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Eyes watching through TV screens

I sit down to write this with the closing theme of Life on Mars (BBC 1, aired 10/4/2007) ringing in my ears, and I can't help but feel a little sad. One of the finest shows ever on television has come to a close, but at least I have the satisfaction of it finishing perfectly, while it was still in brilliant shape and not dragged out longer than it should have been. Sometimes in television less is more. If anything, Life on Mars has proved that. The only thing standing between Life on Mars and utter glory is the finale — and it knocked that straight out of the ballpark. My main worry was that they were just going to cobble together an ending and leave more questions than answers — yes, Prisoner finale, I'm looking at you — but thankfully that's not the case.

I suppose that it's only fitting that Bowie's song was chosen to see out the show, a song that has come to mean transition in all its forms for me during the last few seasons. The test-card girl was also a nice touch, a symbol of endings, if you will. Her switching off the camera is almost like disconnecting Sam Tyler from the future, from his last contact with the modern world — namely, us. In a way, I suspect she also symbolises a form of death for him — metaphorical or actual, I haven't decided yet.

What of the finale, though? In my mind, it's perfect in its function. All questions are answered and we're left with a feeling of resolution. Yet we also wish we could join Sam and Gene on their next case. That's a sign that the show succeeded in setting out what it wanted to do, because the viewer still wants more.

Essentially I read the finale as suggesting that Sam was always in a coma in 2006, hence the voices and his knowledge of the future. The finale revealed that a brain tumour is the cause of this. The voices from the future tell him they're going to cut it out, but that he has to remain strong. How does this explain his supposed return to 2006 in the episode? Well, it's a delusion — a dream within a dream, if you like. He gets 'home', but nothing seems real and in throwing himself off the top of CID in 2006 (a twist on the first episode, n which he threatens to do just that in 1973) it symbolises that he no longer wants to get home because he's given up fighting. The test-card girl switching off the TV at the end symbolises his death in 2006. Not a nice ending, but the right one, I think.

I promised you a series review, so here you are. From the second Sam Tyler is knocked down in 2006 and wakes in 1973 to the strains of Bowie's 'Life on Mars', it's clear that this show is something special. We follow the life and times of Sam Tyler as he adjusts to life in 1973, which, as he says in the opening narration, can feel like an alien world. Sam himself is clearly our viewpoint character, our modern view on past times, and he does that admirably, except he starts to blend into the world around him, picking up methods of policing. Gene Hunt couldn't be further from Sam Tyler and yet they operate together wonderfully. I honestly don't think one can work without the other.

It's almost a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic, two sides of the same individual. Though I think the series creator already said something about that: the station Sam comes from being called Hyde is certainly a reference to that. It's revealed in the finale that the number from Hyde calling Sam is actually the number of his hospital room, which makes perfect sense.

The most astounding thing is, though, that it didn't really matter how it all ends; I'm just there for the journey. A brilliant ending is just a bonus for a wonderful series. Yeah, I would have whinged if it let me down, but that's all part and parcel, the desire for this series to be almost flawless.

What made it all worthwhile were the characters: the absolutely brilliant Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt, and not forgetting Annie — all played to perfection. This is a show that puts plot and character development above weird mystery twists. A very humanist show in that respect, I suppose. That's the reason Life on Mars reminds me of Quantum Leap. Both shows have guys that are out of their time, dealing with emotional issues in themselves and those around them. I love both and don't think I’ll ever find shows that do it better.

Here's to Life on Mars: one hell of a show!

As one good show goes out with a bang, Doctor Who is back for its second episode and still finding its feet for the season. Admittedly, I did quite like The Shakespeare Code (BBC 1, aired 8/4/2007) — lots of good stuff going on. The actor cast as Shakespeare was an odd choice, but it really paid off. Some good acting and wonderful lines and the scenes set inside the Globe were absolutely breathtaking. As always, though, it's the monsters that give me cause for complaint; the witches were silly. Shakespeare and witches — it should have worked! Yet for some odd reason it didn't. There seems to be a rather childish vein running through this season that I'm not too keen on. Despite that, a decent episode. I'm more than happy.

Doctor Who's third episode this season, called 'Gridlock' (BBC 1, aired 14/4/2007), has definitely improved on the last two, thanks to a long awaited return of the face of Boe and his promised secret for the Doctor. I had already guessed what he was going to say and the discussions about Gallifrey at the start of the episode pretty much confirmed it. So when the face of Boe — in a rather touching and wonderful scene — announces to the Doctor that 'You are not alone', I wasn't surprised. His discussion with Martha about Gallifrey and the time war was a wonderful end to a really good episode.

Both House and Shark have continued to impress over the last few episodes, with astounding performances from both lead actors. I'd like to say more, but my word count is already way over, so I'll sign off for this issue!

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