So, Ashes to Ashes reached a conclusion last Friday (21st May 2010) and it would seem that along with DI Alex Drake we also say goodbye to everyone else including Gene Hunt himself. More interestingly we finally know what happened to Sam Tyler both in our world (at the end of Life on Mars) and in this world (between Life and Ashes). And therein lays the problem.
I’ll come clean immediately; I thought (like millions of others) that Life on Mars was fantastic and hung on every scene and enjoyed every episode and felt that Sam’s suicide (in our world) was the only possible ending. I was worried that the return to the 80s wouldn’t work, and having suffered the first episode of Ashes I decided to give it a miss – I just couldn’t take the Keely Hawes portrayal of DI Alex Drake, nor could I take the 80s setting seriously (this probably because I remember it too well). As the series has progressed the 80s is more in vogue (including in government with a (sort of) return to the Tories [as also alluded to in Labour propaganda which compared Cameron to Hunt and backfired. But I digress.])
With the show ending I thought I would give it one last shot, so sat down for the last episode (and it didn’t seem to matter that I’d missed part one of a two part story). As is well documented elsewhere we get to understand why the world of Gene Hunt exists, learn the ‘truth’ about more characters than we might have expected and get a resolution for most characters. This also includes telling us what finally happened in this world to Sam Tyler and why the two series are connected in more than just Alex Drake’s mind (or so we believe).
The plot device in the episode was IMHO not bad, although I did realise who the dead body would be before the reveal, and overall the writers put together a decent ending. I would suggest, though, that this means we can go no further, short of doing a Lost or a Heroes there are no more mysteries to layer on, and so with understanding comes closure.
I also suggest that the series as whole never escaped from the shadow of Life on Mars – although Sam Tyler is never actually in this series, his presence is implied everywhere; at any turn we half-expect to find him appear genie like to sort out DI Drake and let her return to her ‘real’ life. He doesn’t.
Not all is grim, the show seemed to keep to production values, the secondary characters (Ray, Chris and Shaz) are solid until the end, the Quattro is a great icon and Gene Hunt is a fantastic character right until the end – oh how we will miss him; even as the show approaches its denouement (dust to dust) we have such marvellous lines as (and I misquote):
‘If you can get reconnoitre into a sentence I’ll buy you a fish supper.’
So, overall was Ashes to Ashes worth the effort? For me no, but not being as good as Life on Mars is a description that applies to almost all TV shows and should not be seen as a fatal flaw.