Ashes to Ashes – Series 3, Episode 2.


Like last time, if you’re planning on watching this, don’t read – I am prone to give endings away.

Also, this should have been written on Saturday but I had no computer and good company – so, yeah. No writings until now!

This week’s episode I wasn’t as gripped by as last week’s, but I did have to watch it in parts and various things didn’t happen that I wanted to. Like DCI Keats didn’t die in a big ball of fire. Shaz and Chris didn’t get back together… Etc etc. It was good though, it’s still Ashes to Ashes ie. more awesome than regular television viewing.

Generally speaking there seemed to be about three storylines snaking through the episode, with the main crime they were solving this week, Shaz dithering about whether she should stay in the force, and Alex Drake musing about what REALLY happened to Sam Tyler. Tacky boy Keats made regular appearances again, although less frequent than last time, and, wonderfully, less alluringly to Drake. She appears to be swaying more to Hunt’s side of things once again, than being sucked into the smarmy world of Keats. Good stuff.

The crime solving was good stuff – it gave Shaz an actual chance to do what she really could, and she did it very well. In essence, Fenchurch East get sent a hand (of a murder victim, obviously) in the post, and that unveils a series of murders of women, all happening after they’ve been divorced and feel at their most “vulnerable”. Using a dating agency, the murderer selects his victims by meeting them, then telling him what he really though of all women. In this instance, Shaz is used as ‘bait’ to get the murderer to confess, and puts her life in serious risk, thus meaning her work will promote her to “CID by Christmas”.

This last bit is technically the most important, as Shaz is questioning throughout the entire episode whether she should leave the police force. It was all portrayed in a very unbelievable manner, I found though, as she was getting annoyed and stressed at the smallest, most pointless and odd things, and there was no explanation for it except that she didn’t feel that happy where she was. But if that was so, why did she stay in the force when Hunt says he’ll promote her? It didn’t make much sense to me, especially when she disband a mob of hooligans on her own when leaving the pub early. The script also didn’t catch me much this week, as there were minimal good one liners and slightly tenuous statements which I felt didn’t fit properly with the already well-established characters. However, the story telling was still pretty good, and I am glad Shaz is staying. It would seem a little pointless to write her out given it’s only two episodes in and the only character that’s really been written out so far was main protagonist from Life On Mars Sam Tyler.

Which leads me onto the next story line: for some reason Alex Drake has suddenly become much more interested in Mr Tyler. Why now? And why should she forget all about her daughter and her life back in 2008? She appears to have forgotten everything, and that would be fine but now why is she investigating Sam Tyler for any other reason than for a way to get back home? Gene Hunt discovers her investigations at the end of the episode, and is not best pleased, telling “Bolly” that they do things as a team, and don’t go behind each other’s backs. A fair point, but he, annoyingly, is slightly acting like he’s covering something up. Not good considering DCI Jim Keats thinks he’s “onto him” and wants to clearly expose Hunt for the death of Sam Tyler. Odd. Very odd. It also seems odd that the writers keep stretching out the story line that Keats is there to interview the members of the team – a plausible reason for his existence, but why must it continue so long? In the ‘Next Week’s Episode’ montage at the end, it appears he is just continuing his investigations further – shouldn’t he have found something by now?

There were good parts to this week’s episode however – Philip Glenister’s real-life wife plays a character that Gene Hunt initially despises (the bird running the dating agency), and ends up kissing at the end (excellent irony), Shaz had her ‘moment’, and Drake’s invention of Speed Dating amused me. But I need things to happen and move on! Nothing much seemed to happen in this episode. Keats hasn’t found anything, Shaz was going to leave then didn’t, Hunt and Bolly haven’t done anything and Shaz and Chris are not back together. They did solve crimes – kind of essential given it’s a cop show – but not much moved on as far as discovering what the world of DCI Gene Hunt is really all about.

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Ashes to Ashes – Series 3, Episode 1.


This is reviewing the first episode so if you haven’t seen it and are wanting to, don’t read.

Unlike the rest of the world, I have not had to wait a year for this new series, due to having watched the entire of ‘Life On Mars’ and the first two series of ‘Ashes to Ashes’ in the last few weeks. Late to the game but doesn’t matter as I’m here now!

That doesn’t mean there was a lack of anticipation – indeed, I was just as excited about the clock striking 9:00pm on Friday as I was when the last actually exciting television programme aired. There are no examples here as I can’t remember being this excited about a television programme in a very long time.

SO WHAT HAPPENED? The last we saw, DI Alex Drake had been shot by Gene Hunt (accidentally..), who is now on the run, and that sends her into a coma in 1982. Which means she wakes up in 2009, sends her daughter to her ex-husband so she can sort things out (I feel this may be a good point? ‘Molls’ seems to be holding her back from enjoying the 80s enough), has some counselling, and then goes shopping. On this trip, she finds an excellent looking game ‘Legal Force’, with the rest of the team posing with guns on the front (I want this game to be invented), and then she sees visions of her team mates visiting her in the hospital in the 80s. LOADS of them, as the amount of screens in a technology shop is not small. (“This is why you shouldn’t go to Currys after a coma”. A fair point from my watching companion.) Finally, after a bit of dithering, Gene Hunt visits and slaps the comatose Drake to wake her up (“Wakey wakey, Drakey”), in 1983, and we’re back on track.

“Where did you go?” asks Alex of Gene.
“Abroad – the Isle of Wight.”
It’s comforting to know the script is just as good.

“Fire up the Quattro” comes in remarkable style as Gene and Drake return to CID to the sound of ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This’. Awesome stuff!

Not so awesome was the devastating (yes, this word is appropriate) news that SHAZ AND CHRIS ARE NO LONGER TOGETHER. What the hell, script writers?! You have literally ruined my favourite fictional couple! I am most disappointed. However, it is pleasant to see they still have chemistry, and my small hopes now lie in that the series will culminate in their lovely wedding, which has been put on hold as they can’t string the engagement out for 8 more episodes.

The episode centres around to main ‘things’ (these could also be story lines I suppose), namely the kidnapping of a young girl, and what is happening in the Gene Hunt – Alex Drake – Raymondo – DCI Jim Keats run of things. This last name is owned by one of the most hideous, slimy, sleazy, two-faced bastards I think that has ever been written, and not only am I most upset that he even exists, I am also incredibly disappointed that Alex Drake appears to be liking him?! I mean come on! Him? Gene Hunt? Do you even have to ask?! I am beginning to question Drake’s personality. I believe, irritatingly, that this character will be relatively recurring – I was hoping someone might shoot him for just being alive – but I think he’s quite integral to the whole thing. Lame. Anyway, so that’s happening, Shaz and Chris are not together, we’ve kind of lost the tension between Hunt and Drake, possibly due to the new DCI (although it’s quite obvious Hunt despises Jim Keats as much as myself), and yet I still loved it.

The kidnapping is rounded up in the team’s usual style of intelligence and violence, and everything gets sorted (obviously). I feel this side of the story showed how well the team works now it’s back together. The trailer for next week looks excellently exciting. But if Shaz resigns from the force I may have to resign from watching… Can’t lose a favourite character as well as the relationship! Dear jesus.

Best lines from this week:

“Hopefully he’s with Christ.”
“And where can we find this ‘Christ’?”

“I couldn’t find grapes so I brought… A melon.”

“Come on Drakey, you weren’t that shot!”

“They asked all sorts of questions they already knew the answers too!”
“Rhetorical..”
“No, no it was definitely English.”

And I am SO EXCITED already about next week.

Television Times – Ashes to Ashes (an introduction).


Or, why I love Gene Hunt.

So. The great debate. Should this spin-off from Life On Mars ever have been allowed to occur – does it taint its marvellous predecessor – or, does it overshadow and outrun Life On Mars, and viewers are very happy that there are many more hours of Gene Hunt to be enjoyed?

As much as I liked Life On Mars, I think I have to hand it to Ashes. This is a hugely controversial point, but I find Keeley Hawes (DI Alex Drake) gives a much more convincing performance than the lead in Life On Mars, John Simm, who plays Sam Tyler. This may be slightly down to the characters themselves, as Alex Drake knows where she is, she has already read about the characters, and she seems, therefore, less insane than Sam Tyler. The viewer is able to relax more in this series, and enjoy the plot lines, the acting, the script – everything really – as, in Life On Mars, you’re not constantly thinking “Oh GOD he’s GOING TO DIE” or “Just shut up and enjoy the 70s maybe?”, and you’re not living in fear that Alex Drake is going to cease to exist because of everything that has happened before. So it is a more relaxing and enjoyable series as a whole, I prefer the performance and character of Alex Drake, and aside from all of that, you still get all the goodness that was first created in Life On Mars, but in the 80s with (potentially) better music. What’s not to like?!

Criticisms have ranged from Keeley Hawes not delivering a believable enough performance (despite being nominated for various awards), to the idea that the writers were just doing what they did with Life On Mars, but more of it, and with a woman. Now I’m not a feminist, but Keeley Hawes does make a decent police officer, and even if you don’t like that, surely the hilarious tension between Alex Drake and Gene Hunt makes for very entertaining viewing? Much more so than the love-hate relationship between Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler anyway.

Now despite the character of Gene Hunt having reformed slightly, he stills retains what makes him him:

“I am just trying to get this man arrested for murder, if that makes me a fascist, then Heil bloody Hitler!”

And despite having written this with only two out of the three original writers, I feel the script is still just as good, if not better than Life On Mars. Ashes also includes one of my favourites ‘romances’ (what a hideous word in this context), between DC Chris Skelton and WPC Sharon Granger (‘Shaz’), which is SO ADORABLE YOU JUST WANT THEM TO RUN OFF INTO A SUNSET. That paralleled with the somewhat explosive relationship between Alex Drake and Gene Hunt is particularly well done.

Basically, Ashes is just as good, if not miles better than, Life On Mars, and since I have now caught up with all available series (within about 2 weeks), I shall be reviewing each new episode of series 3, shown on Fridays, BBC 1, at 9pm. Watch it bitches. Or bastards.

(And I’d like to point out I chose the series 2 trailer due to the awesome driving and genius music, not for the violence)

Television Times – ‘Life On Mars’


Although I may be somewhat “late to the game” on this count, this doesn’t make the programme any less amazing.

Me and an associate began watching (she insisted) the first series on Sunday evening. It is now Thursday and we have four episodes left to go of the second series. I LOVE THIS PROGRAMME. Despite not being accustomed to cop shows, and even less cop shows from the 70s, this is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. I won’t bother with a long description as I’m sure the majority of people know the basic idea behind it, but cop in 2006 (or thereabouts) gets hit by car, falls into a coma, wakes up in 1973. “If I can work out the reason [as to why it’s now 1973], maybe I can get back [to 2006]”, so he tells us repeatedly. He is confused and frustrated, his sanity is frequently doubted and no one really likes him, apart from a female officer called Annie. Sounds odd and possibly very bad, but everything goes back in time, and it’s brilliant.

That’s not to say it is without its demerits. I am not a fan of John Simm (the main actor), and his character (Sam Tyler) is more than a little irritating at times. But maybe this is because GENE HUNT RULES EVERY SCENE HE IS IN.

But why would anyone ever love Gene Hunt? The DCI is racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, bordering alcoholic, not one to think it’s bad to bring a hooker he has just “nicked” to a swinging party, a semi-bent copper who is more interested in results than the right way to get them… It looks bad for him really. However, he is one of the coolest characters ever to be invented. He does, somehow, have a very caring underlying trait to his personality, and you would never feel unprotected if he was heading your team. Indeed, to stand up to him as much as he does, I’m rather surprised Sam Tyler has not been snapped in two a great many times.

The genius behind this programme I feel lies in a lot of qualities that you don’t find in many others. Or if you do, they are very few and far between, and usually only quality is possessed, not as many as ‘Life On Mars’ has. First of all, the script is incredible.

“I’m Gene Hunt. Your DCI. It’s 1973. Nearly dinner time. I’m ‘aving hoops!”

It’s a brilliantly quotable script – a charm only found in things like ‘Black Books’ or ‘Family Guy’. Secondly, the writers have the advantage of writing retrospectively, and the added bonus of hindsight can prove hilarious. Like Sam Tyler introducing himself as “Tony Blair” at a party, and Gene Hunt as “Gordon Brown”, and being able to turn a regular pub into a sports pub for the Grand National (and Sam Tyler tipping that Red Rum would win).  Thirdly, the music is amazing, and it must be a lovely job choosing which of your favourite 70s songs to go on the soundtrack. Fourthly, the unbelievably well-researched costuming and props (etc) make for an exceptionally believable programme, from the fashions of 1973, to the authentic Party Seven can and the cuisine at the time (black forest gateaux and treacle tart etc). In fact I think the only weak thing about it IS John Simm, but he is still perfectly acceptable and probably would be quite good if he wasn’t upstaged by Philip Glenister all the time. A strong supporting cast is a charm, but an overpowering one can be bad. It’s all fine here though, due to Gene Hunt being awesome. I feel the fact there’s only 16 episodes in existence is definitely a bonus – not too many to spoil it, not too few to be frustrating, and just the right number to include the staple cop drama events (ie. bombings, murders, hostage-taking etc)

I am also very happy about the inclusion of historical and political events that occurred at the time – this can also prove to be comical, but also a good reflection on what happened. It is also likely that most of the writers lived through some of the events, so can write a believable portrayal of it based on what they experienced, not on hearing about it many years later.

Although there’s only four episodes of the second series to go, there is still three series of Ashes To Ashes, although I am dubious about this as reviews have stated it is not quite the same or as good as Life On Mars. But it can’t hurt to look, and there’s still the tying up of ends for this series too. It should be watched by everyone. And considering how little I actually like things (and recommend them), you would be missing out not to get involved.