Life on Mars: The ending
So having let a couple of days go past, it seems only fair to say that the ending of Life on Mars was as good as I’d hoped. There’s room for interpretation about what actually happened, of course – or at least, there was until this interview with writer Matthew Graham appeared:-
The truth is, when I wrote it, what I was trying to say is that’s he’s died, and that for however long that last second of life is going to be, it will stretch out for an age, as an eternity for him. And so when he drives off in that car, he’s really driving off into the afterlife.
So that’s that, then. Theories about whether he really did wake up in 2006 or not, or whether he really was from 1973 all along are interesting but kind of moot. He came back, he wasn’t happy, he jumped off a roof. it’s a tribute to the acting and the writing that even though this is an ending where the lead character commits suicide it is nonetheless an uplifting resolution.
But there’s one slightly mysterious question: if Gene Hunt and co were all in Sam’s head all along then how can there be a sequel? Ashes to Ashes will be set in 1981 and will feature Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton. But how can imaginary figures from one man’s coma get their own show? Well, it was set up quite cleverly in the last few minute of Life on Mars; we see Sam talking into a tape recorder about his memories and experiences while he was in his coma. It’s this which provides the springboard for a new time traveller called Alex, a “sexy, intelligent, DCI who’s also a single mother to daughter Molly”. (Sam Tyler won’t appear in Ashes to Ashes.)
When Alex and her daughter are kidnapped, she makes a daring attempt at escape, resulting in a horrific accident. Alex suddenly finds herself in 1981 interacting with familiar characters, not just from her own life-time, but also from the detailed reports logged by none other than Sam Tyler, which Alex has previously spent months pouring over.
Clever. They’re imaginary characters, but they can nonetheless live on, by making the leap out of Sam’s sub-conscious and into someone else’s. I hope the new series doesn’t end up feeling as though they’re milking the premise and retrospectively taking the shine off Life on Mars itself. In the interview, Matthew Graham certainly seems to be aware of the possibility, which I think is a good sign. We’ll see. The interview is a great read if you’ve enjoyed the show, by the way; there’s much more in it than I’ve quoted here, including thoughts on Nelson the barman, why Sam came from Hyde, and the spooky test card girl’s final act of the final episode.