SFX Issue 131

June 2005


BBC’s Time Cop 2

Life On Mars features a time-travelling cop, but it’s no Crime Traveller

BBC1 has announced a new fantasy-tinged series for next year from the makers of Spooks and Hustle . Life On Mars follows the fish-out-of-water exploits of Sam Tyler, a 2005 cop who, after a car accident, wakes up in 1973 Manchester, and who has to learn to live in a society and work in a police force that is a complete anathema to his politically-correct sensibilities.

John Simm stars as Tyler and is surrounded in the series by a bunch of hard-boiled ’70s coppers straight out of The Sweeney . Written by Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah, Life On Mars was originally conceived three years ago when Kudos, the production company behind the series, asked the three writers to come up with a number of series ideas. Hustle was one. This is another.

“I don’t think it’ll feel like anything else,” says executive producer Jane Featherstone. “Even though it’s very funny, it’s very real funny as opposed to playing for laughs. The nostalgia won’t be played up. Manchester 1973 wasn’t Carnaby Street so what it absolutely won’t be is Austin Powers !”

Featherstone won’t say whether we can expect Tyler to meet himself as a three year-old or bump into his parents as the final episodes of series, which has just started filming, haven’t been written yet.

“I’m not able to say too much about that at the moment, because we haven’t worked it all out!” she tells us. “What we’re trying to do is offer a viewer things on different levels. Fundamentally, Life On Mars is a great fun cop show where the cops are skidding over Cortina bonnets, skidding around corners and saying, ‘You’re nicked!’ a lot. At the same time you’ve got Sam’s journey, which is really unique and interesting. He doesn’t know why he’s here and is permanently trying to get back, but he doesn’t know if he can. And, if you care to look for it, you’ve got the element of policing then and now and have we become too politically-correct today and were things better in the past? It’s a funny way of taking the piss out of ourselves really. But what we’re not about is taking the piss out of the 70s.”

Life On Mars finishes filming in Manchester in September and is scheduled for screening in the new year.

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.