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Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Series 3: Episode 6 (Ashes to Ashes)
Air Date 7 May 2010
Written by James Payne
Director Jamie Payne
Additional Information
Antagonists Jason Sachs
Paul Thordy
Episode guide
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The sixth episode of Ashes to Ashes was broadcast on 7th May 2010.


After the team's attempt to stop a prison riot goes badly wrong and Sergeant Viv James is taken captive, Gene and Alex must negotiate with the leader of the revolt and save their colleague. A conman and former cellmate of the riot leader claims to be Sam Tyler, shocking Alex to the core while Chris and Ray are in mortal danger when their undercover rescue attempt is rumbled by the prisoners. Alex is then left to put her differences with Gene aside to reunite their team, but disaster awaits them.


The episode begins with Sergeant Viv James and the rest of Uniform preparing to raid a prison in which a riot has taken place, and a whole wing is out of police control. Against Alex's advice, Gene enters the prison and fights them, walking ahead of the shields. Many police are injured and Gene sees Sacks, the ringleader.

Everybody exits the building but Viv. When it becomes apparent that Viv has been left behind, Gene tries to go back into the building but is stopped by the riot police. Chris manages to get the CCTV up and running and Gene speaks on the tannoy to the leader, Jason Sacks. He says that if he lays a finger on Viv, he will rip his heart out. Alex then tries to negotiate with Sacks but he places a sign over Viv saying 'One More Word And He Dies'.

Ray and Chris are sent out to catch Paul Thordy who shared a cell with Sacks in the past. The Guv soon kicks the life out of Thordy to get him to speak, but he doesn't listen. Later, Alex thinks about the Guv beating up Thordy and sees a broken tooth of Thordy, and then the ghost policeman haunts her. She looks back at the tooth and then vanishes.

While Alex is begging Thordy for information, he says that Viv is not a hostage. His cousin was in prison and so he had done a deal with Sacks to bring in the gun if his cousin Carl was released. Before Alex can get to Gene in time, Chris and Ray are sent to get him out, posing as journalists. Angered by the treatment Viv has been given, Ray attacks Sacks, and as a result Chris and Ray are captured. Sacks then sends a tape of his demands to the police.

Later while restrained, Viv punches the guy holding him and trys to beat up Sacks but is soon thrown to the ground and shot in the knee and Ray and Chris are tied up in wires, ready to be electrocuted.

Keats gets Commander Gray from the army to conduct a raid on the prison with his soldiers. Meanwhile, Paul Thordy reveals that Sacks has the place trip-wired so if anyone enters they will throw the switch that kills Chris, Ray and Viv. Gene manages to knock out the power in time and the police-raid soon crushes the uprising. Gene shoots Sacks while he is running away. Gene asks Sacks where he is, but Sacks simply replies "My place is assured. I am a legend," before he dies.

Keats appears to Viv while whistling I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles. Viv soon dies before the rest get to him in time. Keats leaves the team to mourn over Viv.

Cultural references[]

  • Alex says, "There he goes; Braveheart in Paco Rabanne", referring to the 1995 film Braveheart starring Mel Gibson as William Wallace, a 13th Century Scottish Knight who gained recognition by opposing King Edward I of England. Paco Rabanne is a men's cologne by perfumer Jean Martel launched in 1973. A classic, it includes notes of lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco, and was a FIFI awards winner in 1975. Paco Rabanne is the cologne of choice of DCI Derek Litton (see Series 1: Episode 4 of Life on Mars).
  • "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" is a song first heard in the stage show The Passing Show of 1918 and copyrighted in 1919. It was adopted by West Ham supporters in the late 1920s and is now one of the most recognised club anthems in English football along with, "You'll Never Walk Alone".
  • Gene says, "like the bloody paddies in the Maze", referencing Her Majesty's Prison Maze, Northern Ireland, which was a prison used to house paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971–2000. On 25 September 1983, thirty-eight prisoners at the Maze were involved in a breakout. They hi-jacked the meals lorry and smashed their way out. During the the breakout, four prison officers were stabbed, including James Ferris who died of a heart attack as a result, and another officer who was shot in the head. Only 19 of the prisoners were recaptured.
  • Alex mentions a riot at Strangeways. On 1st April 1990 prisoners rioted at Strangeways Prison in Manchester t for 25 days. The prison and rooftop protest, in which prisoners hurled the slates off the roof, ended on 25th April 1990. One prisoner was killed and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners were injured. It was the longest prison disturbance in British legal history. It also sparked off disturbances in prisons across England, Scotland and Wales. The reasons for the riot were investigated in the Woolf Report.
  • Gene says, "Jesus wanted 'im for a sunbeam", referencing the children's Christian hymn, "I'll be a Sunbeam" by Nellie Talrot, sung to the tune composed by Edwin O Excell in 1900. The first line is, "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam."
  • Gene says, "I do not stink, I bath in Matey." Matey is a UK children's bubble bath made by the Matey company. It was first produced in 1958 and sold in skittle-shaped plastic bottles with the character Sailor Matey on it. From 1960, he was joined by Miss Matey, and over the decades various other characters appeared on the bottles. In the 1980s Sailor Matey and Miss Matey were renamed Mr and Mrs Matey.




  • Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
  • Scary Monsters (Super Creeps) - David Bowie
  • The Cutter - Echo and the Bunnymen
  • I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles - The Cockney Rejects
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)