Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ashes to Ashes; A "Life" of Its Own


Review- Earlier this week I railed and went a bit crazy when I read the news of the cancellation of the Americanized version of Life On Mars. It was my favorite new show, and was just getting its legs, so to speak, when it was jettisoned by the powers that be at ABC.

Last night (Saturday March 7th) I had a chance to watch the final episode of the original British version of LOM. Following it was the American premiere of Ashes to Ashes, the sequel to Life On Mars, in which modern day London police detective Alex Drake ( played by Keeley Hawes) is shot by a man (we find out later) named Layton, and finds herself in 1981, mini skirted and on a yacht. Drake, a divorced mother and a trained psychologist, was studying notes about Sam Tyler, the protagonist from LOM, who's apparent demise at the end of that series (in the present) was ruled a suicide. As shown in the final episode of LOM, Sam did leap off of the top of the building, but instead of hitting pavement the audience is shown Tyler rejoining Annie, Ray Carling, Chris Skelton, and Gene Hunt in 1973 Manchester.



The yacht Alex is on becomes a crime scene; bewildered by what has happened to her, and by her 1980's tarted up look and curly hair, she walks down the gang plank and first sees a concert poster for Adam and The Ants, and watches cars loaded with police pull in. And out of the cars come Gene, Ray, and Chris (Philip Glenister, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster). Upon returning to police headquarters, Alex finds her name on a desk, and that she has been assigned to the squad. Alex remembered reading about Ray, Gene, and Chris in the notes on Sam Tyler, and knows about their personalities. Alex remembered being shot, and concluded what's happened to her must be an illusion, or delusion. When she touches Gene's chest to feel a beating heart, she says this is TOO real- and Gene counters by grabbing Alex's breast.

Later, Ray tells Alex that Sam Tyler died the previous year (1980) when his car went into a river while trying to apprehend robbers...but Sam's body was never recovered. Later in the first episode Alex comes upon Layton, the man who shot her in 2008. In 1981 Layton is a mobbed up lower level racketeer involved in drug trafficking- he is arrested by Alex late in the episode for his crimes in 1981...and Alex adds for shooting her (in 2008).

At the end of the first episode we see Alex watching TV when the clown/mannequin (from LOM) comes on the TV screen, and starts talking in Alex's daughter's voice, telling Alex that she's been shot, and don't try to wake up.

The look is authentic 1980's, the soundtrack included The Clash and Roxy Music, and like Life On Mars the story of the "time traveler" is much more fascinating than the crime drama that is always the subtext. In my eyes, the crime solving was always a distraction from the real fun stuff....like what really has happened to Alex (or Sam)...and will the audience ever really find out?

The BBC has ordered a second series of Ashes to Ashes, so for the time being, people on this side of the pond might have to wait awhile for some answers.

Or we can cheat a bit...and keep up with it on the official BBC website, and various UK fan sites.

All in all...if your a fan of the fantastic, this is a show you'll be entertained by. Check it out.

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