Utopia (British TV series)

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Utopia
Utopia - Capture d'écran.jpg
Also known asIwtopia (Wales)
Genre
Created byDennis Kelly
Based onAn original idea by
Huw Kennair-Jones
Mark Aldridge
Clare McDonald
Written byDennis Kelly
John Donnelly
Directed byMarc Munden
Wayne Yip
Alex Garcia Lopez
Sam Donovan
StarringAlexandra Roach
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Paul Higgins
Fiona O'Shaughnessy
Adeel Akhtar
Oliver Woollford
Neil Maskell
Geraldine James
Composer(s)Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes12 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Karen Wilson
Jane Featherstone
Dennis Kelly
Producer(s)Rebekah Wray-Rogers
Production location(s)Liverpool[1]
CinematographyOle Bratt Birkeland (season 1)
Lol Crawley (season 2)
Editor(s)Luke Dunkley
David Charap
Running time45–62 minutes
Production company(s)Kudos
DistributorEndemol Shine UK
Release
Original networkChannel 4
Picture format16:9 (1080i HDTV)
Original release15 January 2013 (2013-01-15) –
12 August 2014 (2014-08-12)
External links
Official website
Production website

Utopia is a British black comedy-conspiracy thriller drama television series that was broadcast on Channel 4 from 15 January 2013 to 12 August 2014.[2][3] The show was written by Dennis Kelly and starred Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, Oliver Woollford, Alistair Petrie and Neil Maskell.[4][5] A second six-episode series 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] It ended on 12 August 2014. The TV show has since gained a cult following, with some of its fans going as far as calling it "the best TV show ever created".

On 9 October 2014, the series' official Twitter feed (and Channel 4) stated there would not be a third series.[8][9] HBO had originally planned to make an American version of the show in 2014, which did not materialise due to budget disputes.

Amazon has since gained the rights to the series as of April 2018, and an American version of the show was in production throughout 2019, and is set to be released in the autumn of 2020.

Synopsis[edit]

Series Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 6 15 January 2013 19 February 2013
2 6 14 July 2014 12 August 2014

A community of comic book fans believe the graphic novel The Utopia Experiments predicted several disastrous epidemics, such as BSE. A rumoured unpublished sequel supposedly contains further information on future world events. When one Utopia enthusiast procures the manuscript, he invites four of his friends from an online forum to meet in real life. However, after getting their hands on the manuscript, the four — Ian, Becky, Wilson, and Grant — find themselves in over their heads, as a secret organisation only known as "The Network" is after it. They find their lives systematically dismantled, while Network operatives kill anyone in their way as they hunt for the manuscript and someone named Jessica Hyde.

Jessica, who has been on the run from The Network her entire life, meets with the group and helps them evade capture. Meanwhile, other characters find themselves ensnared in The Network's orbit, and through their interactions with its agents, the organisation's purpose and secret plot come into focus. The closer people come to understanding what's truly going on, the more dangerous things become. As rumors of "Russian flu" proliferate worldwide and a variety of groups and individuals close in on the protagonists, they try to solve the web of mysteries and conspiracies around them.

Cast[edit]

Main[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. Aine Garvey portrays a young Jessica.
  • Alexandra Roach as Becky, a post-grad student. Convinced there is a conspiracy surrounding her father's death connected to the Utopia manuscript, she is determined to find out the truth. She suffers from the mysterious "Deel's syndrome," for which she has been taking medication.[10]
  • Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Ian Johnson, an IT consultant who still lives with his mother.[11]
  • Adeel Akhtar as Wilson Wilson, a survivalist conspiracy theorist. He finds his loyalties divided as he learns more about The Network's plans.
  • Oliver Woollford as Grant Leetham, a troubled 11-year-old boy. Originally pretending to be an adult online, he ends up with the Utopia manuscript. He is later framed for a school shooting and forced to go on the run.
  • Paul Higgins as Michael Dugdale, a civil servant who finds himself blackmailed by The Network over his affair with a Russian sex worker.[12]
  • Neil Maskell as Arby, a Network agent searching for Jessica Hyde and the Utopia manuscript. He is unstable and emotionally disconnected.[13] Mason and Harley Rooney portray a Young Arby.
  • Geraldine James as Milner, an MI5 agent whom the group turns to for help. Rose Leslie portrays a younger Milner.

Recurring[edit]

  • Ian McDiarmid as 'Anton,' a confused old Romanian who is in fact the scientist Philip Carvel, long thought dead. Tom Burke portrays a younger Carvel.
  • Ruth Gemmell as Jen Dugdale, Michael's wife.
  • Emilia Jones as Alice Ward, a schoolgirl who becomes embroiled in the conspiracy after Grant meets her and hides the Utopia manuscript in her bedroom.
  • Alistair Petrie as Geoff Lawson, Secretary of State for Health and Michael's boss, an inside man for The Network.
  • Paul Ready as Lee, Arby's partner. He takes a special delight in interrogation and torture.
  • Simon McBurney (series 1) and Michael Maloney (season 2) as Christian Donaldson, a scientist whom Michael asks for help.
  • James Fox as Letts' Assistant (series 1–2). Ed Birch portrays a younger Assistant.
  • Stephen Rea as Conran Letts (series 1), part of a biological sciences company and apparent head of The Network.
  • Anna Madeley as Anya Levchenko (series 1), a Russian sex worker with whom Michael is having an affair.
  • Mark Stobbart as Bejan Chervo (series 1), the finder of the Utopia II manuscript who invites Ian, Becky, Grant and Wilson to meet him. Before he can do so, he is murdered by Arby and Lee.
  • Sylvestra Le Touzel as Leah Gorsand (series 2), CEO of Rochane Foundation, an NGO funding the Russian flu vaccine campaign, underwriting the cost for countries that cannot afford it.

Guest[edit]

  • Michael Smiley as Detective Inspector Joshua Reynolds (season 1), a police officer investigating Bejan's death.
  • Alan Bentley as Scientist (series 1–2). Ian Porter portrays a younger Scientist.
  • Eleanor Matsuura as Bev (series 1), Michael's colleague who signs off on the purchase of the Russian flu vaccine.
  • Gerard Monaco as Joe (series 1–2), Ian's colleague.
  • Anca-Ioana Androne as Brosca (series 2), Philip Carvel's wife.
  • Emil Hostina as Marius (series 2), a Romanian translator whom Becky, Grant, and Ian use to communicate with Anton/Philip Carvel.
  • Kevin Eldon as Tony Bradley (series 2), a scientist and author of a book on Deel's Syndrome.
  • William Attenborough as Tom (series 2), a member of a hacking collective member who assists the main characters.
  • Juliet Cowan as Bridget (series 2), a scientist colleague of Michael who notices discrepancies in government plans for the Russian flu vaccine.
  • Sacha Dhawan as Paul Simpson (series 2), a Network sleeper agent.
  • Steven Robertson as Terrence Truman (series 2), another Network sleeper agent.
  • David Calder as Dobri Gorski (series 2), Donaldson's former professor who attempted to fake his death to evade The Network.

Production[edit]

In April 2012, Channel 4 announced that it had commissioned a 6-episode drama series titled Utopia.[14] 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.[15]

Conception and development[edit]

Kudos Film and Television approached Kelly with an idea about a conspiracy hidden inside a graphic novel.[16] 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.[17] Kelly said he does not believe in conspiracy theories, but is fascinated by them.[18] The series took about two years to come to fruition.[17]

Post-production[edit]

To emulate the graphic novel printing process, Marc Munden chose to use a Technicolor palette: "The three-strip Technicolor process we use is comprised of the opposite colours – yellows, cyan, magentas. I was interested in Doris Day films from the 1950s that pushed those distinct elements." Colourist Aidan Farrell used grading software Nucoda Film Master to paint bolder colours into the shots. By the second series the production crew were pre-preparing the film sets for grading.[19]

Filming locations[edit]

Utopia is set in London, but was filmed mostly in Merseyside and Yorkshire between April and October 2012, while the panning shot of the Mercury Hotel in the first episode 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 such a variety of locations.[1] Some scenes, such as the office of Conran Letts, were filmed at Scarisbrick Hall near Ormskirk. 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 the fifth episode is filmed at TC's Cafe & Take-Away on Southport New Road near the village of Mere Brow.[20] Many scenes were filmed in Crosby and Skelmersdale. Scenes set in the office of a fictional newspaper were shot in the offices of the Liverpool Echo newspaper on Old Hall Street in Liverpool. 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, locations used included Barnsley Interchange in Barnsley, 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.[21][22] 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 in 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.[23] 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.[24]

Cancellation[edit]

Utopia was cancelled by Channel Four on the 12 August 2014. The network's official statement was:[25]

Utopia is truly channel-defining: strikingly original, powered by Dennis Kelly's extraordinary voice and brought to life in all its technicolor glory through Marc Munden's undeniable creative flair and vision, the team at Kudos delivered a series which has achieved fervent cult status over two brilliantly warped and nail-biting series. It also has the honour of ensuring audiences will never look at a spoon in the same way again. It’s always painful to say goodbye to shows we love, but it’s a necessary part of being able to commission new drama, a raft of which are launching on the channel throughout 2015.

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 secondary school.[30]

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.[24][31] 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."[32]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 2014, the series was nominated for and won the International Emmy Award for best drama series.[33][34]

Year Award Category Recipient Results Ref.
2013 RTS Craft & Design Awards Effects – Picture Enhancement Aidan Farrell Won [35]
Music – Original Score Cristobal Tapia de Veer Won [36]
Production Design – Drama Kristian Milsted Nominated [37]
2014 RTS Programme Awards Drama Series Utopia Nominated [38]
Writer – Drama Dennis Kelly Nominated [38]
BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer – Drama Dennis Kelly Nominated [39]
Photography And Lighting – Fiction Ole Birkeland Nominated [39]
Director – Fiction Marc Munden Nominated [39]
Digital Creativity TH_NK Nominated [39]
International Emmy Best Drama Series Utopia Won [34]
RTS Craft & Design Awards Costume Design – Drama Marianne Agertoft Nominated [40]
Effects – Picture Enhancement Aidan Farrell Nominated [40]
Music – Original Score Cristobal Tapia de Veer Nominated [40]
Production Design – Drama Jennifer Kernke Won [40]
Photography – Drama Lol Crawley Won [40]
2015 RTS Programme Awards Best Actor – Male Adeel Akhtar Nominated [41]
BAFTA TV Awards Supporting Actor Adeel Akhtar Nominated [39]

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[42][43]
DVD & Blu-ray
20 December 2013[44]
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 Yip & Alex Garcia
  • Deleted scenes[45][46]
2 6 14 July 2014 12 August 2014 18 August 2014[47]
Blu-ray in Germany only 26 June 2015[48]
TBA Deleted Scenes

Soundtrack[edit]

Utopia (Original Television Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Released7 October 2013
LabelSilva Screen Music

The series soundtrack was composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer.[49] 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".

Cristobal Tapia De Veer announced via Twitter that the Series 2 soundtrack was coming December 8. It was then released that day, and is now available on major music streaming services. It is also available for purchase as a CD/DVD.

  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]

In February 2014, HBO ordered an American adaptation of Utopia, to be co-created and directed by David Fincher, with Gillian Flynn as the writer.[50] Fincher planned on directing all episodes of the series, who said "I like the characters – I love Dennis’s honesty and affinity for the nerds."[51] In June 2015, it was announced that Rooney Mara was negotiating for the role of Jessica Hyde.[52] On July 30, 2015, it was reported that the series would not go into production because of budget disputes between Fincher and HBO, and that the cast had been released from their contracts.[53] After HBO lost rights to the project, Amazon ordered a nine-episode first season directly on April 19, 2018, with Flynn said to adapt the project from the original.[54]

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. ^ "C4 Utopia". Twitter. 9 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Utopia not renewed for third series, Channel 4 announces". BBC. 10 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Becky". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Ian". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Dugdale". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Utopia – Profiles – Arby". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  14. ^ Patrick Munn (21 April 2012). "Channel 4 Orders New Drama Series 'Utopia'". TV Wise.
  15. ^ "Channel 4 finds Utopia". Channel 4. 19 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Interview with Utopia writer Dennis Kelly". Channel 4. 19 December 2012.
  17. ^ a b Phil Harrison. "Interview: Dennis Kelly on 'Utopia'". TimeOut.
  18. ^ Ben Arnold (12 January 2013). "Utopia: inside Channel 4's new unsettling thriller". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Kelly, Stephen. "How TV series Utopia got its comic book look".
  20. ^ "'Utopia' filming in Mere Brow". Q Local Tarleton. 15 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Where Was Utopia Series 2 filmed? Our Production Services Team Have The Answers..." Creative England. 14 July 2014.
  22. ^ Nick Goundry (5 November 2013). "Utopia drama starts filming on location in York". The Location Guide.
  23. ^ Mark Lawson (14 July 2014). "The truth behind Utopia's wild conspiracy theories". The Guardian.
  24. ^ a b "Utopia: Channel 4 'will not change' drama depicting MP's death". BBC. 13 July 2014.
  25. ^ "Exclusive: C4's Utopia won't return for series 3". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  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 January 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. ^ Bruce Anderson (13 July 2014). "How dare Channel 4 defame Airey Neave's memory". The Daily Telegraph.
  32. ^ Ben Dowell (13 July 2014). "Channel 4 under fire over depiction of real politician's death in its drama Utopia". Radio Times.
  33. ^ "Olivia Colman and Utopia up for International Emmys". BBC News. 13 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  34. ^ a b "International Emmys: UK's 'Utopia' Wins Best Drama; Belgium's 'What If' Takes Comedy (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  35. ^ "RTS Craft and Design Awards: the winners". Televisual. 19 November 2013.
  36. ^ "Utopia Wins!". Silva Screen Records. 20 November 2013.
  37. ^ "RTS shortlist for craft and design awards 2012/2013". Royal Television Society. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  38. ^ a b "Winners Announced at RTS Programme Awards 2013". Royal Television Society. 18 March 2014.
  39. ^ a b c d e "BAFTA Awards Search". BAFTA.
  40. ^ a b c d e "RTS announces winners of the Craft & Design Awards 2013/14". Royal Television Society. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013.
  41. ^ "Programme Awards 2013 – 2014: The Winners". Royal Television Society. Archived from the original on 1 June 2015.
  42. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  43. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (Blu-ray)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  44. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD) [Australia/Region 4]". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  45. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD) [C4DVD10476]". Channel 4 Store. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  46. ^ "Utopia – Series 1 (Blu-ray) [C4BD50051]". Channel 4 Store. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  47. ^ "Utopia – Series 2 (DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  48. ^ "Utopia – Staffel 2 (Blu-ray)". Amazon.de. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  49. ^ "Utopia – Series 1". Archived from the original on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  50. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (12 February 2014). "'Utopia' Remake From 'Gone Girl's' David Fincher, Gillian Flynn Gets HBO Series Order". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  51. ^ Pierce, Nev. "David Fincher on Gone Girl: 'Bad Things Happen in This Movie...'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  52. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (30 June 2015). "Rooney Mara In Talks To Reteam With David Fincher For HBO Series 'Utopia' Playing Jessica Hyde". Indiewire. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  53. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (30 July 2015). "David Fincher HBO Pilot 'Utopia' In Jeopardy Over Budget Issues". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  54. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (19 April 2018). "Amazon Orders 'Utopia' Drama Series From Gillian Flynn Based On UK Format".

External links[edit]