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Life on Mars (UK)

Season 1 Episode 4

Episode 4

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Jan 30, 2006 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
149 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Sam discovers that many of his colleagues are taking bribes from a local gangster, and is determined to put a stop to it, but DCI Hunt seems unwilling to help. Sam tracks down his mother, who has money troubles.

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  • Sam Tyler, still stuck in 1973, decides to visit his mum from when he was 4 (which won't lead to you looking like a nutter at all, Sam) and discovers CID is corruptly taking bribes from a local gangster, Stephen Warren.moreless

    Great episode. Sam very much has to play "moral compass" here, because Gene Hunt and everyone else are totally corrupt. Sam goes about trying to bring Warren down, and a girl called Joni who worked for Warren claims he threatened to rape her and kill her, and she has to stay with Sam for the night and she'll go to Liverpool in the morning.

    Things aren't so simple. After Sam goes to sleep, he wakes up to see several halucinatory images, but it becomes apparent that he is chained to the bed and Joni is having sex with him.

    He wakes up the next morning, he is still chained to the bed, and Gene Hunt bursts in, seeing him naked and tied up. All his CID members have a laugh about it, it turns out that Joni drugged Sam over dinner and that she was a honey trap in the first place- Warren wasn't going to rape her and kill her, as Warren is gay and couldn't rape her. Joni and Warren have taken photos of Sam to blackmail and humiliate him, but Joni later changes her mind and destroys them. Then, Warren kills her.

    A really nasty plot, examining the great problem of 70s police corruption. Sam really tries to bring Warren down, and no-one else seems interested. Joni is a wonderfully complex character, from the innocent victim she plays when she asks for Sam's help, to the cunning villainess in the scene where Sam confronts her at the clubv, and finally her looking so bright and hopeful, deciding to escape Warren with her mother, and the scene where she's found dead in the gutter is really heart-wrenching. You feel so sorry for the poor girl, her life just beginning, and when Ray blames Sam for her death, I always just want to punch him... as Sam does.

    As for Stephen Warren, oh dear, this is an EVIL man. He has the police eating out of his hand, and he and his associates get away with whatever they want. Sam gets in the way and Warren humiliates him, in a way that isn't presented so bladly in the episode but is really horrible when you think about it (I'll get to that later), and his murdering Joni... Horrible. It feels great when they arrest him, and you just really hate the man.

    One thing that annoys me to no end about this episode; what Joni did to Sam, drugging him, tying him up and having sex with him is, by modern standards (or at least my standards) rape, especially when you consider that she offers him sex before and he turns her down. Whilst one wouldn't expect his fellow officers to understand that, you would think Sam, a very modern-day man, would have some grasp of the fact that he was raped, but he doesn't appear to think about this as anything more than a very embarassing honeuy trap. When you think about it as rape, it really makes Warren seem a terrible villain- but Sam doesn't really suffer any trauma as a result of this, and the aftermath is played mostly for laughs, so I'm left wondering what I'm meant to think...

    The great sub-plot is Sam missing his mother from 2006. He goes to see her 1973 self, posing as "Detective Inspector Bolan", but offers her money when she barely knows him, and he embarrasses himself. She later forgives him though. The thing is, Sam and Ruth (his mum) appear to have a lot of sexual chemistry in their scenes, which is really weird. The scene with Ruth are really touching, and so are the bits where he hears her 2006 voce through the television- he loves his mum.

    All in all, a great episode in a great series, with some really weird bits.moreless
  • Beautiful Life Written by Ashley Pharaoh Directed by John McKay

    Sam: "It's a beautiful life, Joanie. Too beautiful to waste dancing in a rusty cage for men like that".

    Joanie: "I know".

    After two rather standard episodes, it was time for Life On Mars to come back with something of the same strength of the first episode and luckily, this episode was the very tonic for that.

    So far we've had a serial killer and stories about robberies and now Sam faces something that actually poses a real threat to his integrity and profession – bent coppers. Knowing that many positions of authority and power have a successful corruption rate, it seemed natural to tackle this issue.

    Things started out with Sam arresting Charles Edwards for assaulting a man in the street. Sam should've known that something was amiss when even the bloke in question refused to go against Edwards in front of a weary Phyllis. Also the fact that Charles was suitably smug should've been another hint.

    Of course it turns out that while Charles might be pond life, he's also a good source for the cops and that's what keeps him out of trouble. Sam is predictably disgusted with this and he's even less impressed when Gene forces him into meeting with Charles' boss Steven Warren to apologise.

    Warren is a lot cleverer though and makes Charles apologise to Sam. He's also a good example of things being too good to be true on several fronts. Giving Sam a cigar and the lovely Joanie with to dance in his club came back to haunt our 2006 copper later on when him and Gene dealt with some hippies.

    Not only did Gene rope Sam in on a job that Warren tipped him off on but he also put a wad of cash in his back pocket. Now I get that Sam wasn't best pleased with this but he really should've treaded carefully when dealing with Warren. Even though Warren didn't sound particularly clever when Sam faced him, I knew the guy was going to stitch Sam up good and proper.

    Using Charles to give Sam a good beating might have been a bit too obvious so it was perhaps a good idea to then use Joanie and her feminine wiles on Sam instead. Even Sam can't resist a pretty girl and while he was noble enough not to take her up on her offer of sex for shelter, Joanie was still able to play Sam.

    First she laid on a pretty convincing sob story and then she spiked him with LSD and made sure that steamy photos of them together existed. With Sam tied to a bed, Gene had great pleasure in taking the piss out of his self-righteous colleague. Ray and Chris also wasted no time in having fun at Sam's expense.

    The only two people who didn't find it funny with Phyllis and Annie. Maybe it could be the gender thing or the fact that both of them have more brain cells than their male colleagues but either way, their responses were interesting. Phyllis thought Sam was being genuinely reckless and Annie decided to decline dating him.

    In any series, Annie's reaction might have been written as something rather childish but Liz White definitely conveys the exact opposite. Annie hasn't exactly been shy about liking Sam and she even admits it here too. Sam didn't seem all that surprised when she jested about seeing him naked. I like the sweetness of their relationship but I also hope it doesn't descend into sickly sweet either.

    As for Joanie, while Sam might have had the right to call her a coward, at least she did try to redeem herself by burning the negatives of them together. She even had the sense to take Sam's advice by trying to escape Warren but it was obvious that when Gene called round to Sam that Joanie would be the latest casualty.

    Still her death several great purposes. For all his smart arsed comments so far this season, Ray finally crosses the line and Sam smashes his face against a wall as a result. I shouldn't condone violence but I would've happily done the same to Ray in the same situation. It's nothing against Dean Andrews but I flat out hate Ray out of the entire main character.

    While Gene is capable of being an utter **** at least the writers imbue him with some depth. Ray on the other hand can't be accused of the same thing. Speaking of Gene, its Joanie's death that gets him to admit to Sam that he's not entirely happy with taking backhanders. Sam then employs some of Gene's methods in order to avenge Joanie's death.

    With that in mind, Warren gets his due, Charles experiences a humiliating lesson by Sam and the entire force are actually grateful for Sam ridding them of Warren. It's even nice in the end when Gene actually praises Sam. It does seem that Sam and Gene are slowly getting past trying to annoy the other.

    However the mystery angle of the episode is also a strong point. With the Test Card Girl not providing much to go on with this episode, the introduction of Sam's mother is a nice highlight. Sam did open up this episode by actually trying to look for his younger self.

    Joanne Froggatt is a good casting choice as Sam's mother. Immediately you feel for her when she faces problems with the rent and there are some nice subtle moments when Sam tries to help her without coming across as obviously strange. The money angle might not have been a smart idea but Sam did amend for that later on.

    Of course Sam doesn't actually get to meet his former self and towards the end, his childhood home is empty. There's no doubt that his family are going to play an integral role in the series, especially given that he might slipping closer and closer to death as we speak.

    Also in "Episode 4"

    Sam had a ginger cat called Ivanhoe that took to him only after he entered his home. I don't know why that's significant but I have a feeling it is.

    Gene: "What are you doing tonight?"

    Sam: "I can't believe what I've just seen".

    Gene: "Cancel it. You're having a drink with me".

    Sam got star struck in this episode when he saw Bobby Charlton and met Marc Bolan. His warning to the latter was amusing.

    Sam: "I'm losing it, Nelson. I'm forgetting who I am and what happens. I want to go home".

    Nelson: "Me too Sam. Close the door on your way out".

    Mrs Tyler: "I don't even know you. Why would I take money from you?"

    Sam: "It's only money".

    We learned that Sam has a thing for custard, went to Mexico for a period of time and worked in a DIY store during his gap year.

    Chris (to Sam): "Had a few calls for you, Boss. Told them you were tied up".

    Annie: "I've decided something".

    Sam: "What have you decided?"

    Annie: "I'm going to be a really good friend to you".

    Sam: "A friend".

    Annie: "'Cause with the enemies you're making, you could do with all the friends you can get. Look after yourself Detective Inspector Tyler … please?"

    The movies that Sam had suggested going to with Annie were either Carry On Girls or Mean Streets.

    Sam: "Annie please".

    Annie: "Hey I got to see you naked. It's not all bad".

    Sam: "I'm not cuffed to the bed. Sorry to disappoint you".

    Gene: "Get your coat".

    It did actually look that when Sam and Ray were scrapping that Gene wasn't too sure as to whether he should've broken them up.

    Gene (re Charles): "I didn't think you'd lock a murder suspect in a giant fridge".

    Sam: "He wouldn't answer my question".

    Gene: "I have a feeling he will now".

    Gene (to Sam): "You did well Sam. Every officer will be walking a little taller tomorrow because of you".

    Standout music: Oh the best music was here. "Jean Genie" by David Bowie, "Blockbuster" by the Sweet and "I Don't Believe In If Anymore" by Roger Whitaker all hit the right spots.

    Easily the strongest episode of the series so far. This one is not only further developing Sam as a character but it's also doing the business with Gene by giving him some depth and not resorting him to archetypal thug. The addition of seeing Sam's mother as well should help with the mystery of his current situation.moreless
Kelly Wenham

Kelly Wenham


Guest Star

Stephen Aintree

Stephen Aintree


Guest Star

William Matheson

William Matheson

Marc Bolan

Guest Star

Tony Marshall

Tony Marshall


Recurring Role

Noreen Kershaw

Noreen Kershaw

Phyllis Dobbs

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Hunt: I found out Harry was taking the odd backhander to look the other way.
      Sam: What did you do?
      Hunt: I did what any other shiny new kid on the block would do. Shopped him. Everyone hated me for squealing.
      Sam: You did the right thing.
      Hunt: Harry couldn't handle it. Ended up hanging himself with his own belt. Month later, I took my first backhander.
      Sam: How did that make you feel?
      Hunt: Like shit.
      Sam: How does it make you feel now?
      Hunt: You know, I try not to think about it. Do the best that I can. Try and look after my men and the people in my city.
      Sam: But when you do think about it? How does it make you feel?
      Hunt: Like there's an animal eating away at my insides.
      Sam: Fancy doing something about it?
      Hunt: Thought you'd never ask!

    • Hunt: I'm not a Catholic meself, Mr Warren, but isn't there something in the Bible about "Thou shalt not suck off rent boys"?
      Warren: How dare you come in here!
      Hunt: You could have said that to the boy.

    • Annie [ after seeing Sam handcuffed naked on his bed ]: I've decided something.
      Sam: What have you decided?
      Annie: I'm going to be a really good friend to you.
      Sam: A friend.
      Annie: 'Cause with the enemies you're making, you could do with all the friends you can get… [ pause ] Look after yourself, Detective Inspector Tyler… please?

    • (Hunt and Tyler bring a confiscated television into the pub)
      Nelson: What is that, mon brave?
      Hunt: It's a television.
      Nelson: In a pub?
      Sam: Well, I could make some brackets, we could put it on the wall… and watch the sport.
      Nelson: In a pub?

    • Jane: I'm not meant to talk to strange men. Are you a strange man?
      Sam: I think I probably am, yeah.

  • NOTES (1)

    • Music used in this episode:
      Brainstorm by Hawkwind
      Jean Genie by David Bowie
      Cross Eyed Mary by Jethro Tull
      Silver Machine by Hawkwind
      Gudbuy t'Jane by Slade
      Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
      Blockbuster by The Sweet
      I Don't Believe in If Anymore by Roger Whitaker


    • Joannie: This is delicious, you Galloping Gourmet.
      The Galloping Gourmet was one of the first popular cooking shows, running from 1968 until the mid-1970s featuring Graham Kerr as the wine-swilling presenter who specialised in high-fat, high-cream, deliciously rich recipes.

    • Sam: You know, Red rum, Red rum.
      Sam is quoting Danny Torrance's line from the 1980 film version of Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining: reversed, it spells 'Murder'.

    • Sam [ to Marc Bolan ]: Look, drive carefully, ok, especially in Minis.
      Marc Bolan was the lead singer and songwriter for the 1970s glam rock band T. Rex, which rose to fame with such songs as Bang a Gong and Children of the Revolution. He was killed just before his 30th birthday on September 16 1977, when his girlfriend Gloria lost control of her purple Mini and collided with a tree on their way home. Paradoxically Bolan never learned to drive, as he always feared he would die in a car accident.

    • Hunt [ on the Chief Constable receiving pornographic pictures ]: …And he gets a Christmas card from Mary Whitehouse!
      Mary Whitehouse was a deeply conservative British moral campaigner for more decency in the press and broadcast media. She founded the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, now known as mediawatch-uk, who oppose the broadcast of any pornographic, blasphemous or violent content.