blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Life on Mars (2006) s02e04

So this response is going to be about the importance of show bibles for consistency’s sake, not even continuity. Or at least the first few paragraphs. And I just remembered where I heard of show bibles–“Star Trek.” The phaser rifle was only used in the pilots even though it was in the show bible as available for the rest of the series. Broke Chekov’s gun, didn’t it.


“Life on Mars” doesn’t seem to have a show bible but it also doesn’t have any reliable consistency, which affects the verisimilitude as well as the potential for character development.

Co-creator Ashley Pharoah’s got the writer credit this episode and it initially gave me comfort—one of the three creators must have some idea what’s going on in the show. Turns out… not really.

Like when John Simm meets someone he knows from the future and acts threateningly weird, even though he’s been having this same experience since the first episode of the show and then almost every episode afterwards. It sort of seems like it’s to remain accessible to new viewers but the show’s not actually episodic enough? It’s weird and they should have it figured out halfway through the second season.

Then there’s Liz White’s understanding of Simm’s condition. Condition meaning her new boss and usually unrequited love interest (usually love interest, not occasionally not unrequited) Simm always talking about how he’s in a coma in the future and just imagining all this stuff. White needs to be reminded of it almost every time he brings it up in the second season because she’s forgotten since getting her promotion.

It means White’s character never gets to develop when there always need to be a restart. Every episode has them ostensibly building the White and Simm subplot but they always reset it so it never actually builds up. One step forward, two steps back. And now I’m remembering what the second season was like to watch the first time through.

I wonder if I ranted about show bibles back then too.

This episode’s about young women ending up murdered and dumped. The solution’s going to involve key parties thrown by sleazy but seemingly harmless car salesman Nicholas Palliser and his wife, Eva Pope. White and Simm pose as a married couple while Philip Glenister, Dean Andrews, and Marshall Lancaster bitch about having to work surveillance.

The investigation stuff is a good episode for White and Simm; White especially. Glenister eventually gets some great comic moments. The A plot works. It’s just everything else, except maybe Lancaster getting dating advice from Simm, is way too thin.

Also the one of the only established character traits White does have is being jealous of Simm and a female guest when the show goes out of its way to establish to the viewer there’s nothing going on. It’s like they gave White a promotion this episode so they could demote her character development.

So, it’s a pretty mediocre episode (for the always well-acted, always well-produced show). It’s entertaining enough, with some great jokes but it doesn’t add up to anything.

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