March 24, 2020 by Lucian Mogosanu

Where is Jessica Hyde?

Utopia is... well, how do I go about scrutinizing a TV show that isn't all that fresh in my mind? One could argue that if it's not worth viewing a third time, then it's not really worth writing about; I'm arguing that even though the show's cultural relevance is in my humble opinion just a tad above nil, the reason I'm writing about it, as opposed to relegating it to an obscure corner of my mind, is that it approaches a subject of acute actuality. In fact the subject is on everyone's lips, yet the show, launched in early 2013 and cancelled at the end of summer 2014, sees absolutely no love from anyone. Yeah, I heard Amazon is looking to make a total mess of it, but still.

So let's give this another shot: Utopia is a tale of young crackpots getting into trouble and discovering that, much to everyone else's lack of surprise, actual reality -- as opposed to their hallucinated version thereof -- is much more complicated than they imagined.

The "getting into trouble" part is particularly amusing -- people die along the way, but: for one, what they were supposed to do? live forever? and for the other, there's too many bipedal moo-moos infesting Mother Earth with their stinky breath anyway, and while "saving the world from the bad people" may be an admirable goal in theory, in practice the shades of gray will confuse said youngsters so much that in the end they'll just stay put and be used like the tools they are. But meanwhile, well meanwhile they find out stuff about the world and they get caught up in conspiracies and all that, something with obscure terrorist groups and biological warfare; in a word: viruses. I don't remember most of the details, to be honest, but there's this:

Donaldson: Remember SARS? I worked for the Martarla Foundation who discovered it. One of their top scientists, rising star, six figure salary, used their private jet. Ever been on a private jet? It's nice. I was in Hong Kong when SARS hit. They kept it locked down, but I thought, 'Fuck that, I'm special'. So I went in, had a look, found out it didn't exist.

Dugdale: What? SARS didn't exist?
Donaldson: No. Whole thing was just a series of unconnected respiratory problems. Took me under an hour to discover there was no cause or link. So, I filed my report and within a week, I was discredited, research destroyed... fired. I tried speaking out, but everyone thought I'd just gone a bit David Icke.

Dugdale: But people died. SARS was --

Donaldson: Started in November 2002, it lasted precisely seven months, by summer 2003 it no longer existed; the 'pandemic' affected just eight thousand, four hundred and twenty-two people and killed nine hundred and sixteen. Do you know how many people die each year from random respiratory problems? SARS did not exist. Next question. Why did they do it? Answer? I don't fucking know. All I know is that in the next few weeks I was embroiled in a sex scandal. Professor Pervert, addicted to coke and prostitutes.

Dugdale: So, d-did they just set you up?

Donaldson: Yeah... Well, no, I do like cocaine and prostitutes, but they didn't have to tell everyone.

Dugdale: I've never heard of Martlarla.

Donaldson: No, no one has. But... you've heard of the parent company. Corvadt? Um... Why don't you come back tomorrow? I've got a load of tests.

Funny how that whole suspension of disbelief thing goes, doesn't it? Well, let's suspend disbelief for a tad more: one of the problems with such complex-yet-so-easily-discretizable events is that they make it so easy for the average derp to come up with fanciful scenarios, which in turn are bound to lead one derp into inhabiting, in some form or another, the aforementioned hallucinated reality. After all there's absolutely nothing wrong with theorizing and trying to figure out shit that is otherwise not easily accessible, and there's nothing wrong with being wrong, since there's nothing the average derp can do about said scenario anyway. But what if... well, what if the derps in question were actually right for once?

You see, the realism in Kelly's Utopia isn't in the evil corporation that aims to make the world's air more breathable; nor in vast conspiracies involving, lulz, the MI5? nor in the so-called Russian flu events, though I guess nowadays' great covid scare qualifies as pretty close. No, Utopia's realism comes from the accurate depiction of a chronically chthonic world: one poor kid spends his life getting bored at the office; another is applying for nothing in particular, i.e. a PhD; while yet another one's pushing papers from one office to the other, and so on. How come that of all the protagonists, the one who gets to actually live the most is the eleven-year-old? the one whose mother is also trying to run away from reality, this one by keeping her body well stocked on various substances.

Then moving on along this line, one can further "suspend disbelief" and infer that the average bipedal cow lacks meaning so much and in such an irreversible manner that by now they'd indeed be much better off getting it over with. What marketing? what "great achievements of civilization"? the most they can get off on is pop music, McDonald's, "science" and other similar fetishes. This is the painstakingly detailed depiction of soullessness, of poverty, as even ye olde Soviets couldn't achieve, so then what's the point of this cheap surrogate for a life?

When viewed in this framework, Utopia looks like quite the prophetic piece then. No, the world, or human society if you will, doesn't need billions of individuals; so there's no need for so many things, let the cattle do with less: why would they need to use automobiles, or planes, or what have you? let people "visit" Venice on the Internet; let them admire nature in photos; let them make the most of these shiny smartphones they're spending so much digital "money" on1; what more humane way to have them go?

So then, perhaps unknowningly to its authors, Utopia was created in order to inform you of how your reality relates to you. Too bad it was canceled -- to wit:

Utopia is truly channel-defining: strikingly original, powered by Dennis Kelly's extraordinary voice and brought to life in all its technicolor glory through Marc Munden's undeniable creative flair and vision, the team at Kudos delivered a series which has achieved fervent cult status over two brilliantly warped and nail-biting series. It also has the honour of ensuring audiences will never look at a spoon in the same way again. It's always painful to say goodbye to shows we love, but it's a necessary part of being able to commission new drama, a raft of which are launching on the channel throughout 2015.

What do you make of this statement? because I don't get it. Did they cancel it because of the odd artistic choices involving supersaturated colours? or maybe it was the "undeniable creative flair and vision"? the fact that it enjoyed (some) popularity? Or was it just the fact that it got it so right that it got the sponsors too scared?

Don't get me wrong, it's not that good a series. There's nothing remarkable about the acting, maybe with the exception of Roach's Welsh accent and McDiarmid's2 multiple failed attempts at Romanian; there's also nothing particularly remarkable about the direction either, although I wouldn't say it's particularly bad. All in all, I guess there are worse ways to waste a weekend.

  1. By the way, do you remember? there were times when "talking" involved actual back-and-forth conversation, not like today's emoji-ridden twitterfeed echo chambers; when one didn't get distracted by whatever, notifications, messages and all. In short, there was a time when life was better by sole virtue of less garbage occupying one's mental space. Do you remember those times?

    Say you're old enough that you do; then tell me, how can you use all that shit now and still call yourself a sane person? Do you seriously believe that "quality of life" amounts to having more meat in the fridge and "gadgets" to monitor every single aspect of your living life, or what? Yes, my dear facebooker, you've turned fucking insane; and no, my absence from your platform is not my failure; the lack of pingbacks to my posts from a blog you own is your failure. Now get the fuck out of here and enjoy that swill you've gotten so used to consuming. The time for mass opination is all but gone now. 

  2. The very same dude who played Palpatine in (most of) Lucas' ennealogy, yes. 

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2 Responses to “Utopia”

  1. #1:
    Mircea Popescu says:

    Seems to be quite transparently saying "In order for choice-for-the-sake-of-choice to exist, there can't be anything good. So once you find something you like, move on."

  2. #2:
    spyked says:

    Quite. Come to think of it, it's doubtful that they'd be able to say more than they already did in the existing twelve episodes... and even that's a pretty thin list.

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