Home Books Music Films TV Drama Index - links to more great TV dramas

Life On Mars - First Episode Review
Originally screened on BBC 1, Monday, January 9th, 2006, at 9–10pm


'Life On Mars' certainly got the big build-up from the BBC, but the first episode matched the hype. Philip Glenister apart it's a cast of not that familiar faces, but it's made an excellent start.

A police officer from 2006, DI Sam Tyler (John Simm) has a lot on his mind. His girlfriend and colleague, Maya (Archie Panjabi), has been kidnapped by a serial killer. Tyler is then involved in a car accident, and next we hear David Bowie's classic, 'Life On Mars', playing on the victim's iPod. Then we hear the same song, but see it's being played on a cartridge. We're back in 1973, and so is Tyler!

What unravels is a policeman bewildered and not believing that he's travelled back in a time, which, to him, seems light years away from 2006. He's now in a time where policemen act like sexist cavemen.

DI Tyler tries to fit in, helped by the sensitive and understanding WPC Annie Cartright (Liz White).

Tyler's boss is DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), and to say he's no-nonsense is like saying Cristiano Ronaldo's a handy footballer. Almost permanently like a bull in a china shop, he's the most testosterone driven cop on TV since Jack Regan in that 1970s ITV cop classic, 'The Sweeney'. More so.

The two other main cops, DC Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster), and DS Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) aren't the brightest.

Rather spookily, Tyler sees the 2006 serial killer suspect as a boy in 1973, and not surprisingly he's distracted from the murder he's meant to be investigating - in 1973.

The BBC have obviously pulled out all the stops on this drama, and the 1973 street scene was immaculately designed. The official
David Bowie website described the series as a cross between 'The Sweeney' and 'Back To The Future', and that's not too far from the mark.

Amidst a great musical backdrop of The Who, Lou Reed, and Cream, 'Life On Mars' makes for gripping television. It's gritty, but, so far, without the perfunctory foul language which spoils so many dramas these days. The best new drama on British TV for maybe a few years.

BBC - Drama - Life On Mars

Copyright © Paul Rance/

Life On Mars: Series 1 & 2 on DVD, available from - click on the image above

Life On Mars Series 1 & 2 Main Cast List
Character Played by
DCI Sam Tyler John Simm
DCI Gene Hunt Philip Glenister
Annie Cartwright Liz White
Ray Carling Dean Andrews
Chris Skelton Marshall Lancaster
Nelson Tony Marshall
Phyllis Dobbs Noreen Kershaw
Supt. Harry Woolf Kevin McNally

This website is designed by