Errr, no. Not an announcement from NASA, but a new BBC drama series that started last night. Life on Mars stars John Simm as DCI Sam Taylor, a Manchester detective currently working on the hunt for a killer. His girlfriend is kidnapped, almost certainly by the killer. Sam’s rather upset by that, as you might imagine, and on leaving the scene of her disappearance, he has to pull his car to the side of the road. He steps out, as his iPod is playing David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Then he’s hit by a car. We see him lying on the road, and hear hospital noises. Sam loses conciousness.
Then he wakes up in 1973. He’s wearing 70s clothes – big collars, flared trousers, cowboy boots. Hie Jeep has been replaced by a Rover. Oh, and Life on Mars is still playing. On the 8-track player in the Rover.
Sam finds that he’s now a Detective Inspector, and his boss, DCI Gene Hunt is an unreconstructed 1970s cop. Tough on crime, tough on witnesses, tough on Sam, and indeed anyone else who gets in the way. At first, Sam thinks he’s the victim of an elaborate joke, but everything is far too detailed. It all seems real.
A woman has been found murdered in the same street that Sam’s girlfriend was (will be?) kidnapped in 2006. And there are other echoes of the “real world” case. When the killer is caught, Sam realises that he could be the same man he’s been (will be?) looking for in 2006.
Sam doesn’t know if he’s lost his memory, lost his mind, or if he’s lying in a coma, and his mind is making it all up. We get a few clues along the way – he hears voices that sound like people around his hospital bed, and a lecturer on TV seems to be talking about him…
First episode: excellent. The creators set out to not create “just another cop show”. On the evidence so far, I’d say they’ve succeeded. Moderately intelligent, thought-provoking drama that’s also a lot of fun. Can’t really ask for more. I’m looking forward to the next episode already.
 That’ll be where the title comes from, then