April 11, 2007

Life on Mars…. a "cop out" ending?

Writing about Life on Mars: The ending? from Autology: John Dale's blog

I have to say that I was quite disappointed by the ending of Life on Mars last night. It seemed a poorly written episode with much of the quality and tightness of the script seen previously missing. Maybe they were just trying to get too much into one episode. I wonder what the other ending was like. Maybe it will only be a matter of time before it appears on YouTube.

I know that my own pet theory was wide of the mark but the plot they came up with seemed, well, pretty tame. Almost just plotting by the numbers. And the other characters were just two dimensional this time around. If anyone ever saw “The Prisoner”, well, I think they had the same problem ending that. We were promised a “complex” ending, but it wasn’t.

What did others think?


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  1. GDT

    I have to disagree, I thought it was an excellent ending, and highly emotive.

    An excellent and emotional end to an excellent series. To be fair, I don’t think any ending would have made everyone happy.

    11 Apr 2007, 11:03

  2. mikey

    totally confused by the ending.. anyone care to explain it for me? was sam in ‘73 or ‘06? was it all sams dream??/

    11 Apr 2007, 12:09

  3. Otoman

    i didnt see the episode can some one tell me what happened?

    11 Apr 2007, 12:13

  4. nioclik

    I have to agree, it left me totally confused & did not answer any of the questions!

    11 Apr 2007, 12:30

  5. MARS2IPSWICH

    Sam was in 1973, wasn’t he? Just a bit mad?

    I thought the ending was cool, we will be talking about this in the same way we recall the ending of Blake’s 7…

    11 Apr 2007, 13:08

  6. David

    I thought the ending to the series was fantastic. I feel that the writers did justice to an excellent series. Let’s see more from the same stable as Tuesday nights will not be the same for a long while.

    11 Apr 2007, 14:07

  7. Eilish McCann

    He was indeed in a coma. He woke up in 2006 and all that stuff about Hyde 2612 (I think that was the number) was the number on his hospital ward room. 2006 bored the tits off him, he felt bad for leaving all his friends in 1973 in peril, so he jumped off a building to kill himself/go back in a coma so he could go back to 1973. I thought it was quite emotive at the end when the radio says’ he’s slipping away’ and he turns the channel over. Was good but not as good as the rest of the series. Mainly because I want it to go on!

    Bit confusing that Morgan was trying to convince him that 1973 was all real if he was the manifestation of the surgeon trying to bring him back to 2006. Surely he’d like to confrim that it wasn’t real?

    11 Apr 2007, 14:44

  8. Laura

    It was excellent.. all about the question of what actually is reality, it was very clever and im glad he ended up in his own 1973 world.

    11 Apr 2007, 14:44

  9. Hmmm one minute Morgan was trying to explain that 2006 was a delusion, the next he was trying to bring him back… and Gene Hunt’s final operation was – in appearance, anyway – amateur in the extreme. Maybe that was the problem with the episode: not enough Phil Glenister!

    Mind you, it would have been extremely ironic if he’d gone back to a different time/place in his following coma and had to live with it, or returned five minutes or five days later to find them all dead and himself up for gross negligence/incompetence/whatever it was 1973 Morgan was trying to get Hunt for.

    With all these possibilities, trying to cram it all into one episode was a recipe for missing out on all sorts of plot development and I think no one would have blamed the writers for knocking it out in two episodes or even a feature length one. Imagine if he’d spent the night with Annie then gone back to 2006 after seeing her killed in the wages robbery and then gone back to save her. Would have given an opportunity for plot/character development all round, anyway. Maybe we would have seen the softer side of Gene, crying his eyes out as he blames Sam for his namby pamby modern police methods. Then you have two reasons for him hating 2006 and wanting to go back to 1973.

    11 Apr 2007, 15:09

  10. Neasy Gripples

    Sorry people i’m confused – didn’t see it last night was enjoying the delights of Man U but thats another story.
    He was in a coma – get it, what was the plot with Gene Hunt? Was 1973 a figment of his imagination???
    Help please!!!!!

    Cheers and Peace.

    11 Apr 2007, 16:04

  11. William Jones

    I have to disagree completely with John Dale! The final episode was fantastic and completely gripping till the very end!

    However what John Dale says: “I wonder what the other ending was like” is completely useless because they never acctually filmed 2 endings, that was just what the BBC told the press to stop them trying to guess the end. THIS IS TRUE!

    11 Apr 2007, 16:37

  12. William Jones

    Dear Neasy Gripples,

    The ending of Life on Mars was very complicated to follow but utterly satisfying. Firstly, Sam was told , by morgan, to destroy Gene Hunt and then he could go home, so Sam collected evidence against Gene that would wreck his career. Then after giving Morgan the evidence he wanted, he then told Sam that 1973 was the real world and he has amnesia. He was then shown graves of his real parents, of the name Williams, NOT TYLER. Sam was supposedly on his way to Manchester CID, undercover as Tyler when he was knoced down and lost his memory, which he then replaced with his undercover Alias. Sam tells morgan that Gene is planning to go undercover during a heist in order to catch the criminals and Morgan then gives Sam a radio that he can use to call for backup when it’s needed. When Sam goes to the pub after his talk with morgan, he asks Nelson what’s real, if he’s alive or not. Nelson says this When you’re alive, you can feel, when you’re not alive, you can’t. Later, when Annie asks whats wrong he tells her that he was acctually sent to betray her. He then tells Chris and Ray who are really angry but tell him he has to do one more job as Gene has gone undercover with a gang who are planning a heist. When the day of the Heist arrives Sam and Ray are guards and Annie and Chris are train assistants. The train is then stopped and Gene and two others, who are masked start to unload money that is on the train when the radio that sam has starts to make noises. The robbers realise that Sam and the rest are all policemen/woman and start shooting at them. Sam’s radio doesn’t work so he goes for backup and meets morgan in the tunnel that is up ahead, who tells him that he’s done his job brilliantly and can now come home. Sam says he can’t just leave Annie, Gene, Chris and Ray and turns around intending to go back when he see’s all four of them running towards him, screaming. Chris is shot and Annie goes to the floor to help him, Ray is also then shot closely followed by Gene. Sam looks on in hooror when a bright light suddenly appears behind him. The light gets brighter and the next thing you see is Sam in a hospital bed looked over by his Doctor, who is Frank Morgan. Later he is dressed and is leaving his hospital room: Hyde Ward, room 2612. He is next in a meeting and without feeling anything cuts his thumb. He is standing on the roof of the police station looking at 2006 and all that he’s missed for so long when he remembers what Nelson told him. He can’t feel, He’s not alive. He smiles and looks out towards the edge of the roof and even happier now, runs towards the edge and jumps. There is blackness and he is back in the tunnel with Annie screaming for help and the rest lying on the floor though still alive. The main criminal removes his mask and points his gun at Gene when Sam shoots him dead. Cut to the pub and Sam is talking to Chris when Ray comes in. Sam apologises to Ray who then says it doesn’t matter because he met a girl. Phyllis then tells him to go to find Annie. When he does they finally kiss when Gene then drives up, arrogant as usual telling him that there’s a shoot out in progress. Ray and Chris arrive and they all drive off into the sunset.
    Complicated yes, but understandable.
    In my opinion, a great episode to finish off a great show. You HAVE to see this!

    11 Apr 2007, 17:13

  13. Phil Smith

    My theory goes like this. Sam ‘existed’ solely in 2006. He got run over in 2006 and went into a coma, where his 1973 adventures took place, influenced by his Intensive Care Unit surroundings (Hyde 2612, Morgan etc).

    When we saw him ‘wake up’ in 2006, he did not actually wake up, but was still in the coma, hence the rather odd look that Morgan gave him, hence he did not feel the cut on his thumb and hence he was able to jump off a roof and back into 1973.

    When the radio at the end crackled ”...we are losing him…” this was because Sam died, happier having had his adventures in his coma in 1973, than he would be with a crap life in 2006.

    All the other theories I’ve pondered don’t hold water. How can a man in 1973 know the future? How can a man alive in 2006 jump off a roof, and back into a coma?

    I think that he got run over in 2006 at the beginning of Episode One in Series One and died at the end of last nights episode. Everything that happened in between, including supposedly waking up in 2006, all took place whilst he was in his coma.

    Cue various comments destroying the only theory I have…...!

    11 Apr 2007, 17:32

  14. SP

    Well, what I took from the episode was exactly what Frank Morgan told him – that he was a delusional amnesiac living in 1973, albeit one with a brilliant mind, which was working so hard to convince him that this wasn’t his reality (possibly to cover the pain of his true pre-amnesia reality), that it managed to make predict what us, the viewer, perceive to be his future.

    For example, it took a small stroke of genius for someone to invent the stinger. Why not Tyler?

    11 Apr 2007, 17:44

  15. Elliestarz

    I Agree With SP, I Belived that Everything that Frank Morgan told him was true and everything that happened in 2006 was a figment of his imagination but we where made to believe that He was from 2006 when he was actually from 1973. The Ending When He Went Back To 2006 Was All Just Imaginary. Well Thats The Persepective my family got.

    11 Apr 2007, 18:25

  16. blondie

    wasn’t frank morgan the actor who played the wizard of oz

    11 Apr 2007, 19:46

  17. clint

    thing is that in series 1 he saw himself as a kid. and remebered when anna got attacked. second time round he saves her

    11 Apr 2007, 19:54

  18. acrossthepond

    Phil’s Smith’s theory sounds the most logical to me. There again I didn’t see it but watched it by proxy on the phone with a blow by blow narrative on the phone from a family member who was watching it. We won’t get to see it for a few weeks yet. Fortunately our phone charges to the UK are lower than the reverse so an hour’s call doesn’t mean that I have to sell a kidney to pay the bill.

    11 Apr 2007, 21:22

  19. Shirley Hutton-Banks

    I would have liked the ending to be….. Sam went back into the tunnel and just as he was helping Gene Hunt, we hear a shotgun blast, and a bright light flash.
    Next would be Sam waking up and Gene walking into his office, change to split screen so both can be seen at the same time, with people saying welcome back Sam, and congrats to Gene Hunt and then both of them looking confused saying ….....who is….and the name…...
    showing that Gene and Sam, are now, both in each others bodies…...with only a name to go on…this could have led to a new series where both of them were trying to cope living in the different years, 1973 and 2006. Whilst trying to locate each other, and get back to their own lives, without the other people around them knowing this …...

    Maybe I should write for the BBC as well ha ha

    11 Apr 2007, 21:53

  20. Elaine's point of view

    I thought the ending was just amazing – a near death experience where Sam was caught between two worlds. People who have had near death experiences all report a tunnel and moving to a bright light and feeling immensely calm and happy and Sam wanted to be back there. I think 2006 was the real time and heaven was 1973 and all David Cassidy fans out there will agree with me. Now I’ve given my age away. Back to the point – does that mean that his police colleagues are in his imagination or are they other people who have died – the only thing not explained although Annie did say stay forever didn’t she?

    11 Apr 2007, 21:55

  21. nightwatchman

    So who will be in the new series called Ashes to Ashes??? The actor who plays the Detective Sergeant said on morning TV that he hadnt heard of a spin off show!! It will be a big shame that Sam’s gone forever. I truly hope that he is mentioned in the new show. I think that Sam was from the present day and his brain created the 1973 event in a sort of dream. Sam sadly died at the end. Perhaps the writer could put us all out of our misery – come on….

    12 Apr 2007, 00:04

  22. Dave

    I enjoyed the episode but why did no-one pick up on the blatant error running throughout the story? In 1973 miners would be paid by the National Coal Board (NCB), NOT the NUM – THe National Union of Mineworkers.As far as I can remember the NUM took money off me as union fees….

    12 Apr 2007, 13:13

  23. mytheory

    ... the theory that it all happened in 1973 and he was a genius doesn’t stack-up…not unless he was that clever that he could also predict that The Sweeney would be the name of a TV series in the future. I’m fairly sure it started airing in ‘74 and that Sam made reference to it along the lines of “The Sweeney have a lot to answer for” when referring to Hunt’s style of parking the Cortina on the pavement.

    Personally I thought he did return to 2006 and didn’t like it, jumped, etc.

    I actually prefer Phil Smith’s interpretation though. It fits with the barman’s line about not being real unless you can feel it too, in relation to unknowingly cutting his hand.

    12 Apr 2007, 13:43

  24. Andre

    I thought it was a great finish, I’m still thinking about it so it must have been good! I still don’t know for sure what it all meant but I have a major problem with the idea that Sam actually existed in 1973 because of all the stuff he new about his family. His ‘real’ name wasn’t even Tyler so how come he new the house he grew up in (where the Tylers and their son Sammy were living) and details about the house and it’s occupants. His return to 2006 certainly looked very surreal but maybe that was the effect of the trauma. ‘Phil Smith’s theory is interesting. I’m looking forward to reading more!

    12 Apr 2007, 13:59

  25. Andre

    Anyone unsure of what the writer intended might like to read this interview:
    http://blogs.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/ianwylie/2007/04/life_on_mars_the_answers.html

    12 Apr 2007, 14:30

  26. Andre, I’ve just read the piece at the end of your link… “fans have taken ownership of Life On Mars”: just the sort of modernspeak that bored Sam to death in that last meeting and sent him to the roof!

    Of course, the writers could play fast and loose with continuity if it was all taking place in Sam’s head and, as it were, make it up as they went along.

    12 Apr 2007, 14:50

  27. darren

    the theory that it all happened in 1973 and he was a genius doesn’t stack-up…not unless he was that clever that he could also predict that The Sweeney would be the name of a TV series in the future. I’m fairly sure it started airing in ‘74 and that Sam made reference to it along the lines of “The Sweeney have a lot to answer for” when referring to Hunt’s style of parking the Cortina on the pavement.

    ,,,, it was starsky and hutch he mentioned, but on that topic how did he know redrum would win the national if he had not originally been from 2006?,,,i like to think phil (smith) has a cool theory and ill go with that for now unless ashes to ashes tells us differently

    15 Apr 2010, 21:16

  28. Luca

    However anyone wants to slice it, the fact of the matter is this. Sam’s real life was in 2006. Loads of references including present day at the time politicans such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Music on the radio such as Blur.

    He was conflicted and didn’t know where what to beleive. He didn’t feel the pain when he drew blood in the meeting because he was so consumed by his guilt and involvement in 1973.

    Selfishly abandoning his real life to exist within a fantasy is a very cool twist.

    So with that said, ignoring the points I’ve made. His real life was always in 1973 to begin with, or there’s some serious holes in the plot!

    18 Nov 2012, 15:19


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