blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Life on Mars (2006) s01e05

Tony Jordan writes this episode, the last of the three creators to contribute a script (or get a solo credit), and it’s a very different take on the time travel motif. It deals—quietly—with father issues (as opposed to having mum guest star in an episode). John Simm and Philip Glenister catch a case involving a dead football fan; Glenister wants to round up the hooligans while Simm is convinced it’s not about the footie.

Simm goes so far to as to promise the victim’s son, Michael Lawrence, he’ll find the murderer. See, turns out Simm and his dad used to be football fans—at the exact time this case is happening—and it got ruined when Simm’s dad ran off. The father and son stuff continues subtly throughout, with no resolution. Even after Simms gets an interrogative visit from the girl (Rafaella Hutchinson) with the clown. Otherwise the episode doesn’t deal with Simms’s “real” condition very much; it takes a place a while after the previous episode, not just long enough for Simm to notice Liz White has been avoiding him but also long enough she feels comfortable talking to him about it.

It’s also been long enough they have to get comfortable flirting again, with too much of the seventies apparently rubbing off on Simm. Luckily the plot throws them together in a situation where they can work through it—Simm, Glenister, and White pose as the staff of a bar in order to snoop on the football fans. Glenister doesn’t agree with Simm’s take on the case, but he’s willing to run a bar to help out. At least there’s not a bet this time to get him to do his job.

There are a number of great sequences this episode—S.J. Clarkson does a fine directing job—starting right off with a car chase across a field, which gives Marshall Lancaster an actual and successful slapstick bit. There’s another one where Tony Marshall has to teach the heroes how to tend bar—it might be the best sequence as it’s the most fun, whereas the actual bartending sequence is a mix of awkwardly funny and somewhat dangerous. Before a very funny resolution to it. Jordan’s script and Clarkson’s direction emphasize the danger really well, especially given how things turn out in the resolution.

There’s also a big monologue from Simm about what’s gone wrong with football—him having future knowledge after all—and even if you’re not knowledgeable or interested, it’s a sufficiently impassioned diatribe.

Though I guess it does raise more questions about Simm than anything else; like does he spend his time in the present moping about the state of footie supporters.


It’s a particularly good episode with a nice subplot for Simm and the victim’s son, Lawrence, which is the biggest character development arc. Whatever’s going on with Simm and White is put off again to the future (the past’s future not the present future), but their scenes together here are still strong. Glenister ends up being mostly for laughs, which works fine. Along the way he’s got some fine dramatic material—during the bartending sequence—but it’s Simm’s show, Simm’s episode.

There’s a T. Rex song (Jeepster), which is cool, but the end titles have Nina Simone devastating. “Mars”’s soundtrack is so good.

The show is so good.

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