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Headscratchers: Life on Mars (2006)
  • In the first season, Sam is comatose due to the car crash. However, in the second season, he's in the coma (or being kept there) by a brain tumour. So do car crashes cause brain tumours now or have I just missed an explanation for this?
    • I just assumed that the tumor either developed while Sam was in a coma or was a pre-existing condition which the car crash aggravated.
      • Gene Hunt is the tumour. His greater role in Sam's world accelerates the tumours growth, or perhaps vice versa.
      • The "real world" was never real, and Sam was actually in 1973 all along, so the facts about it don't really matter. This interpretation may change when I see Ashes to Ashes.
      • Did you watch the same series finale I did? It was revealed that it was all in his head. While he was in the real world he wrote about his time in the seventies. This was read by Alex Drake who then has something happen to her that makes her go to 1981 in her head. However I believe for Ashes to Ashes it's actually hinting at it being more than in her head.
      • There was no true "reveal" in the last episode. The only thing that was indeed confirmed was that he was in a coma (also confirmed by Ashes to Ashes). It's never stated that 1973 was all in his head.
      • Word of God is that it was, but it's all existentialist. That's why Drake's 1981 has so much discontinuity with Sam's 1973. Also the tumour was aggravated by the car crash, which is why Sam didn't wake up two episodes in.
      • This troper's personal theory is that all 3 possibilities (coma, time-travel, madness) are correct simultaneously — Sam Tyler in 2006 is in a coma, and his spirit has time-travelled to a mentally disturbed individual in 1973 with whom he's metaphysically linked.
      • Apparently, when the second series of Life on Mars finished the whole thing was in Sam's head and that was that. When the follow-up series, Ashes to Ashes started pre-publicity stated that Alex had read Sam's accounts of "1973" and would find herself based in a 1981 based on these accounts (indeed Alex Lampshades this quite a lot in the first few episodes). However the end of series one of Ashesto Ashes and especially the end of series two of the same seem to suggest that it's not all in anyone's head at all. This is arguably a retcon on the part of the writers although, given that the ending to Life On Mars is actually quite ambiguous, it's a behind-the-scenes retcon only.
    • And, obviously, by season 3 of Ashesto Ashes, we know that it was not in his head at all.

How is the title connected to show?
  • I feel like I missed something (though since the show has been edited in major ways for American audiences that is more than probable).
    • It's the name of the David Bowie song Tyler was listening to when he had his car accident. It's also supposed to symbolise how different '73 is from '06, or however the years went in the series again.
    • Sam: "Whatever's happened, it's like I've landed on a different planet..."
    • "Take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy! Oh, man! I wonder if he'll ever know..."
      • "...He's in the best selling show."
  • No, doubly odd, using a Bowie song as a title and NOT as a Theme Tune? If they could get the rights to use the title, play the song once or twice for atmosphere, why not use it as a theme?
    • Because the music does actually play an important part in the show. First when Sam is hit by the car in the first episode, sending him to 1973 and when he jumps off the roof in 2006, thus killing himself. Also in Ashes to Ashes the tune isn't played until close to the ending of the last episode of the first season it is the song played in the car when Alex' parents are blown up.
  • Frankly, this troper feels gypped. Life on Mars doesn't involve Mars, Twelve Monkeys doesn't have any monkeys in it, pencil lead is made of graphite, and that ice cream bar I bit into turned out to be Philadelphia cream cheese. Seriously, what if I'm Just Here for Godzilla, huh?
  • It's related to the idea, in the song, that the characters in the movies might be real people, whereas the characters in the main character's mind might also be real people.


Why does Sam's doctor look like his coma-time boss?
  • I don't think Sam knew that brain surgeon before he went under, so how could he know his face to include it in the dream world? The wrap-up makes it otherwise clear that 1973 isn't real, so what's going on?
    • My theory is that 1973 is real.
    • Just because he's in a coma doesn't mean he didn't subconsciously see someone, I imagine the doctor might go so far as to open his eyelid to examine his response.
    • I think Sam can see 2006—the bleached-white scenes in the season 2 opener seem to me to indicate that Sam's struggling to open his eyes.
    • I always suspected that he applied the real Morgan's appearance to his memory of his experiences in 1973. Assuming it was all in his mind to start with, there's no reason he couldn't keep filling in the blanks after he woke up.

When Sam wakes up in the final episode why doesn't he at least TRY to find out if it really had just been a coma?
  • I mean, sure, looking at it rationally, it would seem 1973 was nothing more than a prolonged hallucination, but considering just how much time he spent there and how REAL it seemed, surely he could at least run the name 'Gene Hunt' through the database, just to see if anything'd pop up?
  • Also, why not look up a DI from 1973 named Sam Tyler?
    • Wouldn't be a real record, since in the finale we find out it's an alias. He could look that up though...
    • Perhaps he did, found nothing, and that's what triggered the building jump
    • Or maybe he looked it up and DID find something, which led to the jump off the building...

it bugs me how when sam wakes up in 1973 everything turns to a sort of equivalent of 2006 and yet he ends up as a DI instead of a DCI
  • I'm pretty sure that's the equivalent rank, and if it's not...Gene demoted him.
  • Easiest answer is that since he subconsciously felt out of place with everything in modern policing and its paperwork, psychosocial assessments and H&S rules, Sam demoted himself to get back to the simpler position.

S1, Episode 4 - Joni sets Sam up in a honey trap
  • Except - what exactly are they going to blackmail him with? Having sex? Having mildly kinky bondage sex? It's 1973, not 1793. Who's going to care?
    • Joni was a prostitute, and they had pictures of Sam having sex with her. To answer your question, they'd blackmail him with prostitution, which doesn't exactly look good on your record.
    • Hunt said that the pictures would be sent to the Chief Constable, who "gets Christmas cards from Mary Whitehouse". She was a campaigner for Christian morality on TV and in other media, implying that the Chief Constable shared her views. Thus as the previous troper said, this would be very bad for Sam's career.
    • Bondage sex WAS a very big deal in 1973. You're looking at it with modern eyes. Mild bondage sex was considered as incredibly hardcore at the time. Attitudes to sexual practices have softened over time - just consider the porn that was in S1 E8. It was considered incredibly beyond the pale back then. Now? You're able to have an episode of a BBC TV series about a porn ring and display snippets from it.
When Sam jumps from the building in 2x08 and wakes up back in '73, why does Morgan magically disappear?
  • Why isn't there the case against Hunt? Also, the team just found out Sam's been spying on them from the start and yet everybody is friends.
    • For the 'friends' thing, he did just save their lives single-handedly. Big redemptive moment like that, it's not hard to believe they'd let bygones be bygones.

With what we know about the unreal nature of Gene's World from Ashes to Ashes, how can the Casino owner in Life on Mars be explained?

Warning: Ashes to Ashes spoilers. In Life on Mars (I forget which episode), a dirty Casino owner/crime lord that Sam knows from 2006(?), tries to kill him in the hospital. Sam remembers making a watertight case against him after he kills his wife Eve, and he was set to be sent down when Sam goes into a coma. Sam manages to have him declared insane in 1972(?) through some hijinks after telling him about the future, and he then hears nurses talking about the person who attacked him in the hospital being a lunatic kept there since 1972(?). At the time it seemed that Sam had altered the future through his actions in the past, but since we now know from Ashes to Ashes that he was not time travelling but was in Gene's world, and could not affect the future because he wasn't in the real world, it stands out to me as the most significant plot hole in the duality, in a universe that is otherwise surprisingly well wrapped up (considering the complexity of the story).
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