DI Sam Tyler
- Played by: John Simm
- Apathy Killed the Cat: Averted. Sam is constantly wondering why he's here, wherever 'here' is.
- Berserk Button: Do not turn football from something that's supposed to connect people into being an excuse for violence.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Gene tolerates Sam's bizarre behaviour and ahead-of-its-time political correctness because he recognises Sam's skill in catching criminals. The others only put up with it because Sam outranks them.
- By-the-Book Cop: he's this even in modern times, and doubly so when compared to the rest of the police in 1973. Still, it's subverted at times.
- The Cassandra: his offhand comments about the future get routinely dissed by his peers.
- Disappeared Dad: his father, Vic, walked out on his wife and son when Sam was four.
- Fish out of Temporal Water
- Giving Radio to the Romans: Sam tries to introduce 'modern' police methodology and encourage his colleagues to see past their bigoted attitudes, though with limited success. One problem is that while in theory Sam is better trained, the techniques he's learned are often useless in 1973. Why wait for a search warrant if you can just kick down the door? Why talk in the formal style for interviewing witnesses (useful when every word is recorded, and saying the wrong thing can get a case thrown out of court) when it only confuses people?
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: happens to Sam a lot, considering his mental state.
- I Choose to Stay: The series conclusion.
- Iconic Item: His leather jacket.
- I Know Mortal Kombat: You should see his Playstation scores.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: he's very by-the-book, in an Honor Before Reason sort of way (although he does disregard his principles on occasion, usually for good reason).
- Ineffectual Loner: "I was on my own! I'm always on my own!"
- Manly Tears: about once per episode in the first season, toned down for the second per John Simm's request.
- Naïve Newcomer: being unfamiliar with the realities of 1973 policing (and the world in general, as seen through adult eyes), he often gets things wrong.
- Number Two: to Gene Hunt in the CID.
- Real Men Cook: Is quite a good chef with high standards for the food he makes.
- WorkaholicAnnie: Back to work again, is it?Sam: Do I have a choice?Annie: Park? Pictures? There's always a choice.Sam: Back to work then.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Sam's over-reliance on future history results in Ray almost getting blown up.
For tropes from Ashes to Ashes, see the respective character page
DCI Gene Hunt
Sam Tyler: An overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding.Also known as 'the Gene Genie', the boozing, womanizing, rough-housing, politically incorrect DCI. His role models are John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, probably why he describes himself as 'the Sheriff'. Gene is of the belief that you do whatever you must to put the baddies away, and is rather ruthless in his pursuit of that rule. However, he does have a softer side, one that very few have seen (mostly because he'd rather take cyanide then show it).
Gene: You make that sound like a bad thing!
Gene: You make that sound like a bad thing!
Played by: Philip Glenister
- Abusive Parents / Alcoholic Parent: his father "could be a bit loose with his fists when he'd had a jar or two".
- Catchphrase: You're surrounded by Armed Bastards!
- Trust the Gene Genie.
- Cool Car: His beloved Mark III Cortina.
- Da Chief: Subverted. Gene is in charge, but he's the one causing the trouble.(while the car is going way way too fast) Sam: You're not above the law you know Gene, I should do you for speeding!
- Drinking on Duty: Gene considers drinking his duty.
- Drives Like Crazy: Gene seems incapable of not ramming every dustbin he sees.
- Establishing Character Moment: We are introduced to Gene Hunt in this fashion, after a disoriented Sam has blundered into the police station demanding to know what year it is -Gene: They reckon you've got concussion. Well I couldn't give a tart's furry cup if half your brains are falling out, don't - EVER - waltz into my kingdom acting king of the jungle.Sam: Who the hell are you?Gene: Gene Hunt, your DCI, and it's 1973, almost dinnertime - I'm 'aving 'oops.
- Fan of the Past - specifically, the Old West
- Guilty Pleasure: reveals to Sam (in a nightclub playing the then-latest rock music) he and he wife like listening to a bit of Roger Whitaker.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
- Torture for Fun and Information: Aka "Gene Hunt's Interrogation Technique" for his creative and deeply horrifying-yet-hilarious ways of extracting information from suspects.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rude, politically incorrect, liable to rough up suspects and more; however, desires to keep the streets safe and looks after his colleagues; compared to DS Carling, knows where his limits are.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner: It's cute that you think you're "innocent"; he'll decide if you should be locked up, thanks very much.
- Licensed Sexist
- My Greatest Failure: Gene is still haunted by his brother's death from drug addiction.
- Pædo Hunt: Oh dear, is it Gene Hunt, is he kicking in a nonce?
- Politically Incorrect Hero: "Look at her. She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot."
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "YOU'RE NICKED!!"
- Quick Nip: Gene is positively loaded with flasks. Hey, it comes in handy.
WPC (and later WDC) Annie Cartwright
- Played by: Liz White
- Action Girl: She doesn't start out as this, but she's getting there.
- Brainy Brunette: With an undergrad degree in psychology, too.
- The Confidant: she's always willing to lend a sympathetic ear to Sam, and she's the only one to whom he admits his real 2006 origins.
- Fair Cop
- Goofy Suit: Her Road Safety Squirrel costume, worn while teaching schoolchildren. Gene later employs it to infiltrate CID.
- One of the Boys: What Annie aspires to when she's promoted to WDC (women's detective constable). At the very least, she holds her own at the pub and while undercover.
- The Profiler: she holds a BA in Psychology, so in the very first episode Sam asks her to profile a serial killer.
- Skinny Dipping: Admits to having done this on her graduation day.
- The Smurfette Principle: the only female member of main cast.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Not the object of the trope, but usually the one asking Sam what crazy-assed idea he's got this week and why he's acting like a lunatic.
- You, Get Me Coffee: Annie's role in the otherwise all-male CID.
DC Chris Skelton
- Played by: Marshall Lancaster
- Cowardly Lion: he's nervous and cautious, but when push comes to shove he gets the job done.
- The Klutz: he's not the most well-coordinated person around.(discussing Chris's upcoming date)Ray: So where'd you meet her?Chris: An ice rink. I skated over her thumb.
- Phrase Catcher: "You're such a div, Chris".
- Waistcoat of Style: seen wearing one on many an occasion.
- You, Get Me Coffee: He's often used for menial tasks that nobody else wants to do.
DS Ray Carling
- Played by: Dean Andrews
- Cowboy Cop: Like Gene, who he admires greatly, he's quite willing to bend the rules if it means they can close a case more quickly.
- Driven by Envy: he had applied for promotion to DI, and was passed over in favor of Sam, which leads to some hard feelings between the two.
- Foil: to Sam, whom he considers The Rival.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: although, unlike Gene, he doesn't know where to draw the line.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: he experiences PTSD after being almost blown up by a car bomb.
- Played by: Tony Marshall
- Angel Unaware: Revealed in Ashes to Ashes to be a St. Peter archetype, who guides souls to "The Pub" (i.e. the afterlife).
- Fauxreigner: He asks Sam to keep quiet about it, as people are happier with "the other Nelson."
- Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!: Subverted; his accent's as "fake as a tranny's fanny."
WPC Phyllis Dobbs
- Played by: Noreen Kershaw
- Kavorka Woman:Gene: Serves you right for staying up rodding all night with that new fella of yours. Did you let his guide dog watch?Gene: (to Sam) Whatever happened to all the classy birds?
- The Dandy: Always well dressed.
- Glory Hound: In all of his appearances, he's doing everything he can to upstage Manchester CID and especially Gene Hunt.
- Jerkass: Goes out of his way to be a dick to Manchester CID.
- Smug Snake: Nowhere near as competent as he thinks he is.
The Test Card Girl
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Such a cute face with such a sweet smile that Sam even calls her Mona Lisa, until she comes out of the TV and declaims to him in Ironic Nursery Tune fashion why he should 'give up.'