Random Acts of Ismael:

Strife on Mars

            Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen of my inexhaustible legion of fans.  It is I your beloved and envied sovereign of the Web, back with a review/rant about a short lived series remake, entitled, “Life on Mars.”  The original show of the same title was broadcast in England via the BBC network in 2006 and ran for only two years before coming to an end.  This American remake lasted half that time and had its finale last week. 

            The two shows are very similar in plot—almost identical in fact—with both shows following the extraordinary adventures of Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara, Injustice) as he investigates a series of murders in his present time (2008 for America/2006 for England) only to have his girlfriend, Maya (Lisa Bonet, Cosby Show —‘In her return to television’ which amounted to about ten minutes worth of screen time for the entire 17 episodes), kidnapped by the same killer.  Not long afterwards, Sam is struck by a car and awakens in 1973, with the same name, the same job, but in a world that seems completely different from where he’d come from.  He of course goes in search of a way to get back to his own time.

            Now, I did a little research—because I do that sometimes—and found out how the original show wrapped up its storyline.  It ended with the protagonist, and estranged 2006 citizen, returning to his own time, only to find the world bland and uninteresting and hence chose to return to 1973 by jumping off a building.  Now that was an ending.  In fact, the plot of the original series seemed to be geared toward Sam’s temporal condition being the result of a coma and hence, his adventures were considered to be dreams.  In the American one, however, the writers, producers, executives, and just about every other deadweight, microbrain who had a pull over the show seemed to think it was a good idea to make the cause of Sam’s apparent time travel to be ambiguous.  Everything from coma to space aliens was explored by the protagonist.  He even thought that he was actually in 1973 and not just unconscious somewhere in the future, doped up on medicine and dreaming the whole thing.  And why not think that you actually traveled back in time?  I mean, does Einstein’s theory of relativity state that E=MCget hit by a moving object at 88mph and you’ll get knocked backwards through time?   In fact, I’ve been thinking about taking a trip to the year 2000 for my next vacation.  Figure, all I need is a falling brick to take me back nine years.  Why a brick?  Well, we aren’t all rich you know.  I can’t afford the latest, state of the art time machine to mow me down and turn me into time traveling roadkill.  Some of us have to improvise. 

            The truly sad thing about this show is that it was actually very good.  If you could forget about the lame premise, forget that Sam is constantly trying to figure out how he got to 1973, even though he clearly remembers getting hit by the car (which to me, would imply coma right from the start, but I guess the title, Life in a Coma, wouldn’t have been as interesting).  I mean, really, all the writers had to do to at least make Sam’s constant woe-is-me-why-am-I-here-how-did-I-get-here attitude believable was to have him not remember the car accident.  The audience could have seen it, but allowing the character to remember it, just made him look stupid for thinking that he’d been sent to 1973 by anything other than the standard, MD6, 2009 time traveling BRAIN DAMAGE!!         

            What’s just as annoying of Sam’s character is that he continued to set roots down in this time period that he never thought of as his own, while at the same time looking for a way home.  A normal person, thinking with the half of his brain that had not been splattered over a vehicle in a different time, would know that creating connections in the DELUSION only strengths that delusion and makes it harder for him to break away from it.  He should have been acting out, behaving erratically, breaking rules until the reality of the DELUSION came crashing down around him and he was left with no other choice but to return to his real time (and he wouldn’t even  need a brick to do so).   Instead, he followed the rules and created a life for himself in that delusion, and did not try to let go of his real life until he had another DELUSION that his girlfriend Maya had broken up with his comatose body in the future (because if he imagines that’s what she’s saying to him in the future then that’s what actually happening).

            And as for the ending—SPOILER ALERT:  This series ends with Sam Tyler awaking in a space ship about to touch down on Mars.  It appears that the entire series, even his 2008 life had all been a dream given to him by the computer while he and his fellow shipmates had been in stasis.  A glitch caused him to jump from 2008 to 1973, and had also placed all of his other shipmates into his delusion. 

I thought this was the biggest load of David Bowie’s jock strap the writers—if you could call them that—could have come up with to end the show.  Not only was it a cheap copout for all the strange occurrences in Sam’s 1973 life, but it was a slap in the face to the audience that had invested themselves in the characters and story of the show.  Even Sam Tyler, wasn’t Sam Tyler when he awoke, he was…well, honestly I don’t remember what his name was because I was too busy looking for a brick to teleport myself back to before this show began so I could erase it from my TiVo.   And it made no sense.  Harvey Keitel’s character Gene Hunt, in 2035, was actually Sam’s father.  Now explain this one to me: How come the father that he loved in 2035, was depicted in the past as a psychopath criminal who had murdered a woman and tried to murder Sam?  Were these latent daddy issues that needed to be worked out, or a last minute scramble to tie up a loose end without bothering to see where the rope ended first?  Well that’s all I’ve got to say about that.  Glad that you allowed me to get that off of my chest. 

Please, do not attempt to travel backwards in time, with a car, brick or any other heavy, projectile object.  Until the next time I get pissed off about something and decide to share it with you all, take care. 


For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at imanzano@g-pop-net.