Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Life on Mars: A Review

Last night I tuned into the first episode of the new BBC drama serial "Life On Mars", it was touch and go because I was tempted to watch The Matrix on Channel 5. Dad wanted to watch the BBC drama as well however, so I decided to watch it with him. I'm glad I did, I was not disappointed.

Life On Mars is one of those "sore thumb" dramas that centres around an individual who finds him/herself in an unusual situation, where everybody else fits in except for them. Films/programmes with similar themes would include Back to the Future, Quantum Leap and Groundhog Day (I would say Buck Rogers as well but it's too cheesy).

Indeed, I would describe Life on Mars as a blend of ideas/influences that include Groundhog Day, The Sweeney, Back to the Future and Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky, and possibly Quantum Leap.

The hero of the story is DCI/DI Sam Tyler, a detective who after a bizarre car accident finds himself in what appears to be 1973. I say appears, because there is still a possibility (and this is made quite clear), that it is all a fantasy world that he has become trapped in while he lies in a coma in the 21st century. While he tries to figure out what is ACTUALLY going on, he finds himself becoming involved in solving the crimes of the day (the first one of which is directly linked to a crime he was working on in the 21st century - one with very personal high stakes, his girlfriend was kidnapped by a murderer following the same pattern. Along with this he has to cope with the culture clash (sexism is rife, the M6 motorway does not exist, mobiles phones do not exist ( a source for at least two jokes in the script), vinyl is the only available music format, the dawn of modern forensics and the computer age is yet to radicalise policework and most shockingly of all, diet coke is not yet available in local pubs.

At the end of the first episode, we are left wondering what is going on. Sam has interacted with at least one person in the 70's who he has met 30 years later, however we clearly see and hear glimpses of hospital activity which suggest he is in a coma. The logical conclusion for me at the moment is that both must be true. He has been transported back to the real 1970's, while he also lies in a coma in the 21st century. I do not think he will wake up until he has achieved what he was put in his abnormal situation to do (ala Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap).

The production values, script writing and acting are all of a high standard. Costumes and props all mirror the 70's era perfectly. I expect the programme to be a success because it contains elements of comedy, drama, suspense, science fiction and pure nostalgia - it has a very wide net to catch people with.

I wasn't born in 1973, I didn't make my debut on planet Earth until the following year, but I do have a few early memories of the seventies and I sincerely enjoyed this programme. Life on Mars continues at 9pm Monday on BBC 1.

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