confused old man with the name 'Anton' who is revealed to be Phillip Carvel, long thought dead. Tom Burke plays a younger Carvel.
  • Ruth Gemmell as Jen Dugdale, Michael's wife. She was undergoing IVF treatment in an attempt to conceive a child. After she was informed her husband impregnated a prostitute, she decided to adopt the baby. After the prostitute is revealed to be a Network agent, Dugdale and Jen adopt Alice.
  • Emilia Jones as Alice Ward, a school girl Grant meets and who later hides the Utopia manuscript in her bedroom. Arby kills her mother after attempting to retrieve the manuscript.
  • Alistair Petrie as Geoff (Series 1-2), a politician and Secretary of State for Health. Michael's boss, he is also an inside man for The Network.
  • Paul Ready as Lee (Series 1-2), a killer for the Network who works alongside Arby as his partner. He is responsible for torturing Wilson and gouging out his eye with a spoon, and it appears that he is fatally wounded after Wilson escapes and shoots him. However, at the beginning of Season 2, it is instead revealed that he survived, albeit with severe lung and nerve damage, the latter of which has disabled the use of his left arm.
  • Simon McBurney (series 1) and Michael Maloney (series 2) as Donaldson, a scientist who Michael Dugdale asks for help. He is killed by Lee for knowing too much about The Network.
  • James Fox as The Assistant (Series 1-2), the Assistant to Letts, apparent head of Corvadt Industries, and member of The Network. Ed Birch portrays a younger Assistant.
  • Stephen Rea as Conran Letts (Series 1), part of the Corvadt biological sciences company and apparent head of The Network.
  • Anna Madeley As Anya Levchenko (series 1), a Russian prostitute who Michael impregnates after having an affair. She is revealed to be working for The Network and is killed by Michael.
  • Michael Smiley as Detective Reynolds (Series 1), a police officer who disregards Bejan's death as suicide.
  • Mark Stobbart as Bejan Chervo (series 1), the original owner of the Utopia II manuscript who asks Ian, Becky, Grant and Wilson to meet up with him. Before he can do so, he is pushed from the balcony of his flat and killed by Arby and Lee, an event Grant witnesses.

Production[edit]

In April 2012, Channel 4 announced that it had commissioned a 6-episode drama series titled Utopia.[15] The series was written by Dennis Kelly and produced by Kudos Film and Television. Marc Munden was chosen as the director, Rebekah Wray-Rogers the producer, and Dennis Kelly, Jane Featherstone and Karen Wilson the executive producers.[16]

Conception and development[edit]

Kudos Film & TV approached the writer Dennis Kelly with an idea about a conspiracy hidden inside a graphic novel.[17] Kelly liked some of the idea, but changed some of the others. The story involved a shadowy organisation called The Network, and Kelly initially came out with an idea that The Network might be responsible for the rise in conspiracy theories because they thought it would be the best way to hide an actual conspiracy.[18] Kelly said he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, however he is fascinated by them.[19] The series took about two years to come to fruition.[18]

Filming locations[edit]

Utopia is set in London, but was filmed mostly in Merseyside and West Lancashire between April and October 2012, while the panning shot of the Mercury Hotel in episode 1 was filmed in Westhoughton. Producer Bekki Wray-Rogers claimed the reason for this was that no other area in the UK could have provided them with as much of a variety of locations.[1] Some scenes, such as the office of Conran Letts, were filmed at Scarisbrick Hall in Ormskirk.[20] Scenes for the school shooting in episode 3 were filmed at Alsop High School in Walton whilst the school was closed for summer in July 2012. The empty red sandstone stately home the group make use of from episode 4 is filmed at Woolton Hall. The café scene in episode 5 is filmed at TC's Cafe & Take-Away on Southport New Road near the village of Mere Brow.[21] Many scenes were filmed in Crosby and Skelmersdale. The final scene of the series, with Jessica and Milner, was shot atop the Cunard Building, one of Liverpool's three graces.

In the second series, location used included Temple Works in Leeds, The Chocolate Works in York, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and various spots in Leeds City Centre.[22][23] The scene in which Mr Rabbit and Philip Carvel meet was filmed at Allerton Castle near Harrogate. The abandoned building in the second episode of series 2 was shot in Abbotsford School, The Gorbals, Glasgow.

Referencing real world events[edit]

The TV drama referenced a number of real world events, and incorporated these events into the story of the conspiracy. In the second series, the show used various news footage from the 1970s including the assassinations of Aldo Moro, Carmine Pecorelli, Richard Sykes, and Airey Neave.[24] The TWA Flight 841 disaster is also referenced in this episode. In particular, several events from a 10-day period in 1979, including the Three Mile Island accident and the collapse of the Labour government, had been combined as a jumping off point for the second series.[25]

Reception[edit]

The first series was generally well received by the critics, with some high praise for its striking visuals, but also some expressions of concern about its violence. Aidan Smith of The Scotsman noted both its "astonishing visuals" as well as its "astonishing violence",[26] while Tom Sutcliffe of The Independent thought it a dystopian fantasy "delivered with great visual style" but was not convinced that its violence is necessary.[27] Mark Monahan of The Daily Telegraph described it as "a dark, tantalisingly mysterious overture",[28] while Sam Wollaston of The Guardian called it "a work of brilliant imagination", "a 21st-century nightmare" that "looks beautiful", but also wondered about the gratuitousness of its violence.[29]

Controversy[edit]

UK media regulator Ofcom received 44 complaints about the television series including complaints about violence, offensive language and child actors being involved in scenes of adult content. Thirty seven of the complaints related to a scene at the beginning of the third episode where a shooting takes place in a primary school.[30] Channel 4 also received 28 complaints about the scene. It was aired a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, USA. A spokesman for Channel 4 responded, "Channel 4 thought very carefully about continuing with the planned broadcast of Utopia. The drama is in no way based on real events, and the scenes featuring violence are editorially justified within the context of the storyline. All material has been carefully considered in accordance with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and we were satisfied that, appropriately scheduled in a late night slot at 10pm and preceded by clear on-air warnings about the graphic violence and very strong language, it could be broadcast as planned."[31]

In the second series, the use of real life events including the assassination of Airey Neave prompted criticisms of the show by a number of people, including members of the murdered politician's family.[25][32][33] In response, Channel 4 issued a statement and said that the drama series is "entirely fictional" and "it is not [Channel 4's] intention to cause offence and Utopia does not suggest that any other real organisation was responsible for the death of Airey Neave."[34]

Release[edit]

DVD/Blu-ray[edit]

Series Episodes Original air dates DVD/Blu-ray release dates and details
Series premiere Series finale Region 2/B Region 4 Special features
1 6 15 January 2013 19 February 2013 11 March 2013[35][36]
DVD & Blu-ray
20 December 2013[37]
DVD only
  • Audio commentary on episode one with Dennis Kelly (writer), Marc Munden (director) and Rebekah Wray-Rogers (producer)
  • The World of Utopia – with writer Dennis Kelly
  • Fly on the Wall of director Marc Munden filming
  • Analysis of stunt scene with directors Wayne Yipp & Alex Garcia
  • Deleted scenes[38][39]
2 6 14 July 2014 12 August 2014 18 August 2014[40]
DVD only
TBA

Soundtrack[edit]

Utopia (Original Television Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Released 7 October 2013
Label Silva Screen Music

The series soundtrack was composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer.[41] The album entitled Utopia (Original Television Soundtrack) was released 7 October 2013, on both CD and MP3 download by Silva Screen Music. In August 2014 a contest was announced on Facebook to create a remix of the "Utopia Overture".

  1. "Utopia Overture" (3:32)
  2. "The Network" (3:21)
  3. "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 1)" (2:17)
  4. "Mr. Rabbit's Game" (1:05)
  5. "Conspiracy (Pt. 1)" (2:53)
  6. "Meditative Chaos" (3:10)
  7. "A New Brand of Drug" (2:13)
  8. "Samba De Wilson" (2:15)
  9. "Slivovitz" (1:43)
  10. "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 1)" (1:01)
  11. "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 1)" (3:39)
  12. "Arby's Oratorio" (1:38)
  13. "Jessica Gets Off" (3:18)
  14. "Mr. Rabbit It Is" (2:51)
  15. "Lovechild" (1:03)
  16. "Mind Vortex" (2:48)
  17. "Twat" (2:02)
  18. "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 2)" (3:16)
  19. "Fertility Control" (1:50)
  20. "Janus Saves" (2:51)
  21. "Evil Prevails" (2:55)
  22. "Conspiracy (Pt. 2)" (4:56)
  23. "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 2)" (1:28)
  24. "Utopia Descent" (2:42)
  25. "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 2)" (4:08)
  26. "Utopia's Death Cargo" (1:38)
  27. "The Experiment" (6:16)
  28. "Utopia Finale" (2:35)

American adaptation[edit]

HBO has ordered an American adaptation of Utopia, to be co-created and directed by David Fincher.[42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Liverpool Film Location, Liverpool Film Office". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Utopia, Channel 4, review". Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  3. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (31 December 2012). "Ten TV shows to get you through the winter". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Arnold, Ben (12 January 2013). "Utopia: inside Channel 4's new unsettling thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (15 January 2013). "Utopia: They're coming to get you". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Brown, Maggie (18 March 2013). "Channel 4 commissions Utopia second series". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Utopia – official site". Channel 4. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  8. ^ http://www.denofgeek.com/tv/utopia/30968/utopia-creator-has-fingers-crossed-for-series-3
  9. ^ "Channel 4 finds Utopia". Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Jessica Hyde". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  11. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Becky". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Ian". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Dugdale". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Arby". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Patrick Munn (21 April 2012). "Channel 4 Orders New Drama Series ‘Utopia’". TV Wise. 
  16. ^ "Channel 4 finds Utopia". Channel 4. 2012-04-19. 
  17. ^ "Interview with Utopia writer Dennis Kelly". Channel 4. 2012-12-19. 
  18. ^ a b Phil Harrison. "Interview: Dennis Kelly on 'Utopia'". TimeOut. 
  19. ^ Ben Arnold (12 January 2013). "Utopia: inside Channel 4's new unsettling thriller". The Guardian. 
  20. ^ Joe Hubris (7 February 2013). "I Have Seen the Promised Land Tuesday Night on Channel 4: A Review of Utopia". Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  21. ^ "'Utopia' filming in Mere Brow". Q Local Tarleton. 2012-10-15. 
  22. ^ "Where Was Utopia Series 2 filmed? Our Production Services Team Have The Answers...". Creative England. 14 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Nick Goundry (5 November 2013). "Utopia drama starts filming on location in York". The Location Guide. 
  24. ^ Mark Lawson (14 July 2014). "The truth behind Utopia's wild conspiracy theories". The Guardian. 
  25. ^ a b "Utopia: Channel 4 'will not change' drama depicting MP's death". BBC. 13 July 2014. 
  26. ^ "TV review: Complicit, The Brits, Utopia". The Scotsman. 24 February 2013. 
  27. ^ Tom Sutcliffe (16 January 2013). "Last night's viewing - Utopia, Channel 4; Yes, Prime Minister, Gold". 
  28. ^ Mark Monahan (15 Jan 2013). "Utopia, Channel 4, review". The Daily Telegraph. 
  29. ^ "Sam Wollaston". The Guardian. 16 January 2013. 
  30. ^ "Utopia child star's mother defends violent plots". Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  31. ^ "Outrage as Channel 4 drama Utopia features gun massacre in primary school barely a month after Sandy Hook tragedy". Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  32. ^ Adam Lee-Potter (12 July 2014). "Fury over Channel 4 insult to MP killed by the IRA: Family of Colditz escapee and war hero Airey Neave demand TV series is axed". Daily Mail. 
  33. ^ Bruce Anderson (13 Jul 2014). "How dare Channel 4 defame Airey Neave's memory". The Daily Telegraph. 
  34. ^ Ben Dowell (13 July 2014). "Channel 4 under fire over depiction of real politician’s death in its drama Utopia". Radio Times. 
  35. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  36. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (Blu-ray)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  37. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD) [Australia/Region 4]". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  38. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD) [C4DVD10476]". Channel 4 Store. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  39. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (Blu-ray) [C4BD50051]". Channel 4 Store. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  40. ^ "Utopia – Series 2 (DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  41. ^ "Utopia – Series 1". 
  42. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (February 12, 2014). "'Utopia' Remake From 'Gone Girl's' David Fincher, Gillian Flynn Gets HBO Series Order". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 

External links[edit]