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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Life on Mars: Series 2 (UK)'
(John Simm, Philip Glenister, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (2006) 2009 / Acorn Media)

Overview: Knocked unconscious by a hit-and-run driver in 21st-century Manchester, Tyler wakes up in 1973. Is he dreaming, time traveling, or just plain crazy? Whatever the case, he might as well have landed on another planet. Although shocked by the brutality of his bullying boss (Philip Glenister, Cranford) and the callousness of his squad mates, Sam gamely adapts to crime solving in this retro world. But even as romance blossoms with policewoman Annie (Liz White, The Fixer), mysterious voices from his former life keep calling him home. Trapped in the past, he must decide where his future lies--and how to get there--in the tension-filled finale.

DVD Verdict: Continuing the crime investigations of the day, complete with criminal mayhem and police illegal procedures ie: welcome to 1973, the UK's favorite time-traveling crime drama 'Life On Mars' continues/culminates here in this second set. And although there is only 2 episodes on each of the 4 discs, the 8 episodes are 50 minutes plus of pure adrenaline entertainment.

The first episode opens in a hospital bed, where our hero Sam Tyler (Simm) is half-in half-out in his world, but still stuck in 1973. A mysterious blurred figure whispers that he is going to kill Tyler, one way or another and soon. As for the plot, a casino owner (and, as it turns out killer) is up for investigation over some stolen chips. One of the opening statements has Tyler saying to his boss DC Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), whose just broken down his door, "Seeing you broke my door down, I'm assuming it's big." To which the reply is, "Like Shelley Winters' ass!" Claaaaasic!

Other classic quip: "They couldn't get the rings off his fingers ... or the bells of his toes!" But, in truth the ending leaves things a little unresolved.

In episode 2, a safe cracker, Dickie Fingers escapes prison, gets set-up, re-nicked, and fingers a cop on the inside for protection promised by Sam. Is it true though? Well, we start off knowing that the prisoner was caught red handed with a sheep ... which leads to a whole host of sheep jokes! Full of great music and ultra funny quips, Annie (Liz White) gets promoted and joined the team as a fully-fledged, non-uniformed copper!

This episodes great quote: "Put your hands up. You're surrounded by armed bastards!" Or perhaps it was "If I was as worried as you I'd never far for fear of shitting myself!" There was also a great in-house twist and not much in the way of his usual from-the-future phone messages!

In episode 3 (SPOILER ALERT!) Sam is sure IRA bombs and threats made clear to the cops are all a hoax. So, DCI Gene Hunt begins rounding up all the Irish to solve the crisis - which doesn't go too well! The opening scene's bomb explosion was wonderful, so unexpected and so well done/acted. (Check out the behind-the-scenes featurette on the making-of ... well worth it). Racial Irish slurs are thrown about all thru the episode. Classic quote: "How far down does this go? Shut up, you lemon!"

Episode 4 is where Sam gets to go undercover as Annie's husband to investigate a social circles connection to a girl's death. Spouse key-swapping and all that jazz. Starting with a wonderful Moody Blues song from way back, after a youthful Sam flashback, the talk is all about giving girls (to get them drunk) a pint of Pernot and Black! And trust me, a small glass of that stuff would numb your mouth in under 5 minutes!

I guessed the killer halfway through this, but it was a fun episode to watch for sure. The episode ends with a wonderful Gilbert O'Sullivan song that makes you want to go out and buy his greatest hits album!

Sam helps solve a kidnapping while sick in episode 5, but is his sickness simply a future tense hospital overdose? A wicked interrogation scene makes you cringe for what 'could' have happened back in the day in the same kind of situations! Watching the whole thing pan out on a TV set whilst recovering is a little twist on the storyline also. And yes, there is a really wonderful twist in the last few seconds so stay tuned all the way!

Heroin becomes the new drug on the street in episode 6. That and a huge amount of racial bigotry toboot! Then again, murder raises the stakes also until it gets to a point where some points of this show become, well, unerring to watch. Played out to the backdrop of 'Rocket Man,' we get many racial and nasty slurs, but the classic quote came out as: "This investigation is going as fast as a spastic in a magnet factory!" Mind you, the next quote was bloody funny: "I think she's as fake as a trannies fanny!"

In episode 7, one of the most hard-hitting yet, DCI Hunt awakes from a drunk stupor facing a murdered body, the man Gene publicly threatened. Evidence needs to be found ASAP by Tyler to prove his bosses innocence. This is a good, solid ensemble performance piece with a crazy god ending, trust me!

In the final (SPOILER ALERT!), series-ending episode, Tyler is finally told his true mission back in the '70s and what he must do to get back home to 2006. But can he do it? Well, as we're shown many times, there are those in 1973 he's begun to care about so setting up his boss/team for a fall becomes harder and harder. So, we also find out that Tyler in the future has a brain tumor and it needs to be operated on - which means that it will, if successful, allow Tyler to wake up and live life in the 'future'!

A classic Elton John track, 'Love Lies Bleeding' plays in the background as a car chase plays out, but it's the train securities operation that they get involved in undercover (that goes balls up very quickly) that ends abruptly, meaning that Tyler has the chance (as the operation in the future is as success) to go back to the 'future.' I won't give you too much of the end result, but suffice to say that he yo-yo's between the two existances, before making a perminent choice.

In truth, well, the ending - both before AND after the 'fake' black out end leap of faith scene is a little bit of a let down. I wanted way more of a come-together after all we'd been through, but the surface was barely scratched - unfortunately. But, we do find out, casually, why the title of this series was 'Life On Mars' ... which was very interesting! Set to the titular song, the series ends and we all go home, happy, and (kinda) content. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Feature of:

"The Return of Life on Mars" Documentary (45 min.)
Bonus Behind-The-Scenes Footage for Episodes 3, 5, and 7 and Tour of the set (48 min.)
"The End of Life on Mars" Featurette (28 min.)