Life On Mars: The Afterlife

“YOU can never be sure how it’s going to go down,” said Life On Mars co-creator Matthew Graham.
“You always know that with this show, there’s such a high level of expectation as to what it should be.
“Everyone has their own theories.”
We were talking just a few days before Tuesday night’s BBC1 screening of the last ever episode.
As it goes, the final 60 minutes has provoked a reaction, I suspect, beyond even the wildest dreams of Matthew and the rest of the TV team.
And it has sparked its own legacy – an explosion of debate which looks set to go on for weeks, months and even years to come.
Over at The Railway Arms, a poll shows that more than 81 per cent of fans have given the farewell episode a maximum rating, voting it one of the best.
And a further 11.8 per cent said it was very good.
A Digital Spy poll has some 61 per cent of people voting the episode “excellent” with 20 per cent rating it as “very good” and six per cent “good”.

Taken together, along with the eight million people who watched the climax, those are approval ratings to warm the heart of any programme maker.
It’s no comfort, of course, to the minority who didn’t like the ending.
But there’s still plenty of room to debate those “theories”.
Can I say thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to post comments – please keep them coming.
Life On Mars: The Answers has received a staggering number of hits from all over the globe.
Matthew agreed in that interview that, whatever he intended in writing the final episode, you can still view the ending in different ways.

I’ll say it again – it depends on what you want to believe.
I’ve scanned hundreds, if not thousands, of online posts about the last episode over the last three days.
I know I’ve not been alone.
Are we mad, in a coma or back in time?
No, we’re just totally lost in Life On Mars and can’t stop thinking about it.
Can you name the last British TV drama to achieve that sort of effect?
One that springs to mind is The Prisoner.
And, yes, at least one clever soul thought they saw a clear homage to that classic ITV series in the scenes at Fairfield Street rail depot.
Another keen-eyed viewer spotted the fact that one of the little girls skipping down the alley at the very end was wearing ruby red slippers.
While someone else realised that Sam didn’t return to 1973 just for Annie.
He went back, of course, for The Jacket.
I loved the ending from the very first time I saw it. And eight subsequent viewings over the last month or so have done nothing to change that view.
Some people want to know if 1973 was real – or were Gene, Ray, Chris and Annie all in Sam’s head?
My own view is that this is a fantasy drama and, of course, they were real. They were on my TV every week.
I could pick dozens of quotes from the perceptive regulars at The Railway Arms.
But here are just two:
*“I think the ending could be whatever you, personally, choose to make it.”
*“We can argue over many interpretations of what happened and what it was about, but to me that is what great drama should be: exciting, shocking, entertaining and thought-provoking. In the end we did not get all the answers, but that’s life, isn’t it?”
Even the Scary Test Card Girl has been in touch – young actress Harriet Rogers, who took over the role for the second series.
I hope Harriet won’t mind if I quote what she said, just to ease the fears of anyone still hiding behind the sofa – and also to add some perspective.
“It has been really exciting for me being in Life On Mars.
“My first episode, number three, was shown on my 10th birthday, which was very cool!!”
See, not so scary after all. I wish her all the best for the future.
Harriet has earned herself a place in TV history in those very final moments of Life On Mars.
Matthew has already explained what he intended in that “closedown” scene, when the Scary Test Card Girl switched off our TVs.
But was it also symbolic of Sam’s death?
It depends on what you want to believe…
Matthew also said that he thought Sam’s 1973 “afterlife” would stretch out as an eternity.
Somehow, I suspect that will also apply to the debate about Life On Mars.
Life On Mars: The Answers
Life On Mars: Ashes To Ashes
Life On Mars MEN Blogs
Life On Mars MEN TV Stories
The Railway Arms
Digital Spy Forums
The Prisoner
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole


Filed under Life On Mars

11 responses to “Life On Mars: The Afterlife

  1. bakednudel

    Hi Ian, couldn’t find an email, but wanted to say thanks for all the GREAT coverage of Life on Mars. I’ve been following your blog for a while and even though I live in the US and don’t know most of the programs you write about, I love reading it anyway.
    I especially appreciated your respect for the fans and the clever way you managed to write about Life on Mars without revealing any spoilers.
    Pop in and say hello at The Railway Arms after things have calmed down a bit!
    (loved your cameo in the Doctor Who Confidential! Finally got to see Ian Wylie!)

  2. Carol Shackleton

    Hi Ian
    Just wanted to say I loved reading your blog on Life on Mars. It was really informative and also helped solve a few niggling queries from the last episode….!?!?! Fantastic work! Well done!

  3. Sarah

    Hi Ian,
    What is your opinion on events in 1973 that are connected to 2006, for instance Maya, and the Crane character?

  4. Ian Wylie

    Hi Sarah,
    My own view, for what it’s worth, is that Sam’s actions in 1973 did have an effect in 2006 / 2007. So Maya is alive and well, because the serial killer is still behind bars in the modern day, and she was able to say her goodbyes to Sam as we saw on screen, having decided to move on from their relationship while he was still in a coma. And Eve has led a different life and is also still alive because Tony Crane was taken out of the equation.
    I don’t have any issues about “1973” not being real and the characters all being in Sam’s head while in his coma. It’s a fantasy TV drama, so I don’t, personally, feel the need to have a totally logical answer. 1973 can be both “real” to me and Sam’s “afterlife” at the same time. I’m happy with that. Who knows how the universe works? This may be some “other place” we just don’t understand but can still be linked to the modern day.
    So it also follows that I have no problem with Gene, Ray & Chris being “real” – or not – in Ashes To Ashes. At a very basic level, none of this is real, is it? They’re three characters being played by actors, saying the words typed out by Matthew, Ashley and co. I totally respect the views of those who wanted more answers from LoM, or think the logic was flawed. But, personally, I was more than satisfied with what we were presented with.
    I also think it’s important to remember that Life On Mars should be enjoyed for what it was – a brilliant piece of entertainment…I’m off to the shops later today to buy the series two boxed set!

  5. Ian Graham

    Although I first heard about your blog, the day after LOM ended, I have to say I will continue to read in future.
    I liked the ending of LOM, to me it was very upifting, although as Matthew Graham said, I can see it would have been very difficult to get the BBC to agree that a suicide can be a good thing.
    But to Ashes to Ashes, do you think that if London of 1981 is in Alex Drakes head, that the writers can get away with some minor issues for example:
    Many people seem to be worried that Gene will have to drive a left hand drive Audi Quattro as they were not released in right hand drive in 1981?
    That Gene may have a Southern accent?
    That any character from LOM can be re-imagined?
    Which leads to my big question, even though John Simm has decided he does not want to be in Ashes to Ashes Sam Tyler could be in the series, as a different actor?
    Thanks for your blogs, you are now in my favourites and I look forward to reading your comments.

  6. Mac

    Great work, Ian. A really fascinating read about a truly great TV series. I can’t remember the last time I was so hooked. The nearest thing would be State of Play a few years ago, but it was still nowhere near as addictive as this.
    So – will you have a similar inside track about Ashes To Ashes, and do you think the premise will work as well as LOM? Seems to me the writers have given themselves a mountain to climb…

  7. Andrea

    I missed all of this series and I could kick myself!

  8. Ian Wylie

    Firstly, thanks again for all your great comments and kind words. Now a few specific answers:
    Ian – I think the writers will sort out all the “details” of Ashes To Ashes to our satisfaction. I can’t imagine Gene with a southern accent – even though Philip Glenister is originally from Harrow in north London. And I think we can rule out Sam Tyler being played by another actor.
    Mac – agree with your thoughts on State of Play. Ashes To Ashes does look a bit of a tall order, but then I trust Matthew, Ashley and the rest of the team to get it right. It certainly gives us something to look forward to after LoM, doesn’t it? And, yes, I’ve already been invited on set for filming later this summer.
    Andrea – click on the “Life On Mars MEN Blogs” link for news about the series two DVD, which is out today. Series one was released last year. 16 hours (plus extras) of TV bliss!

  9. Sarah

    Thanks Ian,
    Yes, it is just a great drama and we are all over analysing it, none-the-less I couldn’t stop thinking about it all Wednesday and Thursday! It’s nice to think all his work did have an effect, but I still don’t see how it could if he was in a coma, unless he really had gone back in time while he was in the coma. Still, as you say, it’s a TV drama!
    It was very well acted – I shall miss Sam and Gene.
    In an age where most dramas are formulaic, badly written and badly acted, it has been refreshing to watch something that is so compelling, unusual and well acted, so thanks to Matthew and the team.
    Off now to get that box set…..

  10. Hello Ian, great work with this site – it’s interesting reading the many different viewpoints on the way Sam’s life (and supposed death) was viewed.
    I found out about this place a day after the last episode had ended and have enjoyed reading everybody’s take on it (not so much the negative ones but each to their own, eh?). In my view Sam was a 70’s man and didn’t die, but after the traumas of his early years and combined with the stress of his undercover work and the pressure being put on him by his superiors he just wanted to find a better life and in his subconscious state he thought he had. Eventually he realised where he really needed to be.
    I’d like to see him and Annie (they are together, surely?) reunite with Gene, Ray & Chris in an A2A episode maybe getting caught up in trouble based around the 81’ Cup Final between Man. City and Spurs – can’t wait for A2A to start already!!
    John Simm was in the 60 second interview in the Metro on 17th April saying that he’s appearing in Doctor Who in a while – one to look forward to there.
    Also, Dean Andrews is appearing at the home of the ‘Greatest football team the world has ever seen’ (no, not Man. City, Gladys!!), Sheffield Wednesday on 11th May to answer questions on LOM and his career – it’s on the SWFC site for those who are interested.
    Anyway, to all those involved with LOM, cheers!!
    There will always be Life On Mars.

  11. George Sweetnam

    Ian (of Ian Wylie fame) – I love the ongoing debate about what was real and unreal in LOM, but rather than fighting on towards some sort of Highlander Endgame i.e. there shall be only one [explanation], couldn’t we all make threads towards creating a role for Sam at the end of Ashes to Ashes, series two, which might appeal to John Simm enough to return for a cameo?
    To hook him it would have to be short, after his LOM endurance test, and since we established Sam’s credentials as an inventor (Chicken in the Basket, the Stinger/Stringer tyre puncture kit), couldn’t he feature possessing prototypes of thing familiar to us which no one has seen yet, to demonstrate his resourcefulness, as an example of 1980s nouveau riche, through patents for his gadgets, as a sly nod to David Bowie’s most famous movie role as The Man Who Fell To Earth?
    I read elsewhere, on The Life Of Wylie’s LOM pages, a posting which described Sam’s enforced betrayal of his friends in the railway tunnel – through his being pulled back to a kind of 2007 (the surgeon Frank Morgan clicking Sam’s heels together three times, so simple really when you think about it), as “throwing [Sam] into a fugue state which is only broken by a metaphoric leap of faith.”
    I looked up Fugue State and recognised the Dissociative Fugue for its use in drama as a staple plot, the “man with amnesia” who has suddenly moved away from all who know him to live a new life under a new name, whilst still listed as a missing person under his real name, until a personal encounter with a person, a place, or object, begins the slow fragmentary process of reclaiming old memories again.
    Although Sam is in London now, it is as Sam Williams, who has no memory of the LOM years; as far as Williams is concerned he is picking up where he left off. Unlike the occasion where Frank Morgan told him that he had adopted his undercover identity of Sam Tyler, this time the twist here is that the notes which Alex Drake thought came straight from a Sam Tyler in Manchester CID, are actually old case notes on Sam Tyler from 1973 which have been confused with those of a Sam Tyler in 2007 before his suicide. This previous Sam Tyler, according to the account given to his psychiatrist, has all the symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder [Multiple Personality Disorder as it was then]. As 70s Sam tells it, he rewrote his own history by going back in time to save his future wife Annie from being murdered by his father, the original murder traumatized him and made him split, creating the first of his three alter egos. But in stopping this event, the personality it created had no real existence anymore; it was this alter ego, which was returned to a version of the future in 2007, who belonged nowhere now because he truly had no past since he himself had erased its origins. The only way to find peace was in the Matthew Graham bespoke afterlife; his suicide really was painless since he now had a Dissociation Sensibility which, in medical terms, meant that he could still experience a tactile sense of touch but without any sense of temperature or pain.
    Back in 1973, all his other Dissociative symptoms are still intact. Tyler and Williams are unaware of Sam’s third persona which, unlike the pair of them already has a real life in London for two years, which all means a very long dramatic arc for Sam [in one or maybe two episodes] to retrace himself back through his remaining alter ego to his Tyler self still looking to find out why he’s here and how to get back home to Annie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s