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Characters / Life on Mars (2006)

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DI Sam Tyler
Played by: John Simm

Originally a DCI in 2006, Sam was hit by a car and woke in 1973 Manchester with a new makeover, a new motor, and a new rank: DI. Although under a lot of stress from the bizarre situation, he remains the same straight-laced, by-the-book officer he was in 2006.

  • 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.
  • Big Brother Mentor: To Chris, who is the most naive member of the group and, as a result, largely more sympathetic to Sam's suggestions.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: He's the blue, never physically aggressive but also more depressive, than Gene's Red.
  • 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.
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  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Not So Above It All: He puts on his Straight Man face when Ray and Chris make fun of Bestiality Is Depraved Dickie Fingers, but when they've gone, he laughs too.
  • Number Two: To Gene Hunt in the CID.
  • Real Men Cook: Is quite a good chef with high standards for the food he makes.

Manchester CID

For tropes from Ashes to Ashes (2008), 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.
Gene: You make that sound like a bad thing!

Played by: Philip Glenister

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).

  • 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!
  • Commander Contrarian: Whatever Sam says, he'll oppose at first, even if the others will (grudgingly) admit it's a good idea. He's also similar with the other members, though much more so to
  • Cool Car: His beloved Mark III Cortina.
  • Cowboy Cop: Even by the standards of the 1970s, he's massively corrupt and constantly beating up suspects and threatening witnesses.
  • 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!
    Gene: What're you talking about, Tyler? I am the law!
  • 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
  • Flanderization: In Series 1, he's a taciturn grouch who occasionally raises his voice. In Series 2, you wonder why the veins in his temples aren't exploding from sheer rage.
    • In early episodes he is shown to be a competent copper, who, while violence is always an option, can actually work things out, and is occasionally a step ahead of Sam. Philip Glenister did admit he was somewhat saddened by the retreat into 'Bad Cop'.
  • Guilty Pleasure: He reveals to Sam (in a nightclub playing the then-latest rock music) he and he wife like listening to a bit of Roger Whittaker.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: All over the place, especially directed at Sam and Annie and any bad guys they might be chasing. It takes basically nothing to set him off.
  • Iconic Item: his camel hair coat.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: "I do NOT snore!"
  • 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.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • He publically shames and humiliates Ray for the Billy Kemble incident, demoting him to Detective Constable and threatening to cut his heart out with a spoon if he even thinks of stepping out of line again. If that wasn't bad enough for poor Ray, Sam angrily batters Gene for being too light on him and pushes for him to be sacked! Ray himself gets a Pet the Dog moment two episodes later when Gene bumps him back up to Detective Sergeant.
    • He repeatedly bashes Dickie Fingers' hand with a telephone receiver after Dickie accuses Police Superintendent Harry Wolf of corruption. What really makes it a Kick the Dog moment is that Dickie was telling the truth.
  • Knight Templar: Gene does want to catch the bad guys....but he'll break any rule he needs to to make it happen.
  • My Greatest Failure: Gene is still haunted by his brother's death from drug addiction.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Emphasis on bigot, rather than noble, for a change, but he genuinely feels some of the crimes they experience deeply, which is also part of how he justifies his Rabid Cop behaviour.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: An extreme version even by the standards of the 1970s, he doesn't think women should be part of the force, he's happy to beat up suspects, he'll threaten witnesses...
  • Pædo Hunt: Oh dear, is it Gene Hunt, is he kicking in a nonce?
  • Pocket Protector: Gene is saved from a bullet by a flask of whiskey. Lampshaded and parodied immediately.
    Sam: What're the chances?
    Gene: (pulls out two more flasks) Pretty good, actually. Well, you never know how far you're gonna be from a boozer!
  • 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.
  • Rabid Cop: At his worst moments, happening more and more in Series 2, he'll just straight-up beat anyone up who gets in the way of their investigation.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The "red" to Sam's "blue", as Sam's boss who is also a Cowboy Cop and/or a Rabid Cop depending on the episode.

WPC (and later WDC) Annie Cartwright
Played by: Liz White

Sam's love interest and confidante. She's the only one that Sam has told his theories to, and wavers between loyalty to her superior, and her desire to heal/help him. As a modern woman in a department full of chauvinists, Annie can still hold her own.

  • Action Girl: She doesn't start out as this, but she's getting there.
  • Brainy Brunette: With an undergrad degree in psychology, too.
  • Buxom Is Better: Discussed in-universe and believed by her male colleagues, though it often gets her ogled and harassed.
  • 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.
  • I Minored in Tropology: She has a BA in Psychology, which qualifies her to be the profiler by 1970s standards.
  • 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.
  • Waistcoat of Style: She frequently wears one.
  • 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

A slightly nervous, slightly bumbling member of the team. Often the comic relief or the coward, he still has his moments, like his own Moment of Awesome near the end of the series. Has a case of hero worship for both Sam and Gene, but isn't sure which one to pick. He is often found in the company of Ray Carling, his best mate.

  • Book Dumb: He doesn't seem to know anything that Sam discusses.
  • Butt-Monkey: As to be expected of any new member of Gene's squad, Chris is mocked pretty relentlessly.
  • Cowardly Lion: he's nervous and cautious, but when push comes to shove he gets the job done.
  • The Ditz: A Nice Guy who is nevertheless pretty over his head. Everyone calls him a "div".
  • Hero-Worshipper: He adores both Gene and Sam, and often doesn't know which one to side with.
  • 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.
  • Mismatched Eyes: Has one blue eye and one green one. It's not remarked upon, but it's noticeable; Marshall Lancaster has complete heterochromia.
  • New Meat: To Gene, but this also makes him much more sympathetic to Sam than the others.
  • Phrase Catcher: "You're such a div, Chris".
  • Those Two Guys: with Ray, fellow officer and bad influence on him.
  • Waistcoat of Style: seen wearing one on many an occasion.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: He genuinely wants to help, he's just The Ditz, but he absorbs all of Gene and Sam's lessons and is often conflicted about who to choose.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: He's often used for menial tasks that nobody else wants to do.

DS Ray Carling
Played by: Dean Andrews

A rough character who seems to live most of his life with little to no control over his impulses. If he wants to hit a suspect, he hits him, if he wants to snog a woman, he snogs her. Has nothing but contempt for minorities, women, and anyone who isn't a 'man's man'. He and Gene think a lot alike, but where Gene wants The Law to protect people from criminals, Ray believes that everyone should respect and obey The Law, period (It would be more accurate to say that Carling adores Gene and uses him as his role model, but unlike Gene he really has no real sense of where the limits are). He hates paperwork, and prefers to use his fists instead of his brains, and listen to orders rather then think for himself. But Ray is not without redeeming qualities, having a crooked streak of chivalry running through him. Best mates with Chris Skelton, although he is sometimes a bad influence.

  • Big Brother Mentor: to Chris, although he's often a frequently corrupting influence as well as having some genuine Big Brother Instinct.
  • Book Dumb: And, unlike Chris, he doesn't really care enough to learn differently.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Ray is opposed to any sort of progress, and he will show it.
  • 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.
  • Flanderization: He becomes even more slovenly and incompetent in Series 2, despite Gene's assurance that he collars "more villains than this entire department put together."
  • Foil: to Sam, whom he considers The Rival.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: although, unlike Gene, he doesn't know where to draw the line.

Played by: Tony Marshall

The barman at the Railway Arms where most of CID goes to drink. He takes a keen interest in Sam's troubles, and there may be more to him than meets the eye.

  • Angel Unaware: Revealed in Ashes to Ashes to be a St. Peter archetype, who guides souls to "The Pub" (i.e. the afterlife).
  • The Bartender: To the pub at the Railway Arms.
  • Dreadlock Rasta: A wise Jamaican man with long dreadlocks.
  • Fauxreigner: He asks Sam to keep quiet about it, as people are happier with "the other Nelson."
  • Magical Negro: He fulfills this role, with hints he might be aware what's happening to Sam. In Ashes to Ashes (2008), it is revealed that he's the gatekeeper to the copper version of heaven, equivalent to Saint Peter.
  • Spirit Advisor: Played with. He does advise Sam all the time, but Sam himself is the spirit; Nelson is an angel.
  • Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!: Subverted; his accent's as "fake as a tranny's fanny."

WPC Phyllis Dobbs
Played by: Noreen Kershaw

Phyllis mans the front desk at Manchester CID, and also oversees the welfare of the prisoners. Probably the only woman in the department whom Gene and his cronies can't intimidate. Bears a slight resemblance to Rosa Klebb, though this doesn't seem to hamper her dating life.

  • 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?
    Phyllis: His guide dog's giving your mam one. From behind.
    Gene: (to Sam) Whatever happened to all the classy birds?
  • The Lad-ette: As Annie's Foil, she is very used to their behaviour...
  • One of the Boys: ..and more than willing to go along with it.
  • Team Mom: The closest thing they've got, as an older woman who mans the desk and often gives advice.

DCI Litton

  • 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

Vic Tyler

Sam Tyler's father, a respectable salesman and husband. Is later revealed to secretly lead a small but violent organised crime outfit and becomes the villain of the Season One finale.

  • Ax-Crazy: Has shades of this when angered or desperate, as seen when he attacks a defenceless Annie mercilessly and impulsively shoots dead two unarmed men in a bar even though the police are right outside.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Vic is Sam's father. He appears to be humble, meek and polite almost to a fault - an honourable working man just trying to provide for his family. In reality he was the mastermind behind a vicious up-and-coming gang specialising in the manufacture of sleazy pornography. He commits several murders in cold blood once he becomes desperate and even tries to shoot Sam dead after he spent the whole episode selflessly trying to help him (although he doesn't realise Adult Sam is his son).
  • Family Values Villain: Seems to genuinely love Sam and Ruth, but at the same time doesn't love them enough to abandon his violent criminal life.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Remains soft-spoken and calm even while fully intending to murder others.
  • Lack of Empathy: Doesn't seem to feel particularly guilty about leaving Sam and his wife with no explanation. Instead he is primarily only worried about the consequences for himself. He also shows no compassion towards the people he murdered, and is perfectly willing to get involved in very sleazy criminal businesses if they are profitable.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: Sam is compassionate, responsible for his actions and works to enforce the law. Vic is irresponsible, violent, selfish and lives his life as a serious criminal.
  • Never My Fault: He never accepts any responsibility for his actions and instead blames everyone else constantly while keeping up the nice guy act.
  • The Sociopath: Although he seems personable and friendly, he lies constantly, commits murder seemingly without remorse and it is implied that he would have killed Annie after he started beating her had Adult Sam not intervened. Given that Ashes to Ashes Season 3 reveals that the police characters in Gene's World are officers who are dead or in comas near death, he may have actually murdered Annie during his escape in 1973 for real, though this is not confirmed.


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