Monday Review: Utopia (DVD)

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As a TV series, Utopia had everything that a good Christian viewer should avoid: loads of violence, constant bad language, casual (if non-graphic) sex, and a completely gratuitous Welsh accent.

It was awesome.

As you might expect from the title, Utopia is a very dark story. The title is taken from that of an obscure graphic novel, which appears to contain many and various clues to far-reaching conspiracies, within and far beyond the British government. When the sequel to Utopia is found, its custodian offers to share it with a small group of fellow comic book nerds he meets on a Utopia message board – and so it is that an IT consultant, a survivalist nut, an 11-year-old boy and a student convinced her father’s death was somehow linked to the comic book come together and find themselves on the run as the conspiracies they unravel go ever deeper.

To say much more about the plot would be annoying, because the fun (if watching Utopia can be considered fun) is in watching this motley crew try to make sense of the dark and confusing world they find themselves in.

What I can say though, is that it is clever, funny, shocking and not a little disturbing. For a 6-part series produced by a little British TV channel, it looks great; the visual style is like nothing else I can think of in TV-land. The soundtrack, too, is brilliantly moody.

Some of the bad guys were straight out of a comic book – perhaps intentionally, given the storyline – but the main characters were well enough acted that I was hooked on them.

It helps that the producers didn’t allow themselves to be cramped by the typical 60-minutes-including-ads timeframe; when they aired on TV the episodes were all different lengths, and all over an hour. A good argument that those few minutes can make a difference.

If there is a down point – and this is a very small one – the final scenes are very obviously from a show that isn’t sure it will get a second series. Perhaps an understandable reservation considering how groundbreaking Utopia was in many ways, just enough loose ends were left so that anyone who made it to the end would be tuning in for series two (which has since been confirmed).

Anyone with a passing interest in conspiracy theories will, of course, love Utopia. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted – there were some things done with chillis that had me hiding behind the sofa – but neither is it an all-out gore-fest.

Above all, it is an object lesson in why you should never meet someone you only know from an internet forum.

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