TV PREVIEW: UTOPIA

9922efde-95c1-4517-866d-435136477fa8_200x113The Utopia Experiments is a legendary graphic novel shrouded in mystery. But when a small group of previously unconnected people – Ian, Becky, Grant and Wilson – find themselves in possession of an original manuscript, their lives suddenly and brutally implode.

Sounds good? Well Geek Syndicate has seen the first episode and here is what we thought:

It is a cold Thursday afternoon and I’m here at the Soho Hotel with fellow Geek Syndicate reporter Montoya to see the preview screening of a new Channel 4 series called Utopia due out next year. Produced by Kudos Film (Law & Order: UK, Spooks, Life on Mars), Utopia is a six part new series written by Dennis Kelly (BBC 3s Pulling & Co-Creator of Matilda the musical) and stars Nathan Stewart-Jarret (Misfits), Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady), Oliver Woolford (Blackout) and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions), Neil Maskell (Kill List), Paul Higgins (In The Loop), James Fox (A Passage to India), Geraldine James (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Simon MuBurney (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Fiona O’Shaughnessy (Outcast) and Michael Smilley (Kill List).

The series is about a small group of people who meet up on an internet forum about a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments. The novel is about a scientist who has made a deal with the devil, and it is supposed to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. However the group are not the only ones interested in the manuscript, as ‘The Network’ are also after it. The Network are a little like the Men in Black, government operatives who are happy to murder anyone who has knowledge of Utopia in order to keep it a secret. The strangers must therefore stand together to find out the truth about the Utopia manuscript and prevent themselves being next on The Network’s hit list.

Initially Utopia seemed to take a little while to get into the story, even with a hum-dinger of an opening, but once the group eventually meet then it really seemed to come into its own. With the series only being six parts, questions should be answered quickly with no drawing out the story. After the screening we were then treated to a Q&A with Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Dennis Kelly, and Director Marc Munden whose credits include The Crimson Petal and The White.

Alexandra and Nathan explained what drew them to the roles – both saying that they read all 6 scripts and decided that they had to do it! Dennis advised that Kodos initially came up with the idea of a conspiracy in a graphic novel, he added a ‘thriller element’, then wrote a story that focused on the ‘normal person’ and how they deal with the situation that they are thrown into. Exploring what the characters are prepared to do and how far they are willing to go.

When asked if there was any room to go past six parts, Dennis advised that whilst the initial series is a self contained story, they do have more to tell and have ideas about how to explore that further.

Utopia is out next year and I beg you to give it a try. This looks to be a new and intelligent series with no supernatural beings anywhere to be seen and is sure to keep us glued to our TV sets week after week. Roll on 2013! The first episode will air on 15th January 2013 so put the date in your diary now.

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When five online strangers are drawn together by the legendary manuscript of a cult graphic novel, they find themselves pursued by a secret and deadly organisation known only as The Network. The online comic book forum agree to meet after gaining possession of the original manuscript for the cult graphic novel ‘The Utopia Experiments’. Unbeknown to them however, a shadowy organisation known as The Network is in pursuit of the manuscript – and they are prepared to kill to track it down.

While three of the forum members – Ian (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), an I.T. dropout; Becky (Alexandra Roach), a student; and Wilson (Adeel Akhtar), a conspiracy theorist – meet in the pub, another is confronted and killed by two Network henchmen. The only witness to the murder is 11-year-old Grant (Oliver Woollford) – the fifth forum member – and when he flees with the manuscript, the henchmen give chase.

Ian and Becky soon find they’ve been set-up for crimes they haven’t committed, while Wilson’s hacking skills attract the attention of Network henchmen Arby (Neil Maskill) and Lee (Paul Ready). As the trio’s lives begin to fracture, the world of civil servant Michael Dugdale (Paul Higgins) is also torn apart as he is blackmailed by The Network over his affair with a prostitute.

Just as things are looking increasingly desperate for Ian, Becky and Wilson, they come face to face with an enigmatic stranger who claims to offer them a way out. Writer: Dennis Kelly; Prod: Rebekah Wray-Roper; Dir: Marc Munden; Exec Prods: Karen Wilson, Jane Featherstone, Dennis Kelly; Prod Co: Kudos Film and Television

Reporters: Wendy, Montoya

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