Science Fiction Film & Television

‘You are where you are, Sam - you've got to make the best of it!’

Re-imagining, renegotiating and re-evaluating memories of the early 1970s in BBC's Life on Mars

Science Fiction Film & Television (2013), 6, (3), 369–385.

Abstract

The BBC's groundbreaking 2006 time-travelling police drama Life on Mars, set in a vivid visual re-imagining of early 1970s Manchester, explores and interrogates memories of collective and individual pasts through the experiences of present-day policeman DCI Sam Tyler. Sam has a car accident in the course of duty and wakes to find himself back in 1973. Unsure as to whether he is mad, in a coma or really back in time, he faces a life and death struggle to battle his way back to his own future. The series offers an audience the immediate visual and cultural pleasures of a re-imagined 1970s. It also offers Sam's particular personal narrative of this time, in which he is forced to re-examine and make sense of his own individual past. This article considers the way in which the series allows the audience to re-explore political, social and cultural elements of an early 1970s Britain, at the same time making comparison, through the consciousness of Sam Tyler, with his and their world of early twenty-first-century Britain. It also looks at the ways in which Sam makes his personal journey of rediscovery and re-evaluates fundamental beliefs about himself and his identity. It concludes with an examination of Sam's decision, in the last episode, to return to the 1970s - a leap of faith or a surrender to the self-imagined world of his own consciousness?

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BanksSmith, Nancy. ‘Last Night's TV’. The Guardian (14 Feb 2007). www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2007/feb/14/art.television. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2007/feb/14/art.television ‘Last Night's TV’ The Guardian Google Scholar

Beynon, John. Masculinities and Culture. Buckingham: Open UP, 2002. Masculinities and Culture Google Scholar

Cook, John R., and Mary Irwin. ‘Moonage Daydreams: Nostalgia and Cultural Memory Contexts of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes’. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York. Ed. Stephen Lacey and Ruth McElroy. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2012. 79-88. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York 79 88 Google Scholar

Cooper, Glenda. ‘Why Women Love DCI Hunt’. The Telegraph (13 Apr 2007). www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3632103/Why-women-love-DCI-Hunt.html. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3632103/Why-women-love-DCI-Hunt.html ‘Why Women Love DCI Hunt’ The Telegraph Google Scholar

Delingpole, James. ‘Oh for the 70s when real men ruled and political correctness was unknown’. Daily Mail (15 Apr 2007). www.dailymail.co.uk/news. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.dailymail.co.uk/news ‘Oh for the 70s when real men ruled and political correctness was unknown’ Daily Mail Google Scholar

Dobson, Nichola. ‘"Am I Mad, in a Coma or Back in Time?" Generic and Narrative Complexity in Life on Mars’. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York. Ed. Stephen Lacey and Ruth McElroy. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2012. 31-43. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York 31 43 Google Scholar

Downey, Christine. ‘Life on Mars, or How the Breaking of Genre Rules Revitalises the Crime Fiction Tradition’. Crime Culture (2007). www.crimeculture.com/Contents/Articles-Summer07. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.crimeculture.com/Contents/Articles-Summer07 ‘Life on Mars, or How the Breaking of Genre Rules Revitalises the Crime Fiction Tradition’ Crime Culture Google Scholar

Gledhill, Christine. ‘Genre: The Western’. The Cinema Book. Ed. Pam Cook. London: BFI, 2008. 374-84. The Cinema Book 374 84 Google Scholar

Harris, John. ‘When Men Were Men’. The Guardian (13 Jan 2007). www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/feb/13/genderissues.broadcasting. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/feb/13/genderissues.broadcasting ‘When Men Were Men’ The Guardian Google Scholar

Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. Oxford: Routledge, 2006. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts Google Scholar

‘Hunt's Housewives: Roll Call!!’ Digital Spy. http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk Google Scholar

Jachimiak, Peter Hughes. ‘"Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire": Time Travel, Childhood and the Uncanny Home in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes’. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York. Ed. Stephen Lacey and Ruth McElroy. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2012. 91-105. Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York 91 105 Google Scholar

Rampton, James. ‘The Man from Mars’. The Scotsman (4 Feb 2008). www.scotsman.com/news/the-man-from-mars-1-1076649. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.scotsman.com/news/the-man-from-mars-1-1076649 ‘The Man from Mars’ The Scotsman Google Scholar

Simpson, Mark. ‘Beckham, the Virus’. Salon (28 Jun 2003). www.salon.com/2003/06/28/beckham_2. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.salon.com/2003/06/28/beckham_2 ‘Beckham, the Virus’ Salon Google Scholar

Sutcliffe, Thomas. ‘The Problem with Old Fashioned Policing’. The Independent (7 Feb 2006). www.independent.co.uk/voices/columnists/thomas-sutcliffe. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.independent.co.uk/voices/columnists/thomas-sutcliffe ‘The Problem with Old Fashioned Policing’ The Independent Google Scholar

Wilde, Jon. ‘Life on Mars: The Perfect Finale’. The Guardian (11 Feb 2007). www.guardian.co.uk/culture/tvandradioblog/2007/apr/11. Accessed 31 May 2012. www.guardian.co.uk/culture/tvandradioblog/2007/apr/11 ‘Life on Mars: The Perfect Finale’ The Guardian Google Scholar

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Author details

Irwin, Mary

Irwin, Mary