Critics' Picks: The original time-traveling cop

The DVD of the British version of the TV series "Life on Mars" cuts a window into another world


Stephanie Zacharek
July 27, 2009 2:23PM (UTC)


Season 1 of "Life on Mars," U.K. version

 Before there was the now-canceled ABC television series "Life on Mars" -- which was terrific in its own right -- there was the original BBC drama of the same name, which is only just now available on DVD in the United States.

Advertisement:

In the course of investigating a serial murder, Manchester detective Sam Tyler (John Simm) is hit by a car. When he picks himself up and dusts himself off, seemingly unharmed, he realizes he's still in Manchester -- only it's 1973. Not only does he have to deal with '70s-era police procedures and conventions (which means, among other things, no computers, and colleagues who heedlessly cover evidence with their own greasy fingerprints); he has a crusty, rough-and-tumble boss, Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), who considers him a bit of a lightweight.

 When I wrote about the American "Life on Mars" earlier this year, I kept hearing the same refrain from readers: "The English one is so much better." Although I consider the two series different but equal, the British show does have one interesting advantage: The New York of 1973 is very different from the New York of 2009 -- but perhaps not as different as the Manchester of 1973 is from that of 2009.

The U.K. series cuts a window into 1970s Britain, a world of modest shopfronts and dimly lit flats with flowery wallpaper, a world in which, even though the swinging '60s had already happened, plenty of women still went about their day with scarves tied primly under the chin, Queen Elizabeth-style. The U.K. and U.S. "Life on Mars" offer two different kinds of culture shock, divided by a common language.

Check out previous Critics' Picks:


"Torchwood: Children of Earth" on BBC America and DVD

Advertisement:


Bowerbirds' CD "Upper Air"


"Mad Men" second season DVD


Phoenix's CD "Wolfgang Phoenix Amadeus"

"Coraline" in 3-D on DVD  


Stephanie Zacharek

Stephanie Zacharek is a senior writer for Salon Arts & Entertainment.

MORE FROM Stephanie Zacharek

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Critics' Picks Our Picks Tv

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••






Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •