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Life on Mars - The Answers

Expect the NTS verdict on the finale of Life on Mars (and indeed on the second series in general) at some point over the next week, but in the meantime, enjoy this excellent interview with Matthew Graham, in which he elaborates on the ending, and attempts to claim that it's not really open to interpretation before admitting that yes, alright, it kind of is. Well worth a look, both for the light it sheds on the series itself, and the Ashes to Ashes tidbits.

Goes without saying that it's as spoilersome as is humanely possible, of course, so don't read it if you haven't got round to watching the episode, or are stuck in Canada, or something.

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I liked the bit where he jumped off the building, me.

By Tanya Jones
April 11, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

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His explanation is perfectly acceptable until you remember that Ashes To Ashes has the same characters in it.

"characters from the detailed reports logged by none other than Sam Tyler, which Alex has previously spent months pouring over."

Um, OK.

By Andy M
April 11, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

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I'll second that 'Um, okay', only I'll spell it differently.

By Andrew
April 11, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

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Is it it so hard to understand? She becomes obsessed with (or, at least, spends a great deal of team reading about) these characters to such a degree that when she's put in a coma, they manifest in her own fantasy. Only one which is set in 80s London, and so her subconscious dreams up the transfer explanation and voila!

It's a lovely idea to pass on the characters to someone else like that.

By Jonathan Capps
April 11, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

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> Is it it so hard to understand?

Ah - my 'okay' was not intended to address any issue of comprehension. It was more an in-depth and well thought-out commentary on the quality of the concept in general.

> It's a lovely idea to pass on the characters to someone else like that.

Or, y'know, a bit crap. Depends how you look at it, really.

By Andrew
April 11, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

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Why are so often completely and utterly wrong about television, Andrew? ;)

By Jonathan Capps
April 11, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

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Fuck me bent, that was brilliant. All it was missing was John Simm trying to track down his colleagues in 2007 - and either realising they weren't real, or succeeding. That's what I've been wanting to see ever since this series started!

By Michael Lacey
April 11, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

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> Why are so often completely and utterly wrong about television, Andrew? ;)


By Andrew
April 11, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

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The fact that it's all imagined fucks everything up. A while ago I was wondering whether it would end with an 'it was all a dream' scenario and then cast that thought aside as a crap end to a great show. Unfortunately that's pretty much how it ended up. Maybe it wasn't as bad as Liz White's acting (I'm sorry, but the kiss at the end was excruciating) but it came close. It could have been a lot better if they'd hinted there was something more at work at the end or if he saw Annie or Gene in the future (even if he saw them and it was just a vision it would still have been good).

Maybe what pisses me off is that we've known about the Gene Hunt series for ages and so at least accepted that he actually exists. But now we know he doesn't, he just comes from Sam watching the Sweeney and stuff as a kid. Great.

By performingmonkey
April 11, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

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Given that every week at the start of the episode sam goes "I found myself in 1973 and has A,B, or C happened?", the fact that the ending is "B, and a bit of A" is bound to be a slight disappointment, because it's not going to be THAT much of a surprise. What was surprising to me was that the scenes in the real world were so artfully disorientating, and that there was now too much of 1973 in Sam for him to not return there - the ending was the most emotionally satisfying, despite being potentially quite unrealistic. It made a poetic kind of sense, and I don't think there's much to worry about in Ashes To Ashes - the idea that Gene Hunt and co are now definitively NOT real people, and the figments of TWO seperate imaginations, opens up a lot of potential to fuck about with the characters and retool them for the new series' needs, and also given that there was rough plot outlines for a third series of LoM, I'm sure there's plenty more mileage in the "main character in a coma" device.

Personally, I hope they up the sci-fi a bit, but I doubt that'll happen. In retrospect LoM was far more Alice In Wonderland than The Prisoner, much as it may at times have felt similar to the latter, which was perhaps why there was so much speculation about the ending and potential disappointment that it was simply "B and a bit of A".

The only thing I don't quite understand is what exactly the point of the graveyard scene was - it was a smashing, dramatic scene, but I'm not quite sure what its importance was in the overall plot. Dramatically I suppose it was interesting to see his faith in the "real world" destroyed and made for his waking up from the coma to come as a bit more of a surprise, but while the episode overall seemed to imply that Sam had subconsciously created a better life for himself even though it had taken him a while to realise it, the graveyard interlude just seemed to sit uncomfortably in the middle and not really amount to anything. Was Frank Morgans turning out to be a bit of a nob Sam's unconscious mind manifesting it's first doubts about returning to 2007? Is that what the blurb about "can he trust his 'real' life..." in the series publicity meant?

Also, the idea of Gene Hunt being MADE OF CANCER is an interesting one. Especially the revelation that there's too much Gene Hunt Cancer wedged into Sam's brain to fully extricate it, but it's OK because Gene Hunt/Brain Tumour is more or less benign after all. Hooray! I was worried after the "YOU HAVE TO BRING DOWN GENE HUNT" line in the trailer that the series might actually end on a note of condemnation for Hunts tactics, which would cast the rest of the show in a bit of a different light. The fact that the ending said that Hunt was basically not a life threatening brain tumour at all but had a positive effect upon Sam was far more satisfying.

I hope some of that makes sense, I'm fairly high.

By Michael Lacey
April 12, 2007 @ 4:32 am

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Starting a TV series with "I read the dead man's diary and picked up where he left off..." is almost as bad as ending one with "...and it was all a dream."

Hang on...

By Andy M
April 12, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

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The only thing I don't quite understand is what exactly the point of the graveyard scene was - it was a smashing, dramatic scene, but I'm not quite sure what its importance was in the overall plot.

That was probably my favourite scene, and it really threw me - I thought that would have been an incredibly audacious twist to go through with, but I definitely didn't want such a thing to happen to Sam. I was expecting him to question it by listing some of the things he knows about the present, like technology and famous events. It was only when Morgan appeared behind him in the tunnel that I was finally convinced they wouldn't use that twist.

I was undecided at first about whether I found it a satisfying ending or not - I just thought there were too many possible interpretations: does he really wake up in 2006, or is it just another scenario in his mind, or is he already dead? Is he dead at the end after jumping off the roof, or in another coma? When he cuts himself in the meeting, is that a literal interpretation of the line about not being alive if you can't feel anything? You could argue in favour of any one of them, and that room for interpretation was perhaps a bit too open for me. I liked the idea of him going back to keep his promise, but not if it means he dies!

But as the writer states in that article, I suppose I shouldn't really worry about that, because the final shot proves one thing: he wasn't mad, or back in time, or even in a coma. He was in a TV programme. :-)

By Nick R
April 12, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

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> The only thing I don't quite understand is what exactly the point of the graveyard scene was

A cheap attempt to manipulate the audience? :-)

> the ending was the most emotionally satisfying,

Thing is, I completely agree with this, at least conceptually. The Quantum Leap-style 'I choose to never go home' ending was, by far, the best way to go. I just never felt what I needed to in those final scenes. Sam's present just never felt empty enough to drive such a drastic final decision.

(We'll ignore Sam's logic of assuming he'd return to Oz exactly as it was when he left; and the fact that he went for suicide rather than, say, a chemically-induced coma.)

That meeting/cut finger scene - someone said to me 'that must have been a hell of a bad meeting'. It was, after all, the key scene apparently designed to convey Sam's entire emotional transition. But he was still a copper, had people in his life at last count. To chuck that away to return to Oz...I needed to believe it. More emotional journey, less pointless red herrings.

I'd have happily dropped the vapid 'take down Gene Hunt' stuff, and the graveyard pointlessness, in favour of an episode more strongly directed to the conclusion. A cool 70s teaser, then out - take Sam home.

Give the guy 50 minutes to see life from the other side again. Clear up plot threads left dangling from the first series - wasn't there a girlfriend, and an investigation going on? What happened with those outside of Sam's fantasy? - but, say, see Sam using Hunt-like techniques, for the right reasons. Stuff which maybe gets him fired. He loses everything because he belongs Oz. Investigations into any possible REAL Gene Hunt draw a blank. So back he goes.

Or something. Everyone has a 'how I'd've dunnit' idea, I'm sure.

The ending itself, the story beat, is pretty great. And the performance/direction execution was better than the script. But, for me, the script itself was disappointingly patchy, and poorly focussed.

By Andrew
April 12, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

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It should have ended with him waking up and an aide walking in saying 'ah, Mr Saxon, you're awake! It seems you've received a lot of sympathy votes due to your semi-vegetative state of late (and our 'X' poster campaign worked wonders). With any luck you'll be PM by the morning. The doctor will see to you now...ah, he's brought his junior, how wonderful.'

Doctor - 'So...Saxon, is it? I thought you were sucked into the Eye?'
Saxon - 'I'm afraid you're wrong, my friend. The Time Lords banished my consciousness to 1973 Manchester.'
Martha - 'But...that's impossible'
Doctor - 'Hey bitch, that's my catchphrase!'
Martha - 'Sorry, but I thought you said your people were dead?'
Doctor - 'Yeah...well, I don't write the scripts do I? That's that Russell fella, remember, we met him a few weeks ago, he was the latest "historical celebrity", you know, we stopped the Sycorax from forcing him at swordpoint to write that 4-parter where they enslave the Raxicoricofalapatorians?'
Martha - 'Oh yeah, but then I accidentally slipped in a few script pages of us fucking each others brains out into his series 4 folder.'
Doctor - 'Thaaat's right. Not forgetting that foursome with Rose and Jack.'
Saxon - 'Ah but did he create that...stupid little alien thing that possessed that little girl, you know, during the 2012 Olympics?'
Doctor - 'I carried the torch...'
Martha - 'We had chips...'
Doctor - 'No we fucking didn't! You weren't even there! I carried the fucking Olympic torch!'
Saxon - 'Yeah, but only 'cause my guy Matthew Graham MADE you do it! And he's the one that made up my 1973 existence too!'
Martha - 'Well bully for him. Pity he couldn't write a good end for you. Let's see if I can do better...' she raises the sonic stethescope, David Bowie emerges from it with Andy Serkis as his assistant from The Prestige.
Bowie (in deluded German accent) - 'As the third child of the Face of Boe I insist you stop this utter bollocks right now.'
Doctor Evil - 'Riiiiiiiiiight'

By performingmonkey
April 13, 2007 @ 5:30 am

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I was expecting him to question it by listing some of the things he knows about the present, like technology and famous events.

I did consider this, and then I realised - if Sam is suddenly being led to believe that he's imagined his life in 2006, then he can't claim at all that he "knows" stuff from the future. Yes, we know that the technology and famous events are real - but for all he knows, he could be imagining mobile phones and stuff. So that's why, I think, he never thought to use it to prove to himself that he was definitely from the future.

By Seb
April 13, 2007 @ 10:19 am

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> So that's why, I think, he never thought to use it to prove to himself that he was definitely from the future.

Spot on. It works for Sam as a possible solution. Just not for anyone in the audience who gives it two-seconds thought...

By Andrew
April 14, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

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The Series 2 DVD has no commentaries, apparently. Which pisses me off, as they were the main reason I bought the Series 1 release (which I don't like because of the music substitutions). There's doccos and stuff, which is great, but the lack of commentaries is really annoying. I was *so* looking forward to the one for the last episode...

By John Hoare
April 17, 2007 @ 7:45 am

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I'm willing to accept that in the graveyard Sam doubted his 'knowledge' of any futurey stuff, but I can't for the life of me see why he didn't point out that hey earnestly believes himself to be 4 (or there abouts, his age eludes me) in 1973. Why would he delude himself like that if he's 'believing his cover story', precisely? Surely he'd believe he's from the prior century or somesuch...
That was my only real gripe - I prefer to see it that he never actually woke up (hence the detached lifelessness to the 'waking' scenes and the utter confusion to the character(s) of Frank Morgan. But then we can't have Ashes to Ashes.

AND I WANT MORE GENE HUNT (If you do too, see out Sharpe's Justice - he's brilliant -and- says bastard. Just like old (future) times)

By Rosti
April 18, 2007 @ 1:50 am

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Does he do a northern accent in that?

Because I heard him on the radio speaking in his natural (Southern) accent, and it freaked me out, and I'm not sure I could go through that again...

By Seb
April 18, 2007 @ 9:13 am

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In a weird twist of fate, it sounds like Gene Hunt with a bit of LoM's second episode "... or do you mean like "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I dunno!?"' accent thrown in from time to time. It actually made me assume he was a native northerner who affected some Yorkshirisms for the sake of the plot. Which I won't spoil. But is entertaining.

Was the interview on BBC Radio? Was it good? Should I "Listen Again"?

By Rosti
April 19, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

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I enjoyed it but got anoyed when I saw: “But I know kids who watch the show and love it, who don’t even know who David Bowie is."

October 03, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

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The final epsisode of the 2nd season of LOM was broadcast last night (Jan. 22, 2008) in the USA on BBC America. I enjoyed the show but felt that season-1 was better than season-2. The finale was good but I'm in the minority in finding it a bit disappointing. Sam's suicide in particular. Jumping off that building would surely have killed him, not put him back into his "1973" coma. As of now BBCA has not announced any plans to bring Ashes to Ashes to the USA.

LOM on BBC America:

By Dan
January 23, 2008 @ 10:51 pm

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