Life on Mars

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Life on Mars is a British TV drama set in Manchester, England. There are a total of sixteen episodes, split into two series, which aired originally in the United Kingdom in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Life on Mars follows the story of Sam Tyler, a contemporary police officer who, after being hit by a car, awakes to find himself in 1973. A lot of the show's dramatic elements are derived from the fact that Sam does not know exactly what's happened to him; in the opening of each episode, he lists three possibilities: "Am I mad, in a coma or back in time?" Life on Mars proved to be a breakaway success in the United Kingdom, and both a second series and then a sequel series (Ashes to Ashes, named for another Bowie song) was commissioned. An American version has also been created.


The name Life on Mars refers to a David Bowie song which is playing in Sam's car after the accident, both in 2006 and in 1973. It also refers to the fact that Sam finds 1973 as being "like I've landed on another planet"; his modern, by-the-book methods contrasting sharply with Gene Hunt's outdated policing.


Sam Tyler

  • Detective Inspector

Sam (John Simm) is a modern police officer from 2006, Sam has a by-the-book and modern approach to policing and to crimefighting, though in the initial scenes in the future, he does express doubt over these methods to his girlfriend Maya. Sam contrasts with Gene Hunt, who is willing to go to any means necessary to prevent crime; legal or not. Sam has a girlfriend in the future, Maya, who he believes has left him during his coma. In 1973, he also finds himself attracted to Annie Cartwright, and it is implied that they get together in the final episode.

Gene Hunt

  • Detective Chief Inspector

The foil to Sam, Gene (Philip Glenister) commands A-division of the Manchester police force, and is considered to be brutish and outdated by Sam. Although he often argues with Sam, both come to see the benefits of the other's methods. Like Ray, Gene has strongly anti-feminist and homophobic views, though they tend to be less confrontational than Ray's.

Chris Skelton

  • Detective Constable

A young and somewhat inexperienced member of A-division, Chris (Marshall Lancaster) often finds himself torn between the two superiors he most looks up to: Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler. He is keen to please Sam's more modern expectations, but feels betrayed when Sam conspires against Gene with Frank Morgan. Chris is seen as somewhat naive; spending a good deal of time unscrewing a pipe to dust it for fingerprints in one episode, only to have it pointed out to him that he has by handling it, destroyed any evidence present.

Ray Carling

  • Detective Sergeant

Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) is a chauvinistic and homophobic member of the team; reflecting the attitudes of the seventies. His style of policing falls more in line with Gene Hunt's, though he admits a grudging respect for Sam and his methods as well. Ray finds himself in conflict with Sam often as Sam's arrival meant that he missed the chance of a promotion to Detective Inspector.

Annie Cartwright

  • Woman Police Constable/Woman Detective Constable

Annie (Liz White) acts as a romantic foil to Sam Tyler, and is the only one in whom Sam confides his experiences with time travel with. Although Sam frequently tries to defend her from the male-centric views of 70s, Annie tends to resent his interference, as it generally only makes the problem worse.