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Life on Mars was all about the gene hunt

Life on Mars

After all this time, after waiting patiently for episodes upon episodes, we finally get our series finale of Life on Mars. Alright, so it was only one season, but I felt like a series finale had to have some sort of build-up.

First of all, seriously … I had no idea. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pretty damn proud of myself and all and even treated myself to a cookie, because I had no spoilers at all to work with nor any early screeners and still called the show’s ending nearly spot-on. I know I’m not the only one, so the rest of you can go ahead and get yourselves a cookie too.

Even though I felt this was the most likely ending for the show, I’m not completely thrilled with how it went down in the final ten minutes or so. Some of the details behind the whole mission to Mars didn’t sit well with me, for example. I’ll get to all of those in more in a list a little later.

I have to wonder if this was the ending envisioned all along by the creators. If so, it’s a good thing the show ended this soon. If we were dragged into, say, three seasons of this show — caring about them all and their relationships with each other — we’d feel cheated in the end when it all turned out to be a fantasy in Sam’s head. Not only that, but Sam more-or-less snaps out of his virtual reality stasis and seems only slightly bothered by what transpired.

Even with such a short season, there are some bothersome holes. What or who was Maya, Sam’s girlfriend, for example? She all but disappeared halfway through the season, when I would have expected for her to show up at some point in the finale. And since all of the major players in the show were linked back to people on the Hyde-1-2-5 (or in Mission Control), and “Gene Hunt” was actually Sam’s father, then who was the guy “playing” Sam’s father in the virtual 1973? What about the old guy and the little girl? The old man with the cane?

As a sci-fi geek, I didn’t care for how Twilight Zone-like the Hyde-1-2-5 appeared and operated. But that’s enough negatives. I did like that, through all of what we saw in virtual 1973, Gene Hunt was there as Sam’s father all along. When all was said and done, it just fit. And that right there made it an OK finale, not a bad one.

Some other quick points about the episode:

  • The mission ship was called the Hyde-1-2-5, carrying out the Aries Project, a mission to find “life on Mars.” Or, as was put by one of the crew, “a gene hunt.” Actually I’m not sure what to think of the “gene hunt” play on words — clever or corny?
  • Windy was the ship’s computer. But I’m sure you heard that plain and clear already.
  • Sam was in pod #2B, same as his apartment number.
  • Everyone was wearing St. Christopher medals (like Sam was given in one episode).
  • The real-time date was March 2, 2035.
  • Apparently one of Barack Obama’s kids becomes president around 2035 and poor Barack gets seriously ill. Talk about a love-hate scenario for him.
  • Sam’s father is actually “Major Tom” (a David Bowie reference) and has the same snake tattoo Sam recalls his father having in 1973.
  • We never do learn why, out of anything Sam could have picked, he chose to be a 2008 cop.
  • I wonder if 2035 Annie is allergic to nuts. Who knows.
Photo Credit: ABC

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Categories: | Episode Reviews | General | TV Shows |

22 Responses to “Life on Mars was all about the gene hunt”

April 2, 2009 at 1:10 AM

Lisa Bonet was credited as a guest star, but I don’t remember seeing her. Did I miss her? Also, if Gene Hunt is his dad, then did Sam subconsciously have sex with his sister?

April 2, 2009 at 2:06 AM

i think gene hunt in 1973 wasn’t his dad, but a representation of one, he had a father-son relationship with him, not vince.
and vince is a representation of the relationship sam has with gene in 2035, that’s why at the end he said he didn’t want to fight with him anymore.

April 2, 2009 at 4:04 AM

oops, i meant vic, not vince.

April 2, 2009 at 2:54 AM

I was completely in shock of the ending…mostly I was pissed. After looking at this post, I realized that if this went 3 seasons and this was the ending I got…I probably would have chucked my TV out the window.

April 2, 2009 at 4:12 AM

This was the perfect ending for a short-lived 16-episode show. We didn’t get too invested in the characters, so it’s not a big deal that a big part of it was a dream.

If it had lasted several seasons I would hope they’d have come up with something better, but let’s face it – there’s no really good explanation for someone being hit by a car and winding up in 1973. The British show didn’t know how to end it either.

Also, the ending kind of felt like a curtain call at the end of a play, where the actors all break character and talk about how great a time they’re having. I somehow found that satisfying.

who was the guy “playing” Sam’s father in the virtual 1973?

That was Dennis Duffy, the subway hero, dummy!


April 2, 2009 at 9:42 AM

Yeah, really hated this ending. The Brit version was so much better. I don’t know why they didn’t just stick with that ending:

Lisa Bonet? Not in the final episode. I kept waiting for her,too, which makes me think that the ending was probably reshot for this new craptastic reveal and the beginning credits were never fixed.

April 2, 2009 at 10:34 AM

“We never do learn why, out of anything Sam could have picked, he chose to be a 2008 cop.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t “pick” my dreams. The things I do and the people in them shock me every night. For a dream, it was pretty damn sensible. I must have missed something about them choosing.

Check out the original. It was a better made series, by far.

April 2, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Carling (in the space ship) said Sam chose that simulation. They weren’t dreams but virtual realities that they chose before going into their 2-year sleep.

And I dunno about you, but the first thing I’d have to do after getting out of a pod after sleeping for 2+ years is head to the can! Oh, and probably get some food.

April 2, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Yes. They woke up without so much as dry mouth. Anybody else reminded of Ron Moore’s maybe series Virtuality?

April 2, 2009 at 10:37 AM

Don’t forget that “Look at those cavemen go” and “It’s just the freakiest show” were actual lines of dialogue in this episode.

I feel that this ending was earned, with almost everything on the landing module calling back to elements of 1973 NYC (including Ray’s awful hair). And I loved how 70’s-sci-fi-show the cabin seemed, down to Windy’s robotic voice. PC text-to-speech in 2009 sounds more natural.

I thought the man with the cane was a Mad Hatter reference.

Lisa Bonet’s voice was part of Sam’s waking from VR montage, hence the credit. I don’t know if it new dialogue or the same from her last episode.

My only complaint was that I loved 1973 and its inhabitants so much, I wish Sam could have stayed there and that Annie had been real. The least they could have done was to have had Sam’s cop simulation malfunction and pull everyone else into 1973 with him, complete with new memories. That way, the relationships they built would have been real, and it would explain all the scenes were Sam was absent: Annie meeting Ray’s wife, Ray and Chris’s conversations during stakeouts, Gene’s talks with Annie in his office, etc.

I also enjoyed the “gene hunt” line and the final shot in the screencap above.

April 2, 2009 at 2:36 PM

A lot of holes. I agree. I would have liked more seasons. I think more would have evolved and the finale would have been tidied up more and I don’t believe I would have chucked my TV thru the window as previous poster said.

I’m sad it’s over.

April 2, 2009 at 4:15 PM

They really through me off with these finale, wich is OK with me!!! Never though they coud be actually in space, i always though that the coma theory was the most “rational” one. I really enjoyed the series, and im wondering, was the original UK version like these one??? i would really like to know.

April 2, 2009 at 11:26 PM

The ending was a bit of a cop-out ( no pun intended ). Enjoyed the show but I feel that, that ending is wrong. There was too much invested in the fact he was in 1973 saw his mom (did he?) met himself as a young boy, spoke of future events and knew of the past so well. If it was really 2035 how could he be so familiar with music and events in 1973. As a astronaut he would be considered quite intelligent and would know american history but would he also be a music buff of music 65 years old?
They should have stuck in visuals of space, the interior of the ship, Windy’s voice coming from the computer and images of Sam in his hibernation chamber. Just brief images but enough to build up some curiosity without giving away anything. I was hoping that he was changing events in history but the whole thing turned out to be a big dream and nothing was accomplished except the mission to Mars which we didn’t know anything about

Life on mars seems to be a show put together by a committee of people who were chosen at random. There are too many holes and no satisfaction at all from what Sam could have accomplished in the past which now just didn’t exist

I like scifi but this feels like an unintentional blunder, perpetrated by an unfeeling network that will put a crappy reality show in it’s timeslot

April 3, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Sam’s memories of being a boy in 1973 were as real as his memories of being a cop in 2008. Both were programmed by the VR simulation. Likewise, his memories of his father being Vic Tyler (and probably his mother as well) were demonstrably false, just aspects of his real father, Major Tom.

If you wanted clues, there were Mars Rovers, toy rocket ships, “Spaceman” and others all over this series. Sam even looked out a window once and saw the Earth from space.

From the show’s executive producer on the official podcast:

1. This ending was set at least since episode 7 (he doesn’t mention if this was decided from the beginning). If they had gone multiple seasons, it would have been necessary to write in diversions and false paths.

2. Jason O’Mara actually guessed the ending halfway through the show.

3. When Sam looks at Colonel Norris, her return glance is intentionally ambiguous. Although the others did not consciously experience Sam’s reality, the wires on the sleep chambers were connected directly to each other, so there’s some chance of synaptic crossover. It’s left up to the viewer to decide.

April 3, 2009 at 1:16 AM

And yet here’s what’s interesting: when I shut the TV last night, I was p.o.’d. The ending seemed sort of stupid at first. But I’ve thought about it a lot over the last 24 hours, and it’s grown on me. It makes sense. Clearly this is what the writers intended from the start – all the clues were there.

And isn’t any fictional TV some writer or producer’s dream anyway?

Enjoy it for what it was – a Tootsie Pop. A cop show wrapped around a clever, perplexing mystery that kept you watching for clues. I grew up in New York City in the 70s, and it made me nostalgic for a simpler (though dirtier and rougher) time.

Here’s an odd coincidence: Gretchen Mol was in a movie about 10 years ago called The Thirteenth Floor. It was sort of a bad “Matrix”. It’s also a time travel film, with modern day people going back to the 1930s. And (sorry if this spoils the ending), that movie also had a final plot twist in the not-too-distant future. Did anyone else pick up on this?

Don’t be too hard on the writers and producers of this show. It appears to me they had a plan and stayed as close to it as they could, though they probably had in mind a few more episodes to lengthen the arc.

But to hell with ABC. I’m done with them. Over-the-air TV, which has to play to the lowest common denominator audience, is going the way of the sliderule, typewriter and record player. Within 10 years most creative “television” will be distributed on-demand or on-line, with a la carte pricing. People like us, who want to save a show like “Life on Mars”, will just have to pay for it.

April 3, 2009 at 1:17 PM

I heard Lisa Bonet as well as he woke from the statis sleep. But I would have loved to see her as President Obama, and that’s why she got worked into his little neural stim dream!

And Gretchen Mol should always be blonde!

I’ll have an Inner Toob post (several actually) up after midnight EST Friday……

April 3, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Did anyone else notice, during the flashback scene in Hyde, where Harvey Keitel was dancing with a woman in red (I think it was Rose)? It was on for just a split second, but I’m pretty sure it was him. Was there any scene during the season where the two characters danced together, or was this a reference to his really being Sam’s Dad?

April 3, 2009 at 11:39 PM

I also thought that these things weren’t right. The first being he wears the same clothes ( the shirt never changes) all the time and second if he came from Hyde, why didn’t he check out the location as soon as he could?

April 5, 2009 at 8:54 PM

I think the ending sucked period!. It’s a great show and if ABC had any sense, they would bring it back, but a different time slot. In short they themselves caused the show to fail.
Now the question is this, what did the Russian folder that was shown in one show have to do with anything. Can anyone tell me? I think they could have left it with Sam staying there, in 1973. Overall repeating the ending sucked, and wish another network will pick it up. I have written so many messages to ABC. I hope that people will continue to hound them about this.

April 8, 2009 at 11:10 PM

I urge everyone to keep writing ABC to bring back ‘ Life on Mars”. Keep hounding them about it. Go to search and type in CONTACT ABC, and it will show the site to go to. I have had it with ABC and them taking off great shows and putting stupid reality shows.

April 16, 2009 at 1:38 AM

This a message I sent to ABC.

Well ABC you really screwed up canceling ” LIfe On Mars”. Just saw the ratings on your new show “The Unusuals”, a 2.2 rating with 18-49

March 27th, LIfe On Mars had 5.6 had gained 400K. Even the opening back in Oct was 3.2. So according to this ‘Life On Mars” was gaining viewers.

ABC was the one who set up “Life On Mars” to eventually fail because of the screwed up time slots. Would it be that hard to bring back ” Life On Mars”, you might see the ratings to go even higher