February 8, 2008


Let's do the time warp again: The decade-hopping police series successfully makes the jump to 1981: a review of Ashes to Ashes BBC1 (Rachel Cooke, 07 February 2008, New Statesman)

I got myself worked up into a right old state about Ashes to Ashes (Thursdays, 9pm). I was determined that it was going to be a disappointment. How could it not be? I loved Life on Mars, to which it is a kind of sequel. I also loved the Eighties. OK, I lived in Sheffield, a city where everyone apart from a few council workers and teachers was unemployed; but I was also young, in possession of the coolest pair of stretch jeans you've ever seen, and I knew where Phil Oakey hung out when he was not at home combing his preposterous fringe.

So the idea of sticking a 21st-century cop, not to mention DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and his lumpen sidekicks, in 1981 as opposed to 1973 sounded like bliss - and that made me nervous. Even as I stockpiled Matlow's Refreshers in preparation for the big night, I kept picturing Gene with Don Johnson streaks in his hair. So unsettling. Hunt would be about as likely to use Sun-In as read The Feminine Mystique.

But it's all going to be OK, I think. The sheriff is the same as ever.

I assume anyone who is interested enough to watch Life on Mars has done so by now--the BBC America run just ended--so it's safe to be less oblique than we were in the last post? If not, and you've not seen the last episode, perhaps you'd prefer to read no further? ...

At any rate, when last we discussed the series we noted its conservatism, most evident in the consistent pro-life message. But in the final episode it becomes even more blunt as Sam Tyler decides to return to Mars rather than try to abide the lifeless, PC Britain of the '00s. In what is, bizarrely, the most life affirming moment in tv history, he effects this return by running at full speed and leaping off the roof of police headquarters. Irrespective of whether his old beat was originally accessed via his coma, a psychic break, time travel or what have you, his decision to return brings it back to glorious life. Indeed, in that moment, if not a few scenes or an episode before, it becomes apparent that the series was never about whether Sam would live or die, but about whether Gene Hunt would.

It is altogether fitting then that the sequel features the latter and not the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 8, 2008 6:56 AM

That's more like the most depressing series ending ever. That PC is so lifeless and life-sucking and inevitable that the character decides to die rather than live in current Britain and change it.

The only escape from PC is coma and/or death.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at February 9, 2008 12:44 AM

He doesn't die. He escapes modern Europe and saves Gene.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2008 7:44 AM