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October 7th, 2008


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11:01 am - Life on Mars
Niall at Torque Control links to news of a new plan for American Life on Mars, and I never thought I'd say this, but it sounds good:

In the British version, Sam has really only three options for what’s happening: he’s time-traveled, he’s in a coma and dreaming, or he’s gone insane (Alison's edit - I don't agree, but these are the only ones made explicit). The American version will add another 10 possibilities, for a total of 13. Including the idea that Sam is dead and in purgatory. At the start of the second episode, Annie walks in on Sam writing all 13 possibilities on a chalkboard. And the show’s first 13 episodes will each explore one of those possibilities.


Great! I always thought the most interesting aspect of Life on Mars was the tension between abstraction and pragmatism (embodied of course in the tension between Gene and Sam) and this tension was somewhat frittered away in Ashes to Ashes. It sounds to me like the American writers have finally cottoned on to the metaphysics and will be front-loading it. Could be fab. Remember how Lost backed away from it, and fluffed it.

But are there 13 ways to explain Sam's predicament? Niall suggests:
Time travel
Coma dream
Insanity
Afterlife
Simulation/omega point


You know my theory: I think Sam is one of the few characters on TV who is coming to realise he is a character on TV. Niall also says he could be in a Truman Show type set-up (a real person caught in a fake world). So that's two more.

You could split 'afterlife' into a number of possibilities (heaven, Hell, purgatory, bardo etc.).

Can you help boost this to 13?

(40 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:several_bees
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:14 am (UTC)
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He is playing a very realistic computer game. He is in a robot testing factory for a 1970s theme park. He is really in the 70s, and knows it, and is pretending to think he's from the future because he's trying to find out whether Gene killed his father.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
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All Brilliant suggestions.

He is playing a very realistic computer game

Like in Red Dwarf. Also the converse - a despair squid is persuading him he's been playing a computer game so it can eat his brain waves (or something). As Timothy Spall said 'It's a blatant clue, blatant'

That he's a robot in a kind of West World. Great idea.
[User Picture]
From:azdak
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC)
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The more I read about the Yank version, the more fantastic it sounds. Amping up Annie and Maya (who were the weak points where the writers' androcentrism really shows) was top of my wishlist of problems to address; casting Harvey Keitel is just, well, wow; and making the what-the-hell-is-going-on-element more significant is really, really cool. It sounds as if they've dropped the sending-up-'70s-cop-movies idea, which is sensible, given how very different US 70s TV cop shows were from the British ones (too much cheese, not enough grim violence and corruption). It'll be a different Sam and Gene, but that's okay - I've seen lots of different Hamlets, too ;-)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC)
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I was worried that they might weaken the Annie character. Let's hope they pull this off.

God - could it really be an OK show? I do hope so.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:37 am (UTC)
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Would the British audience get the joke if I said that I misread this:

new plan for American Life on Mars

as being about This American Life on Mars (which sounds awesome)?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_American_Life
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC)
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I've never heard any US radio, so it goes over my head I'm afraid
[User Picture]
From:watervole
Date:October 7th, 2008 11:31 am (UTC)
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This looks really promising. The characters have the right feel to them and the 13 possibilities sound like a good move (as long as they watch their internal continuity).
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 12:16 pm (UTC)
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I think you were always more optimistic than I was, watervole, so I hope you are on to something
[User Picture]
From:pennski
Date:October 7th, 2008 11:40 am (UTC)
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This is the first encouraging post I've read about the new American version.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 12:19 pm (UTC)
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I didn't think any news could have raised my hopes, but I warm to this idea.
[User Picture]
From:vocatus_fortis
Date:October 7th, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
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Could he a#have tried to resign? ("The Prisoner")
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
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A really important consideration for me is that they never plump for any one explanation. I've never seen The Prisoner (I don't know how I've avoided it) but I think that was part of the appeal, that it kept opening up and up?
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:October 7th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
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Thinks he's only playing at reforming the police, then finds out he actually is. (Possibly a subset of simulation...?)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 12:37 pm (UTC)
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You mean a bit like Ender's Game, where he thinks he's playing a War Game but really he's committing genocide?

(er, I hope that's not spoilers for anyone but it was published ages ago)

Edited at 2008-10-07 12:37 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:azdak
Date:October 7th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
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Drugs! Possibly force-fed by some enemy to induce the illusion. (What? I'm in Man from UNCLE fandom. This is standard procedure for bad guys!)

An interdimensional-collision of worlds (so not quite time travel, but close).

He's a character in someone else's dream.

And "insanity" can be split into two kinds - he's from now and hallucinating the '70s or, as the commissioner/surgeon suggests in the Original LoM, he's from the '70s and is hallucinating now.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
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I quite like the idea that the present day is an hallucination of the 1970s. Just in general, not as a TV premise.

I've been listening to a radio drama on BBC7 which is about two parallel worlds colliding, starring Hugh Bonneville and Josie Lawrence. Pretty good actually.
[User Picture]
From:azdak
Date:October 7th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that clip is so bizarre! It's like they've kept the same shots, the same lighting and the same costumes (I'm less surprised that they've kept the same names and a lot of the dialogue), so that I keep having flashbacks...
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
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I'm at work and it's hard for me to watch clips, but I just took a risk and checked them out - quite impressed. quite impressed.
[User Picture]
From:happytune
Date:October 7th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
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I don't know so much about the 13 possibilities thing. All feels very kabbalah to me...I'm feeling all 'bah humbug' about this remake - why bugger up perfection? :-) So while the look and feel of the clips do press my buttons, I'm still sceptical.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
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I never thought of the Sephiroth and all that stuff. Let us hope that the reference is tangential and not intrinsic.

If it's good it won't detract from the original. Though, this is me who refuses to watch the American Office.
[User Picture]
From:valderys
Date:October 7th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
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What about the original Star Trek pilot idea? He really was crippled in the car accident and now he's in a world created specially for him, for whatever reason, a VR of some kind.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Yes, good one.
[User Picture]
From:katlinel
Date:October 7th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
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Could it be a Being John Malkovich scenario where he's inhabiting someone else's head and his consciousness and his host's are fighting for control, externalised by his competing with Gene etc?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 7th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
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Now that's something completely novel, which I hadn't even thought of. There's an old John Wyndham story called Chocky about a little boy whose consciousness is invaded by an alien observer.
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:October 7th, 2008 08:26 pm (UTC)
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This sounds fascinating, and much better than just time travel versus coma. Actually I was one of the few who rather liked the original pilot clip with O'Brien. It might even have a more satisfying resolution.

I can't think of anything new; great suggestions.
[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:October 12th, 2008 05:59 am (UTC)
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I'm passing a link to this journal on to my mother because you have never met such a Life on Mars fangirl. She was uncertain about the American version this week, as was I, and this bit of information gives me some confidence: it's barely possible that an American version of a British tv show will actually improve on its source.

God, California will tumble into the sea next.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 12th, 2008 06:59 am (UTC)
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Thanks, hope your mum is interested. She might also like to read this review by Abigail Nussbaum of the first episode (of the US version).

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