Thursday, April 2, 2009

LIFE ON MARS (American Style)- Can You Hear Me, Major Tom?

"Why does everything always go back to David Bowie?" asked Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) of his next door neighbor Windy when she announced she was leaving the country with new friend David Bowie.

And that was the penultimate setup for what happened next in the series finale of the American version of Life On Mars on ABC.

So here comes the mandatory spoiler alert for anyone who Tivo'ed the show and hasn't seen the final episode, or for whom might want to catch it all when the show is released on DVD.

Rose Tyler (Sam's mother, 1973 version) tells the detectives of New York's 125th Precinct that her criminal husband Vic has abducted little Sam Tyler. Adult Sam goes in pursuit of his own father, who had stolen the child version of himself, little Sammy. In the course of the investigation Sam keeps receiving phone messages from the mysterious voice who tells him what he has to do next in order to "go home" to 2008.

While finding himself in a seemingly deserted town called Hyde in New York, Sam is shot at by a sniper. He finds the sniper in an abandoned apartment, smacks him around for awhile, and gets him to tell where Vic has taken little Sammy. Then the sniper tells Sam, "You don't look like a look more like an astronaut."

Sam finds little Sammy aboard a moored boat in a marina. He then gets into a fight to the death with his own father, Vic, in a scene that had me thinking of Luke Skywalker (which was the alias he used for Rose Tyler) and his climactic fight with father Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. At the moment Vic is about to put a fatal knife wound into Sam, he tells Vic "I'm your son".

Vic answers "I know". Then there is a gunshot, and Vic falls dead, killed by Gene Hunt, who arrived on the scene with Annie Norris, Chris Skelton, and Ray Carling.

Sam goes back to the precinct house with the crew. There he meets Rose, and tells his young mother that Sammy will be with her until she is old and grey, and he will look out for her. Upon leaving the room Sam tells Rose that his real name is not "Luke Skywalker", but Sam Tyler. (And while we're at it....the name "Rose Tyler" is the same as that of one of Time Lord Dr Who's companions in that BBC series.)

Annie is promoted to detective by Gene Hunt for her fine work in helping to break the case of the abducted Sammy Tyler. Ray, Chris, and Sam are sitting around the station minutes later, drinking whiskey, when Ray tells the other two that we're only on earth for 70 or 80 years, and if we're lucky we can find a couple of people who make existence on "this rock" tolerable.

Sam goes back to his apartment, and is talking to hippie friend Windy when he looks at his TV and sees himself reading GULLIVER'S TRAVELS to an aged and hospitalized Annie Norris in 2009. At that point Windy tells Sam that Annie is "the one" and Sam needs to be with her. Sam is surprised to find that Windy could see the things he sees on the TV...she answers that she has always been able to see the things that Sam sees. Sam finds Annie, they embrace, kiss, and profess their mutual love for one another.

Sam returns to the station house the next day, perfectly happy to spend his life with Annie and his new "family" in 1973, not feeling trapped anymore. Then the phone rings....its the mysterious voice again, telling Sam that he must do one more thing if he wants to return home. Sam says he doesn't care to.....he's happy where he is now. Then he hangs up and walks into Gene's office.

He looks at Gene, and they both embrace in a hug. Then Gene says to Sam...."I'm going to miss you most of all, Scarecrow !".

Then there is a whirling, and scenes from the past flash by in reverse order, like life zooming before your eyes backwards. We see Sam Tyler in a chamber with his eyes closed. He opens his eyes, and the glass lid to the chamber opens.

Its the year 2035.

Sam stands up....and he is wearing a flight suit with a small American flag on it. He is aboard a space craft heading towards Mars, part of the flight crew awakening from suspended animation. Flight commander Col. Annie Norris (a brunette) awakens and greets Sam, as does Chris Skelton and Ray Carling. Each of the "sleepers" was given a choice of a dream life they could have while on the long flight towards Mars- Ray wanted to be on a tropical island filled with beautiful women, and he was the only man with a penis.

Sam wanted to be a cop in 2008...only something in the program went haywire, and he found himself in 1973, with all of the other members of the crew in his life as other characters, similar but different....somewhere over the rainbow, perhaps? Frank Morgan, the mysterious FBI agent in Sam's dreamstate, is the voice and face of Mission Control. He is the man behind the curtain, so to speak- just like the actor Frank Morgan in 1939's WIZARD OF OZ. And "Windy" is the voice of a computer, in control of the flight to Mars, a friendly guide and protector unlike 2001:A Space Odyssey's malevolent computer HAL

Windy then greets the last member of the crew to awaken...Major Tom (Harvey Keitel)aka "Gene Hunt"....and we discover that a "gene hunt" is underway for any possible "life on Mars". Sam approaches Major Tom, and says to him its time for the two of them to stop fighting....Major Tom is Sam's father.

We are told that President Obama wanted to to talk to the crew, but had to attend to HER ailing father, along with her sister.

The last scene showed the five astronauts walking on the Martian surface....and the first step forward is with a foot wearing 1970's trousers and a white alligator shoe.

The End.

Note Some kudos to the writers for being inventive, and leaving some clues along the way for the few loyal fans to follow...but most of all, for not leaving the fans hanging. The series had a beginning, a middle, and an end, which is something rare on American network TV...when you get your plug pulled, usually that's it...there's no closure left to those who invested their time into supporting a series that, in terms of widespread popularity, was viewed as a failure.

The writers couldn't end it as they did in the BBC version, with Sam jumping off a building back into 1973. And they surely didn't want to use the "Bobby Ewing in a was all a dream" ala DALLAS from the 1980's. As a fan I felt satisfied with the ending...but sad to see it go.

All in all it was a better finale than that of Damages, which I'll probably get to later....that one left me feeling REALLY cheated. It was as if the entire season was a setup for the next.

But that's the subject for another blog entry.


Jerry said... Jason O'Mara was great in Terra Nova.I designed Mars rovers 1987.Nasa knew of people on Mars 1976 with Viking landers. Here's a slideshow of Mars people,animals,high tech and more. Jerry Lehane III Newark De (age 54)

Jerry said...

You can cut to the chase for Mars pics and get a reasonable TOP 50 with Google search IMAGES "Jerry Lehane Mars" and that will save time vs 1000 pics in the slideshow above.Thanks,Jerry @jlehane3 on Twitter

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