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Life on Mars (UK)

Season 1 Episode 1

Episode 1

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Jan 09, 2006 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
215 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

DCI Sam Tyler, in pursuit of a serial killer, is knocked unconscious by a car and wakes up in 1973, where he is a newly-transferred detective inspector working at the same station. Initially refusing to accept his situation, he finds it difficult to adjust to the attitudes and technology of the day. Investigating a murder in 1973, he recognizes a possible connection to events in the present day.moreless

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  • An intriguing plot conceit and some interesting characters ... but I'm not sure just how long the conceit can last.

    From the moment it started, I got caught up in the plot and the characters (despite more than one "just get on with it" moment), but once the episode was over, I found myself wondering just how long the premise -- a cop in a coma investigating a crime within his own mind -- can actually last. After awhile, I've got to imagine that it will get more than just a little tired. That said, it's worth a look and it will be interesting to see just how long (and how) they keep up the premise without it getting old.moreless
  • From 2006 To 1973 Written by Matthew Graham Directed by Bharat Nalluri

    Sam: "What are you doing?"

    Annie: "We all feel like jumping sometimes Sam, only we don't because we're not cowards".

    With US viewers set to get their own seemingly dodgy version of this show, I thought it was high time that I dusted off the DVDs and started reviewing. A part of the reason why I'm taking on the show is to kill the summer boredom but I also like this show a lot more than I thought I would.

    In 2006 we have Sam Tyler, the very man determined to put the likes of Colin Raimes behind bars. Colin has supposedly abducted and killed two young women and given that he's an incredibly disturbed individual, it's no wonder that Sam and his girlfriend Maya want this sort of bloke of the streets.

    The problem is that Colin has an airtight alibi which is enough to get him out of a police cell. Maya blatantly disobeys Sam in her own determination to get some dirt on Colin. When I watched that scene for the first time, I did primarily side with Maya but I can understand why Sam was so determined to take Maya off the case.

    It's not that Maya is bad at her job; it's just that her impulsive streak has a downside. The downside being her winding up missing and Sam beside himself with worry over whether or not Colin is planning on making her his next victim. So far into the first episode, all of this stuff wouldn't look out of place on any other cop shows ever made.

    However the only difference here is that Sam gets hit by a car and winds up back in 1973. As a leading man, John Simm is brilliant as Sam and although there are later episodes where he'll really shine, it's good that he hits the ground running in his first episode. After all, Sam is designed to be our everyman of the series.

    His reactions to being thrust 33 years into the past are pretty natural. Once he realises that mobile phones have never been heard of, Sam makes a brilliant impression with his new colleagues by freaking out and insulting. Okay so if something like that were to happen to me, I'd think I would freak out too. Sam isn't really here of his volition and he's also pretty desperate to get out of here as well.

    Aside from Sam, the most powerful character in this show is Gene Hunt. Philip Glenister is a bloody revelation in the role and Gene makes a brilliant impression by giving Sam a swift punch into the stomach. Of course, Gene is also politically incorrect in more ways than one, which has made him into something of a hero with TV critics as well.

    It doesn't take much to see that with personalities so different that Sam and Gene would clash. It's not that Sam is a touchy feely sensitive type of copper but it's more the fact that Gene's total disregard for anyone he views as scum or beneath him just appals Sam. When the interviewing for Dora was going on, Sam didn't like the way Gene threatened her. Of course like Sam, we could also see Gene's treatment of Dora to be appalling but the woman was so damn annoying, I actually found myself siding with Gene. In a lot of ways he's the boss from hell with archaic methods but he's also an effective force of nature as well.

    The interlinking aspects between 2006 and 1973 are the missing women and their deaths. Both have the same patterns and it's neat to see Sam use his modern day policing in an attempt to figure who, how and why these women are being killed. It's interesting due to the way it often confuses both Chris and Ray as well.

    Sam uses the benefit of Annie's BA in Psychology to try and explain to his new colleague why this man is kidnapping and murdering these women. It gives Annie a great moment to show off her cleverness even if you've got the likes of Chris and Gene undermining Annie as a direct result.

    Given the timeline it's impossible for Colin Raimes to be doing all of these murders but its not impossible for his equally disturbed next-door neighbour Edward Kramer to be doing them. When Dora goes missing and Sam and Annie discover soundproofing in a record shop, this plot gets solved a lot quicker.

    It helps that Gene is clever in using gentle persuasion in getting information from Colin's grandmother Beryl about Edward and while the arrest is a nice touch, you do wonder how this really will impact Sam and in particular Maya. You get the feeling that back in 2006; Maya could very well be dead.

    In fact throughout the episode you've got Sam hearing voices of doctors talking about his physical state in the real world. Sam raises the questions about whether or not he's either gone mad or in a coma. It's hard to actually think which one is likely, although I do like the "travelled back in time" theory as well.

    One of the cruellest things in the episode was having Annie's ex-boyfriend Neil trick Sam into taking extreme action into trying to wake up. I really wanted to punch the guy's lights out. I think he did it out of jealousy because although Sam acted weird towards Annie, she was quite taken with him.

    It's also down to her that Sam doesn't throw himself of a building either. Annie makes some perceptive comments about the desire to run away from her problems and there's even one scene when Annie says something so simplistic but at the same it's enough to make Sam think that this world he's been suddenly thrown into is as real as anything else.

    Also in "Episode 1"

    There was no proper title sequence for the episode even though the cast listing opened things up.

    Maya: "Screw the psych evaluation. You used to believe in gut feeling. What happened?"

    Sam: "Nothing".

    Going by Sam and Annie's conversation, Sam was born in 1969. Well he did say he was four back in 1973 so it's a good guy. John Simm himself was born in 1970.

    Sam: "Who are you?"

    Gene: "Gene Hunt, your DCI and its 1973. It's almost lunch time. I'm having hoops".

    Sam: "I was four in 1973. Hit me".

    Annie: "Don't tempt me".

    Annie is mentioned as a WPC in this episode. I like that Liz White gives the character a nice mix of vulnerability but with a steely side to her as well.

    Annie (to Sam): "Soon as I walk out that door, poof, I'm gone. Here I go. Ready, steady. Get some rest".

    Sam (re Dora): "Brief me in full. What do I need to know?"

    Gene: "She's a pain in the arse".

    Matthew Graham mentioned in the Season One DVD extras that Julie Gardner was responsible for this series being commissioned; despite that other time travelling show Doctor Who coming out the year before.

    Nelson: "Are you catching flies brother?"

    Sam: "Which part of my subconscious do you hail from?"

    Sam (re the killer's motives): "This time you're positive enough to kiss her".

    Annie: "Only you won't be".

    Chris: "I look at your lips all day Cartwright. Should I turn myself in?"

    I like the use of TV and the Test Card Girl. Both of them add further surrealism to the series.

    Sam: "You don't scare me Hunt".

    Gene: "It's an interesting point you raise. Allow me to retort".

    Sam: "Follow the yellow brick road".

    Annie: "And what will you find? Mist? A big cliff? A white door?"

    Sam: "I don't know".

    When Sam was looking at the younger Colin Raimes after Edward's arrest, it did look like Colin might have recognised him.

    Gene (to some kids): "Anything happens to this motor and I'll come over to your houses and stamp on all your toys. Got it? Good kids".

    Gene: "Welcome to the team".

    Sam: "Thanks Guv".

    Standout music: Apart from the obvious "Life On Mars" from David Bowie, I'd also go for "Rat Rat Blue" by Deep Purple and "Baba O'Riley" by The Who.

    As opening episodes go, this is certainly a strong introduction. It's easy to see why this series hailed so much critical acclaim because nostalgia aside, there's something enjoyable about watching a cop show that isn't slick, over polished or trying desperately to be too gory. Plus the dialogue alone is just perfect.moreless
  • While investigating a serial killer in 2006, Sam Tyler is hit by a car and finds himself back in 1973. Here he stumbles into life as a copper and becomes involved in hunting what seems to be the same serial killer. Or is it all just a coma-induced dream?moreless


    Episode 1.

    Present day... well, 2006. Sam Tyler and a flock of cars pull up at the house of Colin Raimes, a ginger-haired schizophrenic, and after a bit of a tiff with an asp baton (all according to the law), Sam and his contingent of police bring the man in charged with murder.

    They return to a modern police station and Sam, along with his ex-girlfriend Maya, conduct an interview with the suspect Raimes, his social worker, psychiatrist and lawyer. Everything here is clean and pale and sterile. Sam shows Raimes photos of the murdered dead woman and an identikit photo of someone who looks remarkably like Raimes, Sam reads a section of Raimes's diary which boasts of killing a woman... You know, I'd have to say it looks like an open and shut case.

    Except Raimes has an alibi - he was with his social worker when the victim was abducted. And that is the end of that case.

    Sam is checking out photo evidence on his computer of fibres under the victim's fingernails. Maya has a gut feeling that there's more to Raimes but Sam won't listen and thinks their personal problems are getting in the way. He wants to stand her down but she objects. She has a feeling Raimes was keeping a diary to impress someone else but Sam ignores this idea. He is a modern policeman in a modern department.

    "Look around you," he tells her, "What use are feelings in this room?" She storms off.

    Later he gets a call on his mobile from her – she's following Raimes along Satchmore road. Before she can explain further she screams. Sam and backup race to help her but in Satchmore all they find is her blood-stained shirt. The killer has taken her. Clinical and cold, Sam has the crime scene preserved and forensics brought in.

    It's only when he is driving back in his Jeep Cherokee he starts to cry and nearly has an accident. He pulls over under a raised freeway and steps out of the car for some fresh air. As he leans in the car window, David Bowie's 'Life On Mars' is playing on his car's I-Pod. He takes a step back and is hit by a car. He lies there twitching, seeing images of grass and sunlight through trees, bird noise, and the sounds of emergency room activity. Then David Bowie is back again.

    He sits up in a rubble-strewn vacant lot, in tight acrylic 70's clothing, baffled and confused. There is a Rover car nearby and he goes over to it – in the eight-track player is David Bowie, singing along to Life On Mars. Suddenly a policeman in the old-****bobby helmet appears and asks what happened. Sam falls over in shock, barely able to talk. "This isn't' my car. I was driving a jeep," he squeaks.

    "You were driving a military vehicle?"

    The copper starts poking about and finds a file showing Sam is a Detective Inspector just transferred in to the area. Sam is offended – he is a Detective Chief Inspector (or at least he was back in 2006). Demoted in life and in rank... sad.

    Sam wanders off and notices a billboard advertising the future freeway for the site – where he was just hit by a car. He wanders along seeing a world of the 70's, full of Rovers, Fiats, Cortinas and Beetles, gasometers and flares. Then he catches sight of his reflection and realises even he is dressed in fine 70's tight polyester, St.Christopher medallion, leather jacket, flares and Cuban heels. It was all **** back then, matey.

    Out of his pocket he finds his warrant card with his rank as D.I. and his police badge. Flummoxed he goes to his police station, but now it is not so high-tech and modern. In fact, it's pretty grey and dirty. Bobbies on push bikes are the norm. When he gets to his office... well. No more cold, clean, sterile, high-tech rooms. Now his office is a large, dingy, dirty smoky area full of desks and piles of paper files, and lots of people smoking and looking at him suspiciously... and smoking.

    At first he thinks it's some sort of elaborate joke and his office has been somehow altered, even when DC Chris Skelton introduces himself and tells Sam his stuff is being brought in by the coppers.

    It's too much for Sam and he yells, trying to find his desk and telling these people to shut up. He wants to know what's going on what's happened to his department? Chris Skelton warns him to be quiet but it's too late. In the office to the side through the frosty glass, the shadow of Gene Hunt shuffles to the door, cigarette in his gob - he's awake!

    Gene emerges and everyone is a little fearful, except Sam who doesn't know what's going on but suspects he's in a nightmare or a prank. "I give up," Sam snarks, "What year is it supposed to be?" Gene Hunt, the boss and an obvious hard geezer, stamps out his cigarette and drags Sam inside by the collar. "A word in your shell-like, Pal." He punches Sam and warns him never to come into his kingdom acting like he's the king. He doesn't care if they say Sam has concussion. It seems a bit of physical violence is all Sam needs to realise this isn't Kansas any more.

    Sam sits alone in shock, hugging himself and rocking a little as a TV plays an old anti-crime ad. Behind him life in the always-smokey office is going on, but he is alone and scared. He sees a phone and starts to dial a mobile number, but after the first 0 he gets an operator. Surprised he tries to get her to connect him to a mobile number,0770... she asks if that's an international number? He's desperate.

    "I need you to connect me to a Virgin number, a Virgin mobile number..."

    She's irate. "Don't you start that sexy business with me, young man, I can trace this call!" As he hangs up he realises he can suddenly hear noises that no one else seems to be hearing - the sounds of a hospital emergency room and what sounds like people trying to revive him. Just as suddenly the sound is gone. Sam sinks into despair.

    Then D.S. Chris Skelton comes in and announces that the bird who went missing has been found dead – in Satchmore road. Sam recognises this is where Maya went missing back in his time and suddenly he is interested. This victim is named Susie Tripper. AS the DCI Gene Hunt is going to give a statement to the press - down at the pub - he leaves Sam in charge.

    The section want to start doing their work but Sam is still in shock and disbelief, waiting to wake up. So Chris briefs Sam on the Susie Tripper case so far. It's everything a modern briefing shouldn't be.

    She was dead a couple of hours before she was found. Chris produces the things she had on her, jewelry, nail polish. He just chucks it on the table amongst the playboy magazines, the ashtray and the food dropping from his sandwich. No bags, no labels, no organisation.

    Sam is horrified but manages to think like the policeman he is, or was, but he doesn't realise the restrictions of the period. Have you visited the crime scene, he asks? Preserved the crime scene? D.S. Ray Carling seems surprised by such a question. Of course not, the body is on the slab. When Sam asks about getting prints off the body Ray just laughs; how can you get prints off a body? Sam brushes it aside as well and agrees – it's easier. They got prints off her shoe and sent them to Scotland yard so they will have a result back in a fortnight.

    Fortnight? Sam is horrified. Chris doesn't think robbery was a motive as there was 27p in her purse. Sam thinks someone took only the notes from the purse as he can't imagine why anyone would take piddling small change like that. But without the decades of inflation it's a fortune. Everyone else in the room agrees that they would take 27p – that's a lot of money then.

    Chris continues his brief. After closing time in the pub Susie was with a couple of guys in the car park, but they're cool as the police know them and they're all right, they're a couple of loaders from the docks. Sam asks if they are going to take statements from them but he is told bluntly it is not them. Sam turns away in disgust at their policing technique and tells himself to wake up.

    Chris, Ray and Sam go to the morgue. Sam notices the victim has been garroted with a thin cord, and there is no sign of sexual assault. He asks Chris what he's learned from the stomach contents, and tells him to have a look. As Chris reluctantly lifts up the sheet on the body Sam tells him he meant to look in the autopsy report. It seems she had not eaten for over a day – and all these points are just like the murders Sam was investigating with Maya back in 2006. And Susie was also found in Satchmore road.

    This is all too coincidental for Sam who is convinced now it must be some sort of a dream or joke. He tells them to stop, that is enough, and goes off to the side corridor telling himself to wake up. But he can feel the wet tiles, smell the preserving fluid and hear someone whistling outside... It seems stupid that he could be creating all this in a dream with such intricate details. The others look at each other as if he is crazy and tell him to get some rest.

    Sam returns to the corpse and notices fibres under the victim's fingernails – the same as those found on the body he was investigating in 2006. Now he realises – the killer then has killed before in the past - which is now. The others decide Sam is still nutty from his concussion and what he really needs a police woman, a plonk, to give him a once-over.

    So, back in the office, WPC Annie Cartwright cricks his neck into place. Sam decides to try and explain things to someone - and she seems nice enough towards him. He tells her he was four years old in 1973 and asks her to hit him, to wake him up. When she doesn't he assumes she won't but, when he turns away, she wallops him in the kidneys from behind. It is a violent old world, the 70's.

    Gene enters and tells him to go home for the day and that his stuff has been delivered there – one of the others will take him to his flat. This is a great idea as far as Sam is concerned as he has no idea where he lives!

    Sam goes out to the car park with Chris, discussing the case and why Sam might have travelled back in time. Is it something to do with the killer because this is when he first struck? Maya thought the killer was Raimes, he says, but in this year Raimes would still be a toddler. Of course Chris has no idea what he's talking about and is happy when Annie turns up and offers to drive Sam home instead. Annie introduces her friend, Neil.

    Neil approaches and asks if Sam can hear him. "Hello, Sam? Sam? Can you hear me?" It makes Sam pause – it's almost like a doctor asking for a patient to respond, like the noises he heard before in the office. Is Neil really there? Is he some sort of dream? Annie is confused by his lack of response – don't you want me to take you home? she says. As she turns away he asks her to help him.

    They arrive at his flat – a horrid bed-sit, squalid by modern conditions, with a fold out bed, cupboard, kitchenette and television - and the largest geometric-patterned wallpaper in existence. He is horrified, as would be all lovers of good taste. He turns on the TV and it is the BBC with a news broadcast concerning Enoch Powell. It all seems too much and he realises he is acting like a bit of a twit. He tells Annie he is not mad – but feels he has to explain. Surely she will understand...

    "I had an accident, and I woke up thirty-three years in the past. Now that either makes me a time traveller, or a lunatic, or I'm lying I a hospital bed in 2006 and none of this is real." Annie may be a nice girl but she's not an idiot. She tells him to go to a hospital and get checked for concussion. He tries to explain about the same killer at work in both time periods but she says it's a paranoid delusion - she did psychology at university. Yeah, I did fine art and I can tell you she's giving him the brush-off.

    She says he should take sick leave and see someone about his medical condition. But this makes Sam wonders if she might be a part of his mind, his id or ego maybe, telling him this is real and trying to keep him there. She laughs this off. He thanks her for listening to him politely without calling him nuts. She may not be saying it in those words, mate... but...

    "DI Tyler, you don't seem like the rest of them, and you're clever enough to know that what you're saying can't be true." Sam touches her to be sure she is real. She has to go and he asks where. Why should he want to know, she asks - she isn't real, is she? And as soon as she is out the door she'll be gone like a puff of smoke, won't she? Then she goes out the door and slams it behind her. For a moment Sam considers it may be true and goes to the door to check. When he opens it she leans back to him with a smile and tells him to get some rest.

    It's late night and Sam's TV is on one of those boring, open university-type programs dealing with a dry lesson on mathematics. Sam is dozing off in front of the set as the bearded presenter and his blackboard are explaining angles and formulas which would interest no one but a nerd. Sam is not listening – until he notices the presenter is suddenly talking about keeping Sam breathing and the tracheal tube in place, and that Sam's mind is in a deep coma due to the cranial trauma and the brain stem bruising, but there is some hope.

    Sam becomes alert, realises the presenter really is talking about him like a doctor to a patient and his family. Sam races to the TV, slapping it, telling the man he can hear him and that he is awake, but the presenter doesn't seem to notice. The picture is blurry. He turns the set on and off but now there is just the test pattern with the girl and her clown doll. Sam hugs the TV in tears, begging not to be left there in that strange world!

    Next morning Sam goes back to the police station. Gene and Chris are surprised to see him and he seems almost defeated to be there. Where else could I go? He asks. Gene says they pulled in a woman called Dora Keens, the last person to see the victim, Susie, alive. They have her in the Lost Property room for the interview because there are thick walls, and Dora is a right mouthy bird. Sam can't believe there is no proper interview room but shrugs this off. What does he need to know about her - she's a pain in the arse, is the brief.

    In the interview Gene is antagonistic and instantly makes Dora the same. Even polite and reasonable Sam is unable to get any sense out of her. Gene threatens her and she snaps back, so Gene has her put in the cells. Sam walks out in disgust at the interrogation 'technique' and goes to the staff canteen. Eventually Dora is released to her father.

    Later Sam confronts Gene about what happened. Gene has charged Dora with obstruction of justice, and Sam says where he is from Gene would be facing suspension for his conduct. Gene doesn't care as his technique worked - Dora cracked and gave the information they wanted. At 11.20 the victim left the pub with a long-haired man. Sam points out the hair under the nails of the victim were synthetic, not real. Gene tells him he heard about what happened in the mortuary. Sam is aware he still sounds like an idiot. He sighs, "I need a drink." Now Gene is listening. "That's the first sensible thing you've said since you got here."

    They head to the pub run by Nelson, a jiving, jovial Jamaican which startles Sam, who wonders which part of his subconscious created this character. Over a drink, as if just an aside, Gene asks Sam for what he thinks about the case. Sam thinks the murderer is either using thick gloves or a bag made out of some coarse material which gets under the victim's nails. When Gene sounds disbelieving Sam breaks into a laugh because it doesn't matter – "None of this is real! You're just some... thug that crawled out of some dark little pit in the back of my mind."

    Gene frowns. "You gonna report me?"

    Sam shrugs him off. "See ya, Gene. Give my regards to the Id."

    The macho level is rising and it seems they are about to have a biff, but before they can physically fight Gene warns Sam that he is the sheriff, and if Sam thinks he can figure out who the killer is with his methods then he should prove it. Determined to prove he is better, Sam decides to do so using the inside knowledge he has of the future crimes of the killer.

    Sam returns to the station and grabs Chris, dragging him into the dusty archive room stacked full of dusty paper files. He tells Chris to look for any connections in the files to a list of names Sam writes down which he says he got from 'inspiration'- i.e: the past. Or is it the future? His past... his future... I'm confused.

    Sam tries a brainstorming session in the main office for the men, with a blackboard, to try and figure out what the killer is thinking and what he will do next. This is all new to them and sounds like nonsense - and their body language says they think it is a waste of time. Sam asks for Annie, who studied psychology, to help them, but the men are too busy making lewd jokes about her to really listen to her. After all, she is just a woman.

    Sam wants to know why the victim had not been gagged. Annie thinks she knows. She says the killer needed to see the victim's mouth and lips because "We need to see the things we value." In the background, Gene smokes and lounges against the wall but he is listening with well-hidden interest.

    Annie and Sam are the ones doing the analysing. The murderer wants to see the woman's lips because he wants to kiss her but is too shy, they think, so he keeps her until he feels she is just taunting him by being there and making him feel embarrassed. Then he snaps and kills her.

    Chris jokes about and they all laugh, except Sam and Annie – and Gene. Gene asks an intelligent question, he wants to know how the killer kept her quiet without gagging her but Sam doesn't know the answer. Gene send the team out to look for new people in the area and any other leads, and hopes they haven't been led up a blind alley by all Sam's talk.

    In the pub Sam tries to find the phone number for his old girlfriend, Maya, but the operator can't find it. Nelson the jovial black barman overhears and when the phone is hung up he comes over. Sam orders a whiskey.

    Nelson almost objects. "Drink ain't gonna fix things... What am I saying? I run a pub! Of course it'll fix things."

    Sam tells him, "I'm lost"

    After a quick look around to be sure no one can over hear them then he talks – in a very intelligent, un-Nelson-like voice.

    "You're not lost, pal. You're where you are. And you have to make the best of it. It's all you can do. Keep it to yourself, eh? Folks just seem happier with the other Nelson." Sam agrees and thinks about Nelson's words.

    When Sam wakes up next morning in his bed he is buried under a pile of notes he made from the previous night. He races off to find Annie. He meets her outside the police station and hands the file over. These are his notes on his life in the real world. Films, music, wars, he asks her to check out the all the details. When Gene turns up she hustles off. Gene tells Sam he wants Chris out of the archives but Sam refuses because he wants the information, and says Gene doesn't scare him. As a retort, Gene twists his arm and punches him in the kidneys. Okay, he may not be scared, but he is hurt.

    This treatment is too much for Sam and he storms off. Down the high street he bumps into Annie. He tells her he can't deal with this place and time because somewhere out there, Maya is in trouble and needs him. Because it is all in his mind, surely his mind can only invent so much detail. He intends to walk and walk until he can't think up any more people and streets and details... Then he looks around and realises there is too much. He can't.

    It's madness, he says. Annie says a friend of hers had a perception problem but he got better, as will Sam eventually. Sam refuses and wants to keep walking, but then he notices they are outside a record shop he used to go to as a kid. It was where he bought his first Gary Neumann album.

    He goes inside and pokes around, delighted to see something a little bit familiar. Annie is increasingly worried, though, and offers to get Gene. Sam says Gene doesn't need him and he certainly doesn't need Gene. Then Sam notices the phone-box structure at the back of the shop where customers can put on headphones and listen to records. Something clicks. Suddenly Sam understands and pulls some of the padding off the wall. The killer wants to see the victim's mouth but victim has to be kept quiet. The strands under the victim's nails are synthetic – like the fibres he pulls from the padded wall of the soundproof box he's in. Grabbing a big tuft, Sam runs back to the station.

    Sam explains to Gene the killer held the victim in a padded, soundproof room. Gene has news too: their witness, Dora, has gone missing and her coat was found. Under Sam's theory, they have a day to find her before she is killed. So Sam and Gene join forces and drive the trusty Cortina over to Dora's neighbourhood, where Gene threatens some local children into looking after his car. The two start knocking on doors trying to get information about Dora's whereabouts. Sam's method is very modern – compared to Gene's.

    Sam: "We're looking for this woman, Dora Keens. Approximately five foot two, curly brown hair, hazel eyes, fake topaz necklace..."

    Gene: "We're looking for a short skinny bird, wears a big coat. Lots of gob."

    When they get back to the car Chris radios that he found one of Sam's names in the collator's office. At the station Chris shows Sam a smudged mimeographed copy of a complaint by a woman called Beryl Raimes, which Chris picked up because the name Colin Raimes was on the list. Colin was Sam's suspect back in his real time. As the report is illegible, they need to bring in Beryl.

    Beryl Raimes, a fifty-something woman with lots of make-up, is brought into the station and given a cup of tea as the detectives and coppers crowd around her. She tells them they're nice boys and Gene offers her a custard cream biscuit. Sam can hardly believe how nice he is to her and the inane, prattling chit-chat Gene is indulging in with the witness. Is this the same man who antagonised Dora Keens?. Sam tries to get Beryl to tell them what she had reported, what her complaint had been about three months prior because their copy got smudged. Can she remember? She's more interested in the biscuits, as is Gene who sends Skelton off to find some Garibaldi biscuits.

    Sam is increasingly frustrated by her lack of memory and the fact no one seems too eager to press for an answer. The more he pushes her, the more frightened she becomes and unable to remember. Was it someone violent towards her? Did she see something that scared her? Was there a threat? Pink wafers, Gene suddenly says going back to their previous tangent, and she relaxes as they talk about biscuits again. Sam is bewildered and irate, but as Gene chats and offers her more tea he also slips in a nonchalant remark about that bloke next door she complained of.

    Oh yes, she says, that young man at number 20. He was annoying, she says, playing those loud records all the time – and he's not even a local. Sam is as disappointed as the rest. So that was why you came to see us, he says, just to complain about the noise from his stereo? Oh yes, she agrees. "And it did the trick. He still lives there, but now you can't hear a thing."

    For a moment Gene and Sam think then the penny drops. They look at each other and, in a Starsky and Hutch moment, leap over the desk in slow motion and bolt for the car. Gene calls for back-up to meet them at the number 20 address of the neighbour.

    Gene and Sam, in the mighty Cortina, arrive at the house of Edward Kramer. Sam says they don't have a warrant yet so they have to tread carefully, but Gene just gives him a confused look and kicks the door open.

    Inside they walk, hearing the sound of music. They find the interior of the lounge room padded with pipe lagging. Gene turns off the stereo and calls for Kramer. They hear the sound of someone crying and discover Dora, tied up and hiding in the corner. As Sam comforts her, Kramer enters the room and Gene jumps on him and beats the crap out of him. The uniform boys appear and take him away. As Sam leads Dora to a waiting car, he notices Kramer in the back of the police car waving to someone. Sam turns and sees it is a little red-haired boy. Beryl Raimes turns up and tells Colin to go back inside.

    It's Colin Raimes, the suspect they let go in Sam's real time! The boy waves back to the murderer and smiles, the goes in. That's when Sam understands – Maya was right, Raimes knew the killer. He lived next door.

    Back at the station, Sam and Gene lead the killer in to the cells – to the applause of the entire team. In Gene's office the two share a drink. Sam says the killer, Kramer, will never go to trial because he's certifiable. Gene disagrees and says a jury will send him down for life. Sam produces a doctor's report found in the house which says Kramer is highly disturbed, which means he will simply go to a high security hospital.

    Gene dislikes this notion as Kramer would just be molly-coddled in a hospital and be out in twenty years, then he'd kill again. He'd only be about forty when he'd be released. And Sam understands this is correct – that's why Kramer didn't kill for thirty years. He was in hospital and didn't kill until he got out and started again, then kidnapped Maya. Gene doesn't quite follow all this information but he knows what he wants.

    Gene wants Sam to ignore the note and let a jury put Kramer away. Sam can't do that because it's not right, but Gene says their job is to put guilty people away. He hands the note to Sam and says it is now his decision, then walks away.

    Sam is torn between doing the right thing and stopping the future Kramer from taking Maya. Eventually he screws up the note and, when Gene returns, Sam tosses it in the bin. Gene welcomes Sam to the team. Sam is not entirely impressed with this notion but replies, "Thanks... Guv."

    It's the staff canteen and the cleaners are finishing up. Sam is there alone and when the cleaning lady asks if he's okay he can't be bothered answering. He's too busy thinking, his head in his hands. She leaves him on his own, in the darkness.

    Suddenly someone speaks and Sam sits up. Opposite him is the man Annie introduced in the car park. He asks again if Sam can hear him and then says his name is Neil, a hypnotherapist, speaking directly to Sam's subconscious. At the moment he is beside Sam in his bed in the IC ward of St. James's hospital. "If I am reaching you, and you can hear me, then I know that you can wake up."

    Sam says he can hear him – I'm in a coma, yeah? Neil tells him whatever he is experiencing isn't real but Sam can escape if he takes that 'definitive step'. Do as he says and Sam will wake up surrounded by family and friends – you're mobile hasn't stopped ringing, Neil tells him, then, "Maya is here and safe." This makes Sam happy, and he tells Neil to inform Maya that he is coming back. Sam races off.

    It is Annie who comes nervously up onto the high roof of the police station. Sam is right on the very edge, smiling happily. She tells him to come back from the edge but he grins and says it's all okay now because he knows the answer: he's in a coma and he just has to take a definitive step to wake up.

    No, she explains frantically, Neil is my ex and we did psychology together. She says she told Neil all about Sam and he read the notes Sam made about the future. This makes Sam start to doubt, then he remembers he said nothing in his notes about a mobile phone and Neil mentioned it. Therefore, Annie is just a part of his mind trying to keep him there by stopping him jumping.

    No, she says, Neil is just playing games with him. She tells Sam to carefully look down. He does so and there is Neil in the car park yelling at him not to jump, claiming to be sorry and that it was just a bad joke. Neil runs, leaving Sam more confused but still determined to jump. Surely these things are just his mind trying to stop him leaving, to keep him in a coma. But he is unsure... What if he is wrong?

    Annie comes closer, begging him not to jump. Maybe you're here for a reason, to make a difference, she says. She holds out her hand, and slowly he reaches out and takes it.

    He notices her hand is gritty which she says is because she fell on a fire bucket full of sand on her way up to the roof. Sam can't imagine why his mind would invent such small, insignificant details like that. Perhaps it is all real? He asks her what he should do and she simply says, "Stay." He stands at the edge with his eyes closed, his hand in hers.

    A mixture of The Sweeney and The Singing Detective, along with a whole lot of new (and old) ideas makes for an interesting, witty, nostalgic and intelligent show. The depth of the show is up to the viewer, if they wish to contemplate what is reality, what is a clue, what does it all mean, and what Sam must do to return home - if indeed he is not really home. The writing, acting and direction - as well as the music choice and the attention to period detail - is spot on and just ads to the experience.

    So very British and so innovative - I'm not sure I want to contemplate an American version of this any more than I would an Australian version. Would the American one use David Bowie's Life On Mars and The Sweet's Busted? I think not.moreless
  • An interesting introduction to what looks to be a very clever premise.

    I just finished watching the first episode of Life on Mars, which I'd DVR'ed after the commercials on BBC America hooked me almost instantly. (It didn't hurt that much of the plot revolves around the year in which I was born). What I found was a very interesting plot premise, and good early character development. Just enough interest is formed in the present, before the character of Sam Tyler find himself unceremoniously dumped into the year 1973. His confusion appears realistic, even if not all of his reactions seem altogether convincing.

    By the end of the episode, I found that I'd already formed a strong interest to see where the plot will lead me, and intrigued by a subtle hint that perhaps Sam will find himself able to alter the events of the future. Along with Sam's character, those of Gene Hunt and Annie Cartwright stood out as well developed and quick to grab my interest.

    I'll definitely be watching the next episode, and hopefully the early promise shown by Life on Mars will continue.moreless
  • DCI Sam Tyler gets hit by a speeding car in 2006. The next thing he knows he\'s in 1973!

    The first episode of Life On Mars is really, really good!. We get to know most of the characters quickly, and while in 1973 we find out what\'s really happened to Sam in the accident (no spoilers here?), and he thinks he knows a way to get back to 2006.

    Overall, a really, really good pilot episode!. Probably one of the best ones I\'ve seen on TV. It\'s important to watch this episode first, otherwise you\'ll miss alot of what\'s happened in the show. You definatly need to see this episode.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • The shot after Sam runs away from the policeman and sees a billboard that mentions Manchester's "Highway in the Sky", where he was when he was hit by the car, is lifted straight from Back to the Future. In that film, Marty McFly sees a billboard of the Lyons Estate, where he will live in 1985.

    • In the scene where Sam and Gene realize the room where the victim is kept is soundproof, they take a slow-motion leap onto and over a desk, side-by-side. This is a play on a device frequently used in Starsky and Hutch, the seminal buddy-cop drama of the mid 1970s. Frequently, Starsky and Hutch would be seen leaping over furniture, cars, or any other obstruction in a similar manner to get to the bad guys or the victim.

    • Cars: In 2005, Sam Tyler drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee. In 1973, the police officer thinks of a jeep as a military vehicle.

    • Women officers at that time were known as PWs (Police Woman) and not WPCs (Woman Police Constable). So Annie should have been referred to as PW Cartwright. The term WPC did not occur until the Equal Opportunities Act in 1975, which among other things re-defined the role and position of women officers in the Police.

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Sam: I need a drink.
      Hunt: That's the first sensible thing you've said since you got here.

    • Skelton: Someone needs to take a look at you, boss, you're as white as a ginger bird's arse!

    • Sam: We're looking for this woman, Dora Keens. Approximately five foot two, curly brown hair, hazel eyes, fake topaz necklace…
      Hunt: We're looking for a short skinny bird, wears a big coat. Lots of gob.

    • Nelson: Drink ain't gonna fix things. What am I saying? I run a pub. Of course it'll fix things!
      Sam: I'm lost.
      Nelson [ adopting a serious tone ]: You're not lost, pal. You're where you are. And you have to make the best of it. It's all you can do… Keep it to yourself, eh? Folks just seem happier with the other Nelson.

    • Sam: None of this is real! You're just some… thug that crawled out of some dark little pit in the back of my mind.
      Hunt: You gonna report me?
      Sam: See ya, Gene. Give my regards to the id.
      Hunt: You're new, and you've got something big crammed up your jacksy. But don't worry - you'll learn.

    • Witness: I want a lawyer!
      Hunt: I want to hump Britt Ekland!

    • TV Presenter: …But the Glasgow Scale does put him at a deep level of coma.
      Sam: Hey! You're talking about me. I'm here! I can hear you! Look at me! I'm here!
      Presenter: At times, however, he moves, murmurs, has motor responses as though caught up in some deep R.E.M. sleep from which he cannot wake. This gives us some hope, despite the brain stem bruising.
      Sam: Hey! I'm here! Look at me! Does this look like low responsiveness to you? I'm here!

    • Sam: I had an accident, and I woke up thirty-three years in the past. Now that either makes me a time traveller, or a lunatic, or I'm lying in a hospital bed in 2006 and none of this is real.
      Annie: D.I. Tyler, you don't seem like the rest of them, and you're clever enough to know that what you're saying can't be true.

    • Skelton: The motive doesn't seem to be robbery. There's 27p in her purse, plus a couple of Green Shields.
      Sam: Well, he might have taken the notes. I mean, who's going to take 27p?
      Skelton: Well, I would!
      (There is general agreement from all.)

    • Sam [ on the telephone ]: I need you to connect me to a Virgin number, a Virgin mobile number…
      Operator: Don't you start that sexy business with me, young man, I can trace this call.

    • Sam: This isn't my car. I was driving a jeep.
      Constable: You were driving a military vehicle?

    • Sam: Wait, don't leave me… I'm in BUPA!

    • Hunt: Anything happens to this motor I'll come around your houses and stamp on all your toys. Got it? Good kids.

    • Hunt: Right we've pulled a bird in. Dora Keane. She was the last person to see the victim alive.
      Sam: Is she a suspect?
      Hunt: Nope, just a pain in the arse.
      Sam: Okay, alright, brief me in full. What do I need to know?
      Hunt: She's a pain in the arse.

    • Hunt: They reckon you got concussion, but I couldn't give a tart's furry cup if half your brains are falling out; don't ever waltz into my kingdom acting king of the jungle.
      Sam: Who the hell are you?
      Hunt: Gene Hunt, your DCI, and it's 1973, almost dinner time. I'm 'aving hoops.

    • Sam: This is my office. Here. This is a door. Right here. And my desk is here. Where's my desk? A chair. PC terminal.
      Carling: Who? You want a constable up here?
      Sam: What the bloody hell is going on here?

    • (At the morgue.)
      Sam: What have you learned from the stomach contents?
      (The two detectives look at him blankly.)
      Sam: Well, uh… Chris, have a look.
      (Chris picks up corpse's arm, raises sheet from body, and begins to look underneath it.)
      Sam: In the file, in the – post mortem file.

  • NOTES (2)

    • DVD: Life On Mars: The Complete Series One (CTD10365) was released on DVD on 15 May 2006.

    • Music used in this episode:

    • Life on Mars by David Bowie
    • Stairway to the Stars by Blue Oyster Cult
    • I'm So Free by Lou Reed
    • Baba O'Riley by The Who
    • Rat Rat Blue by Deep Purple
    • Fireball by Deep Purple
    • White Room by Cream


    • The title of the show is a reference to the David Bowie song of the same name, which is also playing on an i-Pod when Sam is hit by the car. The song continues playing when he arrives in 1973, now on an eight-track tape, which was the mp3 of the early 1970's.