For those who have not seen the BBC television program Ashes to Ashes, it’s still not too late to get on the bandwagon for this fun, time travel/police procedural program, that just ended its second season. Ashes to Ashes is a direct spin-off from the series Life on Mars, which starred John Simm as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Sam Tyler, a police officer hit by a car in 2006 that wakes up in 1973. Ashes to Ashes (both titles were taken from David Bowie song titles) follows the adventures of Detective Inspector (DI) Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), a female police officer/psychologist who had studied the circumstances of DCI Sam Tyler’s suicide, including tapes Tyler made explaining the life he led in 1973 while in a coma.
DI Alex Drake, a single mother with a young daughter named Molly, is abducted and held hostage by a criminal, Arthur Layton, that we later learn had ties to her parents. The criminal shoots Alex in the head and she wakes up in 1981. Although the show was very difficult to originally accept for me, I was a big fan of Life on Mars (and I mean the original British version, not the cheap American knock-off) and was hesitant to like this show, it grew on me and most of that was thanks to Philip Glenister, who plays Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Gene Hunt.
On both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, Philip Glenister’s portrayal of DCI Gene Hunt has been the part of each show that makes me smile the most. With his great one-liners and political incorrectness, Gene Hunt is the cop you want working to keep the streets safe. Although it is Philip Glenister that brought me to Ashes to Ashes, the whole cast has kept me there. The original cast of Life on Mars returns (minus John Simm) for the spin-off, explained that the whole crew transferred from Manchester to London together. Dean Andrews plays tough guy Detective Sergeant (DS) Ray Carling and Marshall Lancaster returns as sensitive Detective Constable (DC) Chris Skelton. Joining the group for Ashes to Ashes is Montserrat Lombard as Woman Police Constable (WPC) Sharon ‘Shaz’ Granger, whose character enjoys a romance with DC Chris Skelton.
Ashes to Ashes, like Life on Mars, deals with Alex Drake trying to make it back home to 2008, but it has a twist. Life on Mars really left us wondering if Sam Tyler really was in 1973 most of the time. The finale of Life on Mars, after two seasons, still left things to the imagination; however it firmly established that Sam Tyler was in a coma and that all his adventures in 1973 were part of a coma dream. Of course, Sam decides he enjoys the world of 1973 and jumps off a building in 2006 sending himself forever back to 1973. Ashes to Ashes has Alex Drake familiar with the world of Sam Tyler’s coma dream by having her be the police psychologist who has studied the Sam Tyler case. She believes that everything she sees and does is part of a coma, so she acts accordingly, much to the dismay, confusion, and outright anger of her co-workers. The first season of Ashes to Ashes dealt with Alex Drake trying to prevent her parents’ deaths at the hands of a car bomb. She is unable but instead places DCI Gene Hunt into a position where he is comforting the youthful version of herself, instead of the man she always thought had comforted her (a co-worker friend of her mother’s that was having an affair with her mom). However, this ending to the first season of Ashes to Ashes also presented a problem with the straight “coma dream” scenario; if it is all a dream how can a character like Gene Hunt exist in her real life?
The second season of Ashes to Ashes has dealt with Alex still stuck in 1982 (she has been there so long the year has changed on her) and not knowing how to get home. The episodes link together to form a longer plot line involving police corruption and another coma victim in 1982 who is trying to corrupt Alex Drake, another police officer who has taken advantage of his knowledge of past events to do what he wants in 1982, including killing his younger self. The second season of Ashes to Ashes kept me riveted and eagerly awaiting each new episode, but there was no way they could wrap it up, or so I thought. The next paragraph has spoilers, so if you don’t want to know what happened, look away now.
An informant for the police is tortured and killed and Gene Hunt wants to find out why, fearing a huge criminal activity is being planned. Alex Drake, however, has her own agenda, getting home to 2008, but first she must help the investigation. Chris Skelton, who had been disgraced in the previous episode as having taken part in police corruption, is contacted by those on the take who want him involved in the big heist that is being planned. Although “Shaz” and Ray have both been distant with Chris since his involvement with criminals was revealed by DCI Gene Hunt to the group, they come to his side when they need to. Alex tries to convince Gene that the heist is a familiar one with her, but Detective Sommers (the future cop) works to undermine Alex in Gene’s eyes and succeeds, to some extent. Much action ensues, but at the end it is revealed that Sommers was not trying to be corrupt, he just wanted it to appear so. He was involved, as a young officer, in the cover-up of the gold heist and wanted to make it right his entire life. By playing puppet master with Alex and Gene and the rest of the group, Sommers was able to make sure the corrupt officers were taken down and that his younger self died a hero, rather than a criminal. All of this leads Alex Drake to getting shot, accidentally, by Gene Hunt and leaving the world of 1982 to return home to 2008 and her daughter, Molly. However, the biggest twist comes at the end, when Molly and the doctor leave Alex alone to rest. The monitors all come alive with the face of Gene Hunt. He is screaming at her 1982 comatose body, asking her to wake up. Everyone believes he shot her on purpose, having yelled in front of everyone if he saw her again he’d kill her, and he needs her to wake up and tell them the truth. The episode ends with Alex running through the halls of the hospital with Gene Hunt on every monitor or television screen along the way screaming for her help.
Ashes to Ashes will return for a third, and final, season in 2010. The third season of Ashes to Ashes, according to the BBC, will reveal exactly who Gene Hunt is and see an end to the journey of Alex Drake. I, myself, am excited about the prospect of another season of the show. Although, as I previously said, I wasn’t excited about the show at first, I’ve become a huge fan. The acting is wonderful, the story-telling superb. In fact, if a series was created based around the character of Gene Hunt I would watch it, although chances of that are slim.