Life on Mars Wiki
Tyler Crash.jpg
The Crash
Air Date: 9 January 2006
Written by: Matthew Graham
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Antagonists: Edward Kramer
Colin Raimes
Previous episode: N/A
Next episode: The New World

The first episode of the first series of the British time travel/police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was originally broadcast on 9 January 2006. The episode, known erroneously as "The Crash", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


After a road accident in 2006, DCI Sam Tyler awakens to find himself in 1973. Apparently a DI and assigned to work under rough-around-the-edges DCI Gene Hunt, Tyler follows a series of murders which have been committed with the same modus operandi in both 2006 and 1973. The clash of cultures between Tyler and others relates mainly to the lack of importance placed on forensic science in 1973. WPC Annie Cartwright stops Sam jumping off the top of a building after he convinces himself that suicide will take him back to 2006.


DCI Sam Tyler is investigating a series of murders in Manchester in 2006. After arresting and questioning a suspect (Colin Raimes), Tyler is forced to let him go when he has an alibi for one of the murders. Sam Tyler's girlfriend (confirmed at 25 mins in episode 1 when he is telling Annie about Maya) and colleague Maya Roy is reluctant to give up on Raimes and follows him, only to disappear, leaving only a bloody shirt behind.

Sam, driving back from the crime scene (the song 'Life On Mars' playing), stricken with grief, pulls over and steps out of his Cherokee Jeep to compose himself, and is hit by a speeding car. When he wakes up, he's now living in the Manchester of 1973. He is now a detective inspector transferred from 'C' Division in Hyde and his new boss, DCI Gene Hunt, is a living representation of everything the police force has tried to stop itself being in 2006. Gene is a sexist, pompous and arrogant man who uses his weight in the station to great effect. He takes the attitude of "shoot first, then ask questions." The rest of Sam's colleagues, including DC Chris Skelton and DS Ray Carling are of the same vein. They all think the new boy is a little strange because of his frequent outbursts and what appears to them as erratic behaviour.

Only one person reaches out to Sam, the young female police officer Annie Cartwright. She listens to his tale and, though unbelieving, she befriends him, hoping to rid him of his delusion.

Sam notices a connection between the murder case he is investigating in 1973 and the one he left behind in 2006. The case is of a young woman, Susie Tripper, garrotted with a shoelace, who went without food for 24 hours before being killed. Sam finds synthetic fibres under her fingernails (as in the case in 2006) and strangely she wasn't gagged. Annie, using her knowledge of psychology, deduces with Sam that the perpetrator wanted to see her ruby red lips, lips he was too afraid to kiss.

When another young woman, Dora Keens, goes missing, Sam believes he can find the serial killer. He gets fed up with Gene Hunt and 1973, but gets excited when he unexpectedly finds the same synthetic material (pipe lagging) in a record shop listening booth being used as sound-proofing. DC Skelton unearths from records a forgotten complaint from Beryl Raimes (Colin Raimes's grandmother) about a noisy neighbour. Re-questioning Mrs Raimes, they discover that the noise from his records stopped after her complaint. Putting two and two together, Sam and Gene race to the neighbour's address. Sam realises it is the house next door to where Colin Raimes lives in 2006. Inside they find a room lagged in the pipe material and Dora Keans tied to a chair with a record blaring at high volume. They arrest the long-haired neighbour when he returns to the room.

Back at the station, Gene and Sam discuss what will happen to the serial killer. Gene believes he will go down for life, but Sam knows that because of a psychiatrist report found at the house, he will be sent to an institution and be back on the streets in about 30 years. Sam struggles with his conscience, but finally follows Gene's advice and puts the report in the bin, which will mean the killer will receive a life sentence. Gene welcomes him to the team.

Later, Sam sees Annie's ex-boyfriend Neil again. He claims to be a doctor speaking directly to Sam's subconscious mind and tells Sam he is in a coma, leading him to believe that the whole thing is just a dream, a fantasy. Sam is ready to wake up and so stands atop the high roof of the police station, thinking that when he throws himself off he will wake up back in 2006. Annie stops him, telling him that Neil was playing a cruel joke and looking over the edge, Sam sees Neil below begging him not to jump. Sam is left none the wiser as to whether what's happening to him is real or just a delusion. Annie convinces him to stay — at least for the time being — in 1973.


Cultural references[]

  • The title of the show is a reference to the David Bowie song "Life on Mars?", which is also playing on an iPod when Sam is hit by the car. The song continues playing when he arrives in 1973, now on an eight-track tape player.
  • After finding Maya’s blood-stained shirt, Sam tells an officer to “call in SOCO.” A Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO) is an officer who gathers forensic evidence for the British police. SOCOs are usually civilians employed by the police forces. Evidence collected is passed to the detectives of the Criminal Investigation Department and to the forensic laboratories. The SOCOs do not investigate crimes or analyse evidence themselves.
  • The shot after Sam runs away from the policeman and sees a billboard announcing the construction of Manchester's "Highway in the Sky"—where he was when he was hit by the car—is a deliberate reference to the 1985 film, Back to the Future. In that film, after Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) has time-traveled back to 1955 he sees a billboard announcing the construction of the Lyons Estate, where he lives back in 1985. The Mancunian Way, or more properly the A57(M), was constructed in two stages in 1963 and 1967. The elevated highway section was officially opened in March 1967 and was refered to at the time in the Manchester Evening News as the "Highway in the Sky".
  • When Chris first meets Sam, he says, “Blimey. you look like you've gone ten rounds with Big Henry.” This is a reference to English heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper (later Sir Henry) (1934–2011) known for his powerful left hook, "Enry's 'Ammer", and his knock-down of a young Muhammad Ali. Cooper held the British, Commonwealth, and European heavyweight titles several times throughout his career, and unsuccessfully challenged Ali for the world heavyweight championship in 1966. His last fight was in 1971 and by 1973 he had parlayed his tremendous popularity into commentating, TV ads, and various public appearances.
  • Test Card F, featuring the image of then-eight-year-old Carole Hersee playing noughts and crosses ("tic-tac-toe") with her clown doll Bubbles, was first broadcast on 2 July 1967, the day after BBC2 started transmitting colour programmes. The card was developed by BBC Engineer George Hersee, Carole's father. It was frequently shown on both BBC1 and BBC2 when no programmes were being transmitted, up until 1998. It was usually accompanied by "test card music" or various tones. Because of long usage, Test Card F became one of the most well known images on UK TV. Today, when channels broadcast 24-hours-a-day, there is little need of test cards.
  • On the TV in the CID room, we see the end of "Watch Out! There's a thief about!", a public information film produced by the Central Office of Information in 1973. These public information films were regularly screened by ITV in the 70s.
  • Gene says to Sam, "Where are you today? Here, or planet of the Clangers?" The Clangers was a five-minute stop-frame animated children's series created and filmed by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin and first transmitted on BBC1 in 1969, and for many years after. It was set on a moon-like planet inhabited by knitted space mice who spoke in whistling noises. Also featured were The Soup Dragon and the Iron Chicken.
  • When Chris is going thru the contents of the victim's purse we see a copy of Game magazine. This was a UK soft-porn magazine published by Top Sellers and launched in 1974. The issue seen here is Volume 2 Number 9 and sold for 50 pence.
  • Chris says the motive for the murder "doesn't seem to be robbery," because, "there's 27p in her purse." To Sam, this is faulty logic because, "who's going to take 27p?" But the detectives all point out that they would. A simple purchasing power calculation would say that the relative value of 27 1973 pence is £2.26 in 2006. This is calculated by multiplying £0.27 by the percentage increase in the retail price index from 1973 to 2006. Other relative value calculations would place the amount even higher.
  • Chris tells Sam that the murder victim had a "couple of Green Shields" in her purse. Green Shield Stamps were a sales-promotion or incentive-loyalty scheme using trading stamps, designed to encourage or reward shopping by allowing customers to trade the stamps for gifts. The Green Shield Trading Stamp Company was founded in 1958 by entrepreneur Richard Tompkins, and the stamps were withdrawn in 1991. In mid-1973 (after the time of this episode) Green Shield Stamp catalogue shops were rebranded “Argos.”
  • Sam asks Annie if she is a doctor; she replies, “I'm about as qualified as Doctor Kildare". Dr. James Kildare is a fictional physician who was portrayed in films, radio and television from the 1930s to the 1970s. Annie would likely know the character from the 1960s American TV show starring Richard Chamberlain.
  • Annie tells Sam that she is part of the Women's Division. Before 1973, women police officers were part of a separate force known as the Women's Division, usually housed in separate buildings to their male colleagues. In 1973, women police officers were formally integrated into the police force with equal rights of training, duties, promotion, etc., for the first time. Separate establishments were also abolished.
  • When Sam turns on the television in his bed-sit, news reader Robert Dougall is reporting on Enoch Powell’s statements about the economy. Enoch Powell was a conservative British politician who served in the House of Commons for a total of 37 years. Powell was known as a great orator whose views were often controversial, especially on the subject of immigration. In 1973 he was MP for Wolverhampton Southwest. Although he held no government post at the time, his prominence was such that his comments still made the news.
  • Although not explicitly identified, the television lecturer who speaks to Sam is stereotypical of the Open University programmes shown in off-peak hours at the time. The Open University is a distance learning and research institution founded in 1969 and famous for its dry academic lecture programmes which ran on the BBC from 1971 to 2006.
  • When the television lecturer stops talking to him, Sam desperately tries to get him back, shouting, “Wait, don't leave me! I'm in Bupa!” Bupa is a British private healthcare company used by those who don’t wish to rely solely on the UK's publicly funded National Health Service. It originally stood for British United Provident Association.
  • Dora Keens dodges one of Sam’s questions by saying, “you know the answer. It's blowing in the wind.” "Blowin' in the Wind" is a song by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and released on his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963. The song virtually defined the folk music movement in the sixties and became an anthem for peace activists.
  • During questioning, Dora says she wants a lawyer, to which Gene replies, “I wanna hump Britt Ekland, what are we gonna do?” Britt-Marie Ekland (1942–) is a Swedish actress and a long-time resident of the United Kingdom. Though her film career started in 1960, in 1973 she was still a popular actress and sex symbol.
  • On his first visit to the Railway Arms, Sam unsuccessfully tries to order a Diet Coke. Diet Coke is a sugar-free soft drink produced and distributed by The Coca-Cola Company. However, it was not introduced until 1982.
  • Dismissing his new surroundings as a product of his own mind, Sam says, “see you, Gene. Give my regards to the id.” The id is one of the three parts of Sigmund Freud's (1856–1939) model of the psyche, the others being the ego and the super ego. The id is the unorganised part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the "pleasure principle" and is the unconscious seat of our desires. Harry Woolf mentions Freud in Series 2: Episode 2.
  • When Sam grabs Chris to send him the collator’s den, the young detective is reading a copy of Tiger comic. Tiger was a British comic magazine published by Fleetway from 1954 to 1985. The comic was launched under the name Tiger – The Sport and Adventure Picture Story Weekly, and featured predominantly sporting strips. Its most popular strip was “Roy of the Rovers”, a football-based strip following Roy Race and his team, Melchester Rovers. Tiger merged with other publications over the years, first with Hurricane, then Jag, then football magazine Scorcher in 1974, and finally with Speed, in 1980 before ceasing publication in 1985. The particular issue seen here is 26 February 1972.
  • Intending to break out of his unreal world, Sam tells Annie he’s going to “follow the yellow brick road.” This is one of many allusions to The Wizard of Oz in Life On Mars. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900. Although it has appeared in many versions, the best known are the original book and the 1939 film version starring Judy Garland. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy Gale who is transported to the magical Land of Oz, where, in order to find the wizard, she must follow the yellow brick road. Elton John released the album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" in October 1973.
  • At the Vinyl Heaven record shop, Sam tells Annie that, “I bought my first ... Gary Numan. ‘Cars’". Gary Numan (1958–) is an English singer, composer, and musician, most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars". He was a pioneer of commercial electronic music. "Cars” was released as a single from the album The Pleasure Principle (see "id", above).
  • Also at the Vinyl Heaven record shop, "Baba O'Riley" by The Who is playing. This track is a Pete Townsend tribute to Terry Riley, the American inventor of minimalism, and the keyboard line in the song references Riley's album A Rainbow in Curved Air. On the wall inside the record shop is the cover of this album.
  • Being questioned by Gene and Sam, Beryl asks if they have Garibaldis.
  • In the scene where Sam and Gene realize that Mrs. Raimes's neighbour is the killer, they take a slow-motion leap onto and over a desk, side-by-side. This is a play on a device frequently used in Starsky and Hutch, the seminal buddy-cop drama of the mid 1970s starring Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul. Frequently, Starsky and Hutch would be seen leaping over furniture, cars, or any other obstruction in a similar manner to get to the bad guys or the victim. Sam mentions Starsky and Hutch in Series 2: Episode 6.


  • The initial geographical setting of the series was to be London; this was then changed to Leeds, and finally to Manchester, as part of a BBC initiative to make more programmes in the city.
  • This episode's script was very closely adapted for the U.S. version's first episode, "Out Here in the Fields".
  • The shooting script of this episode is available in the "writersroom" section of the BBC website ([1]). It includes various scenes and passages of dialogue omitted from the final episode, including an opening scene with Sam and Maya in Sam's flat and a subplot about Gene collecting a "retirement fund" in a sock for DS Burt, who had challenged his authority. (If you watch the finished episode closely there is an early scene with Sam in the CID room where Ray can be seen in the background collecting money from his colleagues in a sock.)


  • When Chris is going thru the contents of the victim's purse we see a copy of Game magazine. This was a UK soft-porn magazine published by Top Sellers and launched in 1974, a year after the episode takes place. The issue seen here is Volume 2 Number 9, which would place it at late 1975 or early 1976.


Characters Creatures Events Locations
Organisations and titles Vehicles Weapons and technology Miscellanea


Dramatis personae

Other characters


Organisations and titles


  • Ford Cortina (First appearance)
  • Rover 75
  • Jeep (First appearance)

Weapons and technology

  • Telephone (First appearance)
  • Television (First appearance)
  • Mobile telephone (First appearance)
  • iPod (First appearance)
  • 8-track tape (First appearance)


  • 2006 (First appearance)
  • 1973 (First appearance)
  • Diet Coke (Mentioned)
  • Synthetic Fibres (First appearance)


Original broadcast[]

  • "Life on Mars?" - David Bowie
  • "Stairway to the Stars" - Blue Öyster Cult
  • "I'm So Free" - Lou Reed
  • "Baba O'Riley" - The Who
  • "Rat Bat Blue" - Deep Purple
  • "Fireball" - Deep Purple
  • "White Room" by Cream

International version/DVD release[]

  • "Life on Mars?" - David Bowie
  • "Feel Too Good" - The Move
  • "If There Is Something" - Roxy Music
  • "Baba O'Riley" - The Who
  • "Easy Livin" - Uriah Heep
  • "Look at Yourself" - Uriah Heep
  • "White Room" - Cream

External Links[]

Script at BBC Writers' Room

Episodes of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Life on Mars:
Series 1 (2006): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8
Series 2 (2007): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Ashes to Ashes:
Series 1 (2008): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Series 2 (2009): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Series 3 (2010): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Mini Episodes:
Fire Up the Quattro (2008)   Ashes to Ashes does Sport Relief (2010)