...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day 2291: Life After Mars


We are very SAD that the BBC’s OTHER Time Travelling TV series has come to an early end. Two seasons of “Life on Mars” weren’t enough. Three years would have been more satisfying: with the first about Sam’s life, a second to explore the world of 1973 before wrapping up in the third.

On the other fluffy foot, they did do that rare trick of having the ending live up to expectations.

Look away now, if you haven’t already seen it!

Because in the end, DI Sam Tyler wasn’t mad, wasn’t back in time and wasn’t in a coma.

He was dead.

Mr James has QUITE RIGHTLY criticised “Torchwood” for being Buffy Season Six. But this is what you COULD do with that concept if you turn it on its head. For Sam, HEAVEN is 1973, a golden memory of childhood before innocence was lost, when he doesn’t have all the rules that constrain him in 2007, but he can still be the good cop AND be proved right every week. And THAT’S why it can be 1973 two years running, and always summer.

1973 might be full of nasty colours – brown, bronze, brick mostly – but, in comparison, 2007 is only grey.

And rather wisely, “Life on Mars” only spent ten minutes there after dragging him back from the afterlife, before letting him return to a gloriously happy (if deceased) ending.

The OTHER good thing about the ending was that it characterised Sam’s 1973 boss DCI Gene Hunt as fundamentally HEROIC. He may break the rules but he does it to uphold the law. And he has a good heart. We were all very worried when Sam started believing that Gene was a SYMPTOM of his disease: an incarnation of brain cancer. We felt that that was just WRONG.

Of course, Sam should have been tipped off when he was getting the same message from the SINISTER Test Card Girl, who has haunted him throughout and is the only person in 1973 to try to lead him astray.

Mr Matthew Graham – writing in the RadioTimes – points out that she was really the biggest clue to what had happened to Sam: in 1973, she only appeared on television ONCE THE PROGRAMMES WERE OVER.

Then again, the Detective Inspector from Hyde, the creepy Frank Morgan, kept giving us nasty-piece-of-work vibes too. He too was trying to tempt Sam into betraying Gene and in the end even tricking him, promising to bring backup when he really intended Gene Hunt and his team to die. His excuse: we need to make an example so that we can bring in the new ways. But if the ends justify the means for Morgan, then isn’t that EXACTLY THE SAME as why he thinks Gene (beat a confession out of them) Hunt is WRONG? At least Gene was honest about his motives.

Of course, Mr Matthew reveals, “Frank Morgan” is another clue – Frank Morgan played the Wizard of Oz in the Judy Garland movie. So, in the “real world” (grey Kansas) he is a QUACK; and in Dorothy’s dreamworld he is a FAKE who FAILS to get her back home. Do you see?

Other hints include all the “Hyde” references, supposed to make us realise that Gene is Mr Hyde to Sam’s Doctor Jekyll – they are two sides of the same coin. And of course DI Morgan shows Sam his own gravestone (which appeared in all the trailers – a la Sky One’s trailing of the Buffy season five climax “The Gift” – though Daddy Alex kept Daddy Richard and me from seeing any of them. THANK YOU DADDY!)

We wish it could have carried on longer, and hope that rumours of a SEQUEL series “Ashes to Ashes” are TRUE. (In fact, we hoped that there would be a trailer after the final episode of “Life on Mars”.) There are not so many great series around that we can let one fall by the wayside.

We have to admit, though, that it was all VERY hard work for Mr John Simm who had to be in every single scene. (Except for that one clever episode where they gave him a drug overdose and the power to see what the other characters were doing dream in the third person.) He has probably had enough of Time Travelling adventure by now.


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