00:00 One important difference which occurs to me is that, obviously, I know exactly which episode this is. Vic Tyler. Dad. I saw this episode – and indeed the whole of Series One – after about two episodes of Series Two. So I never had the sense of fear and anticipation that others might have had, watching absolutely cold. (When did they announce Series Two? Because that would have been a bit of a giveaway, I guess.) I knew that Sam wasn’t going home at the end of this episode. I knew that Sam didn’t blow either Gene’s or his own brains out.
Everyone else is watching Lord of the Rings atm. Trouble is, OH is a hell of a lot deafer than he is ever going to admit, so it’s quite difficult hearing the programme over the TV. I’ve already got the volume up so loud in the headphones it’s hurting my ears, but it’s still getting drowned out.
Well, this is the first time there’s been a “...previously” before the credits.
01:10 I think this is the longest look we’ve yet had at the woodland scene, with the little boy walking through it. I wonder if there’s any particular reason why Sam is lying on his front this time? I think he’s normally lying on his back when he wakes up. I think I prefer it that way – a good look at those lovely lines of throat and chest.
01:55 I suppose it’s a natural consequence of paying your actors and wanting to use them, but it’s always seemed a little unrealistic that all four of them would always go out together like this. There must be much better ways to utilise your detectives!
02:02 Even though Chris is worried about the crims’ possible violent reaction, he’s still right there, getting out of the car at the same time as Gene and Ray, while Sam sits tight, telling them they should wait for Uniformed backup. Of course, if they’d stayed in the car - or maybe turned it round ready to go! – they would have kept them cornered. And then there wouldn’t have been a story.
03:04 How does Phil manage such a stylish handbrake turn when he’s going so slowly? I can just see him having a great time filming those bits.
03:19 “Dad!” This is one of those moments where you just have no choice but to cringe for Sam. So embarrassing, it gives me the shivers just to think of it. It seems to be the voice that convinces him this is Vic, although he was pretty sure just from looking at him. And he makes such a useless job of covering up.
03:39 One of the things I like about Life on Mars is the way they don’t use lots of camera tricks, jumping about, wobbly stuff etc. They very seldom even go into slow motion, and this is one of the times when they do. It works a treat here, bringing an unreal, dream-like sort of feeling, which works well at conveying what Sam is presumably feeling right now. Completely floating with shock.
03:55 Is this the first time we’ve seen Vic in Sam’s memories?
04:10 Of course, when we first saw this, we didn’t know the soft, frightened bit was all an act, but knowing that, we can see that Vic looks very carefully at Sam as he’s pushed into the car. This is presumably the point at which he sees that Sam is all adrift about something and might be worth playing on. He probably didn’t miss the moment when Sam said “Dad”, either.
06:02 I suppose Sam is shell-shocked, but surely he understands that he’s for the funny farm if he tells anyone but Annie that Vic is his Dad. So wouldn’t his first instinct be to keep a very low profile and await events? Instead, he goes straight in with the special pleading, which is surely guaranteed to make Gene – and Ray! – watch him very carefully. After all, however long Sam has been with ‘A’ Division, he’s still the newcomer with the mysterious past that he doesn’t talk about. Wouldn’t it always be in the back of their minds that there was something odd about him? And then to be trying to protect someone who Gene’s – and Ray’s – instincts tell them is a bad’un?
06:15 John’s voice when Sam says “Have you forgotten your place, Detective Constable?” is much lighter than usual. I quite like it.
07:14 Sam takes advantage of Gene’s phone ringing to go and see Vic alone. Out of character again – normally he would wait for Gene, like they’re joined at the hip or something *snerk*
07:20 This should be a big clue for Sam, but obviously he’s never going to see it. Innocent little people don’t tend to be very experienced at Find The Lady – has Vic spent some time working street corner scams?
07:28 Understandably, of course, Sam is more pre-occupied with just looking at his wonderful Daddy who he hasn’t seen since he was four years old. I think this whole thing with Vic is one of those rare occasions where our perceptions of what is going on are somewhat distanced from Sam’s, although of course the whole thing is supposed to be Sam pov. It’s only at moments like this, where we see that fond soppy look on Sam’s face, that we are reminded of how things are for Sam.
07:37 Vic is really working the whole “put the punter at ease” thing here, letting him win the first few rounds, and of course buttering up Chris at the same time. And still that besotted look on Sam’s face.
07:44 “Senior officer?” Clever Vic; flatter the new man as well, at the first available moment. He’s probably in no doubt that he can fool this one too.
08:12 They’re playing it heavy on the “looking up to Gene” business. I don’t remember too much of this in previous episodes, although it has to be said that the Cinematography stuff is something I know very little about and tend not to notice. In fact, I’d never heard of it, or the concept of thinking about camera angles and how to frame things, until I read a thread on the subject by TRA member NewsiesTimeOnMars. (She also had an LJ, which I think was TimeonMars.) I’m never sure how to read things like this; there must be a reason why we’re staring up at Gene more than usual, but I don’t know what it might be.
08:26 Gene is again with the overplayed fish metaphor (? – another concept I hadn’t really come across before), and I love the way he looks round at Sam to see how he’s taking it. Unfortunately we cut to Sam too quickly to really see the expression on Gene’s face. But from just as he’s looking round towards Sam, I’m guessing he’s looking for approval, or reassurance that he’s not getting his wotsits mixed up. It could be taunting of course, but I don’t think so.
09:40 Gene tells Vic he can keep him there as long as he bloody well likes. I don’t think that’s true, and obviously Gene doesn’t expect Vic to know one way or the other. But Vic is not the man Sam wants him to be, and he presumably does know to the minute how long Gene can keep him. Which means Gene has just weakened himself in Vic’s eyes.
09:45 Sam looks unhappy at the idea of Vic playing cards. He will presumably already know that Vic wasn’t the steadiest provider, but at this moment I think he’s remembering the time he tried to give Warren’s roll of notes to Ruth. Now he understands why she was so against the idea of putting money on a horse. That little point, and this one about Vic playing cards, come together in Sam’s mind to tell him a lot that a little boy never imagined about his Daddy. Adult Sam has probably never questioned those childhood impressions.
10:12 Sam’s ready to believe anything Vic says. After his unbending display of professional integrity last week, this week he is being a total gullible fool. Understandable, of course. And John plays both so well. I completely and utterly believe in how Sam sees Vic.
10:39 An adorable look from John here, as Sam tries to stop himself from grinning like a fool at his Daddy showing how much he cares for his little lad.
11:45 Sam “adopted a professional alias” to avoid telling Ruth his name was Tyler. It’s another very special, toe-curlingly embarrassing, cringe-for-Sam moment. And when Gene says “he really thinks like this”, he doesn’t sound too unhappy about it!
13:21 Funnily enough, Sam sniffing Vic’s jacket isn’t cringe-making at all, it’s heart-breaking and so real. That’s what I want to do with The Jacket if I ever get to hold it! Though of course its proud new owner will have worn it by then, and presumably lots of other fans will have tried it on. It’s really great that he’s going to let people try it on and have their photos taken in it.
16:08 We’re staring up at Gene again; I would quite like to know what that’s about. They do it in episode 1 of Ashes to Ashes, as well, and it’s even more cringe-making there.
16:35 OK so I’m a slasher, but Gene really is showing affection for Sam in this episode, despite Sam being – to Gene’s eyes – a gullible prick over Vic. First we have “Am I still getting me wotsits mixed up, Gladys?” And then only a minute later we have him calling Sam “My little Deputy Dawg”. Which by any measure at all is sweet. Or adorable, even. So it’s a bit odd that Sam doesn’t react at all to Gene calling him this - unless he’s used to endearments from Gene, of course!
16:50 So it’s little Sam Tyler answering the phone. In reality, I think having a phone at home would have been an additional reason to suspect Vic. We already know he’s behind with the rent, and Ruth confessed to Sam in the Warren episode that they had no money. Many people still didn’t have phones; my parents weren’t as badly off as Vic and Ruth, but we didn’t get a phone until 1972, and we were not the last. It was still – at least on the council estate I lived on – a symbol of having enough money and then some.
17:14 Gene is watching Sam very carefully here; he knows something’s not right with Sam.
23:47 When Vic retorts “And you don’t get rich selling mop-heads!” Sam has the grace to apologise. This might be the first time he’s really confronted the reality of what it means to have a family to provide for. When he has to face up to what Vic really is, he will still have this moment, when he came to an adult understanding of Vic’s life before he left.
24:25 Poor Sam, he does such a shit job of suggesting a game of football. “I’ve got...uh, there’s some in the boot...we could, um ... just to kill time.” The look on Vic’s face is great. But the following scene is adorable. We already know that Sam didn’t see much of Vic anyway, so I bet there wasn’t much time available for father-son bonding over a football. If Vic hadn’t left, Sam probably wouldn’t have any memories of Vic from before he was about seven years old.
25:03 “On your head my son”. Aww. Sam’s best moment ever. “My son.”
26:00 It’s so sweet, the way Sam is totally sincere about looking out for Vic. And Vic is noting all this to use against him. This is either a very clever episode, or I’m just thick, but I really had no idea about Vic until much later. I suppose first time round I totally saw him through Sam’s eyes. Although I did see Series One after one or two episodes of Series Two, I didn’t discover TRA and Lifein1973 until after the series finished, so I was totally unspoilt, and completely unused to the idea of looking for meanings in things.
28:14 When Gene tells Sam he’s going to put Vic in custody where he will be safe, he isn’t arguing with Sam, or pulling rank. He’s reassuring him. He’s being unexpectedly soft and gentle again. I really didn’t catch all this on previous viewings; it’s blogging it in detail which makes me see all these little things, and I am honestly surprised at how often we see Gene being kind and gentle with Sam.
28:25 “You’re not going to ruin this for me, Hunt.” And then after the famous “unhealthy obsession with male bonding” speech, Sam then says very softly “I’ve got to save him, Gene.”
28:57 And again Sam takes his eye off the ball. He follows Gene automatically, and leaves Vic in the back room all by himself.
31:15 The cigarette card is a bit timey-wimey for me. “I keep this card my entire life.” So where is it now, Sam? Why haven’t you got it on you already? Did you leave it behind in 2006? I don’t actually follow Sam’s reasoning here that finding this card means that Vic will come back.
32:00 So Annie goes off to get help for Sam. Why isn’t Sam worried? The most likely outcome is that she comes back with someone who will be terribly concerned about his delusions and will talk to him very calmly before giving him a bastard big injection and taking him away. But he doesn’t even argue with her, just watches her go.
And now it’s Late o’Clock, and following a major distraction while for some reason I read through The Evil Overlord’s Handbook with my son who should have been in bed hours ago, I’m going to bed too.
Continuing on Sunday:
32:25 Something I must have missed is – where are Ruth and little Sammy?
34:30 And now Sam thinks he’s finally done it. This is one of those moments that presumably were very tense at first airing, when people possibly thought this was really it – going home. John does loneliness and despair so well. And the woods again – has Sam worked out what’s happening in the woods there? He certainly looks distraught enough, but I didn’t see anything to make Vic’s involvement obvious.
Ooh, a distraction. OH is watching a repeat of Top Gear, and they’ve just mentioned “Gene Hunt wheel arches”. Didn’t see them, so I don’t know what makes them Gene Hunt wheel arches. Sexy? Hard-hitting? Big-time eye-candy?
36:43 Gene looks totally lacking in his normal confidence and charisma as he walks in on Sam talking to Nelson. Totally crushed, in fact. He doesn’t walk in and confront Sam, or anything like that. He just settles down at the bar next to him.
37:23 “Come on, brain-box.” Gene wouldn’t say it, but he’s begging Sam here. He needs Sam, and knows it. And he also knows that if Sam is going to be any use to anyone, Gene has to bring him back from whatever nutty place in his head he’s on his way to. God, this man just carries the responsibility, endlessly. And now they’re leaning on the bar together, Sam is on board with the thinking, and Gene is looking a good deal less beaten down than he was when he walked in.
38:05 “Plod reckons they’ve been running dog fights down by the canal.” Another example of how these two work so well together. Gene has all the information, the local knowledge, the personal presence to get anything out of anybody – including a bit of thought and grounding from Sam – and Sam has the cast of mind that can turn things around and make connections quickly. I love watching these two thinking together, they just fit.
38:43 “Just relax; we’ve got plenty to go on.” And again Sam is on the edge of his nerves, and again Gene calms him down. Then in the confrontation Gene knows Sam is spiralling out of control, but obviously he doesn’t know why. “You stay right here with me where I can keep an eye on you.” Am I reading too much into things? The “with me” isn’t really necessary, unless it’s the bit Gene thinks is important! Good God, enough with the slash for a few minutes.
41:50 The flashbacks are very well done, gradually building up the detail so that Sam can finally see Vic’s face as he kicks Annie. Now he knows. Whoever chose the music did a great job – “See My Baby Jive” was such a party favourite iirc.
41:55 Before this show, it had been so many years since I listened to Bowie. I listened to him quite a lot in the first half of 1974, but really never again after that. I’m not sure I know anything he’s done in the last thirty-odd years. But this! Those instantly-recognisable piano notes dropping authoritatively into the silence – fucking masterful. Simply amazing use of the music, to point up the moment when it all comes together and Sam has to understand what his father was.
42:05 I must stop going on about what a great actor John is, but the way he makes you feel for Sam all the time; when he’s being a smug irritating bastard, when he’s being a completely embarrassing wanker; when he’s cuddling his television or punching his boss. Just always with the feeling, being there with him, totally invested in what’s going on for him. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a show before where I cared so much about the characters. And here, he just shows the whole range: yearning for the family life that he never had past this moment; resignation, that he tried his best to stop this and it’s still going to happen; sadness for the hopeful young couple his parents used to be. I just want to reach out and hold him, and make it all better for him. And genuinely in a non-sexual way, truly.
42:35 How on earth does Lee Ingleby do that – he walks out the door and just changes every bit as much as if he’d suddenly become seven feet tall and built like a brick shit-house. It’s just there, suddenly.
43:46 Aww, he says “Where are you?” just like he remembers doing as a kid. But now he’s sent little!Sammy back indoors and he’s here instead.
44:33 “Waiting for me – spying on my family”. Call me stupid, but I’ve only just realised the significance of the red dress: Annie has gone undercover at the wedding. I’d be very interested to know just how often detectives really did/do go undercover. In my opinion it’s used slightly too often in fic – absolutely nothing against people who do it, it’s a great device and it’s not as if we’ve got a lot of canon to play with, after all – and here it is being used again in the show.
44:55 And now Sam knows for sure, the memories flooding back to match up with what Vic is doing here and now, punching Annie and moving forward to kick her. And in an instant Vic turns on the frightened little man act again. Although Sam has seen him being the hard bastard to Annie, he does seem to swallow this for now.
45:22 “I can protect you!” When Sam says that, he’s not a police officer talking to a frightened little man, he is Son talking to Daddy, definitely. Something about his tone of voice makes that clear.
46:50 Poor Sam, everyone but him knows Vic is rotten. If he were able to think clearly he could see it for himself; if Vic had not run away, and had stayed as Sam wants, he would know it for himself. And surely in any sane world, pulling a gun on your superior officer is a sacking offence, or at the least would nowadays trigger an evaluation?
46:57 Gene says “Now that’s an odd thing to do.” But what Sam says in reply is even odder. “You don’t want me to leave, but I have to leave, Gene.” Gene is reasonably well in control of himself here, so wouldn’t the natural response be along the lines of “I would be delighted at this moment if you were to leave and promise never to set foot in my station again.” But he doesn’t respond to Sam at all, which shows how worried he really is. He just hasn’t a clue what he can say to Sam to calm him down. Which is very unlike Gene, who normally has a very fast and usually intelligent response for everything. And after the deckchair remark, Sam lowers the gun. Has he realised what he’s doing? Or was he affected by the knowledge that Gene was worried?
48:00 Samuel Gladys Tyler(*), you are an utter twat. He’s playing you like a violin, and you’re still buying every word.
48:44 And again at the big decision point, he hears voices saying he’s waking up, reinforcing his idea that he has to do this. Someone had the bright idea that the voices stop because he made the wrong choice. If we accept that he went back to 1973 because that was when his father left, then perhaps he has already achieved what he was sent to do. He has stopped Vic kicking Annie to death. Perhaps if now he were to take Vic into custody, Vic would do his time (for what? peddling porn? they probably wouldn’t be able to prove the murders) and he would come out, back to his family. So if Sam does his job properly, he secures Vic at least staying in touch with his family. But Sam is not thinking as a police officer, or even as an adult. He is still thinking like that bereft little boy who never saw his Daddy again. And because he handles the matter like an emotionally damaged little boy, he cannot put things right. It needs a functioning adult to do that, and that’s just what he can never be in the matter of his father. Very timey-wimey, this episode.
49:14 He doesn’t want to let go of the gun, because he wants to touch Vic’s hand. He just wants to touch his Daddy for once. God, that sounds a bit suspect, but the way John plays it, you can see that emotional damage he’s carried for so many years and you can feel his anguish and desperation. And that’s a little boy’s look, not an adult’s look, after he’s handed it over. Hopeful, but resigned in the knowledge that he can have no influence on what the adult chooses to do.
49:40 I can’t see if Vic actually tries pulling the trigger or not; Sam’s reaction would suggest that he does.
50:20 Of course, when Sam is telling Vic he saw it all, a memory from when he was four, this is making no sense whatsoever to Vic. But Vic is still standing there listening. Why would he do that? The only reason is if he’s still trying to find a way of getting away free; looking to manipulate Sam again.
50:40 Then Sam finally gets his adult head back on, and starts the arrest spiel. But Vic isn’t finished yet. He is still confident he can fuck with Sam’s head again, make use of those incomprehensible (to Vic) guilt feelings. And of course he can. Poor Sam shouldn’t be allowed out by himself in this state. And where on earth are Gene and Annie? Shouldn’t they have caught up by now?
51:15 “Or find out that Daddy’s a crook, from the kids in the playground?” Poor Sam possibly did find that out in just that way – it’s an idea I used in a nightmare in An Unhappy Man – and perhaps that is why he has buried the memory all these years. “You’ll ruin their lives.” Jeez, Vic really is a master manipulator; tell the abuse victim that it’s his fault so he keeps quiet. And Vic really is abusing Sam here, mentally. It is very clear that Sam is not in his right mind; 90% of his mind is still that damaged four-year-old, and the tiny adult part is pre-disposed to guilt and self-flagellation on this issue anyway. Even if he had buried the memories, surely there was still a connection somewhere, that he had followed Daddy to the woods – run away from the wedding, frightened his mother, made his Daddy angry – and next thing is, Daddy’s gone forever. Little!Sam would have made that connection, no problem. And the connection would have stayed, that feeling of guilt, even though the memories it related to were obscured.
52:08 “This is not fair! I can’t win!” And now even Vic looks worried – the man is more deranged than he thought. But at this point the gun is lying on the ground just in front of him; he could pick it up (to stop Sam shooting him) and run now. But he doesn’t; he asks Sam what he’s going to do. And then he goes, without the gun. Why wouldn’t he take it? I don’t think Sam would stop him.
53:21 As Sam talks to Ruth, another great party favourite starts up; I used to love “Meet Me On The Corner.” I think my disco-ing days were over by 1973 though, because I don’t remember dancing to this one. Or perhaps it was actually a lot earlier than 1973. Ruth is not in the slightest bit surprised that “Vic was involved in something.” So she did a good job all those years in hiding that from little Sammy. Sam appears to truly believe that Vic’s and Ruth and Sammy’s lives were in danger, but if Vic was “the Morton Brothers” then there was no immediate danger at all.
54:33 “Tell him he’ll see his Daddy again.” That just breaks my heart. That one little sentence must have kept Sam going through all his childhood and teenage years, waiting for his Daddy. And now, even though he knows his father was just a crook, and a complete shit, and knowing that “seeing his Daddy again” involves being manipulated and having his heart broken all over again, he still thinks that little Sammy should have those words of comfort.
55:15 I’m getting all teary here, watching Sam listening to Ruth. Such a strange moment for him, hearing her saying in real life what he remembers so clearly in memory. “No tears – hide those bad feelings away, Sam.” Of course, it was still totally the case in those days that “Big boys don’t cry” but oh, God, what she did to Sam in those few words. And it’s really rather funny in a heart-breaking kind of way, that big Sam wipes away the tears as he hears those words.
56:20 She really doesn’t want him to touch her. She actually steps sideways to try to get out of range, and her body language and her facial expression is all about “Get off of me!”
56:36 Gene is sitting on the bonnet of the Cortina, calling in Vic’s description, and the camera moves forward to close in on him. OK, call me a perve, or a person of limited interests, but I find it very difficult to focus on anything other than Gene’s crotch during this track forwards. It’s certainly moving about the screen less than his face is, which you might expect to be the focus.
56:52 Gene looks remarkably relaxed here. Who has he got the story from? Sam has been talking to Ruth, and Annie went straight to talk to the Plod. Or did we just miss the bit where Gene finally caught up with Sam in the woods and handed him over to Annie for safe-keeping while he himself came back and did the necessary? When Chris says that he doesn’t understand Sam, Sam says “I want to go home” as though that is all that is necessary to know, in order to understand him. And when he’s said it, he looks straight at Gene.
57:30 I’ve said it before, but one of the things I really like about this show is that we get to really look at people’s faces while they’re thinking, as you would in real life. I wish I could remember whereabouts it was, and which episode, in Ashes to Ashes where the camera lingers for an unprecedentedly long time on Gene’s face. I think it was at the end of the day, and there was just Gene and Ray left in the office, all sort of abandoned and bereft. The papers actually picked it out as a moment worth commenting on.
57:40 “Pub”. He wants to go home, but he doesn’t look too unhappy to be going to the pub. I’ve heard it’s different in other countries, but here when you walk into your own local, you really do, in so many ways, feel like you’re walking into a part of your own home. You feel totally safe and comfortable; you know what and whom to expect; the people there know you and are (apparently, at least) pleased to see you. And you don’t have to start cooking, and making cups of tea for people. Bargain.
57:55 And we finish with the Cortina disappearing, literally, over the horizon, with a shot of the empty street to give us time to come down. In many ways, a show like this works a lot better on DVD, because you get to see the end as the Director intended, with that reflection and come-down time. Watching on television, the mood is ruined – completely fucked in fact – by the continuity announcer being all fake hearty about the next programme, and the credits disappear down to a quarter of the screen so you can’t read them. And because it’s only half-height, they’re going twice as fast as they were designed to, so even if you race towards the screen and peer at it, you still can’t see which unknown was playing whatever handsome devil you spotted in the background. Luckily, in this show, the handsome devils are very much in the foreground.
(*)btw the nickname “Samuel Gladys Tyler” belongs to Bistokids who used it in her fic The Consequences of Sherbet