‘Utopia’ Series 1 DVD Review

A thrilling, yet paranoid ride from Dennis Kelly

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As a DVD this series works on a different level completely to if you had watched it on consecutive weeks when it aired on Channel 4. Mainly due to the mind-bending yet gripping nature of the story that leads you to wonder what the hell is going on half the time. But as the series progresses and the pieces fit together it’s an inspired piece of writing from writer and creator Dennis Kelly.

The story is based on a small group of fans / conspiracy theorists of a detailed graphic novel called ‘The Utopia Experiments,’ who come across a second unpublished manuscript which was written by its author, a dead scientist who was in a psychiatric hospital. An organisation known as The Network will do ANYTHING to get it and locate the daughter of the scientist, Jessica Hyde who has been on the run since she was a child.

There’s four plot arcs running through that all link together through their quest for survival or retrieval on the manuscript; Jessica Hyde (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) who wants to find out what her father was really like; Wilson, Becky, Ian and Grant (and later Alice) the cult followers who discover the manuscript and thus have to leave everything they know and go on the run; Arby, who is the network’s killer whose story is more than it would initially seem; And then there’s Michael Dugdale a senior civil servant being blackmailed by the politicians involved in the network. The stories come together leaving you in no doubt a second series must be on the cards.

However, there’s no doubt Utopia is not an easy watch, it’s brutally violent in places, the killing of children (although not seen) is shocking as is the scenes of torture. However the opening sequence ensures you will be gripped straight away even if it’s an uncomfortable watch in places. Visually there’s not another series like Utopia currently. The series is shot almost cinematically, visually the cinematography and colours are stunning. Almost like the vibrancy of a graphic novel. If you don’t like blue, yellow or green though you’ll need to adapt very quick.

There are a few lapses in judgement; conspiracy theories, spies and apocalyptic stories are nothing new, but in this thriller made by the production company Kudos, you’ll see many traits you will recognise from their previous series ‘Spooks’ (which is even referenced at one point), like the continuation of “how far do you go to protect the greater good” and ‘no one is safe mentality’ which makes it harder to invest in the characters if you know their chance of survival is slim to none. Also the music can at times encroach too much on the action which can be irritating.

The cast act their parts brilliantly especially Paul Higgins (Dugdale), Neil Maskell (Arby), Geraldine James (Milner), Alexandra Roach (Becky), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Ian) and the talented young Oliver Woollford (Grant). It’s one of those series, the more you watch, the more you notice and inevitably leads you to more questions. The biggest one of all being: Is there really a possibility of truth or is it all another whisper that’s grew into a conspiracy? Either way Utopia successfully keeps you enthralled, gets you thinking and talking about the possibilities.

The DVD extra’s include:

  • The World of Utopia – with Dennis Kelly
  • Fly on the Wall of Director Marc Munden filming
  • Analysis of stunt scene with Directors Wayne Yipp & Alex Garcia
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary on Episode one with Dennis Kelly (writer), Mark Munden (Director) and Rebekah Wray-Rogers (Producer).

4stars1

 

 

‘Utopia’ is out to buy on DVD from today, [11, March 2013].