If ever there was a time to get a Hulu Plus subscription, now is it. Because Hulu Plus is, right now, the only video-on-demand service in the U.S. to have the original, brilliant, UK-produced sci-fi crime drama Life on Mars available for streaming.
“My name is Sam Tyler, I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home.”
So goes the voice-over as the title sequence rolls on one of the most fabulous shows to air (imo) ever: Life On Mars.
Sam Tyler (John Simm, Mad Dogs, Doctor Who) isn’t on a different planet. He’s in Manchester, England. Thing is, he is in 1973 when he should be in 2006. How being hit by a car ends up in time travel… well, that’s just the start.
Not only is Tyler back in time, he’s lower in rank. Before the accident, he was a DCI. Now he’s a DI under the command of chain-smoking, whiskey-swilling, tough-talking, b*ll*cks-busting DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister, Mad Dogs, Ashes to Ashes), a foul-mouthed, bigoted, bully of a boss if ever there was one.
How does Sam deal with being in this present, which is really the past? Not well, initially. He has tossers for colleagues and ’70s fashion to boot. He also hears and see things that aren’t there. (Or are they?) And how does he get back to his present, which is now his future? There are no quantum physicists in Life on Mars to help him figure it out, so he’s on his own.
Tyler must adjust, and quickly, if he’s to at least appear sane and demonstrate that he’s more than capable of being a detective. He’s got his work cut out for himself, what with Hunt and his suspicions, and fellow detectives DS Ray Carling (Dean Andrews, Last Tango in Halifax) and DC Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster, Coronation Street) constantly winding him up. The bright spot is WPC (later DC) Annie Cartwright (Liz White, The Crimson Petal and the White), the only person he trusts enough to reveal his story to.
Doing detective work as a man out of time proves helpful, if not awkward, for Sam. His knowledge of preserving crime scenes and looking for forensic evidence has to be downplayed, and his (former) use of technology, well, there wasn’t much of it about for coppers back then. Fighting crime took brains and brawn, and between Tyler and Hunt, they have enough of both to nick thugs, murderers, and other assorted criminals.
Does Sam make it back to 2006? I’m not saying. Sorry. Spoilers.
It’s a shame that there were only two series of Life on Mars, but the 16 episodes made their mark. So much so that ABC did a remake (which fared less well than the original).
Now, fingers crossed that the Life on Mars spin-off, Ashes to Ashes, makes its way to Hulu Plus as well. And soon.