Life On Mars: The Complete Second Series

Life On Mars: The Complete Second Series


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The decision to curtail Life On Mars, despite its popularity, was as intelligent as everything else connected to this remarkable slice of British TV drama. How much further could they sustain the concept of a DI in a coma in 2006, living a parallel existence in 1973? Also, it gives the second series an importance it would otherwise never have had. No more cliff hanging for Sam Tyler (John Simm). The final episode, a work of imaginative genius, ratchets the story up to a level of unbearable tension.

There are many layers of fascination and enjoyment here and on every level subtleties of perception, not least with the central premise. Are the characters in 1973 figments of Sam’s unconscious mind? Although he appears an outsider in Gene Hunt’s (Philip Glenister) politically incorrect unit, where instinct and reactionary policing prevail, does Sam really want “to go home,” as he tells the voices from the future when they make contact through the television, or phone? What about Annie (Liz White)? He knows that Maya (Archie Panjabi), his steady girlfriend in 2006, still visits the hospital regularly, but with Annie, who is promoted to DI Cartwright, he thinks, perhaps, he has found someone equally special.

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Even more than in the first series, connections between the 20th and 21st century keep interceding, like Maya’s mum as a young woman who appears to be connected with a Pakistani drugs ring and a toe rag club owner (Marc Warren) whom Sam believes is going to kill him in hospital in the future. Rather than using his knowledge of things to come, like in the possible IRA bomb plot episode, Sam is tormented by it and when the doctors mess up his medication in the hope of bringing him back from coma, he starts hallucinating and acting weird during a kidnapping case.

“We kick him, or cuff him?” Gene ponders over the prone body of a suspect.

“It’s always so simple with you lot,” Annie responds, her feminist hackles rising.

“Excuse ME, Mrs Woman!” Gene barks, flaring his sexist nostrils.

The characters and performances are inspired, and, above all, the writing (Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah, Tony Jordan) is not just dead on the money, but sensitive and thoughtful when required, tough and uncompromising when not, while providing Gene with a constant supply of killer one-liners.

“I was up all night,” Sam says.

“What was her name?” Gene says.


“German bird?”

Although ending it at Episode 8 should be applauded, especially in the way that they pull it off, it is desperately sad at the same time. Having spent good nights with these people, to lose them now hurts.

“No need to come over all Dorothy,” Gene snaps.

Sorry, boss.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2007
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At last a conclusion for the injured DI in a coma who lives and works in a politically incorrect police station 30 years in the past.
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Director: S J Clarkson, Richard Clark, Andrew Gunn

Writer: Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah, Tony Jordan

Starring: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster, Noreen Kershaw, Tony Marshall, Archie Panjabi, Ralph Brown, Kevin McNally, Harriet Rogers, Marc Warren

Year: 2007

Runtime: 470 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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