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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remembering Life on Mars

Thanks for sticking by the blog this week. Since Monday and Tuesday were contest related and yesterday was an April Fool’s joke, we’ll get back to your regularly scripted script tomorrow. But since this blog has always been staunchly pro-Life on Mars, it would be remiss for me not to mark the passing of this magnificent and unusual show.

To me, Life on Mars wasn’t just a show, it was an epoch in my life. I know that sounds trite and I cringe a little just typing those words, but it’s true. When Life on Mars began I was still in the army on transitional leave. As the weeks went by and I sank deeper and deeper into the mire of unemployment I felt just as lost and aimless as Sam Tyler lost in the ‘70s. I finally found a job and it was like a whole new world. Civilian work? Hourly wages? Production stats? My new job felt a lot like the 1-2-5 Precinct must have felt for Sam.

Sometimes it seems strange to miss a fictional character. But TV shows sometimes last longer than friendships or marriages. They say that it’s difficult to quit smoking not because of the physical component but because of the psychological. Cigarettes are good friends to you in bad times. Good fiction can be like that, too. And you can miss people, and be sad about their passing, even if they were never real. That’s how I feel now.

As for the series finale I am ambivalent.


(Does anybody ever actually stop reading when they see those?)

Anyway, I have to admit there was nothing really missing. The cops solved the mystery of the week, the romance between Sam and Annie was finally settled, all the Tyler family drama was settled once and for all, and the series mythos was finally revealed.

First for the sort of bad. They seemed to waste a whole half hour of the show doing nothing. It didn’t really start until they got to Hyde, and that’s an awful lot of drama to cram into 30 minutes. I guess they really desperately didn’t want to break from the “mystery of the week” format, even if it meant scrambling to solve all the mythos and emotional problems

I didn’t really care about Sam and Annie getting together. That was a foregone conclusion. HOWEVER there was a brief moment where it was implied that the whole series was actually Annie’s fantasy, and Sam was just some nice young boy who read to her that she had inserted into her dreamworld. That was a mindfuck, even if it didn’t turn out to be the “real” solution.

Now, the sort of good. Everybody got their say, with the notable exception of Chris, who has been criminally neglected this whole show anyway. Gene got his little “tell the bastard that shot you it didn’t hurt that much” speech and Ray got his little “we’re all on a rock” speech. I was disappointed, though, that Sam didn’t at some point say to Vic “thanks for the gunshot, dickweed, but I didn't even feel it.” Too cutesy, maybe.

Now for the really good. The whole heart of the episode, the whole core of the whole show as far as I’m concerned, is when Sam grabs Gene and they hug, and the crusty old bastard says, “I think I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.” There’s love there, and pain, and secret pain, and seeking acceptance, and finding it in strange places, and there’s a framework of a strange world like Oz. That’s the very best of the show, perhaps the best moment of the whole series with the possible exception of the initial car wreck.

As for the actual series mythos solution, on the one hand, I have to give the creators props. It was truly original, truly unexpected, and although it was never even hinted at throughout the run of the series, it truly does fit in with all the little bits and pieces. Salud. HOWEVER, what the fuck? 2035? So neither 2008 nor 1973 is real? So I kind of just wasted the last eight months of my life because all of it was some verkakte little glitch in the system and it wasn’t even the right dream? And Michael Imperioli never really had his moustache? I’m still in the “visceral” stage right now of post-viewership, I expect after I get the DVD I’ll be able to ponder it more, but for right now I still have this feeling that someone somewhere is saying, “ha ha, fuck you, audience.” But there may have been a brilliant, final mindfuck in the very last instant. Was it really all secretly real and the Mars lander bit is part of a greater falsity? Who knows.

Closing thoughts:

- was Future-Sam a 4 year old in 2008? Did he see 2008 the way theoretical Sam saw 1973?

- if Gene (or “Major Tom”) is really Sam’s father, what does that make Vic? The embodiment of his dark side?

- did anybody else notice that Vic told Sam he didn’t look like a cop, but rather an astronaut?

- so in the heaven episode when “god” said that he was giving him an opportunity to be with the dad he really wanted, was he referring to Gene and not black mentor guy?

- the big one and my closing thought. The very last second of the very last scene of the very last episode has Gene’s 1973 white leather loafer being the first foot on Mars. Does this imply that there is an even greater framework than the 2035 world? Is this really just a Matrix within a Matrix? It gives me a little bit of hope that maybe my investment in the whole 1973 world wasn’t just a waste.


  1. The last 30 minutes (the "summing up" phase, if you will), just seemed overly rushed. It almost seems as if they had an episode planned out, but then the higher-ups at ABC said "guess what? you're canceled! wrap up the show by next week" and the writers were forced to create an endstory to fit the episode that was already completed. This might also mean that there are already completed scripts out there for some future DVD release goodies. A lot of the episode was very telling of the end though, such as the Wizard of Oz quote (perhaps implying that the journey was coming to an end?) and Vic saying that Sam looked like an astronaut. My whole reasoning that the endstory was crammed into an already-completed episode is based on this; The fact that Vic knew that Sam was his son could have provided yet another trip down the rabbit hole in figuring out how he fit into the conspiracy. Also, I feel as if the phonecalls are not fully explained either. My best guess is that the FBI guy / mission controller was giving them updates during their journey which became the phonecalls. As for the suspended animation ending, that was something I thought of initially at the beginning of the series. I always figured the title of the series was going to play into the ending, but I still feel as if the actual ending was vastly different than what was originally envisioned. I guess we'll have to wait for the DVD commentary to explain that.

  2. I think you may have hit the nail on the head. I mean, they may well have had the ending envisioned from the start, and probably a whole episode planned out to deal with it. But they had been building up to the season finale and they realized they had to shoehorn the whole series finale into the last 10 minutes somehow. As I said, I give them props for originality and not selling out...I'm just not sure how I feel about it all yet.


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