Life on Mars Wiki
LOM Episode 9.jpg
Air Date: 13 February 2007
Written by: Matthew Graham
Director: S. J. Clarkson
Antagonists: Tony Crane
Previous episode: The Good Father (Series 1)
Next episode: The Safe-Cracker

The first episode of the second series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on on 13 February 2007. The episode, known erroneously as "Helpless", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


Sam sees the chance to prevent a murder when he comes across the younger version of Tony Crane, a villain he will arrest in the future. He is also trying to save his own life in 2006, as the future Tony Crane exacts revenge on comatose Sam.

Detailed Plot Summary[]

DI Sam Tyler is lying in bed, seemingly asleep, but seeing visions of his present-day hospital room . A shadowy figure appears to tamper with his life support and tells Sam clearly, “I’m going to kill you”. Sam is jolted out of bed when DCI Gene Hunt literally breaks down his door to say they’ve got a case.

A man has been violently attacked on a bus. CID are under pressure since it’s the third vicious attack in two days. Sam and Gene fight their way through reporters to examine the body. Sam notices that the man’s gold rings were not taken.

Sam manages to inject some civility into Gene’s statement to the press when DC Chris Skelton announces the murder weapon has been found nearby: a hammer. Chief Superintendent Harry Woolf arrives, and, to Sam’s satisfaction, tells Gene that the investigation has to be done by the book.

Sam has a row of PCs do a fingertip search, much to the amusement of the officers. Sam is disappointed to hear that Gene intends to start dragging people in, connected to the crime or not. Sam and WPC Annie Cartwright scan the bus for clues. Sam is doubled over by a stab of pain, when Annie spots a casino chip under a seat.

Back at the station, Sam enters and is grabbed by a man Phyllis Dobbs is trying to sign into the “funny farm”. Sam is a little disturbed when the man claims the world isn’t what it seems to be. The man gets dragged off. Sam then interrupts Gene and Ray abusing small-time mugger Andy Eddows, telling Gene about the casino chip.

As the team report their findings so far, Gene commends Ray for figuring out what casino the victim went to, and tells him he is promoted back to detective sergeant (see Life on Mars, Series 1: Episode 7). Sam questions this move, but Gene says he needs a DS. Sam openly mocks Gene’s decision, and Gene angrily tells Sam to find a new DC for the team if he’s so clever.

CID go to check out the Wild Card Casino. Sam is shocked to find the owner is Tony Crane, a villain he will know in the future. Crane is cooperative, despite Sam’s aggressive questioning, and shows that the victim was not a member of the club and that the casino doesn’t use crown chips like the one found on the bus.

Gene seems satisfied and goes off to play blackjack, but Sam starts poking around. When he hears Crane whistling “Bring Me Sunshine” he realizes that it’s the future Crane who is torturing him in his hospital bed. Sam says this to Crane, who is baffled; then, as he’s overwhelmed with voices and visions, he stumbles out, followed by Annie. He tells Annie that he had a solid case against Crane in the future, but it must have fallen apart if Crane is free to torture him in his hospital bed.

That night Sam is woken by nightmares and visions of a woman, Eve, both as he saw her at the casino that day, and covered in blood in the future. In the future, Crane murders Eve to stop her testifying against him.

Sam stops Eve on the street and tries to convince her that Crane will eventually marry her and make her life miserable, but she dismisses him. Sam tells Annie about having the chance to stop a murderer before he kills, but she also has no time for Sam’s ravings.

At the Railway Arms, Chris gives Sam a list of candidates for DC, but his mind is on saving Eve from Tony Crane. Nelson advises Sam to rely on those around him.

Later, in the canteen, Sam studies the file on Tony Crane while a worried Annie tries to get Sam to eat something and relax. They share a tender moment and seem about to kiss when Sam is suddenly unable to breathe. It passes, but the future Tony Crane’s voice on the phone tells him that his luck is running out. Picking up his dropped file, Sam suddenly notices a picture of Crane and Eve, with Eve holding a crown chip.

Sam grabs Chris and Ray as they are trying out a new “stinger” (a spiked chain for stopping cars) and they go to Crane’s casino and arrest him. Gene is upset with Sam’s approach, due to the high visibility of the case. Under questioning, Crane admits he lied about the chips, but claims it was to give him time to uncover the source of counterfeit money going through his casino. Sam calls Crane a liar, but is struck by pain and leaves the room. All the lights go off and Sam hears Crane taunting him. Annie comes to help and Sam is momentarily blind. Annie thinks it’s a migraine from overwork.

Gene starts questioning a forger named McKee, but Sam thinks it’s a waste of time. He defies Gene and walks out. He finds Eve on a street and pleads with her to plant a stolen watch at the casino. Eve refuses and Tony interrupts them.

In Tony’s office, Sam, desperate and exhausted, starts talking about their future selves. Crane really thinks Sam has lost his mind. Sam claims he can put Crane behind bars for life and that Gene will go along with it. Crane calls in one of his thugs and orders him to get rid of the two coppers.

On a nearby rooftop, two thugs have Gene, Sam, and McKee, the forger. They quickly throw McKee over the edge and are about to do the same to the coppers when Sam asks for a last cigarette. After dropping the cigarette accidentally-on-purpose, Sam and Gene fight off their captors. They chase after Crane, but flashes of pain incapacitate Sam. Gene drags Sam to the middle of the street when Ray shows up in the Cortina. Sam and Gene get in and drive off.

As Gene narrows in on Crane’s car, Sam hears Crane’s voice in the future, telling him “this is it.” They head Crane off and trap his car. Gasping for air, Sam falls to his knees in the street. As Crane’s car speeds directly at Sam, he pulls out his badge and holds it up as though it will protect him. But the car skids and stops before hitting him. As they apprehend Crane, Sam notices Annie pulling the stinger (or 'stringer' as she calls it) back off the road.

Back at the station, Gene and Sam try to think of a way to link Crane to the murders. Annie interrupts to show them she has found one of the henchmen’s inhaler, found during the fingertip search. Unfortunately it’s not enough to put Crane away for long. They confront Crane but he confidently says the case will fall apart because Sam is insane and he tells them Sam is from the future. As they all look at Sam, he confirms the story. But he then says it’s Crane’s idea and that he should be examined by a psychiatrist. As Chris and Ray drag Crane off, a nearby television lets Sam know that a mental patient named Crane sneaked in and disconnected some of the life support machines.

With the case wrapped up, Sam introduces his new DC: Annie. There are a few laughs and cat-calls, and Ray tries to pinch her bum, but Annie slaps his backside in return.

As everyone celebrates, Sam picks up the phone and talks to a mysterious voice who says that when Sam finishes the job, the voice can bring him home. Sam writes down the number the call came from: Hyde 2612.


Cultural References[]

  • More than once in the episode, Tony Crane is heard whistling, "Bring Me Sunshine". "Bring Me Sunshine" is a song written in 1966 by Arthur Kent, with lyrics by Sylvia Dee and first performed by American artists in the late 1960s. In Britain, the song is synonymous with the legendary comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, after it was adopted as their signature tune in their second series for the BBC in 1969. At the end of the programme, they would sing the first verse:
Bring me Sunshine, in your smile,
Bring me Laughter, all the while,
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow.
  • Sam, woken by Gene breaking down his door, says, “I take it it's big.” Gene cups his hands as though holding something very large, and says, “as Shelley Winters's arse.” Shelley Winters (1920–2006) was an American actress and two-time Oscar winner who started her career as a blonde bombshell but became rather large later in life. In 1973 she was perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure.
  • Keep Britain Tidy.jpg
    Near the murder scene, there is a large “Keep Britain Tidy” poster featuring legendary comic duo Morecambe and Wise. “Keep Britain Tidy” is a British campaign conceived at a 1954 conference initiated by the British Women’s Institute. It became a company in 1984 and by 2006 was named ENCAMS. Over the years, the majority of their campaigning has been around the issue of litter, using the "Keep Britain Tidy" slogan from the beginning to Sam’s time and beyond. Another of these posters, but featuring Marc Bolan, appears in Series 2: Episode 5, and in Series 2: Episode 7.
  • Eric Morecambe (John Eric Bartholomew OBE, 1926–1984) and Ernie Wise (Ernest Wiseman OBE, 1925–1999), usually referred to as “Morecambe and Wise”, or “Eric and Ernie”, were a British comic double act, working in variety, radio, film, and most successfully, in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984. They have been described as "the most illustrious, and the best-loved, double-act that Britain has ever produced". Ernie Wise was an active and long-time participant in the "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign. He once posed for a publicity photo, grinning cheerfully while two boys in "Keep Britain Tidy" T-shirts stuffed him into a rubbish bin.
  • Sam has several PCs do a fingertip search, but, lacking proper surgical gloves, he has them use house-hold rubber gloves. The detectives find this pretty funny and sing, “Now hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face / With mild green... Fairy Liquid!” “Fairy” is a brand of washing-up liquid produced by Procter & Gamble in the UK. Fairy liquid is traditionally green, as mentioned in this well-known advertising jingle.
  • On the bus, Annie needs to pick up the casino chip without touching it. She pulls out some tweezers and says, “I saw this on Man in a Suitcase. Except Richard Bradford wasn't using a pair of eyebrow tweezers." Man in a Suitcase is a 1967 television series produced by ITC Entertainment. Richard Bradford (1934–2016) played the main character, McGill, a former American intelligence agent who was forced to resign, falsely accused of wrongdoing. Based in Britain, he traveled the world as a freelance detective and bounty hunter, constantly living out of a suitcase (hence the title). In 1973, many ITC film series were being repeated on the ITV regional stations including Man in a Suitcase, The Baron, Jason King, and B&W episodes of The Saint.
  • Discussing the motive for the murder, Chris thinks it might still be robbery, despite the man’s rings being left behind. “Maybe they couldn't get the rings off his fingers,” he says. Gene replies, “Or the bells off his toes.” This refers to the nursery rhyme, “Ride a Cock-Horse”:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

Perhaps more relevant in 1973 was Tony Orlando and Dawn’s hit, “Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?” which contains the line, “Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes”. It reached number 12 on the UK charts by September 1973.

  • Crane says to Sam, “Sorry mate, had too much Cinzano.” Cinzano is an Italian brand of vermouth. Starting about five years later, the brand would air a series of popular commercials in the UK starring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.
  • When offered a drink at Crane's club, Gene says, "a Double Diamond works wonders", which is part of the Inde Coope TV adverts for Double Diamond beer which were screened on UK TV between 1968 and the mid 1970s. The full jingle is, "Double Diamond works wonders, works wonders, works wonders. Double diamond works wonders, so drink one today."
  • Trying to figure out why Sam is so intent on getting Tony Crane, Gene says, “Tell me, was he boffing your mother up the Aris and eating all your cream horns while he was at it?” “Aris” is short for “Aristotle” which is rhyming slang for “bottle” which is short for “bottle and glass” which is rhyming slang for “arse”. A cream horn is a pastry in the shape of a horn and filled with cream and sometimes other goodies.
  • Seeing the exhausted Sam, Chris says, “You look like something out of The Addams Family. The Addams Family was an American sitcom based on a series of cartoons by Charles Addams (1915–1988). The characters were various types of pasty-faced ghouls. The series originally ran on American television from 1964–1966 and in the UK on ITV from 1965–1966.
  • Worried about Sam working too hard, Annie invites him for a night out: “Alvin Stardust, bop ‘til you drop.” Alvin Stardust (1942) is the stage name of Bernard Jewry, a British musician who had great success in the glam rock era. He first used the name in October of 1973 on the recording My Coo Ca Choo. This song was used in Life on Mars Series 2: Episode 8.
  • When Sam confronts Eve in the street, there is a poster on the nearby wall for a production of Peter Pan starring Lulu and Anthony Sharp. Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, OBE (1948–) is an internationally known Scottish singer, actress, and television personality who has been successful in the entertainment business from the 1960s to the present day. In 1972, she starred in the Christmas pantomime Peter Pan at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. The Manchester production saw her battle Anthony Sharp as Captain Hook. Anthony Sharp (1915–1984) was an English actor on television and film from the 1950s onwards. Sharp had recently filmed A Clockwork Orange and was familiar to television viewers for his aristocratic roles—colonels and vicars, and in this case, a villainous pirate. This show broke a 60-year-old box office record.
  • Another poster in the same scene advertises a concert of Brahms and Beethoven by Claudio Arrau. Claudio Arrau León (1903–1991) was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning from the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and Debussy. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.

    ZigZag 32, June 1973

  • ZigZag 33, July 1973

    Another poster in the same scene advertises ZigZag, a British rock music magazine. It was started in 1969 by Pete Frame (1942–) who wanted to focus on less popular “underground” acts. A unique feature was Frame’s innovative "rock family trees", showing interconnections between various bands and musicians. It was published until 1982. The issues shown here are issue 32 (vol. 3 no. 8, June 1973) featuring Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and issue 33 (vol. 3 no. 9, July 1973) featuring Boz Scags and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin on the cover.
  • Annie compares herself to Nancy Drew, who was a teenage amateur sleuth created in 1930 by publisher Edward Statemeyer. She featured in a slew of mystery novels ghost-written by various writers under the psuedonym Carolyn Keene. Four Nancy Drew films were made in the late 30s starring Bonita Granville. A TV series appeared in 1977 starring Pamela Sue Martin (which alternated with episodes of The Hardy Boys Mysteries) produced by ABC in the US. It was broadcast on BBC1 in the UK. Various modern incarnations of Nancy Drew have seen print since the original run ended in 1981, as well as one more (failed) US TV series, and a movie version in 2007.
  • Thinking that the stinger (a spiked chain for stopping cars) is Sam’s idea, Ray remarks, “You're a right little Caractacus Potts, aren't you, boss?” Caractacus Potts is the main character of the film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), loosely based on Ian Fleming’s classic children’s novel. Among other things, Potts invents the magical car of the title. Potts was played by American actor Dick Van Dyke (1925–).
  • In the room where Sam hears the characters on television talking to him, there is a newspaper in the waste basket. The headline is partially visible: “CRISP HAS … DEFY WEIGHTGRAND NATIONAL” Crisp was the race horse that came second in the 1973 Grand National behind Red Rum, after losing a commanding lead. It’s generally thought that Crisp might have won had he been carrying less weight. In fact, later that year, in a match race with equal weights, Crisp beat Red Rum. In Series 1: Episode 4, everyone at CID were placing bets on the upcoming Grand National.


  • The BBC's original intention for the second season was to broadcast the following week's episode on BBC Four at 10:00pm, immediately after an episode aired on BBC One, although this practice was quickly abandoned.
  • "The Simple Secret of the Note in Us All", the twelfth episode of the U.S. series, is a loose adaptation of this episode.

Viewing figures[]

This episode only attracted 5.7 million viewers, a real slump from the viewing figures of the previous series.


  • "Head In The Sky" - Atomic Rooster
  • "Street Life" - Roxy Music
  • "Break Through" - Atomic Rooster
  • "Son of my Father" - Chicory Tip
  • "Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon" - The Three Degrees
  • "Spooky" - Dusty Springfield
  • "Year of Decision" - Three Degrees
  • "Star Man" - David Bowie
  • "Bring Me Sunshine" - Morecambe and Wise (whistled by Tony Crane)

Trailers and Special Intro[]

BBC Trailers for this 2nd series capitalized on the time travel aspect of the series by using a 70s BBC announcer to voice the trailers and used a 1970s style BBC1 in Colour logo ending with the clever tagline "Life on Mars back in the nick of time", clever as 'Nick' is also slang for police station.

Also preceeding each episode a special intro also voiced by the 70s announcer featured a recreation of the 70s BBC1 world ident in widescreen (after brief snippets of Barry Took and Test Card F). The Announcer statement is "This is BBC1 in colour. And now, back in the nick of time, Life on Mars."

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)