Life on Mars – Windy Sammy

Now that’s more like it. After last week’s relatively tame episode, this time things got a lot more interesting.

The first thing we saw was a music box which will have looked oddly familiar to viewers of a certain age. In a spot-on tribute to classic children’s show Camberwick Green, the box opened and up rose a puppet version of John Simm. An unseen narrator introduced Sam Tyler, and asked how he was feeling. Puppet Sam mimed not feeling at all happy. The Narrator asked if the problem was Gene Hunt. Puppet Sam nodded. We then see a perfect puppet Gene beating up a suspect. Quite beautifully done.

Sam wakes up, and he’s not at all well. He’s sweating heavily and can barely talk when his phone rings. Even though he’s sick, they want him back at the station. He feels even more sick when he realises that he can see colleagues Chris and Ray on his TV. He runs to work, passing a radio which is playing a news report..

Due to a medical error, Sam Tyler has been given an overdose

Sam’s mood isn’t greatly improved when he starts seeing the word “Overdose” all over the place. He’s so wound up that when he gets to the police station, he barely notices the man threatening to hang himself. His main concern is to tell Gene to

Stay out of Camberwick Green!

which has to be the best line of the series so far. Quite wonderful.

While Sam and Gene are distracted, the man with the rope around his neck takes the opportunity to jump. It doesn’t do him much damage, as he hadn’t secured the rope to anything substantial…

Sam’s soon brought up to date. The man is Simon Lamb, whose wife and daughter have been kidnapped. The kidnapper left a note demanding the release of Graham Bathurst, a young man Gene locked up for the murder of a 14 year old girl a year earlier.

The story that follows is a suitably convoluted plot involving misdirection, confusion and reassessment of evidence. In short, a nicely done bit of police procedural stuff. And in any other programme, that would have been it, and it would have been quite acceptable. But this is Life on Mars, and things just couldn’t be that simple.

As his colleagues report on what’s been going on so far, Sam experiences detailed flashbacks.

At a crucial point, Sam gets one of those phone calls – the voice explains that they made a mistake with his medication, but that they have a solution. They’re going to give him some more drugs, but these might temporarily put him into a deeper coma. Sam barely has time to shout

Not now

before the lights go out. Sam wakes up in a dark locker room. And from there he watches the rest of the action on a TV. This worked quite nicely – letting Annie in particular take the enquiry forward, after standing up to Gene.

Sam recovers after the kidnapping victims have been recovered alive and well, thanks mainly to Annie. Talking with Gene, he learns one vital fact – a fact that proves that the kidnapper had a point. It seems that Graham Bathurst was innocent after all, and that the killer was someone else altogether.

All very nicely done, and more up to the standard I’ve come to expect from this series. There are only three episodes left, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the writers wrap it all up.

Word is that Philip Glenister will be reprising his Gene Hunt role in a sequel set in the 80s, to be called Ashes to Ashes, keeping up the David Bowie theme.