They told us that in the final episode all would be revealed. And in a way it was, but I am so happy that even with everything revealed we are no nearer to knowing what is real: just like in real life.There's a science fiction short story where a man keeps falling through a hole in reality to another reality, and then that reality collapses, perhaps after years have passed, and he is falling again, and the words in his head are 'never knowing... never knowing'. I think it's supposed to be a horrible ending. But in Life on Mars I think they made it a positive ending.
There was no way Sam was going to wake up and his seventies life was all a dream. No way. Credit to the script writers for demonstrating why that couldn't be the ending: because the 1970 characters were too self-willed to be his projections, and too human to be allegories (of 'the tumour' or 'compassion' for instance). And yet, neither could they resolve the two series by saying one time is real at the expense of the other, or that Sam was mad (or sane) or time travelling.
I think a possible interpretation (like with Pan's Labyrinth) was that a person at the point of death chooses to retreat into a fantasy, and that's the happiest ending that anyone can achieve. Kurt Vonnegut's 'Sirens of Titan' ended like that (coincidentally Vonnegut died on Wednesday). But it seems to me that the show was really intended to indicate that all times and species of existence have characteristics of reality and illusion, that every aspect of existence is contingent, and that applies to us too, watching the TV.
The show draws parallels, it seems to me, between faith in the ground of existence, and keeping to laws and rules of conduct. That's what is 'sensible' in both senses of the word. In that respect life in 2007 is 'sensible', and Tyler rejects virtue and restraint for romantic individualism. That's why I think it was important to show that rejecting virtue means that desperately bad things happen (Gene Hunt did some very evil things) and that rejecting fantasy might mean losing real life. But we are still - perhaps despite ourselves - rooting for romance over rationalism.
And yes there was a moment where I shouted out 'It's a Blakes 7 ending!'. It wasn't, quite, but I love any show that can make me shout that.
Did you post a review or comment on the final episode? Can you let me know so I don't miss what you said?