Sunday, August 3, 2008


Hello, my imaginary constructs!

Thanks to my friend Mark, I'm working my way through 'Ashes To Ashes', the sequel to 'Life On Mars'. I've gone through three episodes so far.... I'm not as tuned into Alex Drake's crisis as I was with Sam Tyler's situation, but that's more than likely due to the fact that there's no ambivalence as to what Alex is going through. I'm enjoying Keeley Hawes' performance, and it is as if she was a whole other actress from what I remembered from 'MI-5' ('Spooks'). However, that over-the-top, cavalier attitude from the second episode almost made Mark bail on me ever seeing the rest of the series!

At first Mark thought a particular song making up Alex's personal soundtrack, "Planet Earth" by Duran Duran was from 1983. He was eager to declare it a Zonk for Toobworld, but a little research online showed that it was 1981; Mark probably just didn't know it himself until '83.

But I think 'Ashes To Ashes' is Zonk-proof, even more so than 'Life On Mars' could ever hope to be. 'LoM' had to keep us guessing - was Sam in a coma, back in Time, or mad? - so every little detail had to be perfectly in keeping with 1973 or earlier. The 'LoM' production team didn't have the luxury to be a bit lax.

Not so with 'Ashes To Ashes'. We know that the Gene Genie and his squad are all in DI Alex Drake's head, that it's all a coma dream/illusion. And despite what TV and the movies would have us believe, our dreams are not so perfectly thought out and delineated. They're a mish-mosh of random images jumbled together to form some sort of wild story.

So Alex would be pulling in memories and images from all over her sub-conscious, not just everything specific to only 1981. So eventually if there is a song cue from later than 1981, or an image from an old TV show in similar circumstances, I'm cool with that.

That second episode has something of a good example of this. At one point, Alex and the doctor/real estate developer she was protecting went to the club Blitz. There Alex saw Boy George working the coat check room, just as he apparently was back then in the real world.

On stage was the band Visage, which at the time counted Steve Strange, Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Rusty Egan, Dave Formula, nad John McGeogh as its members. Steve Strange appears in the dream version as his own tele-version (as does a musician from a later incarnation of the band). As Alex and her "date" work their way through the crowd, Steve Strange concludes the song with an announcement that it was their "new" single, "Fade To Gray".

However, the song was released in November of 1980, and the episode takes place more than eight months later. If this had been real life playing out, I'd have to find a way to defuse that Zonk. For instances, I could say that Steve wasn't very savvy about the business side of their record releases. Or the band was still milking that single because they didn't have any others good enough.

I don't know when they released another song after "Shades Of Gray", but maybe he was just working on auto-pilot up onstage and was reciting patter by rote.

But it doesn't matter when this is all in Alex Drake's lovely head (despite the bullet). Her sub-conscious is just mixing up everything she knows about the band Visage and spewing it out together.

Zonk-proof, my imaginary constructs!

Toby O'B

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