Ashes To Ashes: The End

DIXON Of Dock Green provided the black and white postscript to the last ever episode of Ashes To Ashes.

“So it was all sorted out in the end. And no bones broken, luckily,” said a reassuring PC George Dixon.

It was, after all, only a TV show. But a very special one.

Time for supper and then up those stairs to bed.

A fitting farewell for a drama many obsessed over, with online fan forum The Railway Arms going into meltdown after each episode was screened.

The final emotional hour revealed almost all about DCI Gene Hunt and his world but left just enough ambiguity to keep those web servers humming for some time to come.

If you’ve yet to see the Ashes’ farewell, which finished a few minutes ago, do NOT read any further.

I spoke at length to Ashes co-creator Matthew Graham earlier this week – the first interview he had given where he was able to speak freely about the secrets of Gene’s world and those who found themselves drawn into it.

Keeping a promise he made to me just over three years ago when we conducted a similar interview for use after the final episode of Life On Mars.

Part of our Ashes chat has just been published in The Guardian TV blog here.

But there is much more to report.

I will be posting a near full transcript of our conversation here in my own blog later this weekend.

For the moment, however, I think it’s best to let the dust to dust settle on Ashes To Ashes.

If you’ve just watched the episode, by all means check out my Guardian TV blog and feel free to leave a comment there – as well as here.

My own advice would be to watch the final episode a second time to fully appreciate its brilliance – and then a third, fourth, fifth time…

Matthew told me his message to fans was – don’t make instant judgements.

“Watch it and then leave it for a bit and then think about it – you can draw conclusions too quickly,” he cautioned.

“You need sometimes for it to bed in and have a think about it before you decide whether or not it’s the ending you wanted.”

I’m also aware that not everyone will have been able to watch tonight and may be catching up with episode eight tomorrow.

Another reason to delay publication of the full transcript.

Since talking to me, Matthew has also spoken to my colleagues at SFX. So you might want to check out what he said there.

In the meantime, here are a few advance extracts – probably best read after you’ve looked at that online Guardian piece.

Obviously your view of what you saw on screen is just as important as anyone else’s and there are no definitive answers written in stone.

But this was the ending that Matthew and fellow co-creator Ashley Pharoah wanted and their take on it:

It turned out that the moment of Alex’s death had been revealed in the opening minutes of the first episode in this final series.

When the digital clock in her modern day hospital room clicked to 9:06. “The moment of it plunging into black and then Gene slapping her awake,” explained Matthew.

Matthew was on location for the scenes at “Farringfield Green” where Alex found what she initially thought was Sam Tyler’s shallow grave beside a scarecrow.

As we now know, it was the body of rookie PC Gene Hunt, shot dead on Coronation Day in 1953 during his first week on the beat.

It was a pivotal scene and Philip Glenister was, understandably, unsure how much Gene would know about his past at this moment.

Matthew told him: “The best way of playing it is – as she uncovers the body, she’s uncovering your memory.”

Those “Lancashire” exterior farmhouse scenes – complete with Old Father Time weather vane – were actually shot at Stockers Farm near Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, the location for many famous film and TV productions, including the classic 1970s ITV children’s series The Adventures Of Black Beauty.

Matthew’s script for the final episode appeared to confirm that DCI Jim Keats (Daniel Mays) was either the gatekeeper to Hell or the Devil himself, with Gene as an almost unknowing archangel saving souls – with everyone dead in an afterlife purgatory between Heaven, Hell and Earth.

But it was very deliberately never spelled out. “I never wanted anyone to say, ‘So I’m dead? You’re dead. We’re all dead.’ I wanted to avoid that. I thought that would burst the bubble a bit,” Matthew told me.

The latest incarnation of The Railway Arms – Alex, Ray, Chris and Shaz’s little corner of paradise – was a real life pub the production team found near London Bridge in Camberwell, south London, transformed for the purposes of filming.

Update: The Horseshoe Inn.

“They just took their pub sign down and we put up all our stuff,” recalled Matthew.”

“We did it in the middle of the night. We were a bit worried about people seeing it. But we were tucked away near a railway bridge – it really was a sort of Railway Arms. And it was an absolutely freezing cold night. I think it got down to minus nine or ten. So no-one was out on the streets, which just played into our hands.”

The character of Thordy in episode six? He claimed to be Sam Tyler. But he was just what Gene said he was – a fantasist. Matthew had wanted a bit more of Thordy in that episode to make it clearer to viewers. “Because otherwise I think what happens is people think Thordy is going to be really important later.” But the usual time constraints made that impossible.

Lots more to follow later in the weekend, including questions about Gene, Alex, Jim, Ray, Chris. Shaz, Arthur Layton, Evan, balancing the fantasy element and 6620.

And Matthew also reminded me that he had already given Gene Hunt a middle name – Stephen.

“I wanted to give him a name that he himself would find a little bit poncey.”

Guardian TV Blog: Matthew Graham interview on the end of Ashes

Ashes To Ashes Blogs

Life On Mars Blogs

Life On Mars: The Answers

The Railway Arms Fan Forum

Luigi’s Fan Forum

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