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I TALK Utopia (Series 2)

Utopia is the work of Dennis Kelly (Spooks) and for any of you who missed the first series, and haven't had time to catch up yet, the series explores what happens when a small group of people find themselves in possession of a manuscript of cult graphic novel 'Utopia'.

Their lives are then knocked out of kilter by explosive events, as they are targeted by a shadowy organisation known only as The Network. The group are left with only one option if they want to survive - they have to run.


Despite many fans feeling like Utopia was a one-off couldn't possibly return for a second series, Utopia is back for a second series, and a brilliant one it is too. When I went to the launch of the series at BAFTA a few weeks ago, Dennis Kelly was surprised to hear that fans felt it was a one-off series. He told us that Utopia was "...always an ongoing series. A lot of people felt like it was a self-contained thing, but it was never supposed to be." Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but if Channel 4 want it, it seems Kelly is willing to deliver a third and maybe even a fourth series of Utopia.


So how did Dennis Kelly bring utopia back? And what's in store for series two? Well, the first two episodes are being shown over two consecutive nights, which I think is a great idea as the first episode is somewhat of a departure from the usual form and style of Utopia. And don't worry, whilst the first episode may not feature any of the original cast, by the time episode two comes around, they're all back; Jessica Hyde, Arby, Lee, Ian, Becky, Wilson Wilson and of course Milner.


Set in 1979, the first episode takes us back to the winter of discontent, and allowed us to learn more about Milner's and we get to meet a young scientific genius whom we have heard a lot about in series one, Philip Carvel, who is played by Tom Burke (The Musketeers). Milner is in charge of a powerful shadowy organisation known only as ‘The Network’. I don't want to give away too much about what happens but if you've seen series one you'll be left very satisfied by the first episode as it answers questions you didn't even know you needed answering.


Also, what I love (in a bit of a geeky way) is the way in which the first episode does away with the widescreen aspect ratio that has become synonymous with Utopia, and instead embodies the aspect ratio of the era the first episode is set in, opting for a 4:3 aspect ratio. It may be a little detail to pick up on, and many may not even notice it, but for me, the level of attention to detail in Utopia visually, sets it apart from most television dramas.


Then by the time episode two comes around, we're back to what we know and love. The widescreen ratio is back, as are the characters we got to know in the first series. We're back in the present day and Jessica Hyde (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) has been held captive by Milner (Geraldine James) who, having taken Janus from Jessica’s blood has tortured her in a desperate attempt to find out just what adjustment Carvel made to the protein.


Arby, played by the brilliant Neil Maskell (The Mimic) has turned over a new leaf and we see him with a family and a new job. But don't be fooled, because once Lee (Paul Ready) turns up at Arby’s house, yes - he's still alive - he tries to lure Arby back to his old ways. Will he succeed? Well that would be telling.


With 'The Network' destroyed, Ian, played by Nathan Stewart Jarrett (Misfits) is back working in IT, and a very funny scene with his boss following an incident with a stapler. He's now hiding Grant (Oliver Woollford) in his flat and is desperately searching for Becky (Alexandra Roach).

So what is Becky up to? Well, she's not only suicidal, but she's also at the mercy of Donaldson (Michael Maloney), in return for the lifesaving drug Thoraxin.


Eventually, Ian does find Becky, but she’s with Donaldson and a mysterious hostage. When they’re suddenly targeted by armed soldiers, a lone gunman is close by to save them - they are shocked to discover their rescuer is none other than their old enemy, Arby. And so the old gang are reunited and it's business as usual.


Elsewhere, The Network are planning ‘V’ Day – a strategy to vaccinate the whole world from impending Russian flu at the same time. And with a new head, Dugdale, the manufacture of the vaccine is at full pelt.


I may have only seen the first two episodes, but series two is shaping up to be as good if not better as the first. I must admit I had my reservations at first. Where could they take the story? How could they bring the same characters back. I didn't want it to be brought back for the sake of it. But luckily I had nothing to worry about and I can't wait to see how the rest of the series pans out.


Utopia returns Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th July at 10pm on Channel 4

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