The new BBC series Life on Mars, screening until the end of February, contrast's today's policing with that of thirty years ago in a gripping, time-traveller format.
The programme centre's on DCI Sam Tyler, played by John Simms, who is investigating a murder in Manchester in 2004AD, when he is hit by a car and awake's in what is apparently 1974AD.
He is apparently a new transfer to his current workplace, but reduced one level in rank to a plain DI. David Bowie's "Life on Mars" which was playing on his iPod, is now coming out of a cassette tape player in his changed car. His location is the same, and there is a murder case strangely similar to the one he was involved in in his own time, playing out in this one.
Said to remind us of the way we used to be policed, implying realism as opposed to political correctness.
However, I see the same sloppy working practices seen on the streets
portrayed in the interview room.
And I remember less corruption on the streets in the 70s, although I was too young then to have an undistorted view.
So this also contrast's violence on the streets with violence in the interview room.
Sam Tyler's boss, DCI Gene Hunt, is "an old style cop, not scared of
throwing a few punches to get a result."
Philip Glenister, the actor who play's Hunt, says of him:
"He's dealing with crooks. There's a very fine line between the criminal and the copper and I think he sometimes gets very close to crossing that line but he does always ensure he stays on the side of the law."
Hunt's policing style in sharp contrast to Tyler's, and the police forensic service that Tyler relied on so heavily in 2004AD is portrayed (slightly inaccurately) as a shadow of it's future self.
Episode one is scene-setting, and it need's a lot of setting.
By the end of it, it seem's more willing to be about someone confronting his demons in a coma than a true traveller in time; letting go of the implausible and the paradoxes of meddling with your own past, so we can concentrate on the differences and dilemmas presented.
In Episode two, Hunt says "I never fitted-up anyone who didn't
deserve it". This half-morality give's Tyler a dilemma when he release's
someone with a violent history on the grounds of lack of evidence.
That someone later kill's one of his colleagues.
Tyler doesn't consider keeping tabs on his whereabouts after letting him go; a third option which would probably spoil the simplification of circumstances that help the drama move quickly. So that's forgivable here, but not in real life.
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