The 1973 adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler (John Simm) came to a close in this second season of Life on Mars. Although it could be argued that the show could have gone on for a third season, Simm wanted out. Given the plotline, perhaps the show should have been produced as a mini-series instead.
The basics of the show are simple to follow:
Sam Tyler, searching for his missing girlfriend while investigating a murder case in 2006, is hit by a car and sent back to 1973. As opposed to being the head of his own department as he is in his 2006 timeline, he is now a mere Detective Inspector working under a reckless thug of a captain named Gene Hunt (Phillip Glenister). The team in addition to Tyler that works under Hunt is a ragtag bunch of misfits in their own individual ways.
DS Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) is essentially Gene Hunt, Jr and follows in his boss's footsteps by often clashing with Tyler. Tyler's differences with Carling are grounded in the fact that in the first series Carling was demoted to Detective Constable for forcing cocaine down a drug dealer's throat while the dealer was in police custody.
DC Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) is the eager but naive member of the team. While Ray is loyal to Gene 100 percent, Chris shares a dual loyalty between Gene and Sam. Tyler sometimes asks Chris to do some research on cases, giving him more of a role on the team than he normally might have.
WDC Annie Cartwright (Liz White) is the lone female on the team. She's more on a middle ground than the rest. While she's more reserved than the others, she can hold her own and ease the soul of Sam Tyler during one of their usual "I hate 1973" conversations. Their relationship grows closer in the second season.
The individual plots, apart from the thread of Tyler's attempts to return to 2006, are as solid as ever. Future Waterloo Road cast member Eva Pope makes a guest appearance in an episode where the team investigates a death connected to a swingers' club. Marc Warren, who seems to have a face that screams "I'm a bad guy," guest stars in another episode as a gangster who in Sam's time is trying to kill him.
Obviously it would be spoiling everything if I explain how Sam's journey comes to an end. I will say that it left me with more questions and perhaps an even greater headache as to whether Sam's life in 1973 was coma-based or real. For US viewers of the American version of Life On Mars, I'll say this finale is the better of the two.
My primary enjoyment from this show didn't really come from the cases or Sam's plight. The key to the success of the show is the odd couple friendship between Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler. It's been suggested by viewers in the camp that believes Sam Tyler was in a coma that Gene is a representation of some part of Sam's personality. I don't quite agree with that, but super fans of the show will probably know better as to whether that might be the case.
If you are a fan of 1970s music, the first and second series both have an insane amount of music throughout. Music plays a big part of the show given that the title of the series comes from a '70s David Bowie song.
You get a few special features with the Series 2 box set:
- "The Return of Life on Mars"
- Bonus behind-the-scenes footage for episodes 3, 5, and 7 and tour of the set.
- "The End of Life on Mars"
It would be wise not to have a Life On Mars fan next to you while watching the second series DVD. He or she would probably spoil the conclusion of the series playing the "End Of Life On Mars" featurette.
When it comes to viewing Life On Mars, it's best just to enjoy the ride as is. It's a bizarre ride, a rather complicated ride, but a fun ride at that. It's sad that Ashes To Ashes, the spin-off that came from Life OnMars, couldn't match that.