Meta4orce Exclusive Part One: Peter Milligan interview


Following my recent review of the new BBC animated detective series Meta4orce, the series production team have kindly answered some questions about the genesis and future of the series.

I’ll be publishing these in three parts, kicking-off with series writer Peter Milligan. Starting his comic career in the 80s with 2000AD, he has since gone on to work on a number of high-profile projects including The X-Men.

Jonathan Melville: How did the idea for Meta4orce come about? Did you come up with the story before deciding on the animated format?

Peter Milligan: I come from a comic book background, and wanted to draw on some of that peculiar comic book sensibility – bodies that are altered, identities changed, regular people becoming extraordinary – and ally it to a futuristic detective story.

I knew from the outset that this was going to be an animated format, but it could be that some germs of the idea had been floating around, with a view to them being used in a comic.

Was their ever any discussion of the series being live-action?

As the idea developed, and we all became excited by what we saw as the idea’s potential, there was talk about live action.

Were you given free range with the script?

Up to a point. Within the parameters of a story that the BBC agreed to, and the constraints on a story aimed at teens and to be shown in the afternoon on BBC Two, there was quite a bit of freedom for character development and plot twists.

How different is writing for animation compared to comics and films?

Not as different as you might imagine. The characters have to be three dimensional and seem to have a life outside of the story. The plot has to make sense, and hopefully surprise, and say something about your characters.

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Feel the Meta4orce

While pottering about the flat this morning I switched on the TV to BBC2, midway through an episode of an animated sci-fi detective programme called Meta4orce. I’m very glad I did.

Screening as part of the BBC Switch strand, which seems to be the latest attempt at “Yoof TV” (anyone remember Def II many moons ago?), this caught my attention with it stark subject matter and impressive animation.

Set in the London of 2034, a now flooded city where the survivors of a natural disaster are living with increased crime, a small group of genetically engineered detectives are on their first case. My initial thought was Torchwood meets X-Men – take a look at the trailer to see what I’m talking about:

While aimed at a younger audience, Meta4orce certainly doesn’t talk down to them, with Soma, the blood reading member of the team a slightly gory concept for one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

The rest of the team are pretty well-rounded for the liitle time they get on screen, while the plot unfolds at a pace that’s fast but still comprehensible. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise considering the series is written by comics veteran Peter Milligan who knows a thing or two about telling stories in a compact format.

This is a smart little programme that packs a lot into its 10-minute run time. It’s a real shame that this show gets tucked away on BBC2 in the morning while it’s big cousin Torchwood is getting all the hype – it’s also a shame Captain Jack and his team weren’t relocated into a future Britain when the show started, as this might have been just what the Doctor ordered. Maybe Meta4orce is what we would have got…

If you missed the first two episodes (there are two more to come), take a trip to the Meta4orce website, to watch them again with a couple of interactive games thrown into the mix.

I’m looking forward to heading back to 2034 next week to see where the investigation leads and hope we get to see more from this world.

I’d advise you to do the same.