Shows such as Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and the futuristic, bleakly brilliant Black Mirror, alongside the insane not so super heroics in Misfits all share the same themes and tone – most definitely a shade or fifty darker than the other channel’s content.
Utopia takes things to a deeper level in more ways than one, offering the viewer a six part thriller as terrifying as it is terrific.
The story centres around a graphic novel entitled ‘The Utopia Experiments’ which is written and illustrated by a mental patient. This novel seemingly predicts the worst disasters in the last century as well as a whole lot more.
Worshiped and discussed by various people online all fixated with The Utopia Experiments and its meanings, one member of a particular forum claims he is in possession of the second part of the story and asks four of the other obsessives – unconnected by anything other than their passion – to meet him and see it.
Driven by their interest and fascination, these strangers become fast friends when the owner of the manuscript is murdered by a shadowy group called The Network who begin to pursue the others in hopes of securing the second part for themselves.
On the run from evil men who will do anything to get what they want, the group must do all they can to stay alive and discover the secrets behind the book that links them all together.
From the first episode which starts with mass murder in a comic shop and ends with a particularly nasty and graphic scene of eye torture, Utopia is as dark and rich as 20 pints of Guinness, and is just as unsettling.
Although the series may deal with science fiction and horror themes, packed full of conspiracy theories and cover ups, its grounding in reality is what gives it an edge and makes it all the more disturbing. The series does an amazing job of making sure that the audience is on the edge of its seat all the way through each episode.
Filled with visceral violence and gripping tension creator Dennis Kelly has managed to create a highly original story with some equally inventive characters, This includes Alexandra Roach’s Becky, Misfits’ Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Ian and the excellent Adeel Akhtar as Wilson Wilson – all of whom incite and engage the audiences sympathies, as well as injecting some much needed humour into the thriller.
Added to great cast above is Stephen Rea, Michael Smiley, James Fox, Paul Higgins and Kill List’s Neil Maskell, playing the awesomely evil Arby, one of the most disconcerting and menacing characters on TV in recent years.
Brilliantly filmed, full of static, flat, almost portrait shots of urban decay and city surroundings, Utopia is as visually rich as it is creatively inspired. The captivating story and series demands repeat viewing.
Dark, disturbing but utterly compelling, Utopia proves yet again that Channel 4 are on the forefront of modern television. And with the DVD and Blu-Ray release packed full of extras you don’t need a future prophesising comic to tell you this is a perfect purchase.