Ashes to Ashes

You might recall me wittering about Life on Mars, which was one of the best things to happen to TV drama in a very long time. It was so successful that the Powers of the BBC wanted more, which presented a bit of a problem. How do you follow up a show where all the characters and events were figments of the imagination of a man who ended up leaping to his death in the last episode?

Well, if you’re these guys, you do it with style. In that final episode, there was a brief scene in which Sam Tyler left a record of his “experiences” for the benefit of a Police psychologist. In Ashes to Ashes, we catch up with that psychologist – Detective Inspector Alex Drake, played by Keeley Hawes. After a wee bit of scene-setting (she’s fascinated by Sam Tyler’s experiences, she’s got a daughter, she does the negotiation with dangerous people thing), we’re dropped into some serious action.

A man with a gun is holding a busker hostage, and he’s demanding to see Alex. After the usual tense stand-off in which her daughter Molly is briefly grabbed, everything seems fine. Until the gunman turns up in the back of her car and forces her to take him to a tatty old boat on the Thames. He seems to know a lot about Alex, and plans to tell her the truth about how her parents died. Except he doesn’t. He shoots her, and when she “wakes up”, it’s 1981, and things are very different…

Soon enough, she encounters Gene Hunt. Gene and his sidekicks have been seconded to London. Unlike Sam, Alex knows that Gene and co are figments of her imagination, but she’s overwhelmed by how real everything seems. Lots of fun and friction follow, with Gene being the Gene we all know and, err, know, lots of good music on the soundtrack, a scary clown, Zippy and George from Rainbow[1], and much more.

I’ll spare you the plot summaries and other such things – but I will say that any scepticism I had about a sequel to the best thing on TV that wasn’t actually Doctor Who has been thoroughly blown away. Dialogue that crackles, enough oddness, fun, and action to keep me happy, and that soundtrack. They even did I Fought the Law. What more could you ask for?

Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering – Sam Tyler isn’t around any more. It seems he died a year earlier, which led to a lovely logical flaw. On learning that Sam had lived for seven years in his imaginary world after jumping off that roof, Alex expresses amazement about the different rate that time passes when you’re in a coma/dying/whatever. But, err, didn’t she just imagine learning that? Eh? Eh?

But aside from such nitpicking, Ashes to Ashes made a strong start, and I’ll be watching the rest of the series with great interest…

[1] Voices by Roy Skelton, who also did some Dalek voices way back when