|Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes character|
|First appearance||Life on Mars: Episode 1, series 1|
|Last appearance||Ashes to Ashes: Episode 8, series 3|
|Portrayed by||Philip Glenister (older)|
Mason Kayne (younger)
Colm Meaney (US pilot)
Harvey Keitel (US version)
|Books||The Rules of Modern Policing|
The Future of Modern Policing
|Title||Detective Chief Inspector (DCI)|
Greater Lancaster Constabulary (fictional) (1953)
Greater Manchester Police (1973-1980)
Metropolitan Police (1981-3)
|Family||Stuart Hunt (brother; deceased)|
|Spouse||Unnamed wife (divorced before events of Ashes to Ashes in 1981)|
DCI Gene Hunt is a fictional character in BBC One's science fiction/police procedural drama Life on Mars and its sequel, Ashes to Ashes. The character is portrayed by Philip Glenister in both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, whereas in the American version he is portrayed by Harvey Keitel. His younger self, also known as the ghost of Gene Hunt, is portrayed by Mason Kayne.
The character is portrayed as politically incorrect, brutal and corrupt - but fundamentally good. Hunt is often displayed to maintain a love–hate relationship with both Sam Tyler (John Simm) and Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), the leading protagonists of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, respectively.
The character received critical and public acclaim for his role in Life on Mars, being dubbed a "national hero", an unlikely sex symbol and a "top cop". A third and final series of Ashes to Ashes was said to "reveal all about Gene Hunt and what his alternative world really means in a stunning finale" and that the "truth [would] out". The character is ultimately revealed to be an integral part of the strange world that both Sam Tyler and Alex Drake inhabit.
During the course of Life on Mars, Hunt gradually reveals his personal background to other characters in the show. For example, Hunt explains to Tyler that his father was an abusive alcoholic. He also explains that his brother, Stuart, was a drug addict who died even after Hunt's repeated attempts to reform him.
Life on Mars
Throughout the programme Hunt is respected by the characters under his command, mainly Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) and Ray Carling (Dean Andrews). During the two series, Hunt often uses unnecessary force while making arrests and conducting interviews, along with practising "noble-cause corruption" demonstrated by his fabrication and falsifying of evidence in order to secure convictions but never for personal gain. In response to this, he has been referred to as an "old style cop" and "maverick". Hunt also believes that there is a "very fine line between a criminal and a copper".
Ashes to Ashes
During the first episode, it is revealed that following Life on Mars, Hunt worked with Sam Tyler for a further seven years until Tyler crashed his car into a river. Shortly after in February 1980, Hunt transferred from the Greater Manchester Police (which Manchester and Salford Police by then had become) to the London Metropolitan Police, along with Chris Skelton and Ray Carling.
The first series, set in 1981, reveals Hunt to have divorced and replaced his Ford Cortina, as seen in Life on Mars, with an imported Audi Quattro. He is also displayed to be more professional, less aggressive and calmer than when last seen in Life on Mars, set in 1973. Hunt first meets Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), the protagonist, during a police drugs raid at a party. Initially, he mistakenly believes that she is a prostitute and is unaware that like Sam Tyler, she has travelled back in time from the future.
During the series, the main storyline follows Alex Drake in her struggle to return to the present day. In order to do this, she believes that preventing the death of her parents, Tim (Andrew Clover) and Caroline Price (Amelia Bullmore), will enable her to return. While watching the death of her parents in the finale of the first series, she discovers that the person she remembers taking her hand as a child was Gene Hunt and not Evan White (Stephen Campbell Moore) as she previously thought. This leads her to question if Hunt is real and not a figment of her imagination as she thought.
The second series, set in 1982, introduces a new storyline of both Hunt and Alex Drake working together in order to expose corruption within Fenchurch East CID. As well as the corruption storyline, Drake is stalked by Martin Summers (Gwilym Lee & Adrian Dunbar) who also claims to be from the future. After several discoveries and unofficial investigations led by Hunt and Drake, it is revealed that the newly introduced character, Charlie Mackintosh (Roger Allam) is heavily involved in the corruption. During episode four, after finding out that Hunt and Drake know about his corruption, Mackintosh shoots himself and with his dying words warns Hunt and Drake of "Operation Rose", but dies before he can reveal more details. Summers, also involved in Operation Rose, plants a tape stolen from Drake on Hunt's desk on which she had questioned his existence and motives. After playing the tape, Hunt furiously demands an explanation from Drake, who is forced to explain that she is from the future, which enrages Hunt leading him to think that she has taken him for a fool.
During the series, Hunt and Drake begin to notice that files and evidence have gone missing. Eventually it is revealed that Chris Skelton had been paid large sums of money to undermine the investigation into Operation Rose, and had done so in order to pay for his wedding to Shaz Granger (Montserrat Lombard). Without informing those involved in Rose that Skelton has been discovered, Hunt uses him to gain information. It is revealed that Rose is the codename for an upcoming robbery of a van carrying gold-bullion masterminded by corrupt officers. After a heated argument with Drake, Hunt suspends her and confiscates her warrant card, threatening to kill her if he finds her involved in the following day's events.
During the finale, Hunt shoots Martin Summers dead in order to save Drake's life and accidentally shoots her afterward. With no witnesses, Hunt is accused of attempted murder. After being shot, Drake wakes up in the present day to be greeted by her surgeon and her daughter Molly, but observes Hunt screaming at her through hospital screens to wake up. She realises that she is now in a comatose state in 1982, and that the 2008 world she has woken into is illusory.
During the first episode, it is revealed that following Hunt's accidental shooting of Alex Drake, he was accused of attempted murder and fled to the Costa Brava and Isle of Wight for three months. After waking Drake from her comatose state, Hunt is suspended by Jim Keats (Daniel Mays), from the Discipline and Complaints Department (D&C), sent to assess Fenchurch East CID in the wake of Drake's shooting and as part of Operation Countryman. Keats unofficially assures Hunt's team that he will file a good report about them, before privately telling Hunt that he "hates him", "knows what he did three years ago" and will "dismantle the station around him".
Also, the nature of Sam Tyler's death is raised by Drake and Keats. Drake conducts an unofficial investigation into the events and requests old witness statements and reports on Tyler's death along with the leather jacket Tyler was seen wearing during Life on Mars. Drake later finds Hunt burning the files and jacket. As well as this, Drake is haunted by a police officer with injuries to his face and finds a picture of the officer taken earlier without injuries in Hunt's desk.
In Episode 6, Hunt leads a riot control unit into the HM Prison Fenchurch, to quell a major riot. However, the overwhelmed officers are forced to retreat, and, in the confusion, Sergeant Viv James is captured by the rioters. Hunt later sends Ray and Chris in undercover as reporters, but they are exposed, and also captured. The orchestrator of the riot, Jason Sachs, consequently ties Ray, Chris and Viv to an electrified metal wall, which will be activated as a riot control unit led by Keats storms into the building to rescue the hostages. A prisoner who escaped during the chaos, Paul Thordy, reveals that Viv actually supplied Sachs with a firearm. Gene and Alex then turn off the electrics in the building, saving Chris and Ray. After freeing them, Gene pursues Sachs, who has taken Viv hostage: Sachs then fatally shoots Viv, who is discovered by Keats, and dies, much to the devastation of a distraught Gene, who blames himself for Viv's death. Sachs is shot dead by Gene.
During the penultimate episode, Drake asks Hunt if he killed Sam Tyler, with Hunt explaining that Tyler had been acting "weird" and asked for Hunt's help in faking his own death. However, the vision that Drake has of the police officer with injuries to the side of his face is connected to Tyler's presumed death, and a roll of undeveloped film apparently reveals where the policeman is supposedly buried. Along with this, Shaz, Ray and Chris all have visions of stars, as if looking up at the sky, and hear strange voices as described by Chris as Nelson (Tony Marshall), the publican from Life on Mars, asking him what he would like to drink.
During the last episode, Hunt is revealed to be part of a supernatural world, a form of limbo, populated by dead police officers. His role has been described as an "angel", helping the souls in a place between "earth and heaven" to get where they wanted to be. His role is to take them "to the pub" - moving on to a "heaven" beyond. It is later revealed that Hunt had done this for many officers before, including Sam Tyler and Annie Cartwright.
It is revealed that the main characters of the show are all dead. Shaz Granger was stabbed sometime around 1996 while trying to stop a car being broken into, Chris Skelton was shot dead during a firearms incident in 1975 and Ray Carling had hanged himself in 1977 because he felt he had let his family down after having failed basic training to join the army. Later in the final episode it is also revealed Ray had killed a young man and his DCI had covered it up. The guilt overwhelmed him, leading to his suicide. Because of the period of time each had spent in limbo they had all forgotten their previous lives, something which had also happened to Hunt.
The uniformed police officer haunting Drake is revealed to be Hunt, killed as a young constable after a week in the police by an armed man on Coronation Day in 1953. His body is buried where Drake expects to find Tyler's body, but instead she finds Hunt's original warrant card. According to a news broadcast Drake sees after waking from her gunshot wound operation in 2008, Hunt's undiscovered grave was recently found by a group of travellers.
Hunt characterises his younger self as "skinny," headstrong and full of male bravado; he confesses that he'd completely forgotten about his past. Keats, confronting Hunt along with the rest of his team, destroys his office to reveal the universe outside and accuses Hunt of manufacturing his own fantasy world, in which he'd entrapped the souls of Shaz, Chris, Ray and Alex. Keats then convinces everyone else except Alex to accept a "transfer" to his own department, implied to be Hell with Keats being the Devil, but with Alex's help Hunt persuades them to return.
Afterward, Hunt takes Ray, Chris, Shaz and Alex "to the pub", The Railway Arms, a favoured hangout in Life on Mars, where they are greeted outside by Nelson. Ray, Chris and Shaz enter, but Keats appears and tries to persuade Alex to come with him. This attempt fails when Alex realises, observing Keats' wristwatch frozen at 09:06, that she has also died in the real world. Hunt is able to persuade Alex to accept her death and enter the pub, but not before they share a kiss.
In the closing moments, the series comes full circle back to Life on Mars as another officer from the future appears wondering, like Alex and Sam, who has changed his office, and wondering where his iPhone is, and Gene Hunt ventures out to greet him in his usual fashion; using the same words he used to greet Sam Tyler in his first scene in Life on Mars.
Personality and appearance
The character of Gene Hunt is politically incorrect, having been described as an old school copper. It is said that the character thinks of himself as the sheriff in the western movie High Noon. Philip Glenister, the actor who plays Hunt has described his character as "intuitive" and "instinctive". Glenister has also drawn similarities between Hunt and football managers, José Mourinho and Brian Clough on account of his "arrogance" and way of thinking.
During Life on Mars, Hunt is described by the protagonist, Sam Tyler, as an ""overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding" (to which Hunt responded "You make that sound like a bad thing.") The BBC explains that in Ashes to Ashes, Hunt's personality remains unchanged, apart from him "losing grip on the power he had as a police officer".
When having just joined the police at the age of 19, Hunt is shown to be a fresh-faced young man with a slim build, and wearing a blue police tunic, a three quarter length police trench coat, with the epaulette identity number 6620. This version of Hunt is portrayed by Mason Kayne.
During Life on Mars, Hunt often wore a beige camel coat with a white shirt and tie, grey suit and trousers with white slip on shoes, typical of the period. His top shirt button is always undone and his tie always hangs halfway down his chest in an untidy, dishevelled fashion. In Ashes to Ashes, he is often seen wearing a black suit, striped tie, Crombie coat and snakeskin boots.
Gene Hunt often maintains a "love–hate relationship" with Sam Tyler and Alex Drake, the main protagonists of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes respectively. Throughout Life on Mars, the source of disagreements between Hunt and Sam Tyler are their differing policing methods. Such as, Hunt has been described as "not being scared of throwing a few punches to get a result", whereas both Tyler and Alex Drake are present day detectives who value forensic evidence and thorough investigative techniques rather than corruption and violence.
John Simm, the actor who plays Sam Tyler, has stated that both his character and Hunt have a grudging respect for the other's approach to policing, as well as Hunt seeing much of his younger self in Tyler. Hunt and Tyler's relationship eventually improves after Tyler returns to the present day only to kill himself so that he can return to save Hunt and the team, however, Hunt does not know this. During Ashes to Ashes, information about Sam Tyler can be seen on the walls of Hunt's office in Fenchurch East Police Station.
During the first series of Ashes to Ashes, Hunt's relationship with Alex Drake is much of the same as with Tyler. However, by the second series Hunt and Drake's relationship developed in a positive way. Both characters now respect each other and argue less along with sharing a distinct sexual tension with each other.
By the third series of Ashes to Ashes, Hunt and Alex's relationship becomes strained when DCI Jim Keats begins to plant seeds of doubt in Alex's mind about the nature of Sam Tyler's death, however, Alex's faith and love for Gene makes her unwilling to believe that he would murder Tyler. At the end of the third series, Alex and Gene share a kiss.
Throughout both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton are described as being "ever-faithful" to Hunt. Carling is described as Hunt's "right-hand man when it comes to fighting, shooting, gambling and the ladies". However, in Life on Mars, Carling feels threatened by Hunt and Tyler's relationship feeling "mortified that he's lost his mate and drinking partner", whereas Chris Skelton finds his loyalty "torn between Gene and Sam".
Gene Hunt has been described as a "national hero" by The Independent newspaper and as a character "taken to the nation's hearts" by The Guardian. The character was voted the United Kingdom's favourite television hero in 2008, receiving over 25% of the popular vote, ahead of both 24's Jack Bauer and The Doctor. Nancy Banks-Smith stated that Hunt had been a "roaring success" in Life on Mars, with it also being said that it was because of Hunt that Life on Mars's spin-off, Ashes to Ashes, was commissioned, quoting executive producer Jane Featherstone as saying: "When Life on Mars came to end through natural causes, I think we all thought: 'Hang on, this character, Gene Hunt, is a fairly extraordinary man and we're not quite done with him yet".
Glenda Cooper, from The Daily Telegraph, called it a "crime" that John Simm received a BAFTA nomination for his portrayal of Sam Tyler, but that Glenister did not receive similar recognition for his role as Hunt. Cooper goes on to write: As far as I - and millions of British women - were concerned, the only riddle [of Life on Mars] was why the hell did anyone think this was Tyler's show when a brief psychological profile, cursory examination of the evidence and old-fashioned gut instinct showed that there was only one man in the frame and that was DCI Gene Hunt."
Ashes to Ashes reviews witnessed the character receive more negative press than those seen in Life on Mars. Caitlin Moran, reviewing the spin-off show for The Times, stated that: "We love Gene Hunt. That’s just a fact. Hunt become that rare thing, in these creatively timid and threadbare days for British drama: [However] in 200 miles, eight years and one sequel – Gene has gone from being a complex antihero to a cartoon hero."
With regards to the character's performance in Ashes to Ashes, Andrew Billen states that "much is secondhand and when Hunt, played as gleefully as ever by Philip Glenister, shouts an insult as lame as “hoity-toity poofter” you wonder if the writers should have thought again."
Hunt has also been criticised for the prejudiced views he propagates. Writing for The Times, Tim Teeman expressed concern over an episode of Ashes to Ashes which focused on overt homophobia, writing: "No doubt the justification here is that it's Gene Hunt, everyone knows he's a bigot, that's what he'd say. And he and his mates were shown to be fools. But it was said with lip-smacking relish. Gene Hunt is on the brink of becoming a kind of icon of the sniggering, unreconstructed lad." Ashley Pharoah, co-creator of both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, has also voiced concern on this issue, commenting: "There have been times I have wondered: have we created a pin-up boy for the Daily Mail? That wasn't our intention."
In the lead up to the 2010 general election campaign in the UK, the ruling Labour Party produced an advert likening opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron to Hunt, claiming that Cameron would take Britain "back to the 1980s", referencing the inequalities of that era. However, the Conservative Party claimed that comparisons to Hunt were flattering to them and produced their own advert linking Cameron to Hunt with the slogan "Fire up the Quattro, it's time for change." Subsequently Kudos Productions, which owns the copyright to the Gene Hunt character, wrote to both parties requiring them to cease using the image.
Philip Glenister was introduced to David Cameron, then UK Conservative leader, at the 2009 Police Bravery Awards. Glenister later quipped "Six months later, he's [Cameron] on Radio 5 Live saying exactly what I've just said. B*****d nicked my line!"  Glenister appeared in the 2012 stage play This House playing Labour Chief Whip from the 1970s, the late Walter Harrison.
Sex symbol status
Glenda Cooper wrote in The Daily Telegraph that "women like Hunt because he isn't a bastard - or at least not to his team. In a world of short-term contracts, job insecurity and portfolio careers, Hunt's undying loyalty to his squad (even while rabidly insulting them) make us wistful for a time gone by when you had a job (and colleagues) for life."
"On paper, it should never have happened. Hunt is Seventies man writ large and we should be grateful that species is extinct. He wears a vest and his hair looks like it was styled during a power cut. He runs along towpaths in skimpy orange swimming trunks and has a torso that's closer to a Party Seven than six pack. He has no concept of innocent until proved guilty and thinks it's acceptable to turn up to a swingers' evening with a prostitute he's just busted. He's racist, disablist and homophobic, and he calls his only female detective Flash Knickers. (And he means it as a compliment.) In fact when you see Hunt's qualities spelled out like that, it looks appalling. [However] the fact remains: Gene Hunt is my guilty secret, and I know scores of other women feel the same."
According to India Knight of The Sunday Times, the character has attained the status of an unlikely British sex symbol: "the combination of power and, shall we say, lack of political correctness can be a potent one - which is why everyone in Britain fell in love with Gene Hunt, the hulking great throwback in the BBC series Life on Mars and that men wanted to be Hunt; women wanted to be with him."
Bantam Press have published two books written from the in-character perspective of Hunt, being The Rules of Modern Policing (1973) in 2007 and The Future of Modern Policing (1981) in 2008. During 2009, a third book was published by Bantam written from the in-character perspective of Chris Skelton and Ray Carling, focusing on Hunt's various insults and catchphrases as seen during Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, called The Wit and Wisdom of Gene Hunt. An official website was also produced in order to market the third book.
During 2007, a television pilot for an American version of Life on Mars was filmed by 20th Century Fox Television's David E. Kelley. Actor Colm Meaney was cast as Hunt, the precinct Captain of a Los Angeles Police Department squad. Meaney had not seen the British series but bought the DVD sets at an airport after filming had been completed. The 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike delayed the start of the series until 2008. By then, the ABC network wanted the pilot to be reshot without Kelley's involvement. Meaney was not hired to play Hunt again; instead, Harvey Keitel assumed the role. The setting of the series was moved to New York City, and Hunt was changed to a police lieutenant, the typical rank of a NYPD detective squad's commander.
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- Billen, Andrew (27 February 2008). "Horizon; The Hard Sell - Last Night's TV". The Times. London. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
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- Richmond, Shane (2010-04-08). "General Election 2010: Labour's Ashes to Ashes advert causes more embarrassment".
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- "Whipping This House into shape | Interviews". 2012-09-21.
- Knight, India (28 September 2008). "Be honest: we all love the sexist alpha male". The Sunday Times. London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
- Adams, Guy; Gene Hunt (8 October 2007). The Rules of Modern Policing - 1973 Edition. Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-06020-9.
- Adams, Guy; Gene Hunt (23 October 2008). The Future of Modern Policing - 1981 Edition. Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-06203-6.
- Utichi, Joe (12 November 2007). "Exclusive: Colm Meaney Spills the Beans on Life on Mars US". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
- Mitovich, Matt (24 July 2008). "Scoop! Keitel Lands on Mars as Homicide Boss". TV Guide. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2009.