‘Life on Mars’ is worth seeing

Published 8:44 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

In ABC’s version of the BBC hit cop-drama, “Life on Mars,” detective Sam Tyler has been transported from the year 2008 to 1973. This strange event occurs as he tries to rescue his girlfriend, Maya from a serial killer.

As he gets out of his car, a speeding car strikes him and wakes up listening to the song titled “Life on Mars” by David Bowie. This is the same song that was playing on his iPod when the accident occurred, but now is playing on an eight-track tape.

Another reason the show is called “Life on Mars” is that 1973 seems to him like another planet. Walking along the streets of New York City like a lost puppy, he sees the Twin Towers and newspaper headlines that speak of Vietnam.

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Not knowing where to go, he heads back to his office and is welcomed by a diverse group of co-workers. The detectives think that it is Tyler’s first day on the job as a newly hired detective. Still confused, he rants of being from the future, but Lt. Hunt insists that it’s 1973.

Tyler’s frustration with 1973’s way of solving crimes goes beyond the lack of forensic evidence. At first, Hunt’s dirty tactics shock Tyler; the precinct doesn’t blink when Hunt punches suspects and pulls dirty tricks to get information. Now a little more immune, Tyler lets it happen without a fight, but never partakes in their methods. And after a bonding session in Hunt’s office, the oddly paired duo will continue to keep audiences grinning.

Their crime-solving tactics are highly questionable, but “Life on Mars” maintains it credibility for its depiction of the ’70s. The show also deals with another prevalent issue, sexism. Tyler befriends a woman at the precinct, Annie Morris, despite his co-workers warnings. Their friendship remains anachronistic in 1973, allowing viewers to assess how far we’ve come since then.

Even though the show’s premise is a little out there, Tyler’s steady journey toward the truth is too difficult to resist. Along the way, he learns to embrace the new reality and puts everything he has into his investigations. Whether kept hostage in a hospital or searching for a UFO in the Meadowlands, Tyler seems to thrive in 1973.

Another interesting dynamic of the show is that its setting of NYC in 1973 enables him to learn about his family. For instance, a kidnapping case enables Tyler to find out that his father was a part of the mob. He also comes in contact with his mother, and when she asks Tyler if he wants to see her son, his immediate reaction is no. Who knows what will happen if he sees his 4-year-old self.

To make matters more confusing, Tyler periodically spots a robotic fly sneaking around. Why are future technologies bleeding into the past? Tyler is still just as baffled as viewers are, but each fly appearance leads to more answers, which leads to more questions.

The multiple layers may furrow brows, but Tyler’s new world should hook viewers. As long as the present-versus-past element maintains equilibrium, the weekly time travel will continue. It all comes down to one question: Why is Sam Tyler experiencing life in 1973? It might be a long road ahead, but it’s definitely worth finding out.

Rachel Rietsema is a student at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and is from Hollandale.