I guess we kind of knew he wasn’t going to wake up, the news that a second series of Life on Mars has been commissioned really meant that he couldn’t leave 1973.
Having said that, the final episode of the first series of Life on Mars was certainly a gripping hour, as Sam discovered the truth about his father, and also finally pieced together his flashbacks.
Following on from the arrest of the local gangland boss back in episode four, rival gangs are fighting for control, one being led by the Morton brothers. As part of the investigation the police find Sam’s father in a hotel room, and the whole episode is Sam trying to find explanations for his father’s behaviour, as more and more of the evidence points towards him being heavily mixed up in the gang. Sam believes that his father is the key to his coma – if only he can persuade his father to stay, then he will wake up.
The finale takes place at a family wedding, the wedding where Sam last saw his father, shortly before he vanished. As Sam follows his father as he walks away from the wedding, he realises that his flashbacks are this same walk, the walk he took as a child, and again, he sees his father beating up an undercover policewoman – Annie – but this time he intervenes. As he gets closer and closer to the truth, he starts to hear more and more of what is going on in 2006. However, he realises that he cannot win – there is no way that he can get his father to stay. If he leaves, the young Sam and his mother will be alone, but if he doesn’t leave, he will be arrested for his criminal activities.
Sam lets his father escape, and with his father, go the voices from 2006, and Sam is left in 1973.
All in all, it has been a superb series. On paper, a drama set in what seems to be someone’s coma based fantasy sounds a decidedly odd premise, however in practice it has worked well. On the one level you have the basic seventies police drama, but on another you get some decidedly subtle moments. These vary from the anachronisms, such as Sam always wearing a modern watch, to points where you don’t know whether the other characters in Sam’s universe are his subconscious, or whatever, but suddenly they seem to be talking to Sam out of time, knowing that he is in his own past. For example in tonight’s episode on a couple of occasions Sam talks to Gene, his DCI, and whilst Sam is talking about waking up from his coma, Gene is talking about his life in 1973 – or is he?
In some ways these scenes are very reminiscent of the conversations of another time-travelling Sam, Sam Beckett in the final episode of Quantum Leap, where Al the barman tells Sam that he is leaping because he wants to do so – in the same way Gene, and other characters have told Sam Tyler that he is staying because he wants to stay – because he has things he wants to do.
Certainly we’ve got no objection if he wants to stay – as we are really quite looking forward to seeing more of Sam and his life in 1973 when they are shown next year!