“Life on Mars” Series Finale

Life on Mars

If you’ve been following the show like I have, you know the deal. Detective Sam Tyler gets hit by a car in 2008 and is knocked out. He wakes up to find himself somehow stuck in 1973, working for the 125 (precinct) while trying to figure out how he ended up in the past and how to get home to 2008.

If you’ve never seen the show, it was a really cool mix of sci-fi, 70’s cop show, and detective mystery, laced with humor and loaded with style. It featured an amazing cast of actors and well written story lines. Sadly, it lasted but a single season and just ended this past Wednesday.

This often seems to happen with TV shows that I really enjoy. They either end up getting canceled way too early, or start out really great only to turn into something that I no longer care for (like LOST after season 1).

The decision to cancel Life on Mars was made before the final episodes were shot, meaning the writers could wrap up the show and resolve the mystery of why Sam ended up in 1973. This of course, was a reoccurring theme in the show – Sam trying to work out what he’s doing in 1973 and occasionally trying to explain to others that he’s from the future. I was looking forward to the series finale and finding out how and why Sam ended up in 1973. The show often hinted toward some greater purpose to his being there.

Before watching the final episode on DVR on Thursday evening (one day after it was broadcast), I decided to look up the number of episodes that were made. I thought it was about 10, but turned out to be 17 (total), according to Wikipedia. For some reason, I decided to read about the character bios on the Wikipedia write up before exiting the page. BIG mistake. Reading the bio of Sam Tyler, the show’s lead character stuck in 1973, gave away the big surprise ending. I thought I was playing it safe – skipping over all the content about the show and plot synopsis and just reading a few bios. I really hate spoilers and prefer to discover everything fresh as it plays out in the show. I don’t know what brilliant nimrod decided it was a good move to alter the bios with the “big reveal” information, but I’d like him or her banned from Wikipedia for life, please. The bio should have read something about a detective from 2008 getting stuck in 1973, NOT what was revealed in the final episode. That part should have been reserved for the plot write up. After all, that is exactly who Sam Tyler was in every episode, until the big ending.

Unfortunately, the ending was spoiled for me before watching the show. I should have known better than to look up anything before watching it. My wife was able to enjoy it without knowing anything prior. She rather enjoyed the surprise ending. It had some cool and interesting elements to it, but on the whole, I did not care for it. I can’t help but wonder if I might have enjoyed it more if I did not know what was coming.

There are some spoilers ahead so please stop reading this if you don’t like spoilers and haven’t seen the ending or haven’t seen the show at all and might like to watch it later (which it really was a great show and worth checking out). SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m really not a big fan of the whole “surprise: it was all just a dream” kind of ending. Although it was an interesting take on that particular premise, the whole single-season story was, in essence, just a dream and I didn’t care for that. The great characters and wonderfully fun 70’s style cop-show themes were nothing more than a dream-fantasy that played out in astronaut Sam Tyler’s head in 2035, while in stasis on his way to Mars. The greater meaning of why he ended up in 1973 from 2008 turned out to be nothing more than a simple computer glitch. In a “Wizard of Oz” move, it was revealed that the other characters of 1973 were in fact fellow astronauts on the ship with Sam. His tough-as-nails police boss in 1973, played masterfully by Harvey Keitel, turned out to be his father. “Windy”, the hippy chick neighbor who refers to Sam by his apartment number “2B”, turns out to be the ship’s computer. Sam was actually in stasis chamber 2B on the ship.

I really enjoyed the show and was sad to see it get canceled so soon. I was initially glad that at least the show would have an ending rather than just disappearing without any resolution to all the questions posed as it played out. The ending was a bit of a let down to me however. I would have preferred the show just stopped being produced… or better yet, continue on to a second season. How many other shows are cool enough to have a character nicknamed “No Nuts”? Looks like No Nuts won’t be serving the donuts anymore though – not when she’s been promoted to detective… or rather turns out to be just a dream character based on a fellow astronaut.

Did you enjoy the ending? Were you happy with how things were resolved and explained? Do you wish No Nuts would bring you some donuts right about now?

7 thoughts on ““Life on Mars” Series Finale”

  1. This is one of my favorite shows too! Why must my favs always get cancelled? Firefly was another fav that got cancelled way too early. Can’t wait to see the end..

  2. i really loved the show and i was sorry that it had to end ,but the ending was fantastic and i will miss it.phylisanne

  3. Hiya

    I was just visiting and couldn’t help reading your entry about Life on Mars. Though it’s not on television here, I did see the Briish original, which I loved enormously. It ran for two (planned!) series, after which the producers decided to stop it before the show became repetitious.

    I am not going to give you spoilers, but the original ending was much more daring and interesting than what you described of the US remake. UK Sam Tyler was from 2006, and was a policeman. Life on Mars was a David Bowie song playing on the radio when he was run over in 2005…

    Monday they start the second series of Ashes to Ashes (another David Bowie song), which is a spin-off of Life on Mars. It centres on Alex Drake, a female police profiler/psychiatrist, who get’s shot in 2008 and ends up in London 1981. There is no Sam Tyler, but Gene hunt and his sidekicks are back.

    I strongly advice you to track down the British Original series on DVD and watch it…

  4. Hey Gab! I really liked this show too! I have like 4 episodes on my DVR still, so I didn’t read your finale write up all the way. Too bad it is over, I was wondering how they will be able to string the story line along for more than a season… I do look forward to finding out what the mystery was in the finale!


  5. @Nikki Welsh – Yeah – it’s always sad to see the great ones go down so soon. :( Never seen Firefly – need to look in to that.

    @phylisanne bernstein – A guy at work also loved the ending. He got mad at me for not liking it. lol Still, it ended too soon!

    @Ruud V – Thanks for recommending the original British version of the show. I am very interested in checking it out but I also want to wait a bit. I want to enjoy it without this one so fresh in my mind.

    @RaquelC – The show was too cool for TV I guess. The great ones never last. I hope you enjoy the rest of it. Chime in again after seeing the ending – I’d love to hear your take on it! :)

  6. Ok, so my wife and I watched the last episode last night. WTF!?!?! That was a crazy ending, and it was somewhat of a let down for me too. I was wondering how in the heck they can make a conclusion to such a strange debacle. A ‘glitch’ in the dream program was a cool spin to the explaination, but we were definately not expecting the ending whatsoever. It makes you think back through the whole show and all the little clues along the way… Sam aka “space man” and his attraction/connection to space rockets, moon rovers, Ray’s blunt philisophical views, and all the like. All of the turns that his 1973 life took were probably continuous glitches in the sleep program, at times being in a half awake state perhaps. Too bad “No Nuts” and Sam didn’t hit it off when he awoke from hypersleep, or maybe they will after all, we will never know… Cool and thoroughly enjoyed show overall. Where is No Nuts Norris with those do nuts right about now!? :)

  7. Sorry you didn’t care for the ending either, RaquelC. Bit let down for me as well, as I said. But the show as a whole ROCKED! :)

    I’d still like to see more of the show – with Sam from 2008 stuck in 1973. There was a lot of fun in that, and can still be more if htey wanted to (not that they will, but I can wish). Given that it was all just a computer induced dream with a Windy little glitch – there’s that trip back home, right? They’re not going to stay on Mars, are they? Come on, Windy – serve up that same dreamy glitch you did so well in season one, and give us a deserving season TWO!

    Love live No Nuts (with the donuts) Norris. :)

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