Life on Mars (UK TV series)
|Life on Mars|
Life on Mars title sequence
|Created by||Matthew Graham
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||16 (List of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||Kudos Film and Television for BBC Wales|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC One
BBC Four (2 Episodes Only)
|Picture format||PAL (576i)
1080i (HDTV) (blu-ray upscaled only)
|Original run||9 January 2006 – 10 April 2007|
|Followed by||Ashes to Ashes|
|Related shows||Life on Mars (US)
La Chica de Ayer
Обратная сторона Луны
Life on Mars is a British television series broadcast on BBC One between January 2006 and April 2007. The series combines elements of science fiction and police procedural, featuring an officer from the Greater Manchester Police (played by John Simm) who travels back in time after being involved in a road accident. The title is a reference to David Bowie's 1973 single "Life on Mars?"
An American adaptation of the series was produced by ABC and ran for one season from October 2008 to April 2009. A Spanish adaptation of the series was broadcast from April to June 2009. A Russian adaptation of the series The Dark Side of the Moon was broadcast in November 2012. A sequel to the series, Ashes to Ashes, referencing another David Bowie song, began airing on BBC One in February 2008, followed by a second series in 2009 and a third and final series in 2010.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Overseas sales
- 3 Music
- 4 Characters
- 5 Themes and storyline
- 6 Reception
- 7 DVD and Blu-ray
- 8 Books
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Life on Mars tells the fictional story of Sam Tyler (John Simm), a policeman in service with the Greater Manchester Police. After being hit by a car in 2006, Tyler awakens in 1973 to find himself working for the predecessor of the GMP, the Manchester and Salford Police, at the same station and location as in 2006. Early on in the series, it becomes apparent to Tyler that he awakes as a Detective Inspector, one rank lower than his 2006 rank of Detective Chief Inspector. As part of the Criminal Investigation Department, Tyler finds himself working under the command of Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister).
Throughout the two series, the plot centres on the ambiguity concerning Tyler's predicament of it being unclear to both the audience and the character whether he has died, gone mad or into a coma, or has actually travelled back in time.
Production and transmission
The programme was originally conceived in 1998, when screenwriters Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah were sent on a break to the English seaside resort of Blackpool by Kudos Film & Television to think up programme ideas. Originally titled Ford Granada after the 1970s car, the series was rejected by the BBC. In response, Graham stated: "Back then, broadcasters just weren't comfortable with something like that, something that wasn't set in the real world and that had a fantasy element to it." According to Graham, the initial idea was for a humorous, pre-watershed programme that overtly mocked the styles and attitudes of the 1970s, with the comic actor Neil Morrissey envisaged as the central character.
Later, Channel 4 drama executive, John Yorke substantially redeveloped the original script, focusing on a double act between Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt. Senior management eventually decided not to pursue the idea, with Graham stating that the reaction to the idea was: "It's going to be silly", as told to Radio Times. The series eventually attracted the attention of BBC Wales' Julie Gardner, who persuaded the Head of Drama for the BBC, Jane Tranter, to commission the programme from BBC Wales for BBC One. John Yorke left Channel 4 to rejoin the BBC and together with Julie Gardner, he acted as joint commissioning editor on the show for its entire run.
The programme's central character was originally to have been named "Sam Williams", but Kudos felt this not to be striking enough and requested Graham devise an alternative surname. Graham asked his young daughter for her opinion and she suggested "Sam Tyler", which became the character's name. Graham subsequently discovered that his daughter had named him after the Doctor Who character Rose Tyler. The initial geographical setting was to be London; this was then changed to Leeds and finally to Manchester, as part of a BBC initiative to make more programmes in the city. The name Sam Williams was subsequently used as a plot point in the second series.
Eight one-hour episodes of Life on Mars were broadcast weekly on Monday nights at 9:00 pm by the BBC. The series episodes were mostly written by its creators Jordan, Graham and Pharaoh, later joined by Chris Chibnall as the fourth writer for the first series. For the second series, Graham, Pharaoh and Chibnall returned to write episodes, joined by Julie Rutterford, Guy Jenkin and Mark Greig.
The second series was broadcast weekly at the same time as the first, with the only difference being the change of transmission day from Monday to Tuesday. According to Jane Featherstone, the show's executive producer, speaking in February 2006, a film version of the show was also a possibility: "Life on Mars was a very high concept idea and there was no doubt it would work on the big screen".
On 9 October 2006, it was confirmed that the second series of Life on Mars would be the last. Matthew Graham stated: "We decided that Sam's journey should have a finite life span and a clear-cut ending and we feel that we have now reached that point after two series". Graham's claim that two separate endings had been filmed was later revealed to be a ruse.
The second series had a distinctive style of introduction on BBC One: after a brief collage of momentary images, such as several test cards and comedy writer and broadcaster Barry Took, a mock-up version of BBC1's 1970s blue-on-black rotating globe ident was used, although the design had to be modified to fit widescreen sets. This was accompanied by a bass-voiced continuity announcer in the style of that era. Viewers in Wales saw an original 'BBC Cymru Wales' mechanical globe with introductions provided by former BBC Wales announcers. Trailers for the show also used the 1970s style, including the rhombus-style BBC logo.
David E Kelley produced the pilot for an American version of the series for the ABC network, though he handed duties over to others for the series production. It premiered in October 2008, and was broadcast to critical and minor public acclaim, but declining numbers led to cancellation in April 2009 after 17 episodes, though with sufficient lead to allow the storyline to be concluded.
The first series of the original Life on Mars was broadcast in the United States on BBC America from July 2006 to August 2007 and was broadcast in 2010 on some public television stations, with the second series being broadcast from December 2007 to January 2008. Acorn Media released both series on DVD in 2008.
In New Zealand the original series was broadcast on TV One from February 2007, being described as "sensationally well-made" by an NZ website. Series two was broadcast from June 2008, with the final screening on 4 August 2008.
The show has also been transmitted in Croatia, (Croatian Radiotelevision), Sweden (a cut version on SVT 2), Netherlands (Nederland 3), in Germany (Kabel 1), Greece (Skai TV), Spain (Antena.neox), Israel (Hot), Italy (Rai Due), Japan, Serbia (B92), Norway (NRK) and Estonia (ERR). Sub began broadcasting Life on Mars in Finland in April 2008, and ATV World started broadcasting the show in Hong Kong on 13 July 2008), France (13ème Rue). In Hungary (Duna TV) Life on Mars started on March 2011. Spanish Television network Antena 3 bought the rights from the BBC and has remade the show as La Chica de Ayer (English: The Girl from Yesterday), set in 1977 post-Franco Spain.
The Russian broadcaster Channel One has remade the show as Обратная сторона Луны (The Dark Side of the Moon, after the Pink Floyd album of the same name). The series began on 5 November 2012, running for 16 episodes. It tells the story of Moscow police captain Mikhail Mikhailovich Solovyov (Михаил Михайлович Соловьёв), who is hit by a car in 2012 during pursuit of a suspect, and wakes up in hospital in Soviet Moscow in 1979. Soon Mikhail is released, and takes the place of his father, Mikhail Ivanovich Solovyov. As in Life on Mars, the depiction of 1979 contains some anachronisms, such as an ABBA album that was released in 1982, Brezhnev's age being incorrect, dates falling on the wrong days of the week, and the inclusion of items which were not available in USSR at the time.
|Life on Mars|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||19 February 2007|
|Label||Sony BMG Music Entertainment|
|Producer||Kudos Film and Television in association with Monastic Productions|
|Life on Mars chronology|
The programme's soundtrack features mainly early 1970s songs which were played as part of Life on Mars, as well as an original score of the theme music as part of the title sequence composed by Edmund Butt. The show's title is in reference to the David Bowie song, "Life on Mars?", which plays on an iPod in Sam's car while he is run over, and on an 8-track tape in a Rover P6 when he awakes in 1973; it is used again at the climax of the final episode, and fleeting moments of the song are periodically used throughout the third series of the programme's sequel, Ashes to Ashes, to allude to Sam Tyler's fate.
Matthew Graham stated that initially there were some concerns over whether the production team would be able to license the song, which, had they been denied, would have necessitated retitling the series. Another Bowie song, "Space Oddity", is used in BBC trailers advertising the series. In several episodes, Gene Hunt adopts the name "Gene Genie", in reference to yet another Bowie song, "The Jean Genie", used in the fourth episode. Another Bowie track, "Changes", is played over the end credits of the second series finale.
The show's creators were initially refused permission to use "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney and Wings but, according to Graham in the Radio Times, "We sent the episode directly to Paul McCartney. Almost immediately, his assistant phoned back and said, 'Paul loves it. You can go ahead and use it'".
David Bowie — "Life on Mars?" (Episode 1)
Blue Öyster Cult — "Stairway to the Stars" (Episode 1)
The Sweet — "Little Willy" (Episode 1)
The Move — "Feel Too Good" (Episode 1)
The Who — "Baba O'Riley" (Episode 1)
Uriah Heep — "Easy Livin'" (Episode 1)
Uriah Heep — "Look at Yourself" (Episode 1)
Deep Purple - "Rat Bat Blue" (Episode 1)
Deep Purple - "Fireball" (Episode 1)
Cream — "White Room" (Episode 1)
Lou Reed — "I'm So Free" (Episode 1)
Thin Lizzy — "Saga of the Ageing Orphan" (Episode 2)
Paul McCartney and Wings — "Live and Let Die" (Episode 2)
Pink Floyd — "One Of These Days" (Episode 2)
Lee "Scratch" Perry and The Upsetters — "Jungle Lion" (Episode 2)
Sweet — "Ballroom Blitz" (Episode 3)
Uriah Heep — "Gypsy" (Episode 3)
Free — "Wishing Well" (Episode 3)
David Bowie — "The Jean Genie" (Episode 4)
Jethro Tull - "Cross-Eyed Mary" (Episode 4)
Sweet — "Blockbuster!" (Episode 4)
The Rolling Stones — "Wild Horses" (Episode 4)
Slade — "Gudbuy T' Jane" (Episode 4)
Atomic Rooster — "Head In The Sky" (Episode 4)
Frankie Miller — "I Can't Change It" (Episode 4)
Roger Whittaker — "I Don't Believe In If Anymore" (Episode 4)
Thin Lizzy — "Call The Police" (Episode 5)
Thin Lizzy — "Rocker" (Episode 5)
T. Rex — "Jeepster" (Episode 5)
Roxy Music — "Would You Believe?" (Episode 5)
Roxy Music — "Mother of Pearl" (Episode 5)
Nina Simone — "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" (Episode 5)
Louis Armstrong — "What A Wonderful World" (Episode 6)
Britney Spears — "Toxic" (Episode 7)
Peters and Lee — "Welcome Home" (Episode 7)
Pulp — "Disco 2000" (Episode 7)
Nina Simone — "Sinnerman" (Episode 7)
John Kongos — "Tokoloshe Man" (Episode 8)
Atomic Rooster — "Devil's Answer" (Episode 8)
Wizzard — "See My Baby Jive" (Episode 8)
Free — "Little Bit of Love" (Episode 8)
Lindisfarne — "Meet Me on the Corner" (Episode 8)
Roxy Music — "Street Life" (Episode 1)
Three Degrees — "Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon" (Episode 1)
Three Degrees - "Year Of Decision" (Episode 1)
David Bowie - "Starman" (Episode 1)
Mungo Jerry — "In the Summertime" (Episode 2)
The Hollies — "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" (Episode 2)
Elton John - "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Episode 2)
David Cassidy — "How Can I Be Sure" (Episode 3)
Sweet — "Hell Raiser" (Episode 3)
Barclay James Harvest — "When the City Sleeps" (Episode 3)
The Strawbs — "Lay Down" (episode 4) used on the bbc broadcast, but not on the DVD release.
The Moody Blues — "The Story in Your Eyes" (Episode 4)
Slade — "Coz I Luv You" (Episode 4)
David Bowie — "Aladdin Sane" (Episode 4)
T.Rex — "Rock On" (Episode 4)
Gilbert O'Sullivan — "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Episode 4)
Roxy Music — "Just Like You" (Episode 4)
Electric Light Orchestra — "10538 Overture" (Episode 5)
Ananda Shankar — "Snow Flower" (Episode 6)
Thin Lizzy — "Whiskey in the Jar" (Episode 6)
Audience — "I Had a Dream" (Episode 6)
Elton John — "Rocketman" (Episode 6)
Shocking Blue — "Hot sand" (Episode 6)
Uriah Heep — "Traveller in Time" (Episode 6)
Faces — "Cindy Incidentally" (Episode 7)
Mott the Hoople — "One of the Boys" (Episodes 7 & 8)
Elton John - "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" (Episode 8)
Tom Waits — "I Hope I Don't Fall in Love with You" (Episode 8)
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole — "Over the Rainbow" (Episode 8)
Atomic Rooster — "Decision/Indecision" (Episode 8)
David Bowie — "Changes" (Episode 8)
David Bowie — "Life on Mars?" (Episode 8)
Soundtrack CD Track listing
|Life on Mars: Original Soundtrack|
|1.||"Introduction: Dialogue — King of the Jungle"||0:20|
|2.||"Life on Mars?"||David Bowie||3:44|
|3.||"Street Life"||Roxy Music||3:13|
|4.||"Live and Let Die"||Paul McCartney and Wings||3:10|
|5.||"10538 Overture"||Electric Light Orchestra||5:25|
|6.||"Tokoloshe Man"||John Kongos||3:48|
|7.||"Devil's Answer"||Atomic Rooster||3:26|
|9.||"Little Bit of Love"||Free||2:30|
|10.||"Jungle Lion"||Lee "Scratch" Perry and The Upsetters||4:19|
|11.||"Brief Interlude: Dialogue — Armed Bastards!"||0:04|
|14.||"Snow Flower"||Ananda Shankar||2:45|
|15.||"Coz I Luv You"||Slade||3:30|
|16.||"One of the Boys"||Mott the Hoople||4:33|
|17.||"Meet Me on the Corner"||Lindisfarne||2:38|
|18.||"I Can't Change It"||Frankie Miller||3:06|
|19.||"Whiskey in the Jar"||Thin Lizzy||5:42|
|20.||"I Had a Dream"||Audience||4:17|
|21.||"Traveller in Time"||Uriah Heep||3:21|
|22.||"I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free"||Nina Simone||3:06|
|23.||"Epilogue Dialogue: I Want to Go Home / "Life on Mars Theme" (Hidden track)"||Edmund Butt||2:26|
The methodology and techniques of modern policing that Sam Tyler employs during Life on Mars lead him into frequent clashes with other characters. Gene Hunt and the rest of the CID appear to favour brutality and corruption in order to secure convictions, as shown by their willingness to physically coerce confessions and fabricate evidence. Throughout both series, Tyler clashes with Hunt the most frequently, usually because Tyler values forensic evidence whereas Hunt often resorts to traditional methods and gut instincts. In one episode during Series 1, in which doubt is cast on several suspects, Hunt insists that "the first to speak is guilty" and frequently refers to the 'Gene Genie'.
Sam describes Hunt as an "overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding." Hunt is supported by his fiercely loyal subordinates, Chris Skelton and Ray Carling, with the latter portrayed as a character similar to Hunt. Ray and Sam often disagree with each other, and Sam and Gene have a love-hate relationship. Chris, in contrast, becomes friendly with Sam and respects his modern methods, finding his loyalty torn between Gene and Sam.
Given Sam's predicament, he avoids revealing his suspicion that he may have travelled back in time, for fear that others will think he is insane. The only person in 1973 to whom Sam fully reveals his story is Annie Cartwright. According to Liz White, the actress who played Cartwright, "She gets very tired of his constant talk about how this situation is not real, that they are all figments of his imagination — she can only explain it as psychological trauma from his car crash".
Themes and storyline
After the premiere, each of the remaining fifteen episodes begins with a short teaser before a monologue in which Sam repeats, as part of the moving imagery of the title sequence:
My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever's happened, it's like I've landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home.
This questioning is a central plot device throughout the series, displaying both the character's and the audience's uncertainty about what has happened.
Throughout the course of Life on Mars, Sam's uncertainty is reinforced by frequent paranormal phenomena, such as hearing voices and seeing images from 2006 on radios, telephones, and televisions. The voices discuss his medical condition, leading him to partially believe that he is in a coma. Other elements suggest to him that he is insane, such as his frequent and unexpected encounters with the Test Card Girl from Test Card F, who speaks directly to him. Annie Cartwright partially persuades Sam that he is truly in 1973, arguing that his mind would be unable to fabricate the amount of detail and tangibility in the world where he finds himself, evidence that he is in fact in 1973.
However, Sam's uncertain situation is not the focal point of most episodes, remaining a sub-plot. In most episodes, the main plot centres on a particular crime or case relating to the police, such as drug trafficking, a hostage situation, murders and robberies. For this reason, most episodes follow a conventional police drama format. As the series progresses, Sam focuses on how he will get home in almost every episode.
A recurring motif throughout the series is the overlapping of the past and present. For example, during Series 1: Episode 6 Sam hears the voice of his mother in 2006, telling him his life-support will be switched off at 2:00 pm. At the same time he is called into a hostage-taking situation, where the perpetrator states that he will kill his victims at precisely the same hour. Sam also encounters people whom he knows in the future as their younger selves, including suspects, friends, his own parents, and himself as a child.
Sam comes from a politically correct and scientifically advanced era, in which suspects' rights and the preservation of forensic evidence are stringently observed. His background leads Sam into conflict, as other characters exhibit openly sexist, homophobic, and racist behaviour, and often indulge all these prejudices while carrying out their police duties.
The series frequently makes use of Gene Hunt's comical rudeness in the form of jokes and dramatic irony about a future which the audience already knows, but which the characters in 1973 do not. For example, in Series 1: Episode 5, Hunt declares, "There will never be a woman prime minister as long as I have a hole in my arse."
Another theme in the show is Sam's confusion about police work in 1973, as he often mistakenly mentions techniques and technologies that were not used in 1973, such as two-way mirrors. One such theme is that Sam continually gives criminals the updated version of the right to silence warning, which was changed in 1994. When he does so, someone around him usually points out that he is giving the warning incorrectly.
It is revealed in the final episode that Sam's coma had lasted so long because he had a tumour of the brain. Tyler comes to believe the tumour is embodied by Hunt, and begins to think that by bringing Hunt down, his own body can recover. To this end, Tyler begins to collaborate with Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown) to bring Hunt down. While Tyler and the team are engaged in a firefight with armed robbers, Sam returns to 2008. He eventually comes to realise that he has become used to, and enjoys, the 1970s, seeing it as his "real world". In an attempt to get back to 1973 to save Annie and the rest of the team from death, Sam leaps off of the roof of the police station, arriving back in 1973 and saving the team, promising never to leave them again. Writer Matthew Graham wrote the scene to indicate that Sam is now in the afterlife, but acknowledged that the ending is ambiguous and open to other interpretations, such as lead actor John Simm's belief that Sam may not have returned to the present. In the final scene, the team drive off, with Sam and Gene bickering as usual. Children run past, including the girl from Test Card F who symbolizes the death that has been stalking Sam since the beginning. She looks directly into the camera before reaching out and "switching off" the television the viewer is watching, signifying that Sam's life has come to an end.
The first episode of sequel series Ashes to Ashes shows that the protagonist, DI Alex Drake of the Metropolitan Police, has been studying Tyler's notes and 2008-era personnel file, in which his photograph is overstamped with the word "SUICIDE" - consistent with what happened in the series finale. Ashes to Ashes implies that Gene Hunt's world is in some sense real, and states that Sam lived on in that world, during which time he married Annie but had no children.
In the final episode of "Ashes to Ashes" a fuller explanation for Sam Tyler's experience is provided, when the role of Gene Hunt in both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes is revealed.
Depiction of 1973
During an interview John Stalker, Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester in the early 1980s and himself a Detective Inspector in 1973, has stated that the depiction of the police "has got nothing to do with real policing in the 1970s. It could not be more inaccurate in terms of procedure, the way they talk or the way they dress. In all the time I was in the CID in the 1970s I never saw a copper in a leather bomber jacket and I never heard an officer call anyone 'guv'. ... Actually, there were a few police officers in London who started to behave like Regan and Carter in The Sweeney, but that was a case of life following art, not the other way round". The journalist who interviewed Stalker, Ray King, remarks that the depiction of the police can be defended if we assume that Sam is indeed in a coma and that we are seeing his imaginary idea of 1973, filtered through 1970s cop shows.
Upon Sam Tyler awaking in 1973, he finds himself on a building site, beneath a large advertising board, proclaiming the construction of a new motorway, the Mancunian Way. In reality, construction of Mancunian Way was completed in 1967. According to Matthew Graham, writing in the Radio Times, the error was deliberate. "We knew that this road was built in the 1960s, but we took a bit of artistic licence". Minor historical anachronisms such as this are present throughout Life on Mars. Some, as above, were made out of artistic licence whilst others were deliberately inserted to confuse the issue of whether Sam Tyler was in a coma, mad or really back in time. Many inaccuracies were visible such as modern street furniture, cable television cabinets, satellite television dishes, CCTV cameras, LCD digital watches and double-glazed uPVC window frames, which were all unintentional. During DVD commentaries for the series, the programme makers acknowledge these as errors but also point out they are in fact perfectly feasible, given Sam's situation. As the popularity of the series grew, the hunting of such anachronisms became a favourite pastime among Life on Mars fans.
||This section possibly contains original research. (May 2010)|
Life on Mars includes many references to the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz. For example, when Sam Tyler tentatively asks if Gene Hunt is able to send Sam back home, he is mockingly told "The Wizard'll sort it out. It's because of the wonderful things he does." The quote "Follow the yellow brick road" can be heard at least once, in episode 4 of season 1. Gene also occasionally refers to Sam as "Dorothy", ostensibly as a reference to what Gene perceives as Sam's effeminacy ("Friend of Dorothy"), but also as a nod to Sam's belief that he is living some kind of Oz-like fantasy. The pivotal character, Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown) is both Gene's nemesis in 1973 and Sam's surgeon in 2006. This echoes the similar dual roles played by actors in the Oz and Kansas sequences of the 1939 Judy Garland film, The Wizard of Oz; principally, actor Frank Morgan who portrayed Professor Marvel in the Kansas sequences and the Wizard in the Oz sequences. In the final episode of the series, the song "Over the Rainbow" features prominently upon Sam's return to 2006.
The East Manchester town of Hyde is used as Sam's former police division as a clue that his 1973 self is an alter ego, as in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. When Sam wakes up in 2006, his comatose body was revealed to have been kept in Hyde ward, from the sign on the door as he exits in street clothes. The Room number shown as 2612, this being the telephone number (Hyde 2612) that Frank Morgan had contacted him from in episode 1 of season 2.
In addition to the recurrent references to Bowie, Hunt calls himself "Gene Genie" several times while referring to his methodological superiority and that sounds exactly like "Jean Genie", Bowie's song.
Critical reaction to the first series of Life on Mars was extremely positive. Steve O'Brien, writing for SFX, declared, "It looks like BBC One has ... a monster hit on its hands ... It's funny ... and dramatic and exciting, and we're really not getting paid for saying this". Alison Graham, television editor for the Radio Times, described the series as "a genuinely innovative and imaginative take on an old genre". James Walton of The Daily Telegraph commented, "Theoretically, this should add up to a right old mess. In practice, it makes for a thumpingly enjoyable piece of television — not least because everybody involved was obviously having such a great time". Sam Wollaston of The Guardian wrote: "Life on Mars was more than just a jolly, tongue-in-cheek romp into the past ... Once there, in 1973, we find ourselves immersed in a reasonably gripping police drama — yes, The Sweeney, perhaps, with better production values ... Or put another — undeniably laboured — way, as poor Sam Tyler walks through his sunken dream, I'm hooked to the silver screen". Although Peter Paterson of the Daily Mail reflected the views of many other commentators on the first episode when he wondered, "Can its intriguing conceit be sustained over eight one-hour episodes?", Critical reaction remained generally positive throughout the programme's run. Of the second series, Alison Graham believed that "Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt are shaping up nicely as one of the great TV detective partnerships ... It's vastly enjoyable and manages to stay just about believable thanks to some strong writing and, of course, the two marvellous central performances".
Nancy Banks-Smith, in The Guardian, felt that the time-paradox aspect of the programme had become somewhat confusing. Banks-Smith summed up the programme's success as "an inspired take on the usual formula of Gruff Copper of the old school, who solves cases by examining the entrails of a chicken, and Sensitive Sidekick, who has a degree in detection.".
Two days after the final episode's transmission, Life on Mars was attacked in the British press by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, who claimed that Gene Hunt's use of homophobic insults in the programme could encourage copycat bullying in schools. The BBC stated that Life on Mars was targeted at an adult audience, and argued that Hunt's characterisation was "extreme and tongue-in-cheek".
Life on Mars was a ratings success. The first series achieved an average audience figure of 6.8 million viewers and regularly won its timeslot, despite competition from ITV1's popular comedy-drama series Northern Lights. The first series' finale gained 7.1 million viewers and a 28% audience share.
Viewing figures for the second series were initially low, with the first episode only attracting 5.7 million viewers, slumping to 4.8 million viewers by episode three, despite being heavily trailed and publicised. These figures were blamed by The Stage on "poor scheduling and unfortunate sporting fixtures, possibly combined with high expectation". Audience figures picked up during the second series' run, however, with the final episode gaining an average of seven million viewers (a 28% audience share), despite competition from UEFA Champions League football on ITV1.
The series twice won the International Emmy Award for Best Drama Series in 2006 and 2008. In January 2007, it won the Best New Programme category as part of the Broadcast Magazine awards. In March 2007 it won two categories, Best Drama Series and the Writers' Award, at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards.
The first series was nominated for a British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) in the Best Drama Series category. John Simm was also nominated as Best Actor for his work on the show. The programme won the audience-voted "Pioneer Award".
DVD and Blu-ray
|DVD release name||Episodes||Years of Series||UK Release Date
|North American Release Date
|Australian Release Date
|Life On Mars: Series 1||1—8||2006||15 May 2006
Re-released 28 February 2011
|28 July 2009||3 December 2009|
|Life on Mars: Series 2||9—16||2007||16 April 2007
Re-released 28 February 2011
|24 November 2009||5 November 2009|
|Life on Mars: Series 1 & 2||1—16||2006—2007||10 September 2007
Re-released 28 February 2011
|Blu-ray release name||Episodes||Years of Series||UK Release Date
|North American Release Date
|Australian Release Date
|Life On Mars: Series 1||1–8||2006||27 October 2008||N/A||N/A|
|Life On Mars: Series 2||9–16||2007||27 October 2008||N/A||N/A|
- Note: Due to the popularity of the show, Blu-ray editions of both series were released on 27 October 2008. However since the show's various effects were originally edited and mastered in standard definition, a true HD version would require a near-total overhaul. The Blu-ray editions therefore contained studio-upscaled footage of the original SD content, providing some improvement. This pseudo-HD version is not known to have been broadcast on television.
- The Rules of Modern Policing (1973 Edition) by "DCI Gene Hunt" (Bantam Press) [8 October 2007]
A parody of a police manual that made fun of the conventions of 1970s British police procedurals like The Sweeney. It also contained a glossary of British 1970s slang terms.
- The Wit and Wisdom of Gene Hunt by "DC Chris Skelton and DS Ray Carling" (Guy Adams) (Bantam Press)
A book detailing the philosophy of Gene Hunt as told by his disciples.
On 12 March 2012, Kate Bradley, Commissioning Editor at HarperCollins secured a deal with Kudos Film and Television to publish four brand new Life on Mars novels. By-lined "Tom Graham", the books, which are best read in numerical/publishing order as a tetralogy, pick up where the series leaves off and begin to develop and particularize the linking mythology between Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. The Life on Mars books were published exclusively as eBooks at roughly three-monthly intervals, but were successful enough to generate the release of hard copy, trade paper editions in August 2013.
Volume 1: Life on Mars: Blood, Bullets and Blue Stratos [6 September 2012]
Volume 2: Life on Mars: A Fistful of Knuckles [6 December 2012]
Volume 3: Life on Mars: Borstal Slags (14 March 2013)
Volume 4: Life on Mars: Get Cartwright (6 June 2013)
- "Final series of Ashes to Ashes will 'reveal all' about Gene Hunt". London: Telegraph. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
- Each episode begins with a monologue from Tyler reflecting this uncertainty. This is reproduced on the "Life on Mars Official Website". BBC. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
- O'Brien, Steve (January 2006). "The Nick of Time". SFX (139): 54.
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- http://www.flipkart.com/life-mars-borstal-slags/p/itmdgd8aagxyusns?pid=DGBDGBGZHTEVHQRZ&ref=53840b65-d6e9-459b-ab40-ff74c9cac2a9&srno=t_2&otracker=from-search&query=life%20on%20mars. Missing or empty
- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Mars-Cartwright-Tom-Graham/dp/0007538960/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377987136&sr=1-4&keywords=life+on+mars. Missing or empty
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