In a time when it’s almost impossible to avoid films or TV shows based on comic books and graphic novels (The Walking Dead is one of TV’s most acclaimed shows; The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises were two of 2012’s biggest movies), it shouldn’t really be a surprise that someone would make the leap from having graphic novels as inspirations for TV and film to making a graphic novel the point of a series or film.
Which is where Channel 4’s new drama, Utopia comes in. The title of the show comes from The Utopia Experiments, a legendary graphic novel that members of an internet forum have managed to acquire in the form of its original manuscript. That in itself doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting idea for a good drama (a bunch of nerds read a first draft of a graphic novel), but this is more than just a collector’s item to keep in special plastic wrapping.
There’s something more sinister about The Utopia Experiments, and the group suddenly find themselves targeted by people known as The Network, who will stop at nothing to reacquire the manuscript and keep what ever makes it so important from falling into the wrong hands (or maybe it’s the right hands?).
This six part series has been written by Dennis Kelly (Pulling, Matilda The Musical), and features a lot of actors that you might recognise, but maybe won’t quite be able to remember where from. They include Paul Higgins (best known as the incredibly sweary Jamie in The Thick Of It), Neil Maskell (Kill List), Michael Smiley (He played Tyres in Spaced and also starred in Kill List), Alexandra Roach (who played the young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady) and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions). It’s a strong cast and once again shows that good actors are now realising that making good television can be as important to your career as making good films.
There’s a good array of talent amongst the cast and creative team of Utopia, but it will ultimately be judged on the story, and what it is that makes The Utopia Experiments manuscript such an important document that its true meaning must be protected. That will be revealed over the course of the series, but for now it looks like Channel 4 have produced a new edgy drama that could be one of the successes of 2013.
Utopia starts tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm