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On balance, I think they made it work. The end credits were a nice touch.

  • The early eighties just aren't as iconic as the seventies, are they? And they have a worse soundtrack. It's weird, in a way -- I'd expected to get more of the references, but in fact I got fewer. What was the clown all about?

  • So there's no suggestion that Alex is actually back in time -- but there is a suggestion that the Gene-verse might have some independent existence. Evidence: they included scenes from other characters' points of view, which (correct me if I'm wrong) they were very careful never to do on Life on Mars.

  • The fact that Ray told Alex Sam came back is possible evidence, since if the whole thing is a death-dream it makes sense that her subconscious would give her a way of believing she can live for many years yet.

  • I'm not sure why she was so quick to believe that arresting one guy would get the job done, what with the way he'd been banging on about "the truth about what happened to [your] parents" in the present.

  • Gene Hunt drinking wine! Truly the end times are upon us. Actually, I liked what they did with Gene, making it clear that he's a dinosaur on the way out; this time, he's almost the outsider the way Sam was before. And it helps make the inevitable romance easier to swallow, if he starts showing signs of self-awareness ...

  • I also like Alex, at least in principle -- smart, analytical, etc. I think it will take a couple of episodes to see whether she actually matches up to the billing. I'm also wondering where they're going to go with her, as a character; at first I assumed it would be analogous to Sam's journey (the modern world forced Sam to deny his masculinity vs the modern world forced Alex to deny her femininity), but she actually seemed to be much more comfortable in her own skin than Sam was (having rewatched the pilot of LoM quite recently). So now I'm not sure, unless they're going to go with a denial angle. Which they could, I suppose.


In other news, I've seen last week's Torchwood ("To the Last Man"). It's really not getting any better, is it?
 
 
 
 
 
 
The clown is from the video of David Bowie's single Ashes to Ashes.
What he said
Ah, I should've realised. Thanks.
Ashes to Ashes: the video.

And now you all know where Not The Nine O'Clock News got "Nice Video, Shame About The Song" from.
If I keep replying to these comments faster than you can realise I've replied to the previous one and delete them, how long will it take to get annoying?
Curses! You beat me to it. :)
You mean this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMT41Li_mjg&feature=related
Yes, but will Ashes to Ashes end by doing "Kinda Lingers"?
That sort of clown was a popular icon, you could get them as floppy dolls of all sizes (including lifesize to decorate your boudoir), or porcelain facemasks for on the wall. People wore the makeup sometimes.

The Ashes to Ashes single had a cover of Bowie in that gear, and he wore it in the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1MlZ-uF8as

I had a vision when Gene first got out of the car, with those boots on, that it was a reference to the end of Romancing the Stone, but that came out in 84, so I'm wondering if there was an earlier reference they were both checking off.
So who noticed Gene doing a moonwalk during the shoot-out?


And they have a worse soundtrack.

On a forum I post on, statements such as these usually result in a cry of "Ban request!". Should I just call you a wronghead instead or is that a bit passe now?

Edited at 2008-02-07 10:45 pm (UTC)
Should have been in the style of CEEFAX

Also, you are an utter wronghead on your dislike of the 80s soundtrack.
Yes, my wife was just commenting how many more of the songs she recognised in this than in Life on Mars. :-)

I liked it, but it does suffer from that awkward grinding of gears that often bedevils sequels. Lots of contrived set-up and self-consciously playing off old riffs in new ways. Having said that I'm pleased that the basic set-up makes sense. It's unclear why Alex would believe a 'fictional' character telling her that Sam returned to them for seven years, something she couldn't possibly know and which, based on her attitude in the rest of the episode, she should have simply dismissed as fantasy. It does tend to imply that either she instinctively knows that it's true or she prefers to believe it. Having established that she's almost certainly moments from death there seems little else to do with that aspect of the series, but it does make sense to put it on the back burner since they can't replay the mystery angle of Life on Mars very easily.

You're right about 1981 being less iconic than 1973, and it seems a slightly oddd choice since surely lots of classic '80s icons have yet to happen. (Although I'm assuming the speedboat was intended to prefigure Miami Vice so they're obviously got wiggle room.) I assume the endless semi-automatic weapons fire that never hits anything is an A Team reference.

The thing I least liked was the way Gene Hunt was depicted as such a legend. In the seventies he was a caricature of the macho seventies cop and he certainly hit the road with style, but here he's given several hero moments that are so over the top they seem a little too much like a knowing wink at the audience. It takes away from the sense of him as a real person, at least a little.

EDIT: As for Torchwood I think you're just forgetting quite how bad it was last year! It's not actually any good this year, and it does keep repeating the plot about the person who's doomed, but it still has more good points than season 1. I'm a bit bemused that Ianto has suddenly started making with the one-liners, though.

Edited at 2008-02-08 12:19 am (UTC)
I'm sure Ianto had plenty of good one liners in the first series two. In fact, I don't remember him having too many other lines, other than the cyberwoman episode (n.b. I missed the last few episodes).
I liked it much much more than I expected to. I think Gene is showing self-awareness, notice how he sat conspicuously not joiining in with all the jokes in the wine bar, a bit of a change.

If Life on Mars was influencedd by Get Carter, I think this is strongly influenced by The Long Good Friday, which is a film I love almost as much.
re: torchwood - dude, are you HIGH? That was a great episode! Jack and ianto snogged--HARD. what more do you want?

also: TOSH. who is by far my favorite character. Gwen can jump off a cliff and please god let her take Owen along. Then replace her with Martha Jones and him with really anyone else on the planet and you've got a perfect show.

I thought it was well done.

and they SNOGGED.
Come on! It was the most contrived time loop evar, with typical magical Torchwood bollocks introduced at the last minute to help with the plot resolution.
time loops always suck, there's no hope for that. I just focus ont he character stuff and try not to worry about the plot. It's Torchwood, after all. It's kind of synonymous with "This Plot Will Not Satisfy". It's a big step forward that, for three episodes in a row, the character interactions and motivations haven't universally sucked, too.
I found it slightly disconcerting that the Jack/Ianto fling, previously confined to a couple of tiny glances and implied off-screen romping, is suddenly so front-and-centre here. Nothing wrong with it, but last season it was barely more than officially endorsed slashy subtext. :-)
Sadly I think Tosh is written poorly and Naoko Mori is a horribly wooden actress (at least in this). Everything about her performance is stilted and twitchy, as if she's consciously planning every little movement of her face.

Her oh-so-unsubtle mooning after Owen this week was really, really annoying.
All the way through, and especially with the boat, I was just thinking "Life on Mars: Vice City". Could become good though.
Haven't finished Life On Mars yet - I really should get onto that! I'm actually still enjoying Torchwood enough to watch it, which is a distinct improvement on last years. On the one hand, they're obviously going to try for Owen/Tosh later in the season, which is presumably why they've been working so hard on rehabilitating Owen but on the other, Ianto has become witty! Now if only they could manage that for the rest of the cast...
I liked Alex too but she is hamstrung by that ridiculous accent which I think has put a lot of people off.

As with LoM it is too early to see whether they will pull it off and turn what might be flaws into integral parts of the plot but since LoM did it I have high hopes. The A-Team shoot-up pissed me off though.
I'm a great deal less impressed. I like Alex - she has Sam's intensity, which was always his most interesting quality - but just about everything else was a mess. The plot made zero sense, and was clearly intended as such since Alex isn't taking the investigation seriously. As we know that she's going to stick around in 1981, and as LoM taught us that eventually the period world will be prioritized over the contemporary one, I don't see how it makes sense to waste an hour on her flailing about in much the same way Sam did. I also got sick and tired of Gene's hero moments (they strengthen my suspicion that the writers think people tuned into LoM for him rather than Sam, which is really not the case as far as I'm concerned), and I'm annoyed that Ray and Chris don't seem to have changed at all in eight years (I do like, however, that Sam's death/disappearance seems to have hit Gene hard).

Basically, LoM taught me not to expect a good genre story, but to enjoy the show as a smart procedural with kooky genre elements. A2A seems to be trying to go back to the LoM well - it's promising yet another genre mystery when the first one wasn't very satisfyingly resolved (or, if we accept the solution Alex believes in, renders the A2A mystery meaningless) - while undermining the procedural end.

Also, where's Annie?
as LoM taught us that eventually the period world will be prioritized over the contemporary one

Why do you think that's also going to be true in ATA?

(they strengthen my suspicion that the writers think people tuned into LoM for him rather than Sam

I can't imagine how they got that impression, what with the hundreds of column inches devoted to explaining why Gene Hunt is the reason to watch Life on Mars. Not to mention blog posts. ;-)

I'm annoyed that Ray and Chris don't seem to have changed at all in eight years

Surely Chris has changed? He seemed much more self-confident to me. Ray is, equally clearly, never ever going to change.

I'm also not sure why you think the procedural bit is being undermined. If Alex doesn't believe 1981 is real, it makes perfect sense for her to cut corners and ignore the rules, surely?
Why do you think that's also going to be true in ATA?

Why shouldn't I? My one datapoint indicates that it will be, and nothing I've heard from Matthew Graham suggests otherwise.

I can't imagine how they got that impression, what with the hundreds of column inches devoted to explaining why Gene Hunt is the reason to watch Life on Mars. Not to mention blog posts. ;-)

I know. This is exactly like Thomas Harris publishing Hannibal and me picking it up with great excitement and glee only to discover that Clarice Starling was downtrodden and all of the righteous female characters from The Silence of the Lambs were marginalized or weakened. And then I came to the ending and just boggled at it, because not only did Harris obviously believe that Hannibal Lecter was the reason people read his books, but in the grand scheme of things he seemed to be right.

Surely Chris has changed? He seemed much more self-confident to me

More confident? Yes. But not much more, and certainly no better at being a cop - running out alone into the open towards a group of people holding guns who are standing across a river from him is suicidally stupid, and just the sort of thing LoM Chris would have done.

I'm also not sure why you think the procedural bit is being undermined. If Alex doesn't believe 1981 is real, it makes perfect sense for her to cut corners and ignore the rules, surely?

Yes, which is what's undermining the procedural bit. Alex doesn't care about the burgeoning drug trade in early 80s London, and therefore she doesn't treat the procedural half of the episode as a mystery or an investigation. She latches onto Layton because she thinks he's the villain in her dying fantasy, not for any concrete, internally logical reason. As far as Gene is concerned, the procedural story is half-hearted and mainly an excuse for him to drive fast and shoot guns. Which is perfectly in keeping with his character, but on LoM we had Sam to counterbalance Gene and act like an actual detective who believed that the universe he was in made sense.
My one datapoint indicates that it will be, and nothing I've heard from Matthew Graham suggests otherwise.

Well, first I can't see any reason to think they're definitely going to repeat themselves so directly. They might, but I think it's unlikely. Second, the setup for LoM was Sam trying to find his way home; the setup for AtoA is Alex trying to stay alive until she goes home. The difference being that Sam didn't actually have anything to live for, whereas Alex emphatically does.

[Gene Hunt]

I didn't watch for either Gene or Sam so much as I watched for the dynamic between them. Alex and Gene haven't instantly clicked for me, but I have some hope.

More confident? Yes. But not much more, and certainly no better at being a cop

Yeah, good point.

She latches onto Layton because she thinks he's the villain in her dying fantasy, not for any concrete, internally logical reason.

But that's one of the best things about the episode! That she continues to treat the fantasy world as a fantasy, much more thoroughly than Sam ever did.
the setup for LoM was Sam trying to find his way home; the setup for AtoA is Alex trying to stay alive until she goes home. The difference being that Sam didn't actually have anything to live for, whereas Alex emphatically does.

Yes, that's certainly giving me hope, but remember this is coming from the same people who thought Sam killing himself and living out his dying moments in a fantasy world was a happy ending. I'm not sure whether I can trust them to continue to prioritize Alex's desire to return to Molly.

Alex and Gene haven't instantly clicked for me, but I have some hope.

I really like the chemistry between them. Not sure I'd like to see it go anywhere, but I like that it's there.

But that's one of the best things about the episode! That she continues to treat the fantasy world as a fantasy, much more thoroughly than Sam ever did.

Which is precisely my point. If Alex continues to treat the show's world as a fantasy, we'll never be able to care about the mysteries, and there will be no incentive for the writers to make them interesting or clever. I can't see this attitude working in the short term. On the other hand, my experience with LoM suggests that Alex will come around and start playing the game, in which case her refusal to do so for so long seems like drawing out the inevitable.