Utopia (British TV series)
Utopia is a British thriller drama action television series that was broadcast on Channel 4 from 15 January 2013 to 12 August 2014. 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. A second six-episode series was commissioned by Channel 4 and went into production in late 2013. Series 2 started airing with a double-bill spread over two nights on Monday 14 July and Tuesday 15 July 2014. It ended on 12 August 2014.
|Also known as||Iwtopia (Wales)|
|Created by||Dennis Kelly|
|Based on||An original idea by|
|Written by||Dennis Kelly|
|Directed by||Marc Munden|
Wayne Che Yip
Alex Garcia Lopez
|Composer(s)||Cristobal Tapia de Veer|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||12 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Karen Wilson|
|Cinematography||Ole Bratt Birkeland (season 1)|
Lol Crawley (season 2)
|Running time||45–62 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Kudos Film and Television|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Picture format||16:9 (1080i HDTV)|
|Original release||15 January 2013 –|
12 August 2014
On 9 October 2014, the series' official Twitter feed (and later by Channel 4) stated there would not be a third series. HBO had originally planned to make an American version of the show in 2014, which did not materialize due to budget disputes. Amazon has since gained the rights to the series as of April 2018, and an American version of the show is in production as of 2019.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||15 January 2013||19 February 2013|
|2||6||14 July 2014||12 August 2014|
The plot centres around a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments. It is rumoured to have predicted some disastrous epidemics (like BSE) in the past. There is an unpublished sequel which contains even more pertinent information for the survival of humankind. Various groups and people want this manuscript, some to find out the hidden truths in it, others to cover up conspiracies and secret identities.
On their search for the manuscript, two hitmen kill anyone who is in their way, children and adults alike, always also asking "Where is Jessica Hyde?". In an online forum for fans of The Utopia Experiment, five people decide to meet in real life and to discuss the manuscript. Only three of them – post-grad student Becky, IT consultant Ian and Wilson Wilson – actually find their way to the pub. Meanwhile, at the Ministry, civil servant Michael Dugdale is blackmailed because of his affair with a Russian prostitute. And there are discussions about an order for a vaccine against Russian flu.
Gradually, it becomes clear that an organisation called The Network is behind the killings and the hunt for the manuscript. Jessica Hyde tracks down the comic fans and teaches them how to hide efficiently and professionally. She and the 11-year old Grant manage to get hold of the manuscript. The group tries to find its hidden secrets: about a research project called Janus and about the identity of Mr. Rabbit, the head of The Network. While putting more and more pieces of this giant jigsaw puzzle of mysteries and conspiracies together, they meet Dugdale and MI5 agent Milner, not sure whether they can trust them.
It turns out that Jessica is the daughter of the author of the graphic novel and the manuscript, Philip Carvel. Carvel was a scientist who developed the protein "Janus" that would sterilise the human race – his solution to avoid the problems associated with overpopulation. The code for Janus is hidden in the manuscript. The Network wants to fulfil Carvel's plan and sterilise 90–95% of the world population. They have created a similar protein, but it is not certain whether it works. Anyway, they put the sterilising protein in a vaccine for the Russian flu whose epidemic outbreak is gripping the nation in fear and panic. When the department of health orders the vaccine for the British population at large, Jessica Hyde and the group of four must try to stop the Network before Janus is released. But is this really beneficial to humanity?
The series is a dystopian thriller which addresses many issues of the Anthropocene, such as overpopulation and the running out of resources, and combines it with contemporary anxieties about surveillance, epidemics and global conspiracies.
- 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. It is later revealed that she also carried the Janus protein in her. Aine Garvey portrays a young Jessica.
- 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.
- Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Ian Johnson, an IT consultant in his late twenties, who still lives with his mother.
- Adeel Akhtar as Wilson Wilson, a survivalist geek and conspiracy theorist. 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.
- 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 season one, it is also revealed that he is actually Carvel's son – and therefore Jessica's brother – who underwent experiments to suppress violent tendencies that left him traumatised and emotionally disconnected. Mason and Harley Rooney portray a Young Arby.
- Geraldine James as Milner, 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. At the end of season 1, she is revealed to be Mr. Rabbit, the real head of The Network. She is later shot and killed by Grant. Rose Leslie portrays a younger Milner.
- Ian McDiarmid as a confused old man from Romania named 'Anton', who is revealed to be Phillip Carvel, long thought dead. Tom Burke portrays 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 Lawson (season 1–2), a politician and Secretary of State for Health. Michael Dugdale's boss, he is also an inside man for The Network. He is later poisoned by The Network for attempting to blackmail them.
- Paul Ready as Lee (season 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. At the end of Season 2, he is killed by Wilson as an act of revenge for his taunting and torture.
- Simon McBurney (season 1) and Michael Maloney (season 2) as Christian 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 (season 1–2), the Assistant to Letts, apparent head of Corvadt Industries, and member of The Network. He is stabbed with a makeshift knife by Grant at the end of Series 1. Ed Birch portrays a younger Assistant. He is shown to have assumed the cover of Mr. Rabbit, the supposed shadowy head behind The Network who is pulling the strings behind the conspiracy to sterilise the world population and the search for the manuscript inside which is hidden the identity of Mr. Rabbit as well as the formula for the protein Janus which is the key to the sterilisation serum.
- Stephen Rea as Conran Letts (season 1), part of the Corvadt biological sciences company and apparent head of The Network. He is apparently killed when his assistant orders Geoff Lawson to kill him but the act itself is implied and not shown onscreen.
- Anna Madeley as Anya Levchenko (season 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.
- Mark Stobbart as Bejan Chervo (season 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.
- Sylvestra Le Touzel as Leah Gorsand (season 2), CEO of Rochane Foundation, an NGO who fund The Network's v-day Russian flu vaccine campaign underwriting the cost for countries that cannot afford it.
- Michael Smiley as Detective Inspector Joshua Reynolds (season 1), a police officer who disregards Bejan's death as suicide and is killed by Arby after submitting a report about Wilson.
- Alan Bentley as Scientist (season 1–2). Ian Porter portrays a younger Scientist.
- Eleanor Matsuura as Bev (season 1), Michael Dugdale's colleague who signs off the purchase of the Russian flu vaccine.
- Gerard Monaco as Joe (season 1–2), Ian's colleague who is killed by Lee after he is sceptical of Lee's police officer impersonation.
- Anca-Ioana Androne as Brosca (season 2), Phillip Carvel's wife, and Arby and Jessica's mother.
- Emil Hostina as Marius (season 2), a Romanian translator that Becky, Grant and Ian use to communicate with Anton/Phillip Carvill. He is killed by Arby after Arby finds out Anton is his father.
- Kevin Eldon as Tony Bradley (season 2), a scientist and author of a book on Deel's Syndrome, published from information obtained from Anton/Phillip Carvill who has been living in his basement.
- William Attenborough as Tom (season 2), an Internet hacking collective member, who Arby leads the gang for help in finding out about Janus. After he provides Arby with three new identities, Arby kills him and his parents.
- Juliet Cowan as Bridget (season 2), a scientist who notices the vaccine dates are wrong, pulls previous reports, finds an exact match with another vaccine, runs tests on a sample before appearing to be killed by two Network agents.
- Sacha Dhawan as Paul Simpson (season 2), one of "three Network agents" trained to release Russian flu before V Day, if chosen. He is killed by Lee after it is revealed that the vaccine does not work.
- Steven Robertson as Terrence Truman (season 2), the Network agent who is instructed by Milner to release Russian flu but is killed by Ian.
- David Calder as Dobri Gorski (season 2), Donalson's former professor who trained the "three Network agents" and attempts to fake his death to evade The Network but is killed by Terrence whilst being detained in a prison cell.
In April 2012, Channel 4 announced that it had commissioned a 6-episode drama series titled Utopia. 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.
Conception and development
Kudos Film & TV approached the writer Dennis Kelly with an idea about a conspiracy hidden inside a graphic novel. 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. Kelly said he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, but is fascinated by them. The series took about two years to come to fruition.
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
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 as much of a variety of locations. 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. 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. 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
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. 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.
Utopia was cancelled by Channel Four on the 12 August 2014. The network's official statement was:
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.
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", 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. Mark Monahan of The Daily Telegraph described it as "a dark, tantalisingly mysterious overture", 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.
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. 37 of the complaints related to a scene at the beginning of the third episode where a shooting takes place in a secondary school. 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."
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. 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."
Awards and nominations
In 2014, the series was nominated for and won the International Emmy Award for best drama series.
|2013||RTS Craft & Design Awards||Effects – Picture Enhancement||Aidan Farrell||Won|
|Music – Original Score||Cristobal Tapia de Veer||Won|
|Production Design – Drama||Kristian Milsted||Nominated|
|2014||RTS Programme Awards||Drama Series||Utopia||Nominated|
|Writer – Drama||Dennis Kelly||Nominated|
|BAFTA TV Craft Awards||Writer – Drama||Dennis Kelly||Nominated|
|Photography And Lighting – Fiction||Ole Birkeland||Nominated|
|Director – Fiction||Marc Munden||Nominated|
|International Emmy||Best Drama Series||Utopia||Won|
|RTS Craft & Design Awards||Costume Design – Drama||Marianne Agertoft||Nominated|
|Effects – Picture Enhancement||Aidan Farrell||Nominated|
|Music – Original Score||Cristobal Tapia de Veer||Nominated|
|Production Design – Drama||Jennifer Kernke||Won|
|Photography – Drama||Lol Crawley||Won|
|2015||RTS Programme Awards||Best Actor – Male||Adeel Akhtar||Nominated|
|BAFTA TV Awards||Supporting Actor||Adeel Akhtar||Nominated|
|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
DVD & Blu-ray
|20 December 2013
|2||6||14 July 2014||12 August 2014||18 August 2014
Blu-ray in Germany only 26 June 2015
|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. 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's also available for purchase as a CD/DVD.
- "Utopia Overture" (3:32)
- "The Network" (3:21)
- "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 1)" (2:17)
- "Mr. Rabbit's Game" (1:05)
- "Conspiracy (Pt. 1)" (2:53)
- "Meditative Chaos" (3:10)
- "A New Brand of Drug" (2:13)
- "Samba De Wilson" (2:15)
- "Slivovitz" (1:43)
- "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 1)" (1:01)
- "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 1)" (3:39)
- "Arby's Oratorio" (1:38)
- "Jessica Gets Off" (3:18)
- "Mr. Rabbit It Is" (2:51)
- "Lovechild" (1:03)
- "Mind Vortex" (2:48)
- "Twat" (2:02)
- "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 2)" (3:16)
- "Fertility Control" (1:50)
- "Janus Saves" (2:51)
- "Evil Prevails" (2:55)
- "Conspiracy (Pt. 2)" (4:56)
- "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 2)" (1:28)
- "Utopia Descent" (2:42)
- "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 2)" (4:08)
- "Utopia's Death Cargo" (1:38)
- "The Experiment" (6:16)
- "Utopia Finale" (2:35)
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. 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." In June 2015, it was announced that Rooney Mara was negotiating for the role of Jessica Hyde. On July 30, 2015, it was reported that the series would not go into production due to budget disputes between Fincher and HBO, and that the cast had been released from their contracts. After HBO seems to have 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.
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- Andreeva, Nellie (19 April 2018). "Amazon Orders 'Utopia' Drama Series From Gillian Flynn Based On UK Format".
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