Life on Mars Wiki
Sam Tyler
Series: Life on Mars (UK)
Ashes to Ashes
Rank: Detective Inspector (1973)
Detective Chief Inspector (2007)
Aliases: Detective Inspector Bolan
Tony Blair
Sam Williams
Significant others: Annie Cartwright
Actor: John Simm
Harrison Mitchell-Smith (boy in photo)
Alexander O'Loughlin (child)
US equivalent: Det. Sam Tyler
Spanish equivalent: Samuel Santos

Detective Inspector Sam Tyler (1969 - 2007) was a high-ranking, and well-respected, detective of the Greater Manchester Police in 2008 who fell into a coma after a fatal car accident and woke up in Gene Hunt's World in 1973. In 1973, he worked for the Manchester and Salford Police under the brutish DCI Gene Hunt. Several years later, in 1980, progressed to "the pub" to disappears, which was covered up by DCI Hunt as a death by drowning. It was not until 1983 that the truth behind his death was revealed, due to the investigations of Alex Drake. The character is played by John Simm.


Early Life[]

Sam aspired to become a police officer at a very young age (Harrison Mitchell-Smith, boy in photo). (LOM Series 1: Episode 4)

Sam "Sammy" Tyler was born in 1969 to salesman Vic and housewife Ruth Tyler in Manchester. As a very young child he aspired to become a police officer, an ambition he would eventually fulfill.

Growing up in 1970s Manchester as an only child, Sam became a Manchester United supporter and often attended the local football matches with his father (LOM Series 1: Episode 5). He was also read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll by his father. When his father worked away, he often brought young Sam home a present to make up for his absence (LOM Series 1: Episode 8). When he was young, Sam's favourite dessert was apple crumble and custard with the skin on, according to his mother. He was also very fond of the family cat, Ivanhoe. (LOM Series 1: Episode 4).

Separation from his Father[]

In 1973, during a family wedding reception which the Tyler family attended, Sam witnessed his father walk out on the family and the reception. Young Sam decided to follow his father into the nearby forest where he witnessed his father assault a woman in a red dress and flee shortly after. When Sam returned to the party, his mother told him that his father had been forced to go away, but that he still loved them. She also told young Sam that he would see him again one day. Sam would not see him again for another 34 years. (LOM Series 1: Episode 8)

Late 20th Century[]

Sam Tyler as a child (played by Alexander O'Loughlin). (LOM Series 2: Episode 4)

Sam was forced to grow up without a father figure in his life. As a child, he became fond of his Auntie Heather who always said Sam was her favourite nephew (LOM Series 2: Episode 4). In 1979, at the age of 10, he bought his first record at the Vinyl Heaven Record Shop, which was 'Cars' by Gary Numan (LOM Series 1: Episode 1). In 1981 at the age of 12, he was involved in a coach crash and broke his arm. He was forced to spend a few days in hospital (LOM Series 2: Episode 8). At the age of 19, Tyler joined the Greater Manchester Police (which was the Manchester and Salford Police until 1974) and became very loyal to his profession by always following the rules and standing up against corruption.

21st Century[]

By the 21st Century, Tyler (who was a Detective Inspector at this point in time) had been working with Deputy Chief Constable Glen Fletcher, who became his commanding officer and mentor. Fletcher was a father figure to Sam, who respected him a great deal. Eventually Sam was promoted to Detective Chief Inspector by Fletcher (LOM Series 2: Episode 2). While working as a police officer, Sam entered a committed relationship with his colleague Maya Roy who often worked with him on police cases. In the year 2006 as a DCI, he arrested former casino owner Tony Crane for the murder of his wife Eve Crane (LOM Series 2: Episode 1). Eventually, Sam and Maya's relationship became strained, which affected their work together.


Sam is hit by a car and sent into a coma. (LOM Series 1: Episode 1)

In 2006, Tyler investigated the murders of Lauren Chester and Bettina Mitchell which led to the suspect Colin Raimes. After a brief pursuit through the suburbs of Manchester, Raimes was arrested by Tyler and questioned by him at a police interview with Raimes's lawyer, psychiatrist, and social worker. Even though the evidence led to Raimes, the interview was abruptly terminated when his social worker showed that the young man was at a drop-in centre on the night of one of the abductions. Shortly after, Tyler decided to re-examine the evidence and start again. Maya wanted to follow up a hunch she had, but Sam decided to remove her from the murder case due to their strained relationship. However, Maya's eagerness led her to take down Raimes independently. After following him in a car onto Satchmore Road, she was kidnapped by the real killer (LOM Series 1: Episode 1).

The Crash[]

When driving near the A57(M) motorway in Manchester in his Jeep Grand Cherokee, Sam was struggling to contain his distress over Maya's abduction. After failing to pay attention to a nearby car, he stopped on a lay-by and exited the car to try to calm down. While leaning against the Jeep with Life on Mars by David Bowie playing on his iPod, he was hit by a car travelling at a high speed. The impact of the car sent him into a deep coma which would last until 2007 (LOM Series 1: Episode 1).

Life in 1973[]

Sam woke up to find himself in 1973 in Gene Hunt's World—only four years after his birth. Unsure whether he is in a coma or mad, or if he has actually gone back in time, he finds he is a DI in the contemporary police force of the age, starting his first day in the same station he worked at in 2006, only 33 years in the past, and is compelled to prove himself to his new DCI, Gene Hunt. Believing that he must make an absolute commitment to return to the 21st century, he goes to the police headquarters' rooftop edge with the intention of committing suicide of a sort, in order to terminate his 1973 fantasy life. WPC Annie Cartwright convinces him not to jump.

Gene is a man who likes to throw his weight around and thinks of himself as the sheriff in a western. Gene acts first and thinks later, and this results in several punch-ups between him and Sam, who believes in by-the-book policing.

Over time their differences complement each other rather than clash, and a series of cases are solved when the two men put their heads together. But Sam, a 21st century police officer, has to deal with a strange world full of cigarette-smoking, gum-chewing, sometimes corrupt, unreconstructed police officers of the early 1970s, as well as brutal punch-now-think-later policing methods and crude forensic techniques, and there are times when he is deeply stressed by this, as well as by recurring hints that reality is not what it seems. Sam is called "Boss" by Chris Skelton, to distinguish him from "the Guv", although Ray Carling rarely grants him any title or seeming respect.

In LOM Series 1: Episode 4 and LOM Series 1: Episode 8, Sam meets the younger versions of his mother and father, as well as the parents of his exgirlfriend Maya, in LOM Series 2: Episode 6. Twice, in "Series 1: Episode 8" and LOM Series 2: Episode 4, he actually meets his 4-year-old self, to which he is horrified. He also sees his younger self briefly in LOM Series 1: Episode 5. In LOM Series 1: Episode 8, Sam tries to get his father to stay with his mother and his younger self, hoping this will take him back to 2006 but is horrified to discover his father is actually a ruthless gangster. In LOM Series 1: Episode 4, he also has brought down much of the corruption in CID by convincing Gene and the other officers not to take bribes from a local gangster Stephen Warren; in the process Joni Newton was killed. Sam blamed himself for her death although in a plan by Warren to get rid of him, he sent Joni to cheat and rape him. In turn, he set about turning in a corrupt high-ranking officer in LOM Series 2: Episode 2.

Sam deals with many different crimes including drug trafficking, a hostage situation, murders and robberies. He does not just teach a lot to CID like tape recording but learns something from them.

In the last episode, the voice of his surgeon appears as a new character, acting DCI, Frank Morgan, who tells Sam that he has amnesia brought on by a car accident and has really been sent from Hyde to infiltrate the rotten A Division. As Gene, Annie, Ray and Chris face a seemingly unavoidable fate when an undercover sting goes wrong, Sam comes out of his coma in the present.

Alex Drake's documents of Sam Tyler (A2A Series 1: Episode 1)

Regaining Consciousness and "Death"[]

Sam Tyler woke up in Hyde Ward of a Manchester hospital in April 2007 beside his mother and Frank Morgan, who is revealed to be his surgeon. A tumour that was embedded in Tyler's head could not be removed; however, it was benign. The swelling of the tumour had been relieved by Morgan, which allowed Sam to wake up from his coma. Hours after waking up from his coma, he exited the hospital to a newer Manchester and rejoined the Greater Manchester Police as a DCI again.

While acclimatising to the 21st Century, he underwent psychiatric evaluation and revealed how he had travelled back to 1973. The evaluation results were sent to the Psych Evaluation Division which were forwarded to DI Alex Drake of the Metropolitan Police who was collecting results from colleagues who had suffered trauma. Sam also revealed to his mother that he had made a promise to Annie Cartwright and wasn't sure what to do about it. Sam's mother reassured him he would choose to do the right thing, because she knew he always kept his promises.  He felt empty and unconnected to 21st century reality and regretted abandoning his team in 1973.

During a meeting at work Sam accidentally cut himself and realized he couldn't feel it; in fact he couldn't feel much of anything. He remembered Annie saying that his true reality was the one where he could feel. Excusing himself from the meeting, he went up to the roof of the Stopford House police station alone. Sure that it would take him back to 1973, he joyfully jumped off the roof and died in 2007 (LOM Series 2: Episode 8). As a result of his latest evaluation, Sam Tyler's death was inserted into his psychiatric results classed as a suicide (A2A Series 1: Episode 1)

Return to 1973[]

Immediately after jumping off the roof in 2007, Sam woke up again in 1973 to reunite with the team and stop the armed Leslie Johns. Just as Johns was about to shoot a wounded Gene Hunt, Sam dealt with him by shooting him dead. While celebrating their triumph at the Railway Arms with a large scotch, Sam apologised to DS Ray Carling for letting him get shot and he forgave DC Chris Skelton for his actions caused by anger. Chris said he would pay for the phone. When Sam said that Chris was going to make a good copper, he was left confused by what Sam meant by "going to" make a good copper. Sam simply told him to have a drink, much to Phyllis Dobbs's amusement.

Later that day, he met Annie Cartwright on the street, he asked her one last time what he should do. Annie said "Stay here forever", to which Sam answered "All right, I will.". Then they were interrupted by Gene, who pulled up in the Cortina with Ray and Chris, informing them that there was a robbery on and they must go. Sam had commented that Gene shouldn't be driving having been shot in the leg. Gene retorted that Sam would be shot too if he didn't get in the car, and told him to move it. When they got in, the radio came on, with signs indicating that Sam had died in 2007; a voice could be heard saying "It's no good, he's slipping away from us. Sam? Sam?" Sam eventually found the strength this time to turn off the radio, where ambulance sirens could be heard. Sam said that he hated that channel and changed it to David Bowie's "Life on Mars" and happily said that was better. Just as Gene was asking Ray what he was doing (saying that he was trying to get the door shut) Sam insisted that he should be driving. (LOM Series 2: Episode 8). He happily drove off into the sunset with Gene and the team, the pair bickering as usual.

Later Life[]

Sam Tyler continued to work as a Detective Inspector under Gene Hunt for another seven years, especially in 1974 when the Manchester and Salford Police merged into the Greater Manchester Police. He was very loyal to his team in the years leading up to his death in 1980. At some point in the late 1970s, . Later in his life, he befriended Jackie Queen whom he and Hunt rescued from the Manchester Gazette building hostage situation previously in 1973. Sam's last arrest before his death was conman Paul Thordy, who would retain his memories of Sam when transferred to HM Prison Fenchurch prior to the prison riots of 1983 (A2A Series 3: Episode 6). On the day before his "death", Sam and his colleagues were involved in a jewellery robbery in Manchester. When he decided to follow the robbers in a high-speed car chase, he was never seen again by his colleagues, excluding DCI Gene Hunt (A2A Series 1: Episode 1).


Tyler as he appeared in a dream of Alex Drake. (A2A Series 3: Episode 8)

Sam Tyler's death was covered up by Gene Hunt, who said that during the high-speed chase on the previous day, Sam drove into a canal in his car and died. His body was never found (A2A Series 1: Episode 1). In 1980, he had accepted that he had died in 2007 and was prepared to move on with Annie. Gene, who had guided Sam through his life in the 1970s, directed him to The Railway Arms pub, which was actually a gateway to heaven. Sam all alone, entered "the pub" for eternity and was never seen again (A2A Series 3: Episode 8).


Days after his "death" in 1980, friend and newspaper journalist Jackie Queen wrote his obituary for the Manchester Gazette, describing him as "the most loved man she ever met" (A2A Series 2: Episode 4). Following Tyler's death, DCI Gene Hunt, DS Ray Carling and DC Chris Skelton transferred to Fenchurch East in London (A2A Series 1: Episode 1). After discovering files on Tyler's faked death, DI Alex Drake conducted an independent investigation into his death (A2A Series 3: Episode 1). In a dream, the ghost-like figure of Tyler appeared to Alex(A2A Series 3: Episode 8).



In 2006 Sam wears a dark blue suit briefly in the first episode and when he returns in the last episode. For most of the series whilst he is in 1973 he wears a slightly battered black leather coat with jeans or plain trousers,brown leather Florsheim boots and a gold tone Casio watch with digital readout (Module No. 1301 DI) which was not available in 1973. His shirts vary from time to time and as the series progress his sideburns are considerably lengthened. This is also seen when Sam awakes from his coma. His jacket reappeared in Series 3 of Ashes to Ashes when DI Alex Drake investigated his death in 1980. Tyler always wears a silver St. Christopher medal; the patron saint of travelling.


Sam is a professional, self-sufficient officer with morals, who would never become corrupt. An example of this is in "Episode 4", where he discovers the entire CID are being bribed and tries his hardest to turn them around. Sam is also a very sensitive boy and a bit of a crybaby, but that's probably due to all the stress he's under. He's a very soft and lovely boy but he is also very strict with his work, liking to do everything by the book and sometimes can be very short tempered with people, although this may just be due to the stressful situation he is in. Sam can also be relaxed, however this side of him is rarely seen as he is usually under constant stress. Sam often pushes others away from him and usually only Annie Cartwright or Nelson can get him to open up. Rumors also spread, due to behaviors throughout the series, that he could be Bisexual . Although in the show he has shown that he has had relationships with women, it is not something that is entirely clear for the reason that in Ashes to Ashes there seems to be something more than a straight boy in him. It's also what most of the fandom intrigues.

While Sam tries his utmost to adhere to the law while in 1973, there are times he breaks the law based on having knowledge of future events and believing that action now will prevent future crimes. In LOM Series 1: Episode 1 Sam produces a doctor's report that proves Edward Kramer is "seriously disturbed" which would have sent Kramer to a high-security hospital for 20–30 years. Gene and Sam argue about the evidence and eventually Gene leaves it up to Sam, shoving the letter at Sam and walking out of his office. Sam crumples up the letter and throws it away. Without this evidence, Kramer would get life in prison. By doing this, Sam believes he has prevented several future murders by the same man.

In LOM Series 2: Episode 1, Sam tries to convince Eve Olawi to plant a gold fob watch in Tony Crane's desk, the same type of watch stolen from the murder victim who visited Tony's casino. Sam believes Crane is responsible for this murder, and knows that he is responsible for many others, including Eve's, in the future. Sam's response to Eve accusing him of trying to fit Tony up is, "I'd never fit up anybody ... who didn't deserve it." The plan backfires when Tony walks around the corner and interrupts Eve and Sam's conversation.


Sam's main relationship in the show is with Annie Cartwright, who often helps him when he is under much pressure. In "Episode 8 Season 1" saves her from being killed by his dad in 1973. When he finally returns to 2006, in Series 2: Episode 8, he is tormented by the broken promise he made to Annie when he went to get help, but woke up in the future. Sam eventually commits suicide and ends back up in 1973, saving her and the others.

The other officers in CID have mixed opinions; Chris Skelton thinks Sam is crazy at times but often looks up to him and respects him. Ray Carling doesn't like Sam or his twenty-first century policing, but in the end becomes friendlier with him. Sam is also close to the bartender of the Railway Arms, Nelson, who he often looks to for advice.

The most unusual relationship is between Sam and Gene Hunt. The two have very different policing styles and at times hate each other, but they always work it out. Gene also knows that Sam is completely trustworthy. When he was framed for murder in "Series 2: Episode 7", he rang Sam first, knowing that despite their difference Sam would not rest until he was cleared. Sam's apparent death after seven years on the team—as depicted in Ashes to Ashes—appears to have affected Gene greatly.

Behind the Scenes[]

Detective Inspector Sam Tyler is a fictional character and the protagonist of BBC One's science fiction/police procedural drama, Life on Mars. The character is portrayed by John Simm. Alexander O'Loughlin played Sam as a young boy.


Sam's name has always been Tyler, but in LOM Series 2: Episode 8 Frank Morgan tells him his name is Williams, "Tyler" being an undercover alias. Sam doesn't believe it, but Morgan shows him Vic and Ruth Tyler's graves, as well as one marked "Sam Tyler" which he claims is the source of Sam's alias.

Key Life Events[]

  • Born in 1969 Manchester to Vic and Ruth Tyler.
  • In 1973 at the age of 4, young Sam witnesses the beating of a woman in red by his father. This is followed by Vic walking out on his family. Sam is unaware of what really happened.
  • Grows up in Manchester without his father, and aspires to being a police officer.
  • Joins the Greater Manchester Police at the age of 19 in 1988.
  • At some point in the early to mid noughties, Tyler is promoted to DCI by Deputy Chief Constable Glen Fletcher.
  • In 2006, Tyler puts away Tony Crane, a former casino owner guilty of murdering his wife.
  • Enters a relationship with colleague Maya Roy.
  • Investigates the murders of a serial killer and focuses on Colin Raimes as the main suspect, although Raimes is cleared. Maya is subsequently kidnapped by the serial killer. Tyler searches for Maya. (LOM Series 1: Episode 1)
  • Enters a deep coma due to a car accident by the A57 motorway.
  • Wakes up in 1973 Manchester, now a DI working for DCI Gene Hunt.
  • Investigates a series of murders with the same characteristics as the murders he investigated in 2006.
  • Prepares to commit suicide believing this will send him back to reality, until WPC Cartwright persuades him not to.
  • Investigates a series of armed robberies. (LOM Series 1: Episode 2)
  • Called to investigate a murder at the textile mill which will become his flat in 2006. (LOM Series 1: Episode 3)
  • Discovers that his colleagues are taking bribes from a local gangster and attempts to stop it. (LOM Series 1: Episode 4)
  • Meets the 1973 counterpart of his mother.
  • Investigates the murder of a Manchester United fan. (LOM Series 1: Episode 5)
  • Briefly sees his younger self and father, although they are unaware of Sam's presence.
  • Resolves a hostage situation while facing the threat of his life-support machine being turned off in 2006. (LOM Series 1: Episode 6)
  • Independently investigates the death of a drug dealer in police custody. (LOM Series 1: Episode 7)
  • Investigates the murder of a bookmaker's clerk. (LOM Series 1: Episode 8)
  • Meets his father Vic Tyler again after 33 years.
  • Alters timeline when he prevents the young Sam Tyler from seeing his father beat up the woman in red.
  • Discovers what happened to his father and the woman in red.
  • Meets Tony Crane while investigating a murder and attempts to bring him down while being tortured in his coma 33 years in the future by the same person. (LOM Series 2: Episode 1)
  • Investigates a series of armed robberies with a young DC Glen Fletcher, his mentor in 2006. (LOM Series 2: Episode 2)
  • Investigates a series of suspected IRA bombings in Manchester. (LOM Series 2: Episode 3)
  • Investigates the murder of a young woman. (LOM Series 2: Episode 4)
  • Investigates the abduction of a young woman and her daughter, but progresses into a deeper coma in 2006 due to a hospital overdose. (LOM Series 2: Episode 5)
  • Investigates the smuggling and dealing of heroin which is leading to violence. (LOM Series 2: Episode 6)
  • Attempts to help Gene Hunt after Gene is suspected of murdering a fight promoter. (LOM Series 2: Episode 7)
  • Investigates the murder of a man while trying to bring down Hunt under the orders of DCI Frank Morgan. (LOM Series 2: Episode 8)
  • While posing as train conductors, his team fail to prevent an armed train robbery.
  • Sam wakes up from his coma in April 2007 in Room 2612 in Hyde Ward of a Manchester hospital.
  • Commits suicide and wakes up in 1973 again to rescue the team.
  • Goes into "the pub" and disappears. (A2A Series 3: Episode 8)
Characters of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Sam tyler thumb.jpg  Gene hunt thumb.jpg  Cartwright thumb.jpg  Ray carling thumb.jpg  Skelton thumb.jpg   Alex drake thumb.jpg   Sharon granger thumb.jpg
Sam Tyler / Gene Hunt / Annie Cartwright / Ray Carling / Chris Skelton / Alex Drake / Sharon Granger