Life on Mars Wiki
LOM Episode 4.jpg
A Conflict of Interests
Air Date: 30 January 2006
Written by: Ashley Pharoah
Director: John McKay
Antagonists: Stephen Warren
Joni Newton
Previous episode: The Stabbing
Next episode: The Footie

The fourth episode of the first series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on 30 January 2006. The episode, known erroneously as "A Conflict of Interests", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


Sam discovers that many of his colleagues are taking bribes from a local gangster, and is determined to put a stop to it, but DCI Hunt seems unwilling to help. Sam tracks down his mother, who has money troubles.

Detailed Plot Summary[]

DI Sam Tyler sleeps fitfully, dreaming of his mother and his boyhood home, then awakes with a start. Sam soon walks the street for real, looking for his parents’ house. He confronts a burly man roughing someone up. The man is unconcerned and tells Sam to run along. After a brief chase, Sam brings both of them into the station.

WPCs Phyllis Dobbs and Annie Cartwright are behind the desk and exchange looks when they see who Sam has brought in. The victim refuses to press charges and the man is still cocky. Sam insists on locking him up for resisting arrest.

Inside the station, DC Chris Skelton is having everyone pick the name of a Grand National horse out of a jar for the office pool. As Sam tries to swap his Proud Percy for Gene’s Red Rum, DS Ray Carling tells the Guv that “some prat” just arrested Charlie Edwards—the man Sam brought in.

Gene tells Sam that they have a deal with Edwards’s boss, Stephen Warren. Warren keeps the serious criminals off the streets and the cops don’t hassle his thugs. Against Sam’s protests, Edwards is set free, and Gene invites Sam out for a drink that night.

Sam and the Guv arrive at “The Warren”, a trendy club featuring rock music and dancing girls in cages. Other officers are there, including Ray, Chris, and Annie, all on the guest list courtesy of Charlie Edwards. Gene takes Sam up to the VIP lounge (telling Annie she’s not wanted) where they see celebrities including Bobby Charlton, Francis Lee, and Dennis Law. Sam is thrilled to see Marc Bolan and shakes his hand, advising him to be careful in Minis.

Inside Stephen Warren’s private office, Edwards dutifully trots out and apologizes to Sam. Warren passes out cigars, drinks, and girls, and tells Sam to enjoy himself. Downstairs, Sam dances with one of the girls (Joni Newton) and is joined later by Gene as “The Jean Genie” continues to play.

Sometime later, Gene takes Sam to an apartment to call on some hippies selling stolen goods. This sounds small-time to Sam, but he goes along. Gene smashes in the door of the flat and confronts the hippies, but gets jumped from behind. Sam punches the attacker and regains control of the situation.

Sam and Gene enter the Railway Arms with a television. Sam disavows responsibility for the gift, but explains that he can mount the TV on the wall so they can watch the sport. Nelson looks at him like, well, like he’s from Mars, and says, “Television? In a pub?” As they order drinks, Sam finds a roll of money in his jacket pocket—a thank-you from Warren, Gene explains.

After closing the pub, Sam is in his bed-sit with the TV on. A children’s programme is playing, and Sam looks up sharply when “Mister Sockly” the sock puppet starts to speak in his mother’s voice.

The next morning, Sam, as in his earlier dream, walks the streets looking for his boyhood house. He spots his cat, Ivanhoe, ducking into number 23. Sam rings the bell and Ruth Tyler answers. Sam introduces himself as DI Sam Bolan, and his mother invites him in. Sam asks about little Sammy, but he's upstairs with the mumps. Their pleasant conversation is interrupted by the Tylers’ landlord barging in, but Sam bodily removes him. His mother starts to cry about their money troubles, and Sam tries to give her some of Warren’s money, which she refuses. He tells her to put all her housekeeping money on Red Rum in the Grand National, which sounds lunatic to her, and she asks him to leave.

Sam enters Warren’s office and slams his money on the desk. He angrily tells Warren that he is going to make life difficult for him. Warren calmly tells him that others have tried to bring him down and failed.

In the canteen, Annie worries about Sam again when he says he met his mother. Sam asks about Warren, but Annie coyly grabs a paper and suggests a night at the flicks: Mean Streets or Carry on Girls. They are interrupted by Phyllis who tells Sam that Joni Newton is in the cells asking for him.

Joni tearfully tells Sam that she wants to leave Warren’s but that he will kill her rather than let her go. She talks Sam into letting her stay with him for the night, after which she’s leaving town with a friend. Spotting the two sneaking out of the station, Ray makes a few crass remarks.

Back at the bed-sit, Sam cooks dinner and learns about Joni’s life at Warren’s: virtual slavery marked by threats of violence. They turn in, and Sam declines an invitation to join Joni in bed.

Sam closes his eyes. Visions start. The sky above the houses, the woods, his mum's echoing voice calling his name, Ivanhoe, the woods, his mum on the doorstep, and so on with increasing intensity. In among the flashes we see Joni, naked, on top of Sam, who is handcuffed to the bed.

Sam is woken by Gene pounding on the door. Sam tries to rise but is held by the cuffs. Gene breaks the door in and Sam endures the humiliation of being found naked handcuffed to the bed, and more embarrassment when Annie comes in, much to the amusement of Gene.

Back at the station, Sam tries to restore himself with some Lucozade while the others crack jokes. Gene tells him he’s taken LSD. Sam gets angry when Gene and the others laugh at Joni’s report that Warren threatened to rape her. Gene drags him into the Lost and Found for a private word and tells him that Joni was lying because Warren is homosexual. He also tells him that there are likely pictures of him and Joni from last night, to be used against him if he tries to cause trouble again.

Sam cautiously approaches Annie in the canteen. He apologizes and offers to take her to the cinema, but she refuses. She says she is going to be a friend to him because he’s making so many enemies.

Sam goes to Warren's and confronts Joni, who appears unrepentant. Sam tells her she is a loser for living her life in fear. Leaving the club, Sam overhears Gene and Warren arguing. Gene is angry about what Warren did to Sam, but Warren angrily tells him he is just a bent cop.

Sam approaches his mother sweeping the pavement and apologizes for offering the money. As he turns to leave, Ruth tells “Inspector Bolan” that he’s welcome to drop in the next day as a treat for little Sammy.

In the pub, the coppers watch the Grand National while Sam reads the paper at the bar. Nelson tells Sam that someone is out back looking for him. It turns out to be Joni Newton, who tells Sam that his speech got to her and that she is leaving town with her mother. She explains how Warren stole her dad’s business and forced her to work for him. Setting up Sam was to be her last job, but she realized that Warren will never let her go. As a thank-you, she burns the photo negatives. Sam returns to the pub as Red Rum crosses the finish line.

Sam is woken up at his bed-sit by Gene, who tells him to get his coat. At the canal, Sam views Joni’s body, her throat slit. When Ray says the girl’s death is Sam’s fault, Sam attacks him and has to be pulled off.

Later, Sam and Gene are alone, outside, talking and drinking from a bottle. Gene reveals that as a young, keen PC he reported a respected veteran officer for taking bribes. The officer hung himself, and less than a month later Gene took his first “back-hander”. Sam and Gene decide it's time for things to change.

Inside an abattoir, Sam and Gene strip Charlie Edwards down to his underpants and lock him in the freezer to loosen his tongue. As Charlie bangs on the door in panic, Gene wonders how Sam knew Red Rum was going to win, but Sam says it was just a hunch. When Edwards cracks, he says Warren killed Joni Newton himself.

Gene and Sam enter Warren’s club as The Sweet’s "Blockbuster" plays. Gene confesses he doesn’t much like the music, that he and the wife prefer Roger Whittaker, but asks Sam not to spread it around.

The coppers burst in to Warren’s private office to find him with a young man doing something very private indeed. They arrest him, with Sam reciting the caution wrong as usual. Gene graciously offers to take Warren out the back to avoid embarrassment and then boldly walks him out the front for all to see.

Sam turns up at his mother’s house, but finds it empty of all but a few scraps. In what is presumably his own room, there is a boys' paper (The Hotspur) lying on the bed. Sam picks up a photo of himself, aged four, wearing a police helmet that covers his entire face.

As Sam falls asleep that night, Roger Whittaker sings on the television. He soon fades and the sock puppet appears speaking in Ruth Tyler’s voice, assuring Sam he’ll wake up and she will be there.


Cultural references[]

  • Gene loudly complains, “Can somebody put some bog roll in the loo? I've just had to wipe my arse on Francis Lee!” Francis Lee (1944–) was a professional footballer who played in the 1960s and 1970s. Short and stocky, his power and speed made him one of Britain’s leading forwards for a decade. In 1973 he played for Manchester City. He scored over 200 goals in his career and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Lee also at one time owned a successful toilet roll manufacturing company.
  • Sam tries to get Gene to trade him his Proud Percy in the Grand National for Red Rum. This is a reference to Red Rum's victory in 1973.
  • When Gene asks Sam why he wants to have Red Rum in the office pool, Sam wiggles his finger and says in a croaking voice, " 'Redrum, redrum.' " Sam is imitating Danny Torrance's line from the 1980 film version of Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining: reversed, it spells 'murder'.
  • Entering the VIP lounge at Warren’s, Sam and Gene spot footballers Bobby Charlton, Francis Lee (see above), and Denis Law. Charlton and Law played for Manchester United while Lee played for Manchester City. All three are considered greats and, although their football careers ended long before 2006, their fame was such that Sam would certainly have known and recognized them. Law and Charlton are featured in the “United Trinity” statue outside Old Trafford, along with George Best. In 1973 they were some of the biggest sports heroes in the UK, but within a few years, none would be playing for a Manchester team.
  • Sam says to Marc Bolan, "Look, drive carefully, OK, especially in Minis." Marc Bolan (1947–1977) was the lead singer and songwriter for the 1970s glam rock band, T. Rex. He was killed just before his 30th birthday on September 16, 1977, when his girlfriend Gloria lost control of her purple Mini and collided with a tree on their way home. Ironically, Bolan never learned to drive, as he always feared he would die in a car accident.
  • 1973 Decca CS2230

    The television Sam and Gene bring back to the pub is a 1973 Decca CS2230 from Decca Radio & Television Ltd of London.  These sets were very popular and reliable.  They used the Decca "30" chassis, which was a development of the older "Bradford" hybrid chassis.  Sets that used this basic chassis came in 17, 19, 20, 22 and 26-inch sizes.  Decca Radio and Television Ltd was established in 1938 as a subsidiary to take over the business of radio manufacturers and dealers of Decca Gramophone Co.  In 1981 it was sold by Racal to Taiwanese firm Tatung.
  • Nelson tells Sam that what he’s done is “hardly Watergate”. The Watergate scandal, often called the scandal that brought down a president, was a series of revelations of unethical and illegal activity by top aides to President Richard Nixon. It started with the arrest of five men attempting to bug the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC in June 1972. Although Nixon would not resign until summer 1974, by the time of the episode (early 1973) some of the president’s closest advisors were indicted, convicted, resigned, or fired.
  • Annie suggests seeing either Mean Streets or Carry On Girls. Carry On Girls is the 25th Carry On film, released in Britain in 1973. These were a long-running series of low-budget British comedy films, directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers. They mixed parody, farce, slapstick, and naughty double entendres. Mean Streets is a highly regarded 1973 film directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Harvey Keitel (who would later play Gene Hunt in the American version of Life on Mars) and Robert De Niro. Significantly, the film centres on a morally conflicted mobster.
  • Joni gets arrested for putting a brick through a Woolworth's front window. The F. W. Woolworth Company was a retail company that was one of the original American five-and-dime stores. It became one of the largest retail chains in the world but began to decline in the 1980s It went out of business in 1997 and renamed itself Venator Group. At the time Life on Mars was made, stores using the Woolworth’s name still existed in the UK, but all 807 Woolworth Group plc stores were closed down in 2009.
  • Joni says, "This is delicious—Galloping Gourmet." The Galloping Gourmet was one of the first popular cooking shows, running from 1969–1971 with re-runs into the mid-1970s. The show was made in Ottawa, Canada and featured Graham Kerr (1934–) as the wine-swilling presenter who specialised in high-fat, high-cream, deliciously rich recipes. In Sam's time, Kerr was largely retired, but by then was far better known as an advocate of low-fat, healthy eating.
  • Trying to recover from his night with Joni, Sam pours himself some Lucozade.
  • As Sam recovers from his night with Joni Newton, Gene pointedly asks, “Was Lucy there? Did she have her diamond with her?” Gene is referring to the widely held belief that the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is an obscure reference to LSD. Although John Lennon used LSD, he always stated that the song was inspired by a drawing by his son, Julian.
  • Gene tells Sam that Joni likely took pictures of the two of them while Sam was drugged, and if he doesn't do what Warren says the Chief Constable will get copies in the mail. "…and he gets a Christmas card from Mary Whitehouse!" Mary Whitehouse was a deeply conservative British moral campaigner for moral decency in the press and broadcast media. She founded the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, now known as mediawatch-uk, who oppose the broadcast of any pornographic, blasphemous, or violent content.
  • Sam's younger self has mumps during the episode. Mumps is a contagious disease causing painful swelling of the salivary glands. Before the introduction of a vaccine, it was a common childhood disease worldwide. Immunisation against mumps in the UK became routine in 1988.
  • Sam reassures Nelson that the television brackets will hold, saying that he “worked in a DIY store in my gap year.” Nelson isn’t familiar with the expression, which refers to a period of time (usually an academic year) taken by a student as a break from formal education, typically between leaving school and starting a university or college course, and often spent travelling or working. While this practice predates 1973, it became much more common later, and the Oxford English Dictionary gives 1985 as the earliest citation for the expression.
    Hotspur 1970-06-25 S1E4 3857603-0562 R.jpg
  • In Sam’s old room, a copy of The Hotspur lies on the bed.  The Hotspur was a boys’ story paper launched in 1933 and was one of publisher DC Thomson's "Big Five" publications aimed at young boys. In 1959, it revamped itself as The New Hotspur with more emphasis on picture stories, and with the numbering starting again at 1.  The word "new" in the title was dropped with issue #174. As the market for “boy’s own” comics declined, The Hotspur merged with The Hornet in 1976, and with The Crunch in 1980. In 1981 The Hotspur finally merged with The Victor under the latter's name.  The particular issue seen here is June 25, 1970. In Series 1: Episode 8, two issues of The Hotspur are lying on the coffee table in the Tylers’ sitting room.
  • Gene confesses to Sam that he and the wife like Roger Whittaker, and the episode ends with Whittaker singing, “I Don’t Believe in If Anymore” on the television. Roger Whittaker (1936–) is an Anglo-Kenyan singer-songwriter and musician with worldwide record sales of over 55 million. His music is usually categorized as “easy listening”. He is best known for his baritone singing voice and trademark whistling ability. “I Don’t Believe in If Anymore” reached #8 on the UK charts in 1970, and #2 in 1975. Mr. Whittaker was still recording and performing in 2006 and Sam would certainly have known of him.



Original broadcast[]

  • "Brainstorm" - Hawkwind
  • "The Jean Genie" - David Bowie
  • "Cross-Eyed Mary" - Jethro Tull
  • "Wild Horses" - The Rolling Stones
  • "Silver Machine" - Hawkwind
  • "Gudbuy t'Jane" - Slade
  • "Block Buster!" - Sweet
  • "I Don't Believe in If Anymore" - Roger Whittaker

International version/DVD release[]

  • "Brainstorm" - Hawkwind
  • "The Jean Genie" - David Bowie
  • "Cross-Eyed Mary" - Jethro Tull
  • "I Can't Change It" - Frankie Miller
  • "Silver Machine" - Hawkwind
  • "Gudbuy t'Jane" - Slade
  • "Block Buster!" - Sweet
  • "I Don't Believe in If Anymore" - Roger Whittaker

External Links[]

Episode script at Monastic Productions website

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)