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LOM Episode 3.jpg
The Stabbing
Air Date: 23 January 2006
Written by: Matthew Graham
Director: John McKay
Antagonists: Ted Bannister
Derek Bannister
Derek Litton
Previous episode: The New World
Next episode: A Conflict of Interests

The third episode of the first series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on 23 January 2006. The episode, known erroneously as "The Stabbing", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


Sam is called to a murder at a textile mill, the future site of his bachelor flat in 2006. DCI Hunt suspects an outspoken union representative, but Sam tries to use his 21st century knowledge of forensic science to identify the true killer.


DI Sam Tyler and DCI Gene Hunt are called to a reported stabbing at Crester's Textiles. When they arrive, they find loom operator Jimmy Saunders lying in a pool of blood in the loom hall. Sam realises that the mill gets converted into flats in the future and that the body is lying in the space which will one day be his kitchen. Sam gets DC Skelton to draw the blood pattern. Works manager Arthur Coynes informs them that Saunders was working triple shifts in defiance of the union and had numerous enemies. It is pay day, but Gene shuts down the mill until the investigation is over, angering the workers. Deducing the killing was done by a man, Gene announces that the golden rule is that the first person to talk did it. Ted Bannister, the union organiser, is the first to speak, theorising that Saunders was killed for the pay roll. Gene has his man.

Gene bets Sam a tenner and a Watney's Party Seven that Bannister is guilty, but Sam is convinced that a forensics profile and a thorough investigative process is the only way to solve the case. DCI Litton of the Regional Crime Squad stops by to brag to Gene about a recent successful investigation reported in the local newspaper, and it's obvious there's no love lost between them. Meanwhile, DS Ray Carling pulls in local fence Ernie Dodds, as sawn-off shotguns were found in the boot of his car when he was stopped for running a red light. Whilst interviewing the workers it transpires that Ted threatened to kill Saunders at the pub the night before. Ted confirms that he hated Saunders as he was a scab, but denies killing him.

At the morgue, Saunders's body shows several slash wounds, one to the left shoulder, one to the chest, and two to the right arm, suggesting a long blade was used. Gene and DS Carling return to the mill to check the Sikh workers' lockers for such a weapon, while Chris and Sam check through the textile workers' statements.

Chris finds a statement by Lorry driver Martin Ellis who saw a stocky man running from the loom hall at 2.30 a.m. After getting a photofit image of the man from Ellis, which is useless, Chris gets amateur caricaturist PC Mallows to redo it.

Sam returns to the mill to check that Gene isn't planting a dagger in Bannister's locker. There they find blood stains not spotted earlier as Gene pulled the forensics team out too soon. Annie suggests using calico to lift an image off the floor. They find a size eight boot-print. Chris arrives with Mallows's drawing and it's a dead spit of Ted Bannister.

Ted is arrested, and Gene puts Sam in charge of the Dodds case, but Sam immediately sets up a taped interview with Bannister. Gene arrives with a blood covered shirt found under the floorboards in Bannister's shed, and he confesses to killing Saunders with a knife, but Sam is still not convinced.

DCI Litton tries to take over the Dodds case as stolen shotguns falls under Crime Squad duties, but Sam dupes him by telling him they were fake guns, and Litton backs off. Later, Dodds delivers the guns at the outside toilets of a cafe with Sam, Chris and Ray on hand to catch the blaggers, but they give them the slip.

Derek Bannister is brought to see his father at the station. Sam believes Ted is covering for his son and the meeting will bring the truth to light, but the time of death proves that neither Ted nor Derek could have done it as they were both still at the pub at the time. Sam examines the looms at Crester's and discovers that Saunders wasn't murdered, but died when the belt of the loom snapped and killed him. Ted discovered the body and covered up the accident by fitting a new belt, fearing that a fatal accident would close the mill for good.

Checking a taped interview with Tina Reed, Derek's girlfriend, reveals that she picked up the guns from the cafe and that that Derek intends to steal the wages from the mill. Gene, Sam, and the team go in "tooled up" and catch Derek and his accomplices in the act. Sam chases after Derek and a stand-off ensues. As the young man holds Sam and then Gene at shotgun point, Sam distracts him and Gene shoots him down. Derek and Ted have a reconciliation in the ambulance afterward, and Gene and Litton have a punch up back at the station, Gene knocking Litton out with help from Sam. Afterwards, Sam and Gene meet with Annie and the rest of CID in the Railway Arms to celebrate another case closed by opening the Party Seven.


Cultural references[]

  • As the teenager on a bike flashes past him on the pavement, Sam gives a callback to the pilot, threatening, as Gene did then, to "come 'round your 'ouse and stamp on your toys".
  • When Sam asks over the radio, “is that you Phyllis?” she answers, “no, it's Jane Fonda on the hunt for men.”Jane Fonda (born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda; 1937—) is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Cat Ballou and Barefoot in the Park. In 1968, Sci-fi spoof Barbarella made her a sex symbol. Although she had won an Oscar in 1971 for Klute, in 1973 her career had slowed down, mostly due to devoting more time to her political causes. In 2006, she had recently come out of retirement to star in the popular comedy, Monster-in-Law.
  • When CID arrive at Crester’s Mill, Gene regards the scene and quips, “Trouble at t'mill.” This is a humorous phrase sometimes used by British people to refer to a problem, especially at home or at work. It is said in the accent of the people of northern England, especially Yorkshire or Lancashire, where there used to be many mills (such as the one in this episode), and where the word ‘the’ is often not fully pronounced. The phrase suggests the idea that there were regular disputes between the workers in the mills and their owners, something that became a cliché in stories and films.
  • When Chris draws a very bad sketch of a crime scene, Ray tells him he should "send that into Vision On". [1] (1964–1976) was a British children's television programme designed to be accessible to deaf children. The presenters were Pat Keysell (1926–2006) and the artist Tony Hart who (1925–2009) made pictures in every imaginable medium and encouraged children to send in their own paintings to 'The Gallery'. After Ray's remark, Gene finishes the line: "they can't promise to return them, but they do give a prize for every one they show."
  • As they are about to meet with the mill workers, Gene says, “Let's go and make mincemeat of these Bolsheviks.” The Bolsheviks, (derived from the Russian word meaning, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Gene is equating the union workers with communists.
  • Spinning another bigoted theory, Gene says, “there's a lot of sheikhs in that mill. Well, they carry ceremonial daggers and all that, don't they?” and suggests Bannister could have stolen one from a locker. Gene is trying to refer to “Sikhs”, not “sheikhs”. Sikhs are followers of a religion that originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. It is a religious commandment that all baptised Sikhs must wear a curved sword called a Kirpan at all times. Sikhs carry the Kirpan as a symbol of their religious tradition and heritage. They would not leave it lying around in a locker like a spare jack-knife.
  • Watney's Party Seven cans were first introduced in 1968, for the princely sum of 15 shillings, and were available until the mid-1980s. British sitcom The Young Ones episode "Interesting" (1982), features one being toted by one of Vivian's friends during the party the episode is built around, and David Bowie's song, "The Jean Genie" is mentioned.
  • The police Photo-FIT kit was invented by Jaques Penry and first used in the UK by Scotland Yard officers in 1970. The Photo-FIT kit came in wooden boxes containing narrow strips with various facial features and an index listing the contents: eyes, noses, mouths, haircuts, chins, etc., roughly 40 in each category. There were transparencies for add-ons such as glasses, facial hair, or wrinkles, and a frame in which the individual parts could be assembled. The first Photo-FIT portrait of a UK suspect was released and broadcast on LWT's Police 5 programme on 22 October 1970, in connection with the murder of James Cameron in Islington, London. The image jogged the memory of a shop assistant and led to the arrest of John Earnest Bennett in Nottingham. In the years that followed however, police officers found that Photo-FIT portraits of suspects often looked nothing like the criminals that were eventually caught. In 1988, the Metropolitan Police introduced computer programmes for facial profiling, known as E-FITs, and the old Photo-FIT kits were consigned to history. The Photo-FIT Chris shows Sam in this episode looks nothing like a 1970s Photo-FIT portrait, and in fact looks computer-generated. (From 1961 on, the Met had been using Identikit, invented in the US by Hugh C. Macdonald for the US police force.)
  • Looking at the bizarre results of the Photo-FIT, Sam says, “we're looking for someone with hamster's cheeks, a nose like Audrey Hepburn and, uh, two foot of forehead.” Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993) was a Belgian-born, multilingual, British actress and humanitarian. Although modest about her acting ability, Hepburn remains one of the world's most famous actresses of all time, remembered as a film and fashion icon of the twentieth century.
  • Bragging about his instincts, Gene claims he will have the case “done and dusted by pub opening.” In 1973, the opening hours of public houses were still restricted to 12 noon–2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Being open for the full licensed hours was compulsory, and closing time was equally firmly enforced by the police. Well, some police, at least.
  • Gene angrily asks Sam, “is my name Koko?” because he says Sam is trying to make him look like a clown. Koko the Clown was an animated character created by American animation pioneer Max Fleischer. Koko's heyday was in the silent and early sound eras. The talking cartoons came to TV in the late 50s and a series of new colour cartoons appeared in the early 60s.
  • Swearing at the faulty tape recorder, Chris complains that the “one at home always chews up me girlfriend's Elton John.” Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 1947–) is a British rock singer, composer, pianist, and occasional actor. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his song-writing partner since 1967. At the time of this episode, John had completed six albums, the latest being, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. By 2006, John and Taupin had collaborated on nearly 30 albums. In his four-decade career John has sold more than 250 million records, making him one of the most successful artists of all time.
  • Gene says, "Say Goodnight, Gracie." This was the signature sign-off of husband and wife comedy team George Burns (1896–1996) and Gracie Allen (1895–1964) which originated on their US radio series and was continued on their TV series The Burns and Allen Show (CBS 1950–1958). The series was screened in the UK on BBC television during the 50s. The phrase became part of the popular vernacular and was used as the title of Rupert Holmes's 2002 play about the couple.
  • Gene twice refers to himself as "The Gene Genie". This is a play on the David Bowie song, "The Jean Genie", released in late 1972. It was the lead single for the album Aladdin Sane (1973) and peaked at #2 on the UK charts. The song is played in Warren’s club in Series 1: Episode 4.
  • Tina says, "I mean not thin like Twiggy." Twiggy was the professional name of Lesley Hornby (1949–), who became a 1960s pop icon and supermodel. She was famous for her androgynous look and extremely thin frame which has become the standard for catwalk models up to the present day. By 1973, Twiggy had retired from modeling and launched a career as an actor and singer. In Sam's time, she was still active and well known.
  • Hunt asks DCI Litton whether his fragrance is Blue Stratos, but Litton replies that it is Paco Rabanne. Blue Stratos is a men's cologne now produced by Parfums Bleu in the UK. The popular fragrance was launched in 1975 by Shulton Inc., the creators of Old Spice. Paco Rabanne is a men's cologne by perfumer Jean Martel launched in 1973. A classic, it includes notes of lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco. FIFI awards winner in 1975.
  • Chris shows his mastery of multitasking by arriving at Sam’s desk with “time of death, tea—one sugar, Bourbons.” The Bourbon biscuit (BOR-bon) is a sandwich biscuit consisting of two thin oblong dark chocolate biscuits with a chocolate fondant filling. The Bourbon was introduced in 1910 (originally under the name Creola) by Peek Freans of London, originator of the Garibaldi biscuit.
  • When Chris throws his hands up in mock terror while re-enacting the mill death, Sam quips, “without the Boris Karloffs.” William Henry Pratt (1887–1969), better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor. He is best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). In the US his best-known non-horror role is as the Grinch, as well as the narrator, in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss’s, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966), which is still broadcast regularly on US TV during the festive season. A cinema icon, he was well known in both 1973 and 2006.
  • When Sam presents his theory that a snapped belt caused the victim’s injuries, Ray says, “hang about, Sherlock. We've got an ID of Ted leaving the scene.” Sherlock Holmes is the world-famous fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930). The Holmes character first appeared in 1887, and was featured in four novels and 56 short stories over the next 40 years.
  • When the CID boys are gathered around the table examining the guns, Chris remarks, “Right. Dirty Harry.” Dirty Harry is a 1971 American crime-thriller produced and directed by Don Siegel (1912–1991) and starring Clint Eastwood (1930–) as San Francisco Police Department Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. The character is a tough cop who would do anything, including breaking the rules, to bring in a criminal. The film’s final scene, in which Callahan throws his badge into the water, is an homage to a similar scene from one of Gene’s favourite films, High Noon. Four Dirty Harry sequels were made: Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988). The series remained popular and would have been known to Sam in 2006.
  • When quizzed about his skill with a gun, Sam replies, “you should see my Playstation scores.” The PlayStation, (officially abbreviated PS) brand is a series of video game consoles created and developed by Sony Computer Entertainment and first introduced in 1994 in Japan. In 2006, the latest model was the Playstation 2.
  • When Litton interrupts CID’s celebration, Gene offers him a drink, but adds, “'fraid we haven't got any Babycham.” Babycham is the trade name of a light, sparkling alcoholic drink made from pears invented by Francis Edwin Showering (1912–1995), in Somerset, England and introduced in 1953; the name is now owned by Constellation Europe Limited. Offering Litton Babycham is Gene’s idea of an insult, since it was regarded as a women’s drink.
  • Gene interrupts Sam and Annie at the bar by saying, “Oi, Romeo.” Gene is referring to the character from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. “Romeo” has come to mean a lover or seducer of women.



  • The vehicle that Gene Hunt drives is a Ford Cortina Mk3. The registration plate, KJM 212K, shows that it was registered between August 1971 and July 1972. The vinyl roof and four headlights show that it was one of the top-of-the-range models and the GXL badge which is clearly shown in close-up confirms this. However, the vehicle has some strange anachronistic features. The dashboard is from the 2000E model, which replaced the GXL model late in 1973. Also shown in close-up is a badge composed of the letter "E" surrounded by a laurel wreath. This badge is also from the 2000E model. The car should not be carrying badges for both models, especially as the 2000E model was not released onto the market until six months after the time that the episode was set.
  • During the taped interview, Sam states that it is 'Wednesday 16th March'. In 1973, 16 March was a Friday, not a Wednesday. However, 16 March was a Wednesday in 2005, the year the episode was written.
  • DCI Litton enters Gene's office to brag about having his picture in the paper with the mayor. A close-up of the paper momentarily shows an ad for Royal Hall Cash and Carry which says, in part, "Full steam ahead tomorrow — Sunday, April 1st open 9 a.m.–9 p.m." Litton likely wasted little time before showing the paper to Gene, which would make the date Saturday, 31 March 1973. Unlike Sam's reference to the date, 31 March 1973 was indeed a Saturday; however, this tiny detail was likely not intended to be seen or to be an indicator of the episode's date.
  • Hunt asks DCI Litton whether his fragrance is Blue Stratos, but Litton replies that it is Paco Rabanne. Blue Stratos wasn't launched until 1976.


  • In the scene where the guns are placed in the portaloo, there is a reflection of a Super Space-Cab Daf Truck (in the portacabin's window), but it was not released until at least 2001, yet the show is set in 1973.


  • "The Ballroom Blitz" - Sweet
  • "Wishing Well" - Free
  • "Gypsy" - Uriah Heep
  • "Head in the Sky" - Atomic Rooster


  • Gene Hunt first refers to himself as "The Gene Genie" in this episode. This is a play on the David Bowie song, "The Jean Genie", released in late 1972 and heard in Series 1: Episode 4. Hunt refers to himself as the Gene Genie more frequently in the sequel series, Ashes to Ashes, and his character theme music on the later programme is an instrumental version of "The Jean Genie" (retitled "Gene Genie"), created by series composer Edmund Butt.
  • In Series 2: Episode 3, Chris Skelton is portrayed as naive and inexperienced with women, so much so that he has to ask advice from his colleagues on what to do on a date. However, in this episode, he casually mentions his girl friend's Elton John tape repeatedly being mangled by his tape player, which seems to indicate a stable, somewhat long, relationship.
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)