Life on Mars (2008–2009)
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Life Is a Rock 

Sam is told he can return home if he does three things, which includes saving the younger version of himself, who has been kidnapped by his father.



(developed for American television by), (developed for American television by) | 5 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Caleb Wallace ...
Christian Wallace ...
Homeless Man / Wino
Emerald-Angel Young ...
Keisha (as Emerald Young)


Sam is told he can return home if he does three things, which includes saving the younger version of himself, who has been kidnapped by his father.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi


TV-14 | See all certifications »





Release Date:

1 April 2009 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Another "it always comes back to David Bowie" reference - Det. Carling is quite unkind to Ruth Tyler when she's reporting her son missing, and as Carling and another detective are leaving to find them, she mutters "Look at those cavemen go." It's a line from the chorus of the song for which the series is named. See more »


In the series finale as Sam is searching the boat for his father armed with a rifle, the rifle changes from a Ruger Mini-14, to a Kalasnikov (AK-47) type rifle in one quick closeup shot. The next shot then shows him still holding the original rifle. This is noticeable because of the distinctive gas tube over the barrel on an AK unlike the bare barrel of a Mini-14. See more »


Lieutenant Gene Hunt: Tyler, Come here. I need you.
[Having resolved to stay in 1973 with the people he has become so attached to, Sam walks up to Gene and gives him a big hug]
Lieutenant Gene Hunt: [laughing] I know. I think I'm gonna miss you most of all, scarecrow.
[Sam is suddenly 'awoken', presumably never to see his 1973 friends again]
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Crazy Credits

The show logo counts upward from 2008 to 2035 at the end rather than down to 1973 as in all other episodes. See more »


References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »


Mona Lisa's And Mad Hatters
Performed by Elton John
Courtesy of RCA
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User Reviews

Season 1: High production values but a lack of heart and poor development of the idea all weaken it on the way to a terrible conclusion
22 May 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

So by the time this found its way to me, it had already been cancelled which, in a selfish way, was a good thing for a media-compulsive like me because I knew I had a start and an end to this series rather than an indefinite period of time. Of course it also put a bit of a worry in my head that something was "wrong" to get it cancelled – although these were not totally to the fore as series are never cancelled for quality reasons – mostly for financial or ratings reasons. I didn't think about it too much though but, when I did, it was to wonder why it hadn't worked because on the surface it all appears to be in place with good potential. The early episodes are a bit uncertain with an uneasy mix of tones – sometimes too serious, sometimes too knock-about in its humour, but after two episodes it had settled down. What we are left with is similar to the UK original in how it has the cases and the squad room provide structure week by week, while also having the mystery of why Sam is back in 1973.

The problem with the show is that although the former aspect is really pretty good, the latter is not done particularly well or particularly consistently. I didn't feel like I was getting close to the answer or that I was seeing any clever writing in this respect and it did limit how much I was able to put my heart into the show. Of course, in hindsight perhaps the reasons for this can be seen in the ending which, contrary to what some have said was a "last minute decision", but in fact was supposedly the plan all alone regardless of how many seasons they ran for. Others have ranted about it already so I'll be brief but the conclusion is awful – a checklist of reasons why the story (in Sam's virtual reality dream) was what it was. It is simple, it has zero heart and it is a million miles from the impact the conclusion of the UK version had on me. Perhaps this is why the viewing figures did fall off – the show never really has heart to it and what little it did have is jettisoned in an ending that is both simplistically basic but also has the temerity to suggest it is not even the answer (Hunt's shoe). What sticks in my throat even more is that Josh Appelbaum had said before the show aired that they had changed the story to go away from the ambiguous nature of the original saying "with this mythological element to it, it's not just a cop show, and if he was ultimately just in a coma or it was all a dream, it felt a bit unsatisfying. So we made it a deeper mystery." Firstly I don't think there was any ambiguity in the original but more importantly, the suggestion that he was improving on it and making it more satisfying is a joke.

Other than the heart, the lack of this development and the poor ending though, the show does have very high production values, mostly good plots, a fantastic soundtrack and a great cast; all of which are reasons why I actually did enjoy most of the episodes, albeit as nothing more than a solid cop show with a bit of a twist. O'Mara is a good lead – he has charisma and presence but also convinces in his confusion. Keitel is equally as good as Hunt – a role that he fits into really well. Indeed when it comes to Keitel, Imperioli and Murphy, they all do well within the context of what they are asked to do. Mol is asked to become too close to Sam too quickly and too easily and at first she is poor, unable to make this work. However as we get through this stage she gets better and becomes more interesting and convincing. The supporting cast features lots of famous turns from people like Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Lisa Benet, Balfour, Gershon and others but, to those that watch HBO shows like The Wire, it is a little distracting to have Tergesen, Winters, Peters, Coleman and Gerety all coming through (what is it about HBO actors that they never seem to be alone in a film or show?).

So on an entertainment level, Life on Mars looks good and has some strong moments and episodes. However, with the "bigger picture" in the background, this is not all it can be and yet it neglects to really do much with this other than using it for characters and having something happen now and again to remind us about it (much like the smoke monster rumbling through in the first season or so of Lost). This lack of development is revealed in the way that it never emotionally engaged me and, while I liked the tough 70's edge to it, it didn't make me care – which, considering the awful ending, is perhaps just as well!

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