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Ashes To Ashes

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  • Ashes To Ashes

    So anyone watch this last night?

    I must admit that i was looking forward to it immensly and in the most i felt it delivered. It was very reminiscent of the opening ep of LoM which was probably unvoidable really but there does look to be enough there to make the series an entity in itself.

    Alex i find to be a very engaging character. Her more clued up atititude to the situation she finds herself in is a good angle and gets rid of a lot of the splainy whilst still leaving enough there to allow us to go forward in a differnet way than we did with Sam. Alex knows why she is where she is. There is no confusion to what is going on around her but she looks like she's going to be a lot more pro-active in getting back to her 'real' life than Sam was especially with the daughter acting as an anchor to make her return that more urgent. The flashbacks and dream equences were maybe a bit overdone for me but i like that Alex was trying to use the same ways of communicating with the outside world that Sam did and mostly failed. It sets up a nice new challenge.

    Gene and the gang seemed a bit more subdued than i'd like here despite the guns although maybe this was because we already know these characters so more focus was placed on the new ones (loved Shaz by the way). Possibly the one exception to this was Chris who looks like he might be in for a bit of development this time round. Saying that loved the obvious chemistry between Alex and Gene, loved the A-team ref and absolutely loved the speedboat.

    And that brings us nicely to the eighties setting: well i think that's going to take a little getting used to. It's so much brighter than LoM so much more in your face (which admittedly is very eighties) I miss Annie and i miss Winston and i miss the... well the darkness and dirtiness of LoM. I quite like the pub being replaced by the wine bar though, that's a nice touch.

    Overall i think there was more than enough to put this on the 'to watch' list.
    Last edited by tangent; 08-02-08, 12:04 PM.

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  • #2
    "The A-Team are back in business!"

    'Intriguing' was the foremost word on my mind coming out of the first episode.

    It's different than Life on Mars was, and I don't just mean different comatose character and different setting. The style and tone are different, the cinematography, atmosphere, everything. They even broke the strict narrative rule of LoM by showing us several scenes in which Alex was not present. LoM never did that, ever, except for that one episode when Sam was tripping out and watched the case unfolding on TV instead of actually being there. LoM had that really intense richness in tone and a sharp editing style, which conveyed Sam's absolute disorientation beautifully. A2A didn't have the same kind of instant and profound impact, especially with the transition scene, which on LoM was so iconic, but I got the impression that was deliberate. Alex is having the same experience as Sam, but it affects her in a different way. She already knew all about it, having studied Sam closely, so has that knowledge to cushion the impact, being able to measure her own experiences up against his. What is happening to her is freaky as hell, and terrifying and bizarre and incomprehensible, but it's also fascinating. She's a psychologist. Where Sam spent all his time floundering, Alex spends all her time analysing.

    I think it'll take a couple of episodes to get used to Alex; she didn't make a huge emotional impact on me, but I think that'll come and is actually part of the character. I loved that she used air quotes every time she said anyone's name, and their nonplussed reactions to that.

    Plus, of course, we are now seeing these characters ? Gene, Chris and Ray ? through Alex's eyes and via the perception she gained of them from studying Sam's experience. So they are all a bit larger than life, and that also fits with the 80s theme. It's all very intriguing.

    The creepy mime man really is creepy, especially when he has Molly's voice. "Don't fight to wake up; it'll hurt too much." But Zippy and George were creepier!

    The young WPC, Shaz, distracted me all the way through, because I knew I knew her from somewhere but could place it. Turns out she did an episode of Midsomer Murders a while back. That would be why I remembered her. She and Chris are sweet together; I approve.

    I'm still not happy about the ending of Life on Mars and Sam's suicide, so it was a bit depressing to have it laid out there in black and white in Alex's notes. I liked her reaction when Ray told her that Sam had come back and lived another seven years inside the fantasy before he died. It's fascinating because?she's a psychologist. She's studied this phenomenon in Sam. But now she's experiencing it herself and already the doubts are creeping in. Logically, her analytical brain has created this explanation: that Sam jumped and killed himself, but in those last seconds before death was able to live out a life in this fantasy his mind had created for him, and now her mind is incorporating what she knows about him into her own fantasy. But she's also talking about it as an actual place where both their minds have sought refuge in time of trauma, populating by distinct characters with lives of their own. And thus we get to see these characters in scenes that Alex isn't witnessing. And they aren't reacting to her out-of-time oddities in the same way that they did with Sam. They already experienced Sam and his culture shock freak-outs, and Alex knows that. To her, what she's experiencing isn't a new or unique phenomenon in the way that it was to Sam, for all that she never expected it to happen to her, so her mind doesn't need them to react to her in that way.

    It's intriguing. I'm looking forward to finding out more!


    • #3
      This is so much more cracked out and Twin Peaksy than Life on Mars! And can I just say, god bless you iplayer, the BBC have my thanks for making it available on tinernet.

      Not sure about the fetishization of Gene Hunt, treating him as a big hero type rather than a diamond in the rough...though when he first arrived in his red car I did squeal with delight. The speedboat moment also. Woo!

      Alex will be much better when they stop her acting all crazy (by the standards of the fantasy). It's just annoying when she's talking about it being a construct. I have made a promise to myself - if I go back in time or whatever, I'm going to pretend it's real and act like a normal person.

      Anyone else freaked out by teh fact that 80s fashions are so strongly back that none of the outfits actually looked dated? You could totally buy all of those in Topshop (or Top Man)!

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      • #4
        Well, I guess then I am the only one, but I hated Ashes to Ashes! Fiercely!

        In LoM Gene was iconic by just existing, being who he was and in AtA they try to iconise him by the swelling music theme, the camera angles, the slow motion and that just destroys the charme of the character for me. I am aware that it reflects on Alex analytic approach to the figure, still I feel like it damages the character thoroughly, because it feels so forced. He is not allowed to play out as a character as such, but as a idol and that doesn't suit him. Also Gene is civilised down, probably a reflection of the different times, still I miss his brashness, the lack of political correctness.

        I also heavily dislike the dynamics between Gene and Alex, all that sexual innuendo annoyed me, because it was so predictable. There's so many repetition in the set-up already that I can't muster up any enthusiasm or empathy for the character of Alex. Of course she comes back into the times where her parents mysteriously died, the truth of which she will undoubtedly uncover during the show, just like Sam. The whole talking to the tv, waiting for messages etc we all had that. It makes sense in the context of the premise, but that just gives me even more the feeling to watch a brilliant idea re-hashed and makes me wish that they had crunged up a different premise altogether.

        As a sidenote: She should've known that confronting Layton won't get her to wake up. It's the exact same thing Sam tried as well in the first epsiode and it got him nowhere.

        And Lou, I can't agree with you, I find LoM way crackier and whacked up far more than AtA. It's also creepier and Sam's despair came through a lot more believable than Alex's. I am not sure if it is the actress or the set-up, I just didn't feel it. Also, the 80s background has a lot less distinct and unique shape in comparison to the 70s, the timetravel aspect was nearly completely supressed in AtA, which robs the show of another important iconic aspect.

        Last but not least, I loved that LoM kind of left different interpretations for Sam's real fate in the last episode. Was it really suicide or did he never really wake up? And I loved that we ended on an open and happy end for his life in the 70s after his return. I hated that AtA couldn't leave it alone but had to explain it all, give it a final interpretation AND telling us that Sam even died there. I hate that more than I can say, since it might influence re-watchings of LoM.

        Altogether I was highly disappointed and even angry at times and don't intend to watch the show further!
        Last edited by galathea; 14-02-08, 11:52 PM.


        • #5
          Well how can i follow that?

          Saw ep 2 last night and I have to say i loved it. Bollyknickers was fleshed out much more for me here and I ended up feeling much better about her than in ep 1. Sam left some big shoes to fill but i think Alex has enough to her to grow on me. I love that coming from an informed point of view she is starting to treat it all as a fantasy where she can basically do anything she wants (shag yuppies, get her arse stamped). It loosens up some of her more severe edges.

          Gene was much better here as well. I felt he wasn't quite rightin the opener but the naked line up and the swift Gene justice that followed was much more like it as was his method of dealing with an old guy with a club. Now that's the Gene Genie I grew to love.

          The storyline was a little meh, but had that aspect of the bad guys being understandable even if they are bad that cropped up a lot in LoM. I actually felt really sorry for the young lad. I felt they could have made a bit more about the royal wedding, perhaps had it later in the series and built it up over a few eps. I mean it was a huge part of 81 so i felt it deserved more. Alex meeting her mum early in the season was a good thing to me. We are coveing old ground which i think is natural but we're getting out ofthe way quick. A2A has to have different mysteries to it but is generally the same situation. If Alex didn't at least take some time to go through similar process to Sam it would be weird but a least we're not dwelling too much on them. IU though the clown was better done as well. More subtle and sparing but still really spooky.

          Eighties highlights include the yuppie business man (I thought brilliantly played with maximum smarm), The blitz night club with 'George' on the door and the live version of Fade to Grey (great song) ooh and we got us some Madness (okay probably just me gonna get excited by that) Chris in the make up was the moment of the ep for me.

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          • #6
            Episode two - yeah, I know we've had three already. One at a time, okay

            Finally got around to catching up on last week's Ashes to Ashes the other night, the second episode. It was interesting - I started out feeling much the same as I did with the first episode: that it was very cleverly written, but left me cold, and certainly fell far short of the immediate impact Life on Mars had. LoM was just so rich and intense, fresh and dynamic, and all the rest of it, and Ashes to Ashes just...isn't. But it is very cleverly written, and the fabulously cheesy 80s title sequence is brilliant.

            But something happened during this episode. I started out, as I said, fairly indifferent - interested enough to watch again, if only because I'm intrigued to know how they are going to twist the concept this time, but by the final third I realised I'd become completely gripped by the storyline, and that was a huge relief.

            I'm still in two minds about Alex. She's just so...prissy and smug. All that "good morning, imaginary constructs" business, convinced she knows it all and is so superior. But finally during the course of this episode we started to see the first real cracks in her armour, started to see the person beneath the professional fa?ade, and that's what I need to start connecting to her as a character.

            The overall season arc looks like it definitely revolves around Alex's parents and their forthcoming death - and Alex's interactions with her mother were fascinating in this episode. How was it that Alex broke it down for that kid? Saying that she knows how it feels to absolutely adore a powerful, exciting and intimidating parent who doesn't always give you as much attention as you feel you deserve, or something like that - I can think of a few other characters on TV who might also fit that definition.

            I'm still intrigued by the fact that we are being given scenes in which Alex isn't present, because that gives the other characters a life and identity outside of her fantasy, if a fantasy is, indeed, what this is. I'm very curious to know if this is going to be significant in any way, will be a part of the twist in the tail of the story or not. Only time will tell, I suppose.


            • #7
              Episode 3.

              I thought this was pretty good. Probably not quite as enjoyable as the previous week but still pretty good.

              I'm not sure i buy the softer side of Raymondo quite or the ease with which Gene seemed to come round to protecting prostitutes or how much he seems to pander to the funny handshake brigade. The killer was an interesting character though and the main storyline did tick along nicely. The beardy bloke is, I think immediately suspect and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had something to do with Alex's parents death. He seemed far too nice and sympathetic and Alex obviously seems to hero worship him to a large degree.

              I quite liked the resolution at the end with the gnomes and the finger stting fire to thing (and who else wants to try that?) although the sexual chemistry element between Gene and Alex is a little twee for my tastes and I would prefer a greater concentration on their class differences. Regarding Alex; I think her analytic approach to her situatiuon is quickly cracking. Her knowledge that her situation isn't real means that Alex is less able to immerse herself in her situation but I think that makes her hold on it a lot more brittle than Sam's. I think she is living far neare to the edge than Sam because of her preconceptions and that as a result she is coping a lot less well.

              This is the first weelk I caught the opening titles too and the completely and uterly rock! So very, very eighties.I think i've cracked the difference between LoM and A2A and it is to do with the setting and the relationships. If LoM had Gene & Sam as a post modern Sweeny then Gene & alex are definitely a version of Dempsey & Makepeace. It's not just the male/female lead. The camera work and editing are all very reminiscent of these shows (especially at the beginning in this ep where the gang pull up in the Quatro.) Once that thought occured to me I found myself comparing LoM and A2A a lot less and letting the latter wash over me as its own entity
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              • #8
                Episode four last night, wasn't it?

                Ashes to Ashes is growing on me. It is never going to come anywhere near Life on Mars in terms of creativity and originality, depth and intensity, and all the rest of it, and has none of the psychological intricacy its predecessor did, but it is cleverly written, does have an intriguing arc running through it, and is a lot more fun now that Alex is lightening up and no longer annoying me as much as she did at the start.

                I do appreciate that the writers have made a conscious effort to not imitate their own work too closely, because any attempt to make it too similar to Life on Mars would be doomed to failure. It has to stand on its own merits, and does so by taking the central concept of LoM and approaching it from a completely different angle. Alex came into her fantasy knowing all the detail's of Sam's, and in a sense that makes her all the more vulnerable than Sam, because she can't let go of what she knows and embrace the life she is now living. It makes her grasp on what's real and what isn't all the more...brittle, as you said, tangent. She is making the most of the opportunity to lose a few of her inhibitions - the contrast between her appearance in 2008 and 1981 is immense - because she doesn't think she has anything to lose, can afford to let go and live it up a little, because none of this is real. But that's a dangerous approach to take in the 1981 world, in many ways - Gene said it in last week's episode, I think, that she's losing the respect of her colleagues and that to do her job effectively she needs to have their respect. She's caught in that cleft stick between treating her current existence as real or fantasy. To survive, Sam had to embrace his 1973 life. Alex is simply flirting with her 1981 existence.

                She's a lot more fun to watch now that she's doing so, though, and has stopped being so prissy and superior. And the 80s credits do make me laugh every time because they are just sooo 80s. *G*

                I'm still intrigued by the openness of the POV. We're getting a lot of scenes that Alex isn't present for, and some scenes that she's in are not told from her point of view. One of the central features of LoM was that every single scene was told from Sam's perspective, reinforcing the fact that this was all a fantasy, and it was Sam's fantasy, and that none of the characters had an existence outside of that fantasy. With A2A, though, the characters are being given an identity and existence of their own, separate from any fantasy Alex might be experiencing, and I am curious to see where that is leading and if it is at all relevant.

                Plus, obviously, the main arc revolves around Alex's parents and their murder, with the plot thickening all the while as Alex builds up her body of evidence. It'll be interesting to see where that story goes, as well.


                • #9
                  I thought this week's ep was excellent.

                  Bollyknickers seems to have settled down a lot more into her '81 existence and the comedy in this ep was probably the strongest in the series so far with the 'date' between Ethan and Alex, Chris and Ray's good cop bad cop routine and of course chris's hilarious conversion to feminism (plus Big up for Marathons. They are NOT snickers.)

                  The growing theme of Alex's parents and uncle Ethan and exactly what they're all up to is beginning to get very interesting. It's funny that in LoM Sams mum was almost held up as the ideal of a mother but in A2A Alex's mum seems to be in some very dark grey areas indeed. I still wouldn't trust uncle Ethan as far as a I could throw him and I think the fact that he has Molly back in the present day is going to have some very interesting repercussions.

                  I'm not sure I totally bought into Gene Vs the government element though. I mean in the last ep he didn't want to upset the comissioners 'Funny handshake' buddies but now he's willing to break into government bases? Hmmm. Saying that if he hadn't we wouldn't have had the "I don't like the spooky-dooks." (with an ex spook sitting right next to him.) or Drake and Hunt running down corridors to Teardrop Explodes and we wouldn't have them trapped in a very warm room.

                  Personally i hope Alex get's trapped in a lot more hot rooms.
                  Last edited by tangent; 01-03-08, 07:34 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Best ep of the season so far for me.

                    From the hilarious Hotel stakeout at the start I was snorting with laughter. there were some absolute diamond one liners all the way through.

                    The writing seemd far more LoM like for me too Gene seemd far more Gene-y, Ray more ray-y than we've had before. I think a lot of this was because as before we were tackling old fashioned atitudes to the main issue head on but also the fotball match Gene's sense of angry determination; much better. I especially liked Gene dealing with his grass, the way he was threatneing him in one scene bu then in another had given him an old LoM era suit so he could go to court. Thats the kind of old school honour that i've come to expect from DCI hunt. I would have liked him to stick the nut on the bad guy when he confronted him though. I think that's another reason I enjoyed this ep more. Gene is better when he's butting heads with a bad guy than being world weary and worn down by the establishment.

                    Bolly knickers was better in this ep as well. I'm starting to get the sense that she's really starting to lose it. Her drinking is becoming much more stongly indiczated as being a possible problem and she seems to be hanging on for grim death to any possible theory as to how she can get back. Last week it was all about her parents this week she's adamant it's all about stopping the guns and stopping the bullet. As each theory goes by she seems to be reaching further and further for a possible answer and struggling more and more to deal wit the lack of one.

                    Fro mthe supporting cast, the guy with the Ears (Russel something?) was very, very good. It was a strong central performance that really set the whole thing going, very believable and sensitively portrayed. The bad guys was good too. Very intimidating. The ending was well handled if maybe a little rushed. Loved the reunion and the aids reference at the end was just the right side of obvious for my tastes. Nicely underplayed.

                    Scene of the ep has to be Raymondo chatting the bad uy up. Absolutely hilairious the way he's shown to be enjoying things a bit too much, the cut across to Gene and Chris the whispering in the ear and then the look on Rays face. Priceless.

                    Line of the night had to be Gene's reaction to the botched surveillance at the start "Tinker, tailor, soldier, twat!"

                    Oh and one step beyond by Madness. Spot on.
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                    • #11
                      So, Ashes to Ashes finished last night. It was...I don't know. The series has finished and I still don't know what I think about it. I mean, they did manage to pull a clever and intriguing concept out of the bag. And the acting was good. But there was just something about it that simply didn't work for me. I was the writing. It was just too unsubtle, too overblown. I don't know. Maybe the project was rushed into production and could have benefited from a much longer drafting and script-editing process, such as LoM had. Maybe it's just that the 80s setting is less appealing to me than the 70s. Or maybe it's just that I just didn't like Alex as a central character, no matter how hard I tried.

                      I did apreciate that Alex for once wasn't wearing one of those annoying off-the-shoulder numbers for the final episode!

                      I didn't see the big shock twist coming, I have to admit. But I felt very distanced from the whole plot, and have done all the way through the series, rather than being heavily invested in it the way I was with Sam's in LoM. Alex's whole attitude toward her situation was probably the biggest contributing factor there - she has always been very arm's length and supercilious about her position in this strange fantasy world, and that makes it harder for viewers to feel invested. For me, anyway. And she completely failed to convince me that she's a trained professional in any way, handling her situation so badly, especially in that final episode. Yes, she was under a lot of strain and not thinking clearly, but it still annoyed rather than engaged me.

                      And there was, ultimately, no resolution, since Alex failed to save her parents and remains trapped in her comatose dreamscape for, probably, another season. When it's positive resolution that I want - positive resolution of the kind that LoM so spectacularly failed to deliver. I want the writers to be brave enough to have their central character walk away from the characters and settings of the fantasy and take the lessons they've learned there back into their real life, rather than completely rejecting reality in favour of the fantasy the way that Sam ultimately did. I wanted to see that happen last night. Apparently, I'm going to have to wait another season at least to find out if it will happen. Bah.


                      • #12
                        Okay so i've missed posting on a couple of eps so here goes.

                        I'll deal wit the one with the charity worker in it first.

                        Excellent stuff, some more old school Gene policing, Ska boys pilfered charity money and bolly's real life husband (and former Mr Darcy) with a brummy accent, OCD and that haircut. Excellent.

                        Bolly was probably at her most Sam like here, refusing to let Gene use his bully boy tactics to get results whilst knowing that the clown was going to 'take someone' and doing her damnedest to stop it. It was all very reminiscent of LoM but in a good way. I think the series has taken a while to fully grow on me and iI've actually enjoyed the previous weeks rereuns on bbc 3 more than my initial watchings of most eps but this one i was into from the start. It moved through the gears nicely, from comedy (Ray and Chris in front of little and large, Genes crimewatchy thing appearance.) to menace, (Gene at his snarling best, his face off with Mum and uncle Beardy) and then to that ending. Little Shazza; noooo! that really got the hearstrings twanging and i was with Chris and Ray all the way for a second (then i felt guilty, then i remembered it's a programme). Shazza is the best of the new characters for me and doing that to her was just a real wow moment (and very well acted by both her and Chris). But once the dust settles Bolly has her new found sense of purpose and confidence she can control things which leads us to...

                        The finale.

                        I thought this took a little while to get going to be honest, with Bolly's unproductive prison visits just a little bit too innefectual for my liking.The visiting dignitary thing was a nice little subplot and Chris in a cell with the Gay pride marchers was sooo funny. Never really bought into Bolly driving a tank over someones car though (even if it was her uncle) that had a big note of wrongness to it for me.

                        But again this was all about the ending, all about the car bomb and Alex's attempts to stop it and the way all the pieces fit together at the end was very, very clever. It does raise a lot of questions though which, for me, is a good thing because that's been something missing so far. Sam didn't know what the hell was going on and neither did we till the bitter end. Bolly does knowwhat's going on (or thinks she does) and so to a degree do we.

                        But how can Gene be in Bolly's past? How can he have been the one to get her to safety? If she didnt know who planted the car bomb then how does this Alex know who planted the car bomb? There seems to be a much closer coming together of 'actual events' and 'gene's world' here than there's been previously (and Llywela's catch on the POV we get to see things from being wider is, ithink, part of this) and I hope that the writers are once again shifting the goalposts slightly, making us think again ,making us doubt ourselves all over again. The Majic of LoM was partly the characters and the setting but also that sense of uncharted waters and i think we might have set sail again.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tangent View Post

                          But how can Gene be in Bolly's past? How can he have been the one to get her to safety? If she didnt know who planted the car bomb then how does this Alex know who planted the car bomb? There seems to be a much closer coming together of 'actual events' and 'gene's world' here than there's been previously (and Llywela's catch on the POV we get to see things from being wider is, ithink, part of this) and I hope that the writers are once again shifting the goalposts slightly, making us think again ,making us doubt ourselves all over again. The Majic of LoM was partly the characters and the setting but also that sense of uncharted waters and i think we might have set sail again.
                          After doing a re-watch of the first two episodes last night. Something that Arthur Letyon(sp?) says in the first episode which made me wonder who he was talking to on the phone because he says something along the lines of "I've got Tim and Caroline Price's daughter" and something like "do you want her to find out how her parents died" and seeing you post Tangent got me thinking who he was talking to. It could be Evan. It may be nothing but I noticed it last night and wondered if anyone had any thoughts on it.

                          Edit: Just re-watched the finale and realised it was Evan who Leyton was speaking to because of Alex saying Leyton would use it to blackmail Evan. I really like how some of the constructs seem to be merging with actual moments in Alex's life
                          Last edited by Alucard; 03-05-08, 10:40 AM.

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