In a brief hiatus from twanging geetars and noodling about on the ol’ joanna in search of something less clichéd than I usually produce...
I’ve been swimming about in Life On Mars
from Kudos. The debonair and erudite Dog of Goodness
has a quote
from Caitlin Moran about the finale of series two, where she’d claimed that there was both an ending for stupid people and one for clever people. I’m obviously nowhere near as clever as I’d like to have you all believe, as I’d only spotted the one for stupid people. There are spoilers ahead, for those of you who haven’t yet seen the finale...
I’d recorded the Life On Mars
episode as it loses out in my book to CSI
, which was on at the same time. Funnily enough, before seeing the LoM
finale yesterday, I felt let down by the CSI
episode (the one with Ned Beatty as a serial-killing dentist and Grissom off holidaying somewhere with less of a daily body-count...) as it seemed just a little too pat
. Things fell into place in a manner that doesn’t usually happen in a CSI
episode, even the ones where they’re gusting on at length about their innermost feelings and such. It was the sort of episode where, as the credits start to roll, you look at each other with a faintly bemused air of betrayal, a raised eyebrow and an ‘eh?’. Not one where you really go all Charlie Brooker, spitting blood at the screen and wanting to have the writers hung, drawn and chucked in a blender, but just leaving you with a vague sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction. And gloom.
It’s rather like going back to your favourite curry house, which you haven’t been to for months, anticipating a repeat of your last meal there (which was amazing) and finding out that, though the menu is the same, the kitchen staff have changed. The long-awaited meal arrives and, though it’s good, it just doesn’t quite do it
for you. In the non-biblical sense, of course. Hem-hem...
Back to Life On Mars
. A series storyline that dodged about nicely, never quite letting you know how it might resolve. A solid ensemble cast that, once I’d got over the sometimes shoddy representation of the 1970s (as it’s supposed to be in his head, it could indeed be as clichéd as it came across, with all the anachronisms flying about too), offered many touching moments of emotional depth that the writers could easily have abandoned in their rush to be all, you know, ’70s, maaan
. The central character of Sam Tyler, a modern police officer somehow thrown back from the present day to the Manchester of 1973 is your fairly typical ‘fish out of water’, but with many worthy and well-developed traits as well as the obvious quest to find out how to get back to the present day.
Many pundits seemed to be harping on about the Big Question™ being whether 1973 was all in Sam’s head as he was in a coma in 2006, or whether he’d dreamed the future (startlingly accurately, as it happens, and not at all like the visions of the future we were sold in the ’70s) and was in fact from 1973 after all.
Umm, unless I missed a meeting, he was definitely from the 2006/7 era and the Big Question™ was whether he was imagining it all, or had actually somehow gone back in time. Theories abounded here at the Tower. Many of them related to Sam’s eventual return to the present day and what he might do when he did (that aspect of the storyline seeming to be a given). Would he search the records of the police force, and discover that the characters he dreamt up actually existed? Would he then try to track them down? Wouldn’t there be more in terms of drama and rug-pulling from beneath the audience in having him actually travel in time? There wouldn’t necessarily need to be an explanation of how (in fact, that might well prove ruinous), just close the episode with some lovely ‘oh wow’ sort of stuff.
So, even though Sam has arrived back in the present day and many of the odd names and references have now been explained - Hyde 2612 being his hospital room number, etc, etc. - having him actually discover an old photo with him and the team in it, or that Gene Hunt existed, or even something as murky as all the records from that era having been lost in a fire, but someone dimly remembering something that places him back then, would surely have been a more satisfactory (though wonderfully frustrating!) conclusion to the series.
I don’t know if I wasn’t paying enough attention (unlikely), but having the 1970s being purely a fiction created during the coma, the present day as dry and stultifying, and Sam’s eventual decision to kill himself to ‘return to the dream’ seemed like one of those ideas you have right at the start of the session
, long before you come up with something a little less simplistic. Not that the episode was in any way simple. It nipped around like a demented thing, just about managing to hold on to the plot, before seemingly fizzling out and leaving the viewer with the same vague feeling of having been ever-so-slightly cheated.
Pity. I started to get quite into it by the end.