Life on Mars Wiki
Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Series 3: Episode 2 (Ashes to Ashes)
Air Date 9 April 2010
Written by Ashley Paroah
Director David Dury
Additional Information
Antagonists Collin Danson
Episode guide
Previous Story
Series 3: Episode 1
Following Story
Series 3: Episode 3

User reviews

The second episode of the third series of the British science fiction police procedural drama series Ashes to Ashes was broadcast by BBC One on 9th April 2010.


A severed hand arrives in CID's post and the team find a connection between the hand and the death of six women who were brutally murdered and dumped in a shallow grave. When Gene and Alex discover that all the women were clients of a dating agency run by Elaine Downing (played by Glenister's real-life wife Beth Goddard), Alex goes undercover to try and trap the killer. Meanwhile DI Drake continues to delve into the murky mystery of what really happened to Sam Tyler, believing the truth may be her way home.

Opening titles narration[]

"My name is Alex Drake, I was shot and found myself in 1983. Is it real or in my mind? Either way I have to solve the mystery of what all this means and fight to get home, because time is running out."

Cultural references[]

  • The episode opens with a remake of the music video for Billy Joel's 1983 song "Uptown Girl" performed by the cast. (Like the original video it is set in a garage). It first shows Ray and Chris working underneath a car and Sergent Viv James dressed in a chauffeur suit inside the Audi Quattro. Gene is shown playing the part of Billy Joel by acting out his performance in the original music video, as well as lip-syncing the words (he is also shown wearing the same green colour shirt that Billy Joel wore). Gene brushes his hair, straightens his shirt collar, fastens the buttons, tucks in his shirt and picks up a magazine from the locker before walking over to join Ray and Chris. Alex is shown sat in the front passenger seat of the Audi dressed in the same outfit as the original actress (black and white dress with earings and a hat). The scene ends with Gene sitting on the bonnet of the Audi alongside Ray and Chris before the three turn away from the camera. The scene then cuts away to Alex's flat with the character waking up from her dream.
  • Gene, referring to the music coming from the builders' radio says, "This is CID, not the Radio One bloody Roadshow." The Radio One Roadshow (1973–2000) was an annual summer event which began in July and ran for eight weeks and was broadcast live on Radio One from 10.00am to 12.00pm (Mon–Fri). Various Radio One DJs would visit UK seaside towns to play a set, meet the locals, and play their record requests. There were competitions such as "Bits and Pieces" and "Smiley Miley's Mileage Game", and give away "goodie" bags of Radio One memorabilia. Accompanying the DJs were the support crew headed by Tony Miles, known on air as "Smiley Miley".
  • Gene, again referring to the builders, says, "If I'd known Driller Killer was comin' in this morning …" referencing the 1979 low budget US slasher/horror film Driller Killer, starring and directed by Abel Ferrara about a demented New York artist with a portable battery pack and a hand drill. During the UK's 1980s video rental explosion, in which VHS and some Betamax home videotapes which were not given censor certificates by the BBFC appeared in rental stores, Driller Killer became one of those categorized as "video nasties" and was banned along with The Evil Dead, I Spit on Your Grave, and other titles.
  • At Alex's flat, Shaz appears on her TV on Mastermind with Gene asking the questions. Mastermind was a BBC TV quiz show devised by Bill Wright and presented by Magnus Magnusson, famous for his catchphrase, "I've started so I'll finish". Four contestants faced two rounds of questions each, one on their chosen specialised subject and one on general knowledge, whilst sitting in the "black chair". The theme tune was "Approaching Menace" by Neil Richardson. The original series, which ran from 1973–1997, was noted for the variety of venues the programme was recorded at, often including academic and ecclesiastical buildings. Later remakes of the show were usually confined to the TV studio and thus looked much cheaper than the original episodes.
  • Kate Winslet is used as a pseudonym by Alex.
  • Instead of the latest Star Wars film featuring "Obi Ben Kanobi" (Return of the Jedi, 1983) Ray takes Chris to see The Hunger, a UK horror film released in April 1983, directed by Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott), written by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas, and based on the Whitley Strieber novel. It's the story of a love triangle between Dr Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) who specialises in sleep and aging research, and counter culture vampire couple John (David Bowie) and Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve).
  • Gene says his favourite band is "Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass". Herb Alpert, who, with Jerry Moss, formed the A&M record label in 1962, was an American musician and record producer. "Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass", an instrumental group, appeared from 1962–1969, came back in 1971, 1974-1975 and finally reformed one last time in 1984.
  • The Wogan Show is mentioned by Gene. Wogan was a BBC chat show hosted by D.J. and TV presenter Terry Wogan, on BBC1 from 1981–1992.
  • Gene's speed date, Rhonda, says she's after a man who's "hung like something off the beach at Weston-Super-Mare." This references the UK phrase, "hung like a donkey", referring to the size of a man's penis. Donkey rides were a traditional feature of seaside resorts in England (such as Weston-Super-Mare) and Wales. Originally, the donkeys used for beach rides for kids were working draught animals used in the cockle-picking industries around the UK coastline. The tradition started in the Victorian era but is less prevalent today.
  • Jim tells Alex his favourite music is by (Gustav) Mahler (7 July 1860–18 May 1911) the Austrian composer of classical music, and Elvis Costello, the UK singer/songwriter who became well known in 1977 during the punk/new wave period with his band The Attractions. He had several chart hits including "Watching the Detectives", "Radio Radio", "(I Don't want to go to) Chelsea" (1977/1978) and "Oliver's Army", "Accidents Will Happen", and "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" (an up-tempo cover of the Sam and Dave song) (1980). After this period he moved away from the straight-forward punk sound to produce more diverse musical combinations, and in 1983 he released the album Punch the Clock featuring female backing vocals by the duo Afrodiziak and a four-piece horn section, The TKO Horns, alongside the Attractions. Co-producer Clive Langer provided Costello with the melody that eventually became the album track "Shipbuilding" which features a trumpet solo by Chet Baker, prior to the release of his own version as a single. A cover version became a minor hit for former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt.
  • Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela are mentioned.
  • When talking about serial killers, Jim mentions Ted Bundy and Alex mentions Jeffrey Dahmer, before realising that no-one else except for her and possibly Jim will have heard of him. Ted Bundy was an American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile, who confessed to 30 homicides committed in seven US states between 1974 and 1978. He died in the electric chair in January 1989 at Railford prison in Starke, Florida. Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer, who murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. His murders involved rape, nechrophilia, and cannibalism. He was beaten to death by a fellow inmate at the Colombia Correctional Institute in November 1992.
  • Gene says his favourite film is High Noon (1952) which was an unconventional American western directed by Fred Zinnemann and written by Carl Foreman. It is a story, told in real time, of Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and his Quaker wife Amy (Grace Kelly) who are tracked down by Frank Miller (Ian McDonald) and his gang. Miller is seeking revenge against Kane. Although Kane seeks the help of the locals, he and Amy are forced to face the gang of killers alone at High Noon. It contains emotional and moralistic dialogue throughout most of the film with only a few action scenes towards the end. It is also known for the song, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" sung by Tex Ritter, which punctuates the movie. Gene had a High Noon poster in his office at Manchester CID and Series 2: Episode 3 of Life on Mars features an antogonist named Frank Miller.
  • Alex says her favourite film is Thelma and Louise (1991) which was co-produced and directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri, about two women who become fugitives after they shoot a man for attempting to rape one of them. They blaze a trail from Oklahoma to the Grand Canyon followed by Detective Harry Slocumb (Harvey Keitel), before taking the ultimate leap of faith.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine, "speed dating", and "Grab-a-Granny nights" are mentioned.



  • DCI Gene Hunt - Philip Glenister
  • DI Alex Drake -- Keeley Hawes
  • DI Ray Carling -- Dean Andrews
  • DC Chris Skelton -- Marshall Lancaster
  • WPC Shaz Granger -- Montserrat Lombard
  • Sgt Viv James -- Geff Francis
  • DCI Jim Keats -- Daniel Mays
  • Luigi -- Joseph Long
  • Elaine Downing -- Beth Goddard
  • Graham McClean -- Nick Sidi
  • Colin Danson -- Nick Haverson
  • Builder -- Dean Nolan
  • Harris -- Rupert Simionian
  • Pathologist -- Charlie Roe
  • Rhonda -- Flaminia Cinque
  • Ronnie -- Adam Shipway
  • Shy Woman -- Frog Stone
  • Gang Kid -- Reece Beaumont

Cast Notes[]

  • Beth Goddard, who plays Elaine Downing, is Philip Glenister's wife.


  • Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
  • Don’t You Want Me - Human League
  • Let's Dance - David Bowie
  • This is Not a Love Song - Public Image Ltd.
  • Being With You - Smokey Robinson
  • Red Red Wine - UB40
  • Give it up - KC and the Sunshine Band
  • War Baby - Tom Robinson
  • Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
  • Love Plus One - Haircut One Hundred
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper


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)