Utopia (UK TV series)

Genre Thriller, drama, action
Created by Dennis Kelly
Based on An original idea by
Huw Kennair-Jones
Mark Aldridge
Clare McDonald
Written by Dennis Kelly
John Donnelly
Directed by Marc Munden
Wayne Che Yip
Alex Garcia Lopez
Sam Donovan
Starring Alexandra Roach
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Paul Higgins
Fiona O'Shaughnessy
Adeel Akhtar
Steven Robertson
Oliver Woollford
Neil Maskell
Paul Ready
Geraldine James
Stephen Rea
Ian McDiarmid
James Fox
Michael Smiley
Emilia Jones
Composer(s) Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 12 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Karen Wilson
Jane Featherstone
Dennis Kelly
Producer(s) Rebekah Wray-Rogers
Location(s) Liverpool[1]
Cinematography Ole Bratt Birkeland (season 1)
Lol Crawley (season 2)
Editor(s) Luke Dunkley
David Charap
Running time 45–61 minutes
Production company(s) Kudos Film and Television
Original network Channel 4
Picture format 16:9 (1080i HDTV)
Original release 15 January 2013 (2013-01-15) – 12 August 2014 (2014-08-12)
External links
Official website
Production website

Utopia is a British thriller drama action television series that was broadcast on Channel 4 from 15 January 2013 to 12 August 2014.[2][3] The show is written by Dennis Kelly and stars Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach, Oliver Woollford, and Neil Maskell.[4][5] A second six-episode series was commissioned by Channel 4 and went into production in late 2013.[6] Series 2 started airing with a double-bill spread over two nights on Monday 14 July and Tuesday 15 July 2014.[7] It ended on 12 August 2014.

On 9 October 2014, it was revealed by the official Utopia Twitter feed (and later by Channel 4) that there would not be a third series.[8][9] An American adaptation was planned for HBO, but budget disputes between HBO and director David Fincher led to the project being cancelled in July 2015.[10]


Series Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 6 15 January 2013 19 February 2013
2 6 14 July 2014 12 August 2014

The story follows a small group of people who find themselves in possession of the manuscript sequel of a cult graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments, which is rumoured to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. This leads them to be targeted by an organisation known as The Network, which they must avoid to survive. Using the manuscript, they must uncover the meaning hidden in its pages before the disasters depicted become reality.[11]






In April 2012, Channel 4 announced that it had commissioned a 6-episode drama series titled Utopia.[17] The series was written by Dennis Kelly and produced by Kudos Film and Television. Marc Munden was chosen as the director, Rebekah Wray-Rogers the producer, and Dennis Kelly, Jane Featherstone and Karen Wilson the executive producers.[18]

Conception and development

Kudos Film & TV approached the writer Dennis Kelly with an idea about a conspiracy hidden inside a graphic novel.[19] Kelly liked some of the idea, but changed some of the others. The story involved a shadowy organisation called The Network, and Kelly initially came out with an idea that The Network might be responsible for the rise in conspiracy theories because they thought it would be the best way to hide an actual conspiracy.[20] Kelly said he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, but is fascinated by them.[21] The series took about two years to come to fruition.[20]

Filming locations

Utopia is set in London, but was filmed mostly in Merseyside and Yorkshire between April and October 2012, while the panning shot of the Mercury Hotel in the first episode was filmed in Westhoughton. Producer Bekki Wray-Rogers claimed the reason for this was that no other area in the UK could have provided them with as much of a variety of locations.[1] Some scenes, such as the office of Conran Letts, were filmed at Scarisbrick Hall near Ormskirk.[22] Scenes for the school shooting in episode 3 were filmed at Alsop High School in Walton whilst the school was closed for summer in July 2012. The empty red sandstone stately home the group make use of from episode 4 is filmed at Woolton Hall. The café scene in the fifth episode is filmed at TC's Cafe & Take-Away on Southport New Road near the village of Mere Brow.[23] Many scenes were filmed in Crosby and Skelmersdale. The final scene of the series, with Jessica and Milner, was shot atop the Cunard Building, one of Liverpool's three graces.

In the second series, locations used included Barnsley Interchange in Barnsley, Temple Works in Leeds, The Chocolate Works in York, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, and various spots in Leeds City Centre.[24][25] The scene in which Mr Rabbit and Philip Carvel meet was filmed at Allerton Castle near Harrogate. The abandoned building in the second episode of Series 2 was shot in Abbotsford School in The Gorbals, Glasgow.

Referencing real world events

The TV drama referenced a number of real world events, and incorporated these events into the story of the conspiracy. In the second series, the show used various news footage from the 1970s including the assassinations of Aldo Moro, Carmine Pecorelli, Richard Sykes, and Airey Neave.[26] The TWA Flight 841 disaster is also referenced in this episode. In particular, several events from a 10-day period in 1979, including the Three Mile Island accident and the collapse of the Labour government, had been combined as a jumping off point for the second series.[27]


The first series was generally well received by the critics, with some high praise for its striking visuals, but also some expressions of concern about its violence. Aidan Smith of The Scotsman noted both its "astonishing visuals" as well as its "astonishing violence",[28] while Tom Sutcliffe of The Independent thought it a dystopian fantasy "delivered with great visual style" but was not convinced that its violence is necessary.[29] Mark Monahan of The Daily Telegraph described it as "a dark, tantalisingly mysterious overture",[30] while Sam Wollaston of The Guardian called it "a work of brilliant imagination", "a 21st-century nightmare" that "looks beautiful", but also wondered about the gratuitousness of its violence.[31]


UK media regulator Ofcom received 44 complaints about the television series including complaints about violence, offensive language and child actors being involved in scenes of adult content. 37 of the complaints related to a scene at the beginning of the third episode where a shooting takes place in a secondary school.[32] Channel 4 also received 28 complaints about the scene. It was aired a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, USA. A spokesman for Channel 4 responded, "Channel 4 thought very carefully about continuing with the planned broadcast of Utopia. The drama is in no way based on real events, and the scenes featuring violence are editorially justified within the context of the storyline. All material has been carefully considered in accordance with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and we were satisfied that, appropriately scheduled in a late night slot at 10pm and preceded by clear on-air warnings about the graphic violence and very strong language, it could be broadcast as planned."[33]

In the second series, the use of real life events including the assassination of Airey Neave prompted criticisms of the show by a number of people, including members of the murdered politician's family.[27][34][35] In response, Channel 4 issued a statement and said that the drama series is "entirely fictional" and "it is not [Channel 4's] intention to cause offence and Utopia does not suggest that any other real organisation was responsible for the death of Airey Neave."[36]

Awards and nominations

In 2014, the series was nominated for and won the International Emmy Award for best drama series.[37][38]

Year Award Category Recipient Results Ref.
2013 RTS Craft & Design Awards Effects - Picture Enhancement Aidan Farrell Won [39]
Music - Original Score Cristobal Tapia de Veer Won [40]
Production Design - Drama Kristian Milsted Nominated [41]
2014 RTS Programme Awards Drama Series Utopia Nominated [42]
Writer - Drama Dennis Kelly Nominated [42]
BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer - Drama Dennis Kelly Nominated [43]
Photography And Lighting - Fiction Ole Birkeland Nominated [43]
Director - Fiction Marc Munden Nominated [43]
Digital Creativity TH_NK Nominated [43]
International Emmy Best Drama Series Utopia Won [38]
RTS Craft & Design Awards Costume Design – Drama Marianne Agertoft Nominated [44]
Effects – Picture Enhancement Aidan Farrell Nominated [44]
Music – Original Score Cristobal Tapia de Veer Nominated [44]
Production Design – Drama Jennifer Kernke Won [44]
Photography – Drama Lol Crawley Won [44]
2015 RTS Programme Awards Best Actor - Male Adeel Akhtar Nominated [45]
BAFTA TV Awards Supporting Actor Adeel Akhtar Nominated [43]



Series Episodes Original air dates DVD/Blu-ray release dates and details
Series premiere Series finale Region 2/B Region 4 Special features
1 6 15 January 2013 19 February 2013 11 March 2013[46][47]
DVD & Blu-ray
20 December 2013[48]
DVD only
  • Audio commentary on episode one with Dennis Kelly (writer), Marc Munden (director) and Rebekah Wray-Rogers (producer)
  • The World of Utopia – with writer Dennis Kelly
  • Fly on the Wall of director Marc Munden filming
  • Analysis of stunt scene with directors Wayne Yipp & Alex Garcia
  • Deleted scenes[49][50]
2 6 14 July 2014 12 August 2014 18 August 2014[51]
Blu-ray in Germany only 26 June 2015[52]
TBA Deleted Scenes


Utopia (Original Television Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Released 7 October 2013
Label Silva Screen Music

The series soundtrack was composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer.[53] The album entitled Utopia (Original Television Soundtrack) was released 7 October 2013, on both CD and MP3 download by Silva Screen Music. In August 2014 a contest was announced on Facebook to create a remix of the "Utopia Overture".

Cristobal Tapia De Veer announced via Twitter that the Series 2 soundtrack was coming December 8.

  1. "Utopia Overture" (3:32)
  2. "The Network" (3:21)
  3. "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 1)" (2:17)
  4. "Mr. Rabbit's Game" (1:05)
  5. "Conspiracy (Pt. 1)" (2:53)
  6. "Meditative Chaos" (3:10)
  7. "A New Brand of Drug" (2:13)
  8. "Samba De Wilson" (2:15)
  9. "Slivovitz" (1:43)
  10. "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 1)" (1:01)
  11. "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 1)" (3:39)
  12. "Arby's Oratorio" (1:38)
  13. "Jessica Gets Off" (3:18)
  14. "Mr. Rabbit It Is" (2:51)
  15. "Lovechild" (1:03)
  16. "Mind Vortex" (2:48)
  17. "Twat" (2:02)
  18. "Bekki On Pills (Pt. 2)" (3:16)
  19. "Fertility Control" (1:50)
  20. "Janus Saves" (2:51)
  21. "Evil Prevails" (2:55)
  22. "Conspiracy (Pt. 2)" (4:56)
  23. "Dislocated Thumbs (Pt. 2)" (1:28)
  24. "Utopia Descent" (2:42)
  25. "Where Is Jessica Hyde? (Pt. 2)" (4:08)
  26. "Utopia's Death Cargo" (1:38)
  27. "The Experiment" (6:16)
  28. "Utopia Finale" (2:35)

American adaptation

In February 2014, HBO ordered an American adaptation of Utopia, to be co-created and directed by David Fincher, with Gillian Flynn as the writer.[54] Fincher planned on directing all episodes of the series, who said "I like the characters – I love Dennis’s honesty and affinity for the nerds."[55] In June 2015, it was announced that Rooney Mara was negotiating for the role of Jessica Hyde.[56] On July 30, 2015, it was reported that the series would not go into production due to budget disputes between Fincher and HBO, and that the cast had been released from their contracts.[10]


  1. 1 2 "Liverpool Film Location, Liverpool Film Office". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  2. "Utopia, Channel 4, review". Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  3. O'Donovan, Gerard (31 December 2012). "Ten TV shows to get you through the winter". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  4. Arnold, Ben (12 January 2013). "Utopia: inside Channel 4's new unsettling thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  5. Gilbert, Gerard (15 January 2013). "Utopia: They're coming to get you". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  6. Brown, Maggie (18 March 2013). "Channel 4 commissions Utopia second series". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  7. "Utopia – official site". Channel 4. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  8. "C4 Utopia". Twitter. 9 October 2014.
  9. "Utopia not renewed for third series, Channel 4 announces". BBC. 10 October 2014.
  10. 1 2 Andreeva, Nellie (30 July 2015). "David Fincher HBO Pilot 'Utopia' In Jeopardy Over Budget Issues". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
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  14. "Utopia – Profiles – Ian". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  15. "Utopia – Profiles – Dugdale". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  16. "Utopia – Profiles – Arby". Channel 4. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  17. Patrick Munn (21 April 2012). "Channel 4 Orders New Drama Series 'Utopia'". TV Wise.
  18. "Channel 4 finds Utopia". Channel 4. 2012-04-19.
  19. "Interview with Utopia writer Dennis Kelly". Channel 4. 2012-12-19.
  20. 1 2 Phil Harrison. "Interview: Dennis Kelly on 'Utopia'". TimeOut.
  21. Ben Arnold (12 January 2013). "Utopia: inside Channel 4's new unsettling thriller". The Guardian.
  22. Joe Hubris (7 February 2013). "I Have Seen the Promised Land Tuesday Night on Channel 4: A Review of Utopia". Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  23. "'Utopia' filming in Mere Brow". Q Local Tarleton. 2012-10-15.
  24. "Where Was Utopia Series 2 filmed? Our Production Services Team Have The Answers...". Creative England. 14 July 2014.
  25. Nick Goundry (5 November 2013). "Utopia drama starts filming on location in York". The Location Guide.
  26. Mark Lawson (14 July 2014). "The truth behind Utopia's wild conspiracy theories". The Guardian.
  27. 1 2 "Utopia: Channel 4 'will not change' drama depicting MP's death". BBC. 13 July 2014.
  28. "TV review: Complicit, The Brits, Utopia". The Scotsman. 24 February 2013.
  29. Tom Sutcliffe (16 January 2013). "Last night's viewing - Utopia, Channel 4; Yes, Prime Minister, Gold".
  30. Mark Monahan (15 Jan 2013). "Utopia, Channel 4, review". The Daily Telegraph.
  31. "Sam Wollaston". The Guardian. 16 January 2013.
  32. "Utopia child star's mother defends violent plots". Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  33. "Outrage as Channel 4 drama Utopia features gun massacre in primary school barely a month after Sandy Hook tragedy". Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  34. Adam Lee-Potter (12 July 2014). "Fury over Channel 4 insult to MP killed by the IRA: Family of Colditz escapee and war hero Airey Neave demand TV series is axed". Daily Mail.
  35. Bruce Anderson (13 Jul 2014). "How dare Channel 4 defame Airey Neave's memory". The Daily Telegraph.
  36. Ben Dowell (13 July 2014). "Channel 4 under fire over depiction of real politician's death in its drama Utopia". Radio Times.
  37. "Olivia Colman and Utopia up for International Emmys". BBC News. 13 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  38. 1 2 "International Emmys: UK's 'Utopia' Wins Best Drama; Belgium's 'What If' Takes Comedy (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  39. "RTS Craft and Design Awards: the winners". Televisual. 19 November 2013.
  40. "Utopia Wins!". Silva Screen Records. 20 November 2013.
  41. "RTS shortlist for craft and design awards 2012/2013". Royal Television Society.
  42. 1 2 "Winners Announced at RTS Programme Awards 2013". Royal Television Society. 18 March 2014.
  43. 1 2 3 4 5 "BAFTA Awards Search". BAFTA.
  44. 1 2 3 4 5 "RTS announces winners of the Craft & Design Awards 2013/14". Royal Television Society.
  45. "Programme Awards 2013 - 2014: The Winners". Royal Television Society.
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  48. "Utopia – Series 1 (DVD) [Australia/Region 4]". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
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  52. "Utopia - Staffel 2 (Blu-ray)". Amazon.de. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  53. "Utopia – Series 1".
  54. Goldberg, Lesley (February 12, 2014). "'Utopia' Remake From 'Gone Girl's' David Fincher, Gillian Flynn Gets HBO Series Order". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  55. Pierce, Nev. "David Fincher on Gone Girl: 'Bad Things Happen in This Movie...'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  56. Jagernauth, Kevin (30 June 2015). "Rooney Mara In Talks To Reteam With David Fincher For HBO Series 'Utopia' Playing Jessica Hyde". Indiewire. Retrieved 1 July 2015.

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