Ashes to Ashes
The best things about Life on Mars were the entrances and the exits: Gene Hunt’s breathy welcome to Sam Tyler about looking forward to his spaghetti hoops meal; Tyler’s rude awakening in 1973 and his final leaping off a roof in 2007 to get back there. And in this spin-off, which probably seemed like a great idea at the time but is threatening to turn into a commissioning editor’s worst nightmare, the opening salvo from Philip Glenister’s imperious alpha male is the finest moment about this first hour and may well end up the series’ highlight.
This time around we meet DI Alexandra Drake who has woken up in 1981 after being shot through the tummy in 2008 and is being haunted by a man dressed in Bowie’s pierrot costume from the iconic ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video (if they do a third show, what ‘classic’ can they possibly choose from the later Bowie oeuvre?). In the face of the Met’s misogyny (Hunt and co have been relocated) Drake has a tough time getting to grips with her dysfunctional present and her disembodied past.
But like the unwitting time-travelling crimefighters in both shows, their sense of déjà vu is all too equally shared by the viewer. Watching Keeley Hawes stagger around a Thames boat party to see men with their jacket sleeves rolled up and wailing the crescendo to ‘Vienna’ mirrors John Simm’s bemusement as he passed by flared youths and Dixon-esque bobbies in a desolate Manchester, while once again our copper receives mysterious phone calls and ends the day bellowing at the TV. As tempting as creating a spin-off must have appeared, some things are best left well alone.
BBC2, Thu 7 Feb, 9pm