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August 30, 2015

Life on Mars: Episode 5

by Martin Conaghan, posted Mar 22nd 2007 7:27PM
Sam Tyler(S02E05) In much the same way as series one of Life on Mars dragged out the is-he-or-isn't-he-in-the-past component of the over-arching storyline, series two continues to keep the mystery of Sam Tyler's presence in 1973 a bit of a mystery, teasing us with glimpses of the future -- and the past.

When this week's episode started, it was as surreal as you could get, with Sam on sick leave in his bedsit, hallucinating images of his fellow-police officers on his television, and generally seeing things on his way in to the police station where a kidnapping crisis had developed.

It turned out Sam had been overdosed in the future (or was it the present?), and the doctors were desperately trying to restore his brain activity to normal.
The big difference in this week's story was the sequence of the narrative; not content with a simple flash-back or flash-forward, the writers decided to play with our perception of Sam's situation, perhaps to give the viewer a teaser of how things are going to play out in the latter half of the series.

Much in the way Bruce Willis' character in Unbreakable could merely touch people nearby and gain insight into their lives, Sam could catch up on previous events by touch -- some of which were over a year in the past -- surrounding the death of a promising young gymnast and the complex kidnapping/ransom situation related to the release a young man convicted of her murder.

It's not easy to convince mainstream viewers of a complex science-fiction proposition like this -- where visuals toy with reality and characters are given incredible insights -- but where Life on Mars is concerned, the reality of 1973, combined with the bizarre circumstances of Sam's presence in the past, makes it easier to follow than most high-brow sci-fi.

But when Sam's brain finally couldn't handle any more of his heightened perception, he blacked out and found himself trapped inside his own brain with all the answers to the kidnapping, but with no way to guide his colleagues.

Then things really got weird as Sam watched his colleagues on a television set, trapped inside a tiny room in the police station. For once, he wasn't the one who figured it all out; Annie Cartwright was.

Once again, we were treated to a lesson in poor police methodology from 30 years ago, with a rushed conviction at the heart of the story.

We were also treated to a pleasant spark of romance between Sam and Annie which could prove to be promising in episodes to come.

Oh, and there was a tricky little twist right at the end -- unrelated to time-travelling component of the story -- but key to the resolution of the complex and depressing crime at the heart of this episode.

Music in this week's episode included: "You Shouldn't Do That" by Hawkwind, "Just Like You" by Roxy Music and "10538 Overture" by ELO.

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You missed the best bit at the start & the subsequent comment by Sam after hallucinating cartoons of his colleagues:

"You can attack me all you like Gene but stay out of Camberwick Green!"

March 23 2007 at 3:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That was quick! :)

Ahhh Hawkwind. Class.

March 22 2007 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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