Life on Mars Wiki
LOM Episode 7.jpg
Wrongful Death
Air Date: 20 February 2006
Written by: Chris Chibnall
Director: S. J. Clarkson
Antagonists: Billy Kemble
Previous episode: The Deadline
Next episode: The Good Father

The seventh episode of the first series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on 20 February 2006. The episode, known erroneously as "Wrongful Death", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


Sam orders a full investigation when a drug dealer dies in police custody, but his colleagues seem reluctant to help. During the investigation, Sam thinks he may have found the way to get back to his own time.

Detailed Plot Summary[]

DI Sam Tyler, DCI Gene Hunt, and DS Ray Carling are staking out a technical college, trying to catch a drug dealer when DC Chris Skelton and WPC Annie Cartwright suddenly appear, chasing a suspect. Sam and Gene manage to catch him.

Back at the station, Sam argues that the suspect, Billy Kemble, is not a dealer, but could lead them to whoever is supplying the cocaine. After a brief and fruitless interrogation, Gene, against Sam’s objections, locks Billy up with a large, brutal prisoner (Albert Collins) to get him to talk. Gene leaves a surprised Ray in charge, telling him he expects the name of Billy’s supplier when he gets back after dinner with Sam.

Sam takes Gene to an Indian restaurant in Rusholme. Discussing the drugs case, Sam becomes distracted as he hears his future doctors' voices coming through a radio. He embarrasses Gene by talking to the radio and fiddling with all the buttons until Gene drags him out.

Returning to CID, Sam and Gene find it deserted. They find everyone standing around a cell as a doctor pronounces Billy dead. The doctor says the cause was a heart attack and that there were wounds on the body. Prisoner Collins says he slapped Billy around but that he was fine when officers moved him out of the cell.

The officers are nervous and quiet, but Gene tells them that one prisoner killed another and that they are not to worry. Sam tries to comfort an obviously upset Annie, telling her not to feel guilty, but is taken aback when she angrily reminds him that he let Billy be put in the cell with Collins.

Gene sends Sam to tell Billy’s sister Andrea about his death. She is shocked, but later when identifying the body, she seems strangely calm and refuses to question the circumstances of Billy’s demise.

In the men’s toilets at the station, Sam voices his feelings of guilt to Gene who insists they all stick together. As the two scuffle, Superintendent Rathbone enters, and calmly but firmly tells Gene that his report on the cell death must be pure as snow or his team will be disbanded. Conducting interviews with his officers, Gene gets them each to sign “embellished” versions of their statements, designed to make Billy Kemble look violent and irrational. Later, Gene is delighted when the coroner tells him Kemble had a heart attack brought on by too much cocaine. Billy’s sister is less thrilled, and tells Sam and Gene that her brother didn’t take drugs. Gene dismisses this, but it makes Sam wonder if they have the whole story. Sure enough, the coroner confirms that Billy would have had to take the cocaine while in custody for it to cause a heart attack.

While Gene sends CID out to look for Billy’s supplier, goading from Sam leads the Guv to assign him to investigate Billy’s death. Before he can start, Sam experiences more voices from the real world while in the gents’. Ray enters just in time to see Sam screaming and disoriented.

Sam gets nowhere questioning Annie, and just abuse from Ray. He tries to get the charge sheet from Phyllis which will show who entered the cells and when. When she stalls, he looks for it himself and finds not one, but two copies for the night Billy died. Phyllis admits that she made the new version to protect Annie.

Sam interviews Annie, but is interrupted by Gene who claims he is interfering with the hunt for Billy Kemble’s supplier, takes him off duty and bans him from the station. Later at the Railway Arms, Nelson advises Sam to continue his search for the truth. Sam takes this to mean that if he destroys Gene’s world, he can get back to his own.

Confronted by Sam, Chris reveals that he and Ray went to see Kemble while Phyllis was sleeping and Annie was getting “a cuppa”. He also mentions that he taped their interview with Kemble and the recording is hidden in Annie’s locker. Sam finds the tape, but is discovered by Ray. The two fight over it, but Sam gets the upper hand.

The tape is played while everyone listens. The recording reveals that Ray, against Chris’s protests, forced Billy to take some cocaine in an attempt to loosen his tongue. Ray protests that he was just trying to get a result, but everyone else admits their responsibility.

Sam is all for prosecuting Ray, but Gene points out that he catches more villains than anyone else. Sam thinks Gene is sweeping it all under the carpet again, but the Guv reveals he manipulated Sam into doing the investigation, being the only one he could trust. He leaves the final decision on Ray’s fate up to Sam.

Back at his flat, Sam receives confusing messages from his television that don’t help with his decision. He and Annie go for a walk and she asks him to throw the tape away. Sam finally decides to give it to Superintendent Rathbone, who, as Sam watches, destroys it. Gene is unresentful, even sympathetic. Sam is more confused than ever, but he and Annie hold hands and go back to work.


Cultural References[]

  • Ray explains to Sam why Gene is having the team investigate drug dealing instead of letting the drugs squad do it: “DI Robinson made a pass at the guv's wife last Bonfire Night.” In the UK, Bonfire Night, also known as Fireworks Night, is associated with the tradition of Guy Fawkes' Night, which commemorates the foiling of a plot to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in 1605. It’s held annually on 5 November, although its political and religious overtones have generally been lost and it is now simply a night of fun and fireworks. In Series 1: Episode 1 (Life on Mars), murder suspect Colin Raimes’s social worker says that, on the night of the murder (November 2), Collin “was at our drop-in centre. Some kids had thrown fireworks at him.”
  • Puzzled by Sam's use of the phrase "recreational" drug user, Ray says, "it's not Subbuteo." Subbuteo is a set of table top games simulating team sports such as association football, cricket, both codes of rugby, and hockey.
  • Interrogating Billy Kemble, Gene says if he names his supplier they can all be home in time for The High Chapparal. The High Chapparal was an ambitious American Western series which ran on the NBC network from 1967 to 1971 and became popular in the UK and around the world. It was first transmitted in colour in the UK on BBC2 between 1968 and 1973. In 1973, episodes were screened at 8.00pm on Monday nights. After this, it had regular repeat runs through the 70s up until the mid-80s on Sunday afternoons on BBC1.
  • Gene mentions Fiona Richmond, (1945–). Ms Richmond (born Julia Rosamund Harrison) was a soft porn model and actress who, along with Mary Millington (1945–1979), became one of the sex symbols of the UK soft porn industry in the 1970s. For about six years, she was the girlfriend of Paul Raymond (1925–2008), publisher of the soft-porn magazine Men Only, soon followed by Escort, Club International, Mayfair and many other titles.
  • Gene tells Sam that his idea of a "different" restaurant is Berni Inn. Founded in 1955, Berni Inn was the name of a chain of British restaurants established by brothers Frank and Aldo Berni. The menu was in fact typical British fare.
  • Thinking Sam wants a haircut, Andrea Kemble tells him, "You've no chance of a David Cassidy. It'll have to be a Paul Newman." David Cassidy (1950–2017) was the long-haired teen idol, recording artist, and star of popular American sitcom The Partridge Family (1970–1974). In 1973, his concert dates in the UK sold out routinely. Paul Leonard Newman (1925–2008) was a highly regarded American actor who, in 1973, had been acting in films for nearly 20 years. Mr Newman wore his hair considerably shorter than Mr Cassidy.
  • Gene says "I don't have the 'I-Spy' Book of Druggies", referencing the famous "I-Spy" series of UK spotter's guides for children created by Charles Warrell (1889–1995) in 1948. The books were named after the children's game "I spy with my little eye". The series contained such titles as, I-Spy Cars and I-Spy at the Zoo, and were published by various UK publishers up to 2002. A new version of the series was launched in 2010.
  • Referring to the conditions in the cells, Phyllis says, "All right, it’s not exactly Raffles here, but we treat them fair." Raffles Hotel is a colonial-style hotel in Singapore, and one of the world's most famous hotels. Opened in 1899, it was named after Singapore's founder Sir Stamford Raffles and is known for its luxurious accommodation and superb restaurants.
  • Phyllis says, "maybe if this station weren't run like Fred Karno’s Army, I wouldn't have had to cover." Frederick John Westcott (1866–1941), best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was a theatre impresario of the British music hall. Karno is credited with inventing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. Among the young comedians who worked for him were Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. These were part of what was known as "Fred Karno's Army", a phrase later applied to a chaotic group or organisation.
  • Sarcastically pretending to make small talk with Chris, Sam says, "Do you think Docherty's really gonna sell Denis Law?" Thomas Henderson Docherty (1928–), commonly known as "The Doc", is a Scottish former football player and manager. He played for several clubs in the 50s and was a club manager until the late 80s, including a stint with Manchester United from 1971–77. In the summer of 1973, Docherty gave player Denis Law a free transfer after 11 stellar years at the club. Denis Law (1940–) is a Scottish football player, who enjoyed a long and successful career as a striker from the 1950s to the 1970s. He is best known for the eleven years that he spent at Manchester United, where he scored 237 goals in 409 appearances and was nicknamed "The King" and "The Lawman" by supporters. Law is also United's second highest goal-scorer behind Bobby Charlton and is depicted in the “United Trinity” statue at Old Trafford along with Charlton and George Best. Denis Law is also mentioned in Series 1: Episode 5, and Sam spots him at Warren’s in Series 1: Episode 4.


  • "I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top" - The Hollies
  • "Toxic" - Britney Spears
  • "Welcome Home" - Peters and Lee
  • "Disco 2000" - Pulp
  • "Sinnerman" - Nina Simone

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)