Life On Mars
“My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma or back in time?
Life On Mars is a witty, fast-paced and suspenseful crime series with a twist, by the creators of Hustle and Spooks. It was the hit drama of 2006, winning universal rave reviews and numerous awards including Best Series at the International Emmys, Banff and the Broadcasting Press Guild, and the BAFTA audience award (viewers’ vote). It also created one of TV’s most unlikely heart-throbs – Philip Glenister as DCI Gene Hunt, “an overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding”.
Award-winning actor John Simm (State of Play) plays Sam Tyler, a cool, sharp and sorted detective based in present-day Manchester, who is hunting a serial killer who abducted his girlfriend when he is knocked down in a near-fatal car accident. He wakes, to find himself 33 years back in time – in 1973. Is this reality, madness or is he in a coma in hospital and this is all a dream? Sam struggles to understand what is happening to him. One thing is for sure, 21st-century Sam feels like a fish out of water in the 1970s. It may be only 30 years ago, but life was very different then, the microchip hadn’t been invented, for a start. Unable to return to his own time, Sam falls back on what he knows best – his job.
At the police station, Sam discovers his new colleagues and working practices are not far removed from the Stone Age. His DCI, Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister Cranford, Clocking Off), is a hard-nosed bigot who gets results by trusting his gut instinct and, all-too-often, sheer brute force. The rest of his team are not much better: Detective Sergeant Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) is untrusting of his new colleague and suspicious of his ‘new-fangled’ ideas, while Detective Constable Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) is cheeky, though affable and keen to learn. The only friendly member of the team is love interest WPC Annie Cartright (Liz White), an attractive, educated and open-minded young woman who may be baffled by Sam’s insistence that he comes from 2005 but is sympathetic and willing to help him.
Sam discovers that the man who abducted Maya in 2005 started his killing spree in the early Seventies. Could catching him be the key to getting back to his own time? Or could it be something to do with Sam’s own past? Throughout his time in 1973, he hears voices discussing his medical condition and occasionally encounters friends and suspects from 2006 and even his parents. Time after time, returning back to the present eludes Sam. He is trapped in a time warp and something beyond his control is keeping him there.
Meanwhile, as Hunt’s second-in-command, he continually comes into conflict with his boss. Each episode features a different crime case, some of the toughest Sam has ever tried to solve – partly because of what seems to him positively archaic police procedure. This is a world where witnesses are regularly intimidated, they rely on paperwork and memory instead of computers, forensics take two weeks to process, and his colleagues will nail their suspect whether they have the evidence or not. He does his best to adapt, and his modern know-how gives the investigations an extra edge, but trying to convince the team that they are wrong is a losing battle.
Executive Producer Jane Featherstone, Joint Managing Director at the production company Kudos, says: “Life On Mars is a fantastic idea which takes the cop show genre and gives it a unique, humorous and irresistible twist. By taking a character of our time and throwing him headfirst into our recent past, it gives us a chance to explore what makes us who we are today.”
Her fellow Executive Producer, John Yorke, Controller Of BBC Continuing Drama Series and Head of BBC Independent Drama, agrees: “The beauty of Life On Mars is that each week it concentrates on catching criminals through two completely opposing styles of policing. We put a modern DI bang in the world of the old-school copper and so explore two totally foreign worlds. Sam is both repelled and fascinated by this prehistoric world, and the drama lies in how he tries to accommodate himself to life on a completely different planet.”
Producer, Claire Parker adds: “We are thrilled to have a cast with such a fantastic pedigree. Established actors like John Simm and Philip Glenister add real gravitas to the show, but we also have some exciting bright young acting talent in Liz White, Marshall Lancaster and Dean Andrews. Life On Mars is a crime drama that is like no other in its genre.”
Life On Mars was filmed in Manchester. It was created and written by Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah, all of whom collaborated on Hustle.
Visit the website at bbc.co.uk/drama/lifeonmars.
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