Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Life on Mars 2.5

There used to be a comic series (circa 1973) called 'the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers' about three hippies and their cat who all took a massive amount of drugs and had adventures. In one episode they decided to lay off the drugs. The comic transformed into a photo of three long haired men sitting in a filthy kitchen. In the next frame they were all shovelling as many drugs as possible into their mouths, and they were happily cartoon again.

In this week's episode of Life on Mars Sam Tyler drinks Tizer spiked with LSD (before the start of the episode) and experiences a similar, or possibly reversed, revelation. Everyone's on TV. And, as in 'The Matrix', discovering the fake nature of reality gives magic powers - he can see and hear what people are doing all over Manchester. He's become a viewer. Or he's in a coma inside his coma.

In my completely un-received review of Life on Mars in Vector I said that Sam Tyler's dilemma is exactly like ours in real life. We don't know who we are or what we are doing here, and we don't know what reality is. Every detective story is about discovering the truth, and therefore it assumes a reliable baseline of reality. The Law and The Truth. Sam is a policeman who lacks this faith-base.

My argument was that there are two solutions to Sam Tyler's dilemma, and these are our solutions too. One is that he might realise that he does not exist - he's a character on a TV show. This half-glimpsed knowledge fills him with horror, just as the knowledge that we don't exist fills us with existential dread. That's why the TV girl is so frightening. That's why the TV is the evil eye in his bedroom.

The other solution is to find meaning through compassion and friendship with other people. This is Annie Cartwright's solution, which she is trying to teach Sam. This is mirrored in this episode, where compassion for the murdered girl and her unjustly accused boyfriend and the kidnapped victims brings focus to both Gene and Sam, as they both shake off the story-within-a-story that they have been trapped in.
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