Life on Mars (ABC and BBC TV) DVD Review

cast of Life on Mars BBC TV show

The ABC broadcast the second (and final) series of Life on Mars in early 2008.

A friend lent me their DVD’s of Life on Mars insisting that it was a great show and I’d love it. I’m glad they did because I missed watching it when Series 1 was shown on ABC TV in 2007 and once I started watching I was hooked finishing all the episodes within a few days.

Fans can purchase Series 1 & 2 of Life on Mars from Chaos DVD’s for a competitive price…

John Simm (Clocking Off, State of Play, Dr Who) plays policeman Sam Tyler. Knocked unconscious by a speeding car on the way to investigate a crime scene in modern day Manchester, Sam awakes to find himself seemingly in 1973. Is he really from 1973 and suffering from hallucinations and false memory flashbacks, was he transported in time or is he in a 2006 hospital suffering a serious coma?

Before the accident the classic David Bowie song “Life on Mars” had been playing on his iPod in his 2006 Jeep. When his head clears and he gets up Sam finds himself standing next to an old Rover with the same song playing from an 8 track cartridge. As we see the shock and disorientation hit him – the song plays in the background “Take a look at the lawman, Beating up the wrong guy, Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know, He’s in the best selling show/Is there life on Mars?”

Either way Sam feels like a man out of his time on a different planet, hence the theme song “Life on Mars” by David Bowie. The shows premise is genuinely haunting … will Sam return to “real life” in 2006, is he trapped forever or is his life in 1973 actually real? It is impossible not to sympathize with Sam as he struggles to find the answers.

Watch the first 10 minutes of Life on Mars and I guarantee you’ll become an instant fan.

Notes:

  • The second and final series of Life on Mars should be broadcast on ABC TV in Australia during early 2008. The show finished with an unexpected twist earlier in 2007 on the BBC.
  • Life on Mars is a Kudos Film & Television production. Kudos is also responsible for the excellent BBC shows Spooks and Hustle.

Other People’s Reviews

Three storytellers, Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah, are credited with conjuring up the idea for this ingenious series, which turns a familiar style of police drama [into] pure fascination, mystery and intrigue.

It also allows the BBC to indulge one of its great skills: the recreation of an earlier era with very different and seemingly archaic technology, plus a grubby style of clothing matching that of Regan and Carter from The Sweeney, still with plenty of flares. It also has a wonderful cast headed by John Simm and Philip Glenister (both from State of Play).
Robin Oliver (SMH)

If Tyler is, in fact, in a coma, dreaming a parallel and minutely detailed ’70s universe, as an audience we must find out how and why.

Sure, the test patterns, the leather jackets and the Bowie posters are impeccable but all that would mean nothing if we didn’t have to find out what’s really going on. A period-thriller cop show with a science-fiction heart and a politically scientific conscience. Tall order. Perfect delivery..
Ruth Ritchie (SMH)

Every so often there comes along a TV show that totally defies your expectations of television and this stunningly good spin on the detective series sees modern day cop Sam Tyler (the brilliant John Simm) get run over and knocked unconscious, when he wakes he is more than a little disturbed to find he is now in 1973 – working with the hard as nails DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) … a man who relies on his coppers intuition and his fists to get results.
Memorabletv.com

The characters might drink in quaint old-style pubs and those little white pinpoint dots appear and fade ever so slowly when they turn their black-and-white TVs off – but the nostalgia is not overplayed. The era’s constant power shortages have a starring role – as do the rampant sexism, racism and entrenched brutality of the police force. Everything is dwarfed by the monstrous towering postwar housing blocks and silhouetted by bleak skies..
Scott Goodings (The Age)

A spinoff series “Ashes to Ashes” (also taking its name from a David Bowie song) attracted 7 million viewers when shown on the BBC in Feb 2008. Set in 1981, this time DCI Hunt is paired with Alex Drake – one of Sam Tyler’s 2006 contemporaries played by Keeley Hawes (Spooks) who finds herself similarly transported back in time. It remains to be seen whether this series is as good although the The Independent has said it was “the same mixture as before – a bit of pop culture, a bit of sci-fi [and] a bit of weirdness”.

11 thoughts on “Life on Mars (ABC and BBC TV) DVD Review”

  1. there are a lot of shows on ABC TV that i really like one of it is Life on mars… i like how each character is developed in the story…

  2. This series was awesome. I only saw a couple of the 2nd season but that seemed pretty decent too.

    I was working in a small town in London called Woolwich earlier this year and they were filming a film in the building i worked which was based on Life on Mars featuring Sam but in the 1980’s!!! Hopefully it will be great and hopefully some of the 1970’s characters will be there but older.

    EDITOR: That’s very interesting Forest. To the best of my knowledge John Simm (who played Sam Tyler) won’t have anything to do with spinoffs but Philip Glenister (DCI Hunt) is involved

  3. This looks interesting, but where can I find it? I mean is there a place where I can download Life on Mars ?

    EDITOR: You can buy Life on Mars from most good DVD retailers

  4. I thought that the song Life on Mars was playing on his iPod, and it wasnt only a cassett in 1973, wasnt it an 8-track?

    Forest, my friend told me something about that too, Mr. Simm, she said, was only in the first couple at most, but Mr. Glenister was going to stay, and she said quoting something she saw on a John Simm page(We really like Doctor Who, and its spin off Torchwood, she was looking up John Simm, who played The Master) and she said that Mr. Simm or Glenister said that “…it was said that I’d have to act with him at least once a year.” I dont know what that really means, but Im guessing cause they work together a lot.

    EDITOR: Hi Don you’re right it’s an 8 track not cassette, have fixed that.

    I wish John Simm was back in Ashes to Ashes as well but Julie Gardner, BBC Wales Head of Drama has said “Sam Tyler took us on an amazing journey with Life On Mars but his story always had a definite life span.”

    Perhaps Glenister and Simm are collaborating on a different TV show or movie

  5. To be honest I have spent so much time trying to figure out the ending that I have given up and accepted it for what it really was, and that was a roller coaster ride of hilarious nostalgia. It was a good and extremely clever way (courtesy of the Beeb), of giving us all a wake up call about how absurdly politically correct, society has become in this morale-draining world of pen-pushing and red tape crap!

    This drama was a breath of fresh air and long overdue. Nearly 12 months later I am still chuckling to myself recalling some of Gene Hunt’s cracking one-liners, and I still find it good subject matter in conversations with mates. Now that’s an achievement in its self, so I have resolved to think no more of the end and what it was all about, and seen it as it was – a bloody good show with excellent acting. Laughing on Mars!

  6. Life on Mars is possibly the most powerful series television has produced. When I finished watching the last episode of series 2 I was so moved by it that I just had to go outside and walk around. It was a fitting climax to a series rich in action, psychology, humour, emotion and sci-fi.

    I’m 40 so I remember The Professionals as a kid and the American cop shows like Starsky and Hutch. Life on Mars combines the best of these cop shows along with haunting hints of life in that undefined space between reality and escapism. Is there life on Mars – is there life beyond death?

    EDITOR: at the end of Season 2 I wished there was more, but it’s probably better that the BBC ended the series on a high rather than trying to squeeze more episodes out to make profit from overseas sales and DVD’s

  7. Life On Mars, has to be one of the most honestly refreshing shows I have had the pleasure to view in the last 40 years of watching the box.
    The fast and furious kick ass action and Gene Hunt’s comments on life in 1973 make it as politically in correct and inspiring to watch as anything I have ever seen or heard in recent years. I hope they keep this kind of show on air for a long time to come.

    EDITOR: I would expect that the ABC will buy the sequel “Ashes to Ashes” and show it in late 2008/early 2009

  8. Hi there, Love this series also. If you go to RAILWAY ARMS it is a brilliant site with thousands of posts about the ending etc.. and what it al means.

    EDITOR: thanks for the link, I’m sure other fans who read this article will be interested in chatting about the ending of Life on Mars

  9. Just finished watching the last episode of “Life on Mars” which left me thinking would I go back to 1973 for good? Maybe I would. I wanted to see more of Sam in the present but was sort of glad he went back. His knowledge of the future will certainly be a big asset back in 1973!

    EDITOR: I didn’t pick the ending at all … his real life didn’t seem that bad to jump to his death.

  10. do you realise channel 10 melbourne victoria australia is going to broadcast an american show by the same name with exactly the same format. ABC/BBC had the first and the best, how can the YANKS try to do the same. Can we stop viewers because it is deflamatory, etc. how can it have the same title and SOUND TRACK.

    EDITOR: Yes Ch10 is showing the American version of “Life on Mars” – the Americans bought the storyline and set it in the USA with their local actors

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