BBC Life on Mars

Trailer for US Remake - Life on Mars

Life on Mars

Life on Mars is a British television drama that aired on BBC One in 2006 and 2007. With two series of 8 episodes each, Life on Mars is about DCI/DI Sam Tyler who, after a serious car accident in the present, wakes up in the year 1973. He returns to the police station to find himself now a Detective Inspector instead of a Detective Chief Inspector.

A US remake of Life on Mars will be airing on ABC in Fall, 2008, starring two Irish actors, Jason O'Mara (as Sam) and Colm Meaney (as Gene Hunt). So far, well, it's not looking good. It's a shame because I like both actors, but while Colm Meaney can certainly pull it off, Jason O'Mara is no John Simm.

I'm not totally adverse to remakes and I love the 70s, but this just looks awful. I dunno. We'll see. Maybe it won't suck. You can watch the video preview on the right to see what I mean though. Watch that and then scroll down and watch the opening time travel sequence from the original series and you'll see how different the tone is.

The original story highlights the vast differences in police work in the 1970s and just how much has changed in a little under 40 years in both forensics and investigatory style. But Life on Mars is much more than a fish out of water story. Many of the crimes Tyler ends up investigating in 1973 end up having some weird relationship to the investigation he was in the middle of in 2006. Also, he's still trying to work out the matter of whether he has really traveled back in time or whether he is in a coma and dreaming all of this.

The supporting cast is fantastic, particularly Phillip Glenister as Detective Gene Hunt -- who is simultaneously Sam Tyler's nemesis, partner and boss. Glenister gets to chew scenery and steal the show in virtually every scene that features him.

Life on Mars is available on DVD in the UK and frequently re-airs on BBCAmerica. Sadly, it is not available on DVD in the US (and now I think we all understand why).

Original BBC Version - Life on Mars trailer

Life on Mars vid clips

The first clip is the time travel sequence from the first episode and the second is a fan-cut trailer for the show that gives you a really good idea of what is about without spoiling anything.

Time Travel Sequence from Life on Mars

Life on Mars soundtrack

Music on Life on Mars

The title of the show comes from the David Bowie song, Life on Mars. It is the last song Sam Tyler was listening to on his iPod just before getting into his car accident and the first song he hears when he wakes up in 1973, where is playing on an 8-track tape.

Music is a critical element of the show and it frequently provides commentary on the events we are witnessing or the questions Tyler is asking himself about his circumstances. Life on Mars features some of the best use of music I've ever heard in a tv series (the show Supernatural also makes excellent use of music) and it doesn't hurt at all that the late 60s and early 70s produced some of the best rock songs ever written.

Artists featured in the Life on Mars soundtrack include David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Wings, ELO, Sweet, T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Thin Lizzy, and more.

Not every track made it into the soundtrack however. These are just some of the songs that featured on the show, but not on the original soundtrack so hopefully we can expect a second soundtrack in the future:

  • The Who - "Baba O' Riley"

  • Cream - "White Room"
  • Pink Floyd - "One of These Days"
  • Elton John - "Rocket Man"

Also missing from the sountrack are a bunch of David Bowie tracks that are featured throughout the series, including "Space Oddity".

David Bowie sings Life on Mars

David Bowie

David Bowie's music is probably some of the most important used on the show, particular the track from which the title comes from, Life on Mars. Here's some videos of Bowie singing both Life on Mars and Space Oddity.

David Bowie sings Space Oddity

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Comments 4 comments

laura fitzgerald 7 years ago

this is a fantastic show. as an australian, i was able to watch the original british series on the ABC. my suggestion is that anyone who's interested boycotts the american copy and instead watch the brilliant original on dvd.


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embitca 7 years ago from Boston Author

Boycott? LOL I really don't think there's any call for that. The US show has been recast and reshot anyway and from everything I've heard, it is a lot better so there's no reason not to enjoy both versions of the show if the US one turns out decently.


Miranda 7 years ago

Hi, I am an Amarican. I just found about the British Life on Mars. It is awesome. I found out about after becoming a fan of John Simm from his performance on Doctor Who. This ABC version horrifies me. I tried to watch it. I could not. It just is not as good. Why could they not just air the BBC version? I am sad for my country. Our TV just is not as good.


Melissa 6 years ago

wow. the british version was amazing. the american looks like an epic fail.

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