Manchester is a city and a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester in North-West England. It is the setting for all episodes of Life on Mars, in both 2006 and 1973-4. Although frequently mentioned, it is not seen in Ashes to Ashes.
The city itself is home to nearly half a million people, with a further two and a quarter million in the surrounding urban area. Manchester has been inhabited for about a thousand years and has rich history and culture. The industrial revolution brought dramatic population and economic growth, and even today, much of the city's popular image still derives from the many factories and mills that dominated it for over a hundred years. Once a powerhouse in cotton, finance, and shipping, by the second half of the 20th century, Manchester, battered by depression and war, fell on hard times, with its football teams as one (or two) of the few enduring sources of local pride.
Significance in Life on Mars
The choice of 1973 as the time period for Life on Mars gives us a view of Manchester at its grittiest, its dirtiest, its meanest. From Sam Tyler's perspective, 1973 Manchester seems like another planet, since, in 2006, the city is (after decades of effort) the clean, fast-growing, cultural centre of North-West England, home to world-class culture, sport, and recreation.
"There was considerable industrial unrest, unemployment was on the increase, especially in the North West as the textile and mass manufacturing industries were reaching crisis point and the unions were becoming ever more vocal and militant." (BBC Life on Mars Press Pack)