Gene Genie Let Yourself Go

Ashes b

Looking Back at the 80’s

Life on Mars was one of the most popular British dramas produced in recent years.  It’s main thrust was a delightful conceit: a police officer goes back in time, which results in clash of cultures… cue ample opportunity for dramatic and/or comedic escapades.  If it has been made in the 70’s (and the time travel had been back to the early 50’s) this would have been the extent of the story and nothing much more would have been made of it.  However, viewers in the noughties are somewhat more demanding and so LoM came with added levels of depth as Sam Tyler attempted to unravel the mystery of why he was there and how he could get back.  Thankfully, it was handled with skill and dexterity and the result was a multi-layered, intriguing piece of television that told a tale with a start, a middle and an end.

Therefore, it was received with mixed feelings when rumours of a follow-on series were confirmed with the announcement that Ashes to Ashes would be made.  With Sam’s story told, I couldn’t figure out quite why anyone would bother to do it all again.  Two episodes into this spin-off series and I still can’t.  Episode one was, perhaps knowingly, called “Deja Vu” and it felt for all the world like I had seen it before: a police officer goes back in time, which results in clash of cultures… cue ample opportunity for dramatic and/or comedic escapades.

Of course, there is Gene Hunt to watch, which is never less than rewarding as Phillip Glenister struts and pouts, and camps it up to his heart’s content.  There is the 80’s nostalgia element to provide nods and winks to the audience, to the extent that even Zippy and George make a cameo appearance to (unsuccessfully) try to trump the Trumpton scene of last year’s Life on Mars.   And there’s all the fun of Skelto, Carling and the Audi Quattro to wile away the episodes.  However, the sense of mystery is gone and the plot seems a little less cohesive.

I think that “Deja Vu” suffered from that debut episode problem of trying to set the scene, (re)introduce the characters, set the tone and style while at the same time trying to tell an old-fashioned cop story.  Thankfully, episode two, “The Happy Day” was an improvement as Keeley Hawes found her feet a little more and had some darker elements to it, as DCI Alex Drake accidentally sowed the seed of a suicide bombing in the mind of an impressionable and damaged teenager.  Some of the fun comes from Alex’s knowledge of her situation, brought about by the research she performed on Sam Tyler’s recollections.  There are promises of more intrigue and deeper, as yet untouched-upon, storylines that augers well and will encourage me to stick with it and, as Rob says, Life on Mars was a bit of a mish-mash when it started.

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