What do you get when you combine six strangers, a prophetic graphic novel from a scientist in an asylum, and a tragically comic battle against the impending genocide of humanity?- One hell of a TV show.
Perhaps one of the most criminally underrated TV series’ of the 21st century, Utopia, in it’s two-season run, sent its humble number of viewers on a novel ride through an impending apocalypse. With a bright yellow poster, a damaged serial killer and a plot that’s harder to define than Mr. Nobody, Utopia was every inch the quintessence of quirky that TV viewers desperately needed.
A group of unlikely nerds find themselves in possession of an unpublished comic book manuscript which is rumoured to explain the origin of a mysterious illness. They soon find themselves pursued by a dogged assassin, a shady pharmaceutical company and a weird young woman determined to bring it all crashing down.
And as for that elusive genre? Well, simply put, it’s a top-quality conspiracy thriller, with a surprising sense of humour.
The moments of real humour are juxtaposed, with a sense of awkward brilliance, alongside the more serious plotline revelations. What does compliment this perfectly, is the production value of the entire series. The visuals and the soundtrack make Utopia one of the most idiosyncratic shows around. Shots are framed like comic book panels, acidic shades of yellow make their way into almost every scene. Moreover, the most important moments usually get a single colour that repeats itself in the entire composition, evoking a sort of chilling comfort that typifies the entire series. Director Marc Munden, production head Brad Buckland, bring a genuinely unique and completely unnerving aesthetic that puts most of television cinematography to shame. The music too is no slouch, blending orchestra-esque dramatic build-up with 2000’s funky alternative brit pop and stylising the title track, as well as most of the series.
Apart from the nuanced acting stylings of seeming amateurs in the world of TV acting, what makes Utopia truly stand out is the central theme.
When a mysterious, not-so-government-organisation, (aptly dubbed ‘The Network’) begins to reveal its true plans, the audience is initially left scratching their heads. That simple act of confusion however, transforms itself into full-blown tearing of hair, as it raises an important question about the future of humanity, leaving you wondering exactly which side you stand on.
The matter raised is one that’s extremely prevalent and poignant and forces you to reconsider exactly what course humanity is going to be on in the not so distant future. When a show, as quirky and cool as Utopia, makes you do that, it’s something that’s worth a watch.
Added to the more than evident mystique is the fact that it was cancelled after only two seasons. The few viewers who did religiously follow the show were disappointed, however the many who viewed it retrospectively came to the realisation that its cancelation preserved its story and legacy. Most notably however, it retained the awe-inspiring ambiguity that grips it’s viewers from start to finish.