Life on Mars (Is there)

Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seats with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen…

So that’s it. After two series and 16 sparkling episodes we all found out what happened to Sam Tyler in BBC’s Life on Mars. Didn’t we?

There are a number of reactions already emerging about what the last episode really meant. From the positive, well-argued, to the scathing and negative.
But I think the writers are smarter than they are being credited for. After years seemingly in a coma and trapped in 1973, Sam returned to 2006 and found that he was lifeless, and unable to feel. Policing had been reduced to policies to protect the criminals. Political correctness had neutralised all sense of feeling. And Sam had dreamed it all up about 1973.
Don’t we all daydream about being able to do our jobs or live our lives without bureaucracy? To live life in the raw? Surely something every male sees in the idol of John Thaw’s Reagan in the Sweeney. Surely there’s some kind of poetic comment in the fact that Gene Hunt, who we’ve been idolising and longing to live like for the last 16 programmes, is a form of rhyming slang which many in the year 2007 would use to describe that character’s behaviour?

And what about the closing scene where the Test-card girl comes and switches off the programme? What comment should we read into that? Stop daydreaming like Sam and start living?

Personally, I’d like to think it’s a direct comment from the writers. The cast and writers have been busy giving interviews about how the series took years to get taken on by a broadcaster. We all know how difficult it must have been to sell a programme about smoking, drinking, rule-breaking, sexist, racist characters. I personally hope the test girl is switching off the television because that little box in the corner of your room is largely responsible for the desensitisation that Sam felt, and that we all feel about life today. Afterall, they didn’t watch Trisha in the 70’s did they, and bleep anything that might offend?

Whatever you read into the script, you have to admire the cunning of the writers. Since the series began we’ve been told this is it, the story is concluded. We’re supposed to believe Sam really did return to 2006, but what if he followed the wrong guy. What if Morgan was the cancer, and 2006 wasn’t real? Afterall, he didn’t feel did he, so was he really alive? Sam’s not been left in 2006, he’s back in 1973, so the whole thing’s open-ended.

Can we have a third series in the future? We can if it turns out Sam realised just in time that his waking in 2006 was actually a near-death experience, and that by returning to 1973 he’s still fighting the coma…


Whatever you think, how long has it been since TV viewers were left still contemplating a TV show the morning after? There are some good answers here on the Mancheter Evening News Blog, includingthe revelation that I may share John Simm’s view of the ending… ]

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