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LOM Episode 13.jpg
The Kidnapping
Written by: Matthew Graham
Director: Andrew Gunn
Antagonists: Don Witham
Simon Lamb
Previous episode: Suburban Swingers
Next episode: A Deadly Drug

The fifth episode of the second series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on 20 March 2007. The episode, known erroneously as "The Kidnapping", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


The team investigates the abduction of a young woman and her daughter, who are being held prisoner by somebody who wishes the team to release a prisoner arrested on a murder charge a year ago. At the same time, Sam faces a life or death situation in 2006 when he thinks he has accidentally been given an overdose. As the deadline draws closer, Sam collapses into a deeper coma, leaving his colleagues to tackle the mystery on their own.


DI Sam Tyler lies ill in bed, suffering from apparent hallucinations that cause a surreal episode of cartoon Camberwick Green on his television—but featuring plasticine versions of himself and Gene Hunt as the main characters. He then receives a call from DC Chris Skelton at the police station asking if he can return to work to help investigate a couple of kidnappings. Sam looks up and sees Chris now appearing on his television as he participates in the conversation.

Still delusional, Sam runs to work and is bombarded with imagery that suggests he has suffered an apparent overdose in hospital back in the present day world. Arriving at the station, Sam witnesses a distraught man called Simon Lamb threatening to hang himself unless a convicted murderer named Graham Bathurst is released from prison.

Lamb, soon freed from his noose, has had his wife and daughter abducted with the kidnappers threatening to kill them by the afternoon if their demand is not undertaken. Bathurst had been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, a teenage girl called Charley Witham. Lamb is a P.E. teacher who coached an athletics team Charley was on.

Sam struggles at work, constantly sweating, but demands that Gene talk him through the previous investigations that led to Bathurst’s conviction. It becomes clear that Gene was very heavy-handed and desperate to find someone to blame for the murder. He coerced Bathurst into confessing by making threats about longer prison sentences unless he complies.

Chris then speaks to Sam about his own part of the investigation, including the initial discovery that Bathurst was seeing Charley. Chris recalls that when a group of girls from Charley's school were brought to the station for questioning, he was told about their relationship by Stella Lamb—the girl being held by the kidnappers. Sam thinks this is the reason why the Lamb family has been targeted.

The coppers pay a visit to Graham’s mother and find his cousin Mitch hiding away. Gene and Sam believe that he must be behind the kidnapping, but a brief interrogation reveals that his only crime is being Absent With Out Leave from the Navy.

At the police’s behest, Simon Lamb launches a radio appeal to the kidnappers, which prompts a distressed phone call from captive daughter Stella. In a bid to ensure the release of Bathurst, Lamb tries to confess to killing Charley but his hysteria is ignored.

WDC Annie Cartwright starts to believe that there were major flaws in the murder investigation and a lack of focus on the details. DS Ray Carling refutes this, explaining how the forensic evidence of an oily rag he found meant that they had caught the right man, as Bathurst worked on motorbikes.

Sam learns, via a phone call from the present day, that he will temporarily slip into a deeper state of coma due to new medication to fight the overdose. Moments later, the lights in the office fade to black suddenly. Sam awakens on a couch in a darkened room and sees his police colleagues on the television discussing the case. Gene is suggesting they search Lamb’s bins in case the kidnappers had sent him an earlier warning that he didn’t pick up. He also says that Sam is still out cold.

Sam keeps watching on the television, with the action flitting from Lamb’s house—where the male coppers are investigating—to Annie’s work back at the station. Chris finds a photo at the house where it appears that Stella has been removed from a photo with Simon Lamb and his wife.

Annie finds a letter of complaint from Charley’s mother about the police’s handling of the case and pays her a visit. It transpires that her husband Don wrote the letter, believing that there would be more impact if it came from the mother. She then says that Don felt the recent kidnappings were ‘natural justice’, which alerts Annie’s suspicions, as does the fact that he’s the "spot the ball" photographer for the "Manchester Town Cryer" newspaper, and as such is an expert in removing things from photographs.

Annie visits Don’s shed and finds the two kidnapped women. The photographer then turns up and tells her that it was Simon Lamb that killed his daughter. As the policewoman tries to escape, Don threatens her with a gardening implement. Gene and the others then turn up at the house in the nick of time and apprehend the culprit.

Sam wakes up to be comforted by Annie and he tells her how good he feels. After a hug, he asks her out to a Roxy Music concert. She teasingly says she’ll think about it…

Chatting with Gene, Sam suddenly realises that the oil from the rag was tung oil, a substance used by Simon Lamb on the night of Charley’s murder. Lamb himself told them that he "just wanted to stop the screaming", and he can't help turning to watch a schoolgirl in a short skirt as she cycles past him, despite the traumatic events of the past few hours. The coppers head over to pay him a visit…


Cultural references[]

  • The episode opens with a recreation of the BBC One children's programme Camberwick Green featuring stop-motion puppet versions of Sam, Gene, and an unnamed “nonce”. The programme ran for 13 episodes in 1966, and was one of the first British television series to be filmed in colour. As in the re-creation, each episode begins with a shot of a musical box which rotates while playing a tune. However the original narration is different: "Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?" The lid of the box then opens and the puppet character that is central to the particular episode emerges. The animation for this sequence was created at Hot Animation, designed and animated by Paul Couvela, and the narration was by Brian Little, the co-founder of Hot Animation. The original series was narrated by Brian Cant and produced by Gordon Murray.
  • Chris brings his View-Master to the station. A View-Master is a device for viewing seven 3-D images on a paper disk. Although it’s now considered a children's toy, it was originally marketed as a way for viewers to enjoy stereograms of picturesque scenes. Starting in the mid-60s, more child-oriented material was produced including cartoons, TV shows, and movies.
  • Chris tells Sam that his View-Master has pictures of “Bond girls: Ursula, Honor, … Jane Seymour.” Swiss actress Ursula Andress (1936–) appeared as Honey Ryder in Dr. No (1962), and as Vesper Lynd in the 1967 James Bond parody Casino Royale. British actress Honor Blackman (1925–) played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964) and was well known for appearing in The Avengers, mentioned by Gene later in the episode (see below). British actress Jane Seymour (1951–) appeared as Solitaire in the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die.
  • Gene says that the note was “stenciled over in carbon paper.” Carbon paper is paper coated on one side with a layer of dry ink used for making one or more copies simultaneous with the creation of an original document. The carbon paper is placed between the original and the second sheet to be copied onto, and the pressure from the pen or typewriter deposits the ink on the blank sheet. Although still used today, many of its uses have been taken over by computers, photocopying, and carbonless forms which do the same job by combining chemicals on paper without the need for the messy black carbon paper in between.
  • Sam says, "They say it's good to talk". This is a reference to a series of UK TV adverts for British Telecom in the 1990s featuring Bob Hoskins, in which the tag-line was, "It's Good To Talk".
  • Gene says, "I've come at this from more angles than Linda Lovelace!" Linda Susan Boreman (1949–2002), better known by her stage name Linda Lovelace, was an American pornographic actress who was famous for her performance in the enormously successful 1972 hardcore porn film, Deep Throat.
  • Gene says, "Oh, quick thinking, Van der Valk!" Van der Valk was a detective drama series based on the novels by Nicolas Freeling. The series was set in Amsterdam, and the hero was a Dutch policeman—although all the parts were played by Brits and the Ford Granada still featured strongly!
  • Gene tells Sam, “While you've been laid up with your Vicks Sinex, I've been leading a kidnap enquiry.” Vicks Sinex is a brand of topical nasal decongestant spray produced by Vicks, a division of Procter & Gamble. Extra ingredients include camphor, eucalyptol, and menthol, which give Sinex Nasal Spray products the characteristic aroma of Vicks products.
  • Phyllis sarcastically offers to release other criminals for Lamb: “Righty-ho, sir. Anyone else? Ronnie Kray? The Hillbury Road Axeman?” Ronald "Ronnie" Kray (1933–1995) and his twin brother Reginald "Reggie" Kray (1933–2000) were among the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in London's East End during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1969 they were both sentenced to life imprisonment. The Hillbury Road Axeman was not a real criminal.
  • When Derek Lamb demands to see a DCI, Gene comes down the stairs saying, "and as if by magic, the DCI appeared."  This is an expression made popular by a series of children's books and an animated television series  about "Mr. Benn", created by David McKee (1935–).  In each adventure, Mr. Benn visits a costume shop run by a man in a fez.  After putting on a costume, Mr. Benn leaves by a magic door and enters a world matching his costume.  The expression is used after Mr. Benn enters the shop:  "as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared".  The first book was published in 1967 and the BBC series originally ran in 1971 and 72.  The series has been repeated over 60 times.

Marc Bolan Keep Britain Tidy R.jpg

  • Near the phone booth where Derek Lamb’s wife and daughter made their phone call, there is a “Keep Britain Tidy” poster featuring Marc Bolan. “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. The same poster appears in Series 2: Episode 7, and another featuring Morecambe and Wise in Series 2: Episode 1.
  • Lamb describes young murder victim Charley as, “just a kid in my class, talking about mascara and … and Donny Osmond.” Donald Clark "Donny" Osmond (1957–) is a multi-talented American entertainer who became a wildly popular teen idol in the early 70s. He is well remembered for his number 1 hit, "Puppy Love." He was one of the biggest "Cover Boy" pop stars for Tiger Beat magazine in the early 1970s.
  • Don and Mavis Witham refer to their daughter Charley as their "perfect 10", meaning that they considered her to be absolutely perfect on a scale of 1–10, with 1 as the least perfect and 10 as the most perfect.  This is the system used in scoring gymnastics routines.
  • Sam and Annie consider going to see Roxy Music. Roxy Music are an English art rock group formed in November 1970 by Bryan Ferry (who became the group's lead vocalist and chief songwriter) and bassist Graham Simpson. They attained popular and critical success in the UK, Europe, and Australia during the 1970s and early 1980s, beginning with their debut album, Roxy Music (1972).
  • After Annie mildly complains about her workload, Sam indicates the other detectives and asks, “which one of them lot do you want to do this? Larry, Curly, or Moe?” “Larry, Curly, and Moe” were one incarnation of The Three Stooges, an American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to mid-20th century, best known for their numerous short-subject films. Their hallmark was physical farce and extreme slapstick.
  • More than once in the episode, Sam says, “God is in the detail.” The expression "God (is) in the detail(s)" expresses the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. While various famous people get the credit for saying this first, its originator is unknown.
  • Gene says, “well, this is nice. Shall I get us some Bakewell tarts? The Bakewell Tart—not to be confused with the Bakewell Pudding—consists of a short-crust pastry shell, spread with jam and covered with a sponge-like filling enriched with ground almonds (known as frangipane). They may also be covered with nuts such as almonds and peanuts. Alternative flavours, including blackcurrant, strawberry and apple are also produced.
  • In one of the flashback sequences, Ray says, "I reckon the Munich games will be one for the history books." Carling was not wrong—but not because of the games, rather because of what has come to be called the Munich Massacre. On 5 September 1972, a group of eight Palestinian guerrillas belonging to the Black September organization broke into the Olympic Village and took 11 Israeli athletes, coaches, and officials hostage. Two hostages who resisted were killed in the first moments of the break-in; the subsequent standoff in the Olympic Village lasted for almost 18 hours. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. All but three of the Palestinians were killed as well.
  • Questioning young Graham Bathurst, Gene describes Charley as a “girl in bunches”. “Bunches” refers to the practice of tying long hair into two clumps or “bunches” on either side of the head, sometimes called pig tails. In decades to come, bunches would become popular with older girls and women, but in 1972, Gene is emphasizing how young the murder victim was.
  • Gene reminds Graham Bathurst of his previous offences: "Theft and fencing—and I don't mean the sort that Steed does in The Avengers." The Avengers was a fantastical spy series whose hero, John Steed, was something of a dab hand at fencing—both with an épée and with his trusty umbrella. The programme initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants. Steed's most famous assistants were intelligent, stylish, and assertive women: Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman, mentioned earlier in the episode—see above), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), and later Tara King (Linda Thorson). Later episodes increasingly incorporated elements of science fiction and fantasy, parody, and British eccentricity. The Avengers ran from 1961 until 1969, screening as one hour episodes its entire run. ITV regional stations repeated the colour episodes of The Avengers up until 1972.
  • After getting an order from Sam, Chris says, “Wilco”. Wilco is a radio-telephone procedure-word meaning, “I understand and will comply.”
  • The young girls at the station, flirting with Chris, ask him—since he hasn't got a gun—what’s in his pocket. “What?” he says. “No, no, no, no, that's me Juicy Fruit.” Juicy Fruit is a brand of chewing gum made by the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. It was introduced in 1893, and is still popular today.
  • Graham’s mother Doris tells CID that Mitch Bathurst is on the HMS Steadfast, Plymouth. While there have been ships named the HMS Steadfast, (including a WWII minesweeper), there were none in 1973. Plymouth is a city on the coast of Devon, England, about 190 miles (310 km) south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound. It has a long history as a major port.
  • Gene dismisses Mitch’s complaints of torture. Ray sarcastically points out that it’s just “deep interrogation.” Viewers in 2006 might see this as a reference to the controversial use of “enhanced interrogation” policies of the U.S., however, it should be noted that on 5 March 1972, UK Prime Minister Edward Heath informed the House of Commons that the United Kingdom had renounced the use of the five techniques for “deep interrogation”:  hooding, wall-standing, subjection to noise, "relative" deprivation of food and drink, and sleep deprivation.
  • When sailor Mitch Bathurst says he won’t talk without a lawyer, Gene retorts, “what do you think this is, mutiny on the Bounty?" The mutiny on the Bounty was a mutiny that occurred aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789, and has been commemorated by several books, films, and popular songs, many of which take considerable liberties with the facts. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian against the commanding officer, William Bligh.
  • When Annie suggests that the aggressive tactics used in the previous investigation could have lead to mistakes, Gene grumbles, “are we about to get a recital from The Female Eunuch?" The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1939–) is a book first published in 1970 that became an international bestseller and an important text in the feminist movement.
  • Sam’s erratic behaviour is explained by having drunk Tizer at a club, and “DC Chester said he found half the tabs stuffed in the drinks bottles.” This presumably means “acid” (LSD) tabs. Tizer is a red-coloured soft drink sold in the United Kingdom. The name originally comes from the phrase 'Tizer the Appetizer'. It was launched in 1924 by Fred Pickup of Manchester when it was known as 'Pickup's Appetizer'. By 1973 it belonged to Scottish drinks company A.G. Barr plc.
  • When Gene notices that Stella has been removed from a photograph, his suspicion turns on Don Witham who is “the Spot-the-Ball photographer on the Town Cryer. He's an expert at removing things from photographs.” A Spot-the-Ball competition is a traditional newspaper promotion where the player has to guess the position of a ball which has been removed from a photograph of a ball sport, especially association football. The position of the ball must be deduced from the relative positions of the sportsmen shown in the photograph, the directions in which they are looking, etc.

Roxy Music Ad.jpg

  • Sam and Annie consider going to see Roxy Music at the Free Trade Hall. The Free Trade Hall on Peter Street in Manchester, was a public hall constructed in 1853–6 on St Peter's Fields. It became Manchester's premier concert hall, as it was in 1973 and beyond, until the construction of the Bridgewater Hall in 1996. By 2006, only the façade of the hall remained, the rest of the building having been demolished and replaced by hotel facilities.
  • The cloth that Charley was smothered with was covered in tung oil. Tung oil (a.k.a. Chinese wood oil) is a drying oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the tung tree (vernicia fordii). Tung oil dries on exposure to air, resulting in a coating that is transparent and plastic-like. It originated in southern China. The traditional way of applying pure tung oil to a wooden surface is to dilute it 1:1 with solvent, then apply a succession of thin films with a soft, non-fuzzy cloth, such as T-shirt cotton.


  • "You Shouldn't Do That" - Hawkwind
  • "Just Like You" - Roxy Music
  • "10538 Overture" - ELO


The Roxy Music concert referred to is to take place on Tuesday 22ND May. Unlike the date Sam mentions in Series 1: Episode 3 (16 March 1973), the day and date match the 1973 calendar. Sam’s invitation to Annie is to go out “this week”. Gene mentions that it is “a year on” since the original case, and Sam has Annie “sort all these 1972 reports from the Witham case.” Taken together, this places the date of this episode at the middle of May 1973.

Although only implied at the episode's conclusion, it can be assumed Lamb was successfully tried and convicted for the murder of Charley, with Graham being released from prison.

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)