Gone But Not To Be Forgotten

Life on Mars j

Sam’s Final Fling

It has the potential to be one of those finales that is talked about for years to come (at least around the hallowed halls of Fazzinchi Towers), like Blake’s 7 or Blackadder or Babylon 5 or The Office (or, for all the wrong reasons, Quantum Leap). Life on Mars will be remembered as a genre-breaking series that looked back at the seventies with a gritty realism and a realisation that it almost was like another planet. In Gene Hunt we had a fantastic character who, despite being a mysogonist, a bigot, an alcaholic, a bully, and an excessively violent man, won over the hearts of the viewers and actor, Philip Glenister, deserves praise in abundance for being able to pull off that feat. It was his tortured colleague, Sam Tyler (John Simm), who was at the centre of things though. “I had an accident and woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma or back in time?” he asked in the title sequence and in the final episode we found out some answers.

Over fifteen previous episodes we had seen Sam try to come to terms with where he was and, more importantly why he was there. The voices that he heard from TVs and radios suggested that he was indeed in a coma in 2006 and that the challenges that he faced in his job in 1973 were somehow metaphorical to his condition in the hospital in the future. So far, so wonderfully wierd. This perspective was often challenged and none more so than in this final episode when Frank Morgan explained to Sam that he was, after all, working undercover for the force in Hyde to bring down Gene Hunt, to use him as an example to other policemen who used such ill thought out methods, so that p[olicing could be modernised. He said that the accident that had brought him to this place had caused amnesia and that his brain had in fact created the memories of the future as a way of coping with the trauma. Sam had some decisions to make.
I am not always in favour of a happy ending and here we were treated to a marvellously ambiguous, melancholy final 15 minutes. The train robbery that was at the centre of this story was starting to look like the Butch and Sundance finale with the main characters all about to be shot by the bad guys when, in a bright light, Sam finally awoke in the hospital. Some key scenes were played out as Sam rediscovered the 21st century only to find that the alienation that had haunted him in the past was now even more evident here. He realised that he had to go back to his friends and colleagues in 1973 and save them and so, in a jaw-dropping moment for me, Sam hurled himself from the top of a building.

My interpretation from here on is open to question but I assume that he went back into his coma and, therefore, into 1973 where he could save the day. After finally getting together with Annie, the whole team got into the car with Gene. The radio was playing and he started to hear the hospital noises again, so Sam changed channel, effectively deciding to stop fighting and never to go back to his “real life”. There followed a beautiful shot of the car driving away while Sam and Gene argued as only they can. This led to the girl from the test-card who had haunted Sam for all this time running up to the camera and switching off, reflecting Sam’s death. For a series that was, in effect “all a dream”, I’ll remember this one for a long, long time…. now, when’s the DVD out?

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    • fazzinchi
    • April 11th, 2007

    You know, I thought of Vanilla Sky when Sam was on the roof, too, but have never seen the original film though 😦 May have to track it down now 🙂

  1. The DVD is out next week (16 April).

    For me, the rooftop scene was either a rip-off of, or an homage to, the Spanish film “Abre Les Ojos” (Open Your Eyes), which was weakly remade as Vanilla Sky.

    In fact, now that I think of it, there are so many similarities with the premise of that film that you could almost regard the whole series as a cross between Abre Les Ojos and The Sweeney. I’m just kicking myself I didn’t realise earlier…

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