Imagine the scene - while investigating a series of murders in Manchester, Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler is hit by a speeding car. When he wakes up, everything is different. Sure, he’s still Sam Tyler, a Manchester police detective, but it’s no longer 2006, it’s 1973.
This is the story premise of Life on Mars, created by Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharaoh, which received it’s British television premiere this past January on BBC1.
So back to the premise - Tyler, now with the rank of Detective Inspector, a product of 21st century detection methods, is like the proverbial fish out of water. All of the things he had learned to rely on in the 21st century are gone, and the methods used to solve crimes are crude compared to what he is used to.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not only the methods Tyler has difficulty with, it’s his boss, DCI Gene Hunt. A fan of old western films, Hunt is your typical 1970’s copper, who relies on gut instincts and booze during his investigations, and who, at times, thinks that Tyler is little more than a nutter.
Tyler is convinced that he is in a coma, and convinced he must try to change something in his own personal history to return home, even if it means finding out a few secrets from his past.
At a time when British television dram is criticised a great deal, Life on Mars was like a breath of fresh air. The writing was excellent, the production top-botch, and most importantly, the acting was superb. As Sam Tyler, John Simm was excellent as a man thirty three years out of his time. Philip Glenister was tremendous as DCI Hunt, an old school kind of copper who, although he walks along the line of corruption, is a good man at heart. Liz White, as WPC Annie Cartwright, was perfect for the role, an intelligent young police officer unable to use some of her talents in a male-dominated police force.
Life on Mars is one of the best dramas to come out of Britain in the past few years, and having gained an average audience of around seven million per episode, a second series has been commissioned and begins filming in April for broadcast next year. The DVD of the first series, sadly, isn’t being released until October.
Since the first series ended with Sam still stranded in 1973, my Monday night’s viewing just doesn’t seem the same anymore.