Ashes to Ashes, season one (TV, 2008)
From Death Ray 14. This is a review of the DVD release, in case you’re interested.
Writers: Ashley Pharaoh and Mathew Graham
Starring: Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Marshall Lancaster, Dean Andrews
Life of Mars follow-up delivers the sparkly 80s goods.
Thank the lords of progress for home entertainment releases, because I get to have a crack at Ashes to Ashes again. You may recall that I was a bit iffy about the first episode, but I am glad to report, and even happier to have the opportunity to say, that my hopes and not my fears were borne out by the rest of the series.
The first episode is still a loud, showy bit of self-congratulatory grandstanding that puts the feet of the series on entirely the wrong road. But from episode two it takes a wiser path, with less outre comedy and a meatier mystery. From then on, it gets better and better. It’d be hard to follow up the chemistry between John Simm and Phillip Glenister under any circumstances, but Keeley Hawes proves a most suitable replacement for the frowning northerner. Hawes plays Alex perfectly, and it’s a credit to the screenwriters that they avoided the cheap thrills of romance between her and the Gene Genie, and instead created a far more complex father/ daughter dynamic – Alex is a little girl, flirting with the father figure she’s been missing so long. That her real paternal needs should be fulfilled by a man she initially hates, and not by her supposedly perfect father or godfather, is a fine twist. This theme is cleverly concealed by Alex’s relationship issues with her mother until the very end, and that is doubly smart. Applause there, we think, for an appropriately Freudian theme, topped off by a creepy clown and his shocking identity.
As for the rest, it cleaves to Life on Mars‘ mix of so-so police puzzles, tight banter and lightweight socio-political comment. This latter comes to the fore a little more than in the parent series – this is the Britain-quaking era of excess, after all – but not much.
The only weak episode besides the first, and for entirely different reasons, is four, with the entire cast wandering in and out of a supposedly top security military base, but it’s still fun.
As to whether it is ‘real’ or not, who cares? Though of central import to us SF buffs, it’s peripheral to the series and contradictorily handled in any case. Like Alex, you’ve got to simply enjoy the ride.