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Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Series 3: Episode 3 (Ashes to Ashes)
Air Date 16 April 2010
Written by Julie Rutterford
Director Alrick Riley
Additional Information
Antagonists Andy Smith
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The third episode of Ashes to Ashes was broadcast on 16th April 2010.


Gene and the rest of CID are feeling the pressure to stop a series of politically-motivated arson attacks in the lead-up to the 1983 General Election, after a military compound and a polling station are set alight. DCI Jim Keats announces his plans to monitor the way Hunt and his team work, while trying to turn each member of of the team against Gene. Elsewhere, Alex continues to mount her investigation into what really happened to Sam Tyler in 1980, and is struggling to work out why she is being haunted by the young police officer.

Cultural references[]

  • This episode takes place over 8–10 June 1983, during the UK general election. The main contenders were the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Labour party led by Michael Foot, and the SDP-Liberal Alliance Party led by David Steel and Roy Jenkins. Polling stations opened on 9th June 1983.
  • Margaret Thatcher was known as "Thatcher the milk snatcher", from April 1971 when, in her post in Ted Heath's conservative government (elected in August 1970), as secretary for Education and Science, she put forward a bill to save the government money by taking away free milk in schools for 7–11-year-olds. She argued that ending free milk for all but nursery school kids would free up money to spend on other areas of education like new buildings. At the time, free milk for school kids cost £14 million a year—twice as much as was spent on buying school books. In a full year, the savings on milk would be about £9 million. School dinner prices were raised to 12 new pence in April 1971 also. The bill was passed on 14th June 1971 and the cut was implemented in the summer of 1972, although many Local Education Authorities continued to provide free milk. From 1977, LEAs received a subsidy from the EEC for free milk provision. Free milk in UK schools began in earnest from 1946 under Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government. Free school milk, (a third of a pint in specially made glass bottles), was provided for pupils up to the age of 18, to help stave off malnutrition and rickets. By 1968, Harold Wilson's Labour government restricted free milk to school pupils under 12.
  • Gene explains that Green Hill army barracks and a good friend of Margaret Thatcher's have been fire-bombed. There is no Green Hill army barracks in London, but there is a town of Green Hill west of Margaret Thatcher's birth place of Grantham in Lincolnshire, which has a territorial army barracks, Bailey Barracks, located on Green Hill Parkway, Sheffield on the A52. The name of Maggie's friend seen on the board in CID is Tim Rothwell. Rothwell is a northern town that in 1379 was one of the first to have a Poll Tax imposed. The conservative government brought in a modern poll tax in 1983 and one of those who went to court to oppose it was Arthur Pendragon who had changed his name by deed poll from John Timothy Rothwell.
  • Alex mentions Goodbye Mr.Chips, which was a novel by James Hilton first published in 1934, about the career of a teacher at Brookfield, a boys' boarding school in England from 1870, at the time of the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war, to 1933 at the time of the rise of Hitler's National Socialist Party in Germany. It was made as a film starring Robert Donat in 1939, a musical film starring Peter O'Toole in 1969, a BBC TV adaptation in 1984, and a US TV adaptation in 2002.
  • Chris mentions Vanessa Redgrave, to which Gene remarks, "Good point, Chris. Drag 'er in an' all." Vanessa Redgrave (born 30 Jan 1937) is a UK actress of stage, screen, and television, as well as a political activist.
  • Ray says, "That could be our fire-starter", referencing the title of the novel by Stephen King published in 1980.
  • Talking about the "milk snatcher" graffiti, Alex mentions "Banksy", the pseudonym of an anonymous graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter whose "work" first appeared in Bristol in 1992. Banksy's usually painted figures at first used stencils, such as the figure of Death in a row boat painted on the water line of the Thekla, an entertainment boat in central Bristol. In 2004 he distributed fake £10 notes at the annual Notting Hill Carnival in London from the "Banksy of England", with Princess Diana replacing the image of the Queen, Though termed "graffiti", his work has also been seen at exhibitions in Los Angeles in 2002/03. Gene hopes Alex isn't referring to the mighty Gordon Banks, who was a former UK football goalkeeper in the 50s, 60s and 70s, playing for Chesterfield (1955–59), Leicester City (1959–1967) and Stoke City (1967–1972) and the American soccer team, Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977–1978), and was a member of the England national team that won the World Cup against West Germany in 1966. He lost the sight in his right eye in 1972 and retired full time from football in 1979. He is considered to have been one of the best goal keepers in English football.
  • Referring to one of the rounded-up anarchists—a middle aged woman—Viv says, "She's not exactly Anarchy in the U.K." Chris replies by saying she has been, "arrested at Greenham Common. She's got a mural of Wedgie Benn, knitted." RAF Greenham Common airforce base became the focus of a permanent women's peace camp in 1981 as a protest against the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, at the base in England. On the 1st April 1983, approximately 70,000 women protesters formed a 14-mile human chain from Greenham airforce base to the ordinance factory in Burghfield in Aldermaston. In December 1983, another encircling of the base occured, this time with approximately 50,000 women attending. Sections of the fence were cut and many arrests were made. Anthony Wedgewood Benn, born into the aristocracy and usually referred to as Wedgie Benn during the 60s and 70s, was a radical left-wing labour MP, now more usually referred to as Tony Benn. "Anarchy in the U.K." was a single by UK punk band the Sex Pistols, released in 1976 by EMI records in the UK, and later in the late 70s and early 80s was distributed as a 12-inch single on Barclay records, a french label via Rough Trade and HMV record stores in the UK.
  • At Luigi's, Chris is seen smoking Players No.6 cigarettes, which were first produced in 1965 by the Imperial Tobacco company as a couponed brand. Cigarette coupons were exchanged for gifts from a catalogue akin to Green Shield stamps. They were the best selling brand until the mid 70s. By the mid 80s, sales had fallen off and the brand was mostly forgotten.
  • The cast of Hair is mentioned. Hair was a hippie rock musical theatre play written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni with Galt MacDermot, that first appeared in New York in 1967. Many of its songs became anti-Vietnam war anthems. In 1968, a production of the musical was staged at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the west end of London starring Paul Nicholas, Elaine Page, Oliver Tobias, Richard O'Brien, and Tim Curry. A film version was made in 1979.
  • On her desk, Shaz has a Yorkie bar and a Wispa bar, Yorkie bars were first sold in 1976 and advertised as being for men. During the Falklands War, they were included in army provisions with the line, "Not for civvies" and an image of stick woman with a handbag with a red line through it. "Not for girls" was one of the later advertising tags. Wispa bars first appeared nationally in the UK in 1983, after a trial distribution run in north east England in 1981.
  • Gene says women give themselves a "crafty little Kit-Kat shuffle" when they think of firemen, referencing the UK expression that refers to female masturbation. Kit-Kat, the four fingered—later five-fingered—snack was first produced by Rowntree in 1935 as Rowntree's Chocolate Crisp until 1937 when the name was changed to Kit-Kat Chocolate crisp. During WWII, the "chocolate crisp" part of the name was dropped and the slogan "Have a Break, Have a Kit-Kat" was coined.
  • Ray, referring to the wild-haired and duffle-coat-wearing Labour leader Michael Foot, says, "Who's gonna vote for Worzel Gummidge?" Worzel Gummidge is a walkiing, talking, scarecrow who first appeared in a series of 10 children's books by Barbara Euphon Todd between 1936 and 1963. Gummidge had a series of interchangable turnip, mangel worzel, and swede heads that endowed him with particular skills. The most famous incarnation of Worzel Gummidge was that of former Dr Who actor and funny man Jon Pertwee in the Southern TV series which ran from 1979–1981.
  • Jim finds a pack of Top Trumps Rally that belong to Chris. Top Trumps is a popular card game for kids originally launched in 1977. The Top Trumps Rally pack first appeared in 1983, following on from Top Trumps Rally Cars that appeared in 1982.
  • Alex rebukes Gene for his treatment of Barney—responsible for the "Thatcher milk snatcher" graffiti—because he is twelve. Gene says, "So? Jimmy Osmond was ten and look at the pain and misery he caused," referring to the youngest of the Osmond brothers and his No.1 UK chart hit from 1972, "Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool" released when Jimmy was actually nine.
  • Gene says, "Firemen starting fires. What next? Doctors killing patients?" referencing the case of Dr Harold Shipman, an English doctor who in 1977 became a GP at the Donneybrook medical Centre in Hyde, Greater Manchester and was convicted of killing elderly patients by use of overdoses of diamorphine, a drug often used as pain refief in terminal cancer patients. He also persuaded some of the victims to name him in their wills. He was arrested on 7th September 1998 after police investigations and in 1999 he was tried and convicted of 15 murders committed between 1995 and 1998. Despite prosecutions against Dr John Adam Bodkin in 1957, Dr Leonard Arthur in 1981, and Dr Thomas Lodwig in 1990 (amongst others) Shipman was the only doctor in British legal history to be found guilty of killing his patients. He was given a life sentence. In 2004 he hung himself in HM Prison Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
  • Jim shows Chris a list of signatures, to which Chris says, "Surprise, surprise, it's Cilla Black." Surprise, Surprise (1984–1997) was a UK TV show made by LWT and hosted by Cilla Black. Its premise revolved around surprising members of the public, with long-held wishes, practical jokes, and prank phone calls, and reuniting members of the studio audience with long-lost relatives. Cilla Black (Priscilla Marie Veronica White, 27 May 1943-1 August 2015) was a well loved Liverpudlian singer and light entertainment artist who first became well-known in 1963 when she was associated with the Beatles and had a string of hit singles in the 60s such as "Anyone who had a Heart", You're My World", "Alfie", and "Step in Side Love". Her last chart hit was in 1971 with "Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight)". She appeared in her own BBC TV variety show "Cilla" (1968–1976). At the same time as presenting Surprise, Surprise she also fronted the TV dating game Blind Date for Thames TV.
  • Gene says "Siamese twins in Bostik", referring to the glue marketed under the name Bostik, by the Bostik company.
  • Chris says they've been checking for members of "the P.L.O., Red Brigade, Anti-Nazi League, the works." The P.L.O., the Palestinian Liberation Organization, is a political and paramilitary organisation created in 1964, and, at the time of this episode, lead by Yasser Arafat. The Red Brigade (Briget Rosse) was a Marxist-Lenninist organisation based in Italy. Formed in 1967, they sought to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle and to remove Italy from N.A.T.O. They attained notoriety in the 70s and 80s with their violent attempts to destabilise Italy with acts of sabotage, bank raids, and kidnapping. The Anti-Nazi League was a UK organisation initiated in 1977 by the Socialist Workers Party and sponsored by some trade unions and endorsed by a list of prominent people in a reaction to the activities of the right wing fascist groups The National Front and The British Movement. The organisation was wound up in 1981.
  • Gene says to Alex, "You're not the bloody Avon lady," once again referencing the Avon company's door-to-door sales personnel.
  • Gene says, "Let me see, Gary Cooper is still a hero, Frannie Lee is still a god …" Gary Cooper (Frank James "Gary" Cooper, 7 May 1901–13 May 1961) was an American film actor renowned for his quiet understated, stoic, emotionally restrained but at times intense, screen persona that was well suited to the many westerns he appeared in. He is the star of Gene's favourite western, High Noon, a poster for which hung in Gene's office in Life on Mars . Frannie Lee (Francis Lee) was a UK footballer who played in the 1960s and 1970s for Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, and Derby County. He also appeared 27 times in the England national team. Gene mentions Francis Lee, and later sees him in Warren's club, in Series 1: Episode 4 of Life on Mars .
  • At the end of the episode at Luigi's Gene says, "Give me one of those large bastard Cubans." The Cuban cigars which are distributed in the UK by the Hunters and Frankau Company and the Arthur Dunhill Company are the "Montecristo" brand.



  • Anarchy in the U.K. - Sex Pistols
  • Two Tribes - Frankie Goes to Hollywood, released in 1984
  • Volare - Dean Martin
  • Shipbuilding - Robert Wyatt
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)