Life on Mars tells the fictional story of Sam Tyler (played by John Simm), a policeman in service with the Greater Manchester Police. After being hit by a car in 2006, Tyler awakens in 1973 to find himself working for the predecessor of the GMP, the Manchester and Salford Police, at the same station and location as in 2006. Early on in the series, it becomes apparent to Tyler that he awakes as a Detective Inspector, one rank lower than his 2006 rank of Detective Chief Inspector. As part of the Criminal Investigation Department, Tyler finds himself working under the command of DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister). Throughout the two series, the plot centres on the ambiguity concerning Tyler's predicament and the lack of clarity, to both the audience and the character, whether he has died, gone mad, become comatose, or actually travelled back in time.
Ashes to Ashes tells the story of DI Alex Drake (played by Keeley Hawes), a police officer in service with the London Metropolitan Police, who is shot in 2008 by a man called Arthur Layton and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981. The first episode of the series reveals that, in the present day, Drake has been studying records of the events seen in Life On Mars through reports made by Sam Tyler after he regained consciousness in the present. Upon waking in the past she is surprised to meet the returning characters of DCI Gene Hunt, DS Ray Carling (played by Dean Andrews) and DC Chris Skelton (played by Marshall Lancaster), all of whom she has learned about from her research, the trio having transferred from the Manchester setting of Life on Mars (Manchester and Salford Police) to London.
Tension between Drake and Hunt is built through the unsatisfactory explanation of Sam Tyler's absence and the perceived underhandedness and shoddy work of Hunt in contrast to the methodical, ethical and thoroughly modern Drake. Continuing the theme of Life on Mars, throughout the series, it is ambiguous to both Drake and the audience whether the character is dead or alive in the present day and to what extent her actions influence future events.
The Killer B Games detectives cost just £2.00 each. The Crooked Dice Games detectives are more expensive at £3.50 each.
I plan on using the CDG cast for Ashes to Ashes (i.e. Alex, Gene, Ray and Chris) in my first game of 7TV2e. They will be accompanied by four uniformed coppers in an ambush against a gang of violent robbers. I hope to showcase this batrep next month as I still have a lot more cops (and villains) to show you.
Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes were two of the best cop dramas to appear on TV. Having modern day detectives like Sam and Alex go back in time to the 1970's and 1980's respectively was a work of genius. Their modern policing methods were very much at odds with those used by Gene, Ray and Chris. Different times, different attitudes. DCI Gene Hunt is a legend and unquestionably the star of both shows even if he is a monster. He is tough, uncompromising, hard as nails, misogynistic, frequently brutal and always politically incorrect. The contrast between Gene and both Sam and Alex is marked but over time they develop mutual respect. The shows contain some cracking dialogue, which at times are laugh out loud funny, including this classic gem from Gene, "No one move! You are surrounded by armed bastards!"
The main cast of Ashes to Ashes. From left to right are DS Ray Carling, DCI Gene Hunt, DI Alex Drake and DC Chris Skelton.