Monday, 24 October 2011

Ashes To Ashes Sucks: Part 1

Well, it’s been a week’s break fro this blog.  Not planned by any means, though.  Work was hectic for a couple of days, then some prawns kicked me in the arse and had me off work for a couple of days, and Friday I decided to make it a whole week blog-less and just enjoy my lunch.  Anyway, I’m back now and I’m thinking about talking about something non-40K, which is a bit of challenge for me at the moment.  Battle reports are easy for me to write, because there’s a solid format, and most of the work (i.e. the game itself) is already done for me.  Trying to write about something else throws up a number of problems, starting with what to write about in the first place.  To solve this problem, I’ve decided to back up to an (almost) throwaway comment I made in one of early posts.  Ashes To Ashes was a terrible series.  That’s as true now as it ever was, but I suppose I should waste my time and yours trying to justify this ultimately subjective viewpoint beyond the typical ‘I said it, so it must be’ reasoning that I seem to apply to so many things I say.

In order to find out why I dislike the series so much, you have to look at its precursor (and far superior) series, Life On Mars.  For those that don’t know, Life on Mars was a two-series BBC One show that started in 2006.  The basic premise was that a modern-day policeman called Sam Tyler (John Simm) gets hit by a car and wakes up some 33 years in the past.  Most of the time, the episodes were a 1970s police procedural show with occasional anachronisms thrown in by Tyler as he tries to use modern methods and ideologies decades before their time in pursuit of his work.  Very episodic, but definitely above average.  However, what really made the programme interesting (for me at any rate) was the overarching plot of Tyler’s situation.  It boils down to three alternatives.  He’s either in a coma, has genuinely gone back in time or his whole future life was a delusion and he is therefore more than slightly mad.  To the show’s credit, all three options were eminently plausible (in so far as time travel via head injury can ever be plausible) based on the hints that the programme was giving. 

But that’s just the broad outline. Tyler is undeniably the main focus of the programme (I think he is actually in every single scene of the entire two series run), but there are also three very important side characters.  The first (and most popular) is that of Gene Hunt, Tyler’s immediate superior in the Manchester CID.  He was brutish, belligerent and a borderline alcoholic.  He was also smart in a variety of ways and nearly always certain in what he was doing and, as such, was very much the antithesis of Tyler.  This was the source of most of the main conflict in the show.  They played well off each other, with Gene being right on occasion and Sam being right at other times.  Gene was also a very good comic character and Philip Glenister plays him very well.  However, the comic aspects of Gene Hunt can run the risk of overwhelming the tragedy and hypocrisy of his character (aspects that can often be ignored by a stratum of the audience.  I’ll address that at some point.)

The next character is that of WPC Annie Cartwright and serves very much as an anchor and moral compass to Tyler, being a warm and caring character, again very different to Sam who comes across as cold and calculating through most of the series.  This is also a great source of conflict throughout the run, with the added romantic tension between the two of them providing another layer to the programme.  In my opinion, Annie is definitely one of the best female characters I’ve seen TV as she manages to be a very strong and realistic character with falling into cliché.

The final character I’m mentioning (there are more, but I don’t want to type a full dissertation here) isn’t really a character so much as an apparition. The Test Card Girl is an occasional character who pops up out of Sam’s TV when it’s left on for too long (or at dramatically appropriate moments) to offer cryptic advice or muddy the waters of the overarching plot.  She is creepy as hell (in the manner of many supernatural little girls in fiction) and adds to the surreal feel of the show.  It’s very possible to forget the sci-fi style elements to Life on Mars in the middle of an episode, and one of her appearances is always jarring in the way it reminds you about the weird overall metaplot to the show.

Anyway, that’s a brief outline of the series.  I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who may not have seen it yet.  If you haven’t, then please source a copy of the DVD or Netflix it or Lovefilm or whatever you do and watch it.  It’s a cracking programme and well worth your time.

I can’t say the same for its follow-on sister series but will be addressing that tomorrow.  There will be spoilers.

And rage…

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