Airing for the first time last week, Ashes To Ashes is the much anticipated follow up to the excellent (if somewhat confusing at times) Life On Mars. Sam Tyler may have been replaced by female detective Alex Drake, a psychological profiler, but the important thing is that Gene Hunt returns (as politically uncorrect as ever) with his mostly incompetent sidekicks Chris Skelton and Ray Carling.
The opening episode of Ashes To Ashes sees Alex Drake shot by a criminal who has gone a little mad and is blaming her for the downfall of his criminal empire. He also seems to know something about the death of her parents. Upon being shot Alex wakes up dressed as a hooker amidst a party on a boat, with the strains of Ultravox’s Vienna ringing in her ears, marking the year as 1981. Not knowing quite what’s going on she leaves the boat as police storm it, still believing she has been shot. This is where she meets Gene and his gang for the first time.
As the episode progresses Alex realises that what is happening to her must be the same as what happened to Sam Tyler, who’s case she was following after he came out of his coma and then commited suicide at the end of Life On Mars.
Going by the first episode Ashes To Ashes looks as if it’s going to do for the 1980’s what Life On Mars did for the 1970’s. Whilst I found Alex Drake slightly annoying in this episode, I feel sure once she stops being quite so hysterical about things I will warm to her character much more. What I really enjoyed most was spotting all the 1980’s references, and there were several. From the Pacman mug on a desk to the singing of Shaddup You Face in the Italian restaurant where the gang hang out for “lunch”.
Best of all were Zippy and George from Rainbow turning up to talk to Alex’s daughter in some kind of weird dream sequence. I was never scared of Zippy as a kid, but he came across quite creepy here, dressed in a police hat and brandishing a truncheon. I certainly hope that they appear much more, like the little girl from the testcard did in Life On Mars. Zippy and George’s appearance was all the better for the fact that they were voiced by Roy Skelton, who originally provided their voices. I certainly preferred them to the scary Pierot Clown from the cover of David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes, although this makes sense given how much of Life On Mars relied on Bowie songs.