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October 23, 2014

Life on Mars: Life is a Rock (series finale)

by Brad Trechak, posted Apr 2nd 2009 1:12AM
Life on Mars(S01E17) It's the last episode ever of the American version of this show. I'm not sure if it's appropriate or not, but it happened on April Fool's Day, as well. They certainly took the show to its most literal conclusion possible. As I write this, I'm still processing a lot of the story.

Comparisons are inevitable, and the ending of the British series was hands-down better. However, this one was good for a couple of laughs and wasn't completely outrageous (close, but not completely).

To summarize for those who want the heavy spoilers now: it turns out that Sam is an astronaut (let's not forget that his nickname throughout the show has been "Spaceman") on Earth's first mission to Mars in 2035. While in a deep sleep for the two-year journey, his brain is manipulated by miniature brain-robots into believing that he's from 2008. However, there was a glitch and suddenly he's in 1973. In short, it was all a dream.

They went full sci-fi with that ending. I recognize the budget was limited, but shouldn't they have been weightless on that ship (okay, that's nitipicking). An even bigger piece of fiction would be the concept that Ray Carling would ever be hired by any space agency anywhere ever.

The show used good themes, such as family, controlling your own destiny, and being a stranger in a strange land. I cheered when Annie made detective. I cheered when Sam got over his daddy issues. Having Harvey Keitel ("Major Tom") end up being Sam's father in 2035 struck me as a little weird (isn't he a little old for space travel?), although the 1973 Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler were pretty much at a father/son relationship at the end.

The fact that he was dreaming does explain a lot, such as why it seemed more like a cop show than reality. Or why Sam Tyler kept getting his ass kicked by his "father" despite supposed years of police training. Or why Sam could pick a lock on a set of handcuffs with a toy.

We'll never know how the creators would have dragged things out if the show had made future seasons. I would have liked a little more exploration of Ray Carling's relationship with his wife, but alas, it will never be.

I liked the cameos by several characters from past episodes (including the imaginary Windy. It's such a Quantum Leap relationship between her and Sam that she might as well be named Al). The sudden backtrack through all the previous episodes was cute, as well.

One minor quibble: they should have played Bowie's Life on Mars at the end, particularly considering that they were literally on Mars.

For the last time, favorite Michael Imperioli line of the episode: "How many times does one guy have to crap on your head before you stop wearing it as a hat?"

Overall, the series wrapped up nicely with an ending that was satisfying. And while Life on Mars has ended, I still eagerly await the soundtrack. Are there any nagging questions that you have left from the series? Tell us in the comments.

May you always find home in the place that you are.

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