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DVD Review

Ashes to Ashes
The Complete Series One


Starring: Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Montserrat Lombard
Contender Home Entertainment
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 05 May 2008

DCI Gene Hunt is back. Flanked by his faithful sidekicks, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton, and drawn to the action and intrigue of the London Met, Gene turns his attentions to taking on the 'southern nancy' criminal scum. However, Gene does not expect to be thrown together with sexy, intelligent, DCI Alex Drake. After being shot by a criminal from her family's past, Alex suddenly finds herself in 1981 interacting with familiar characters, not just from her own life-time, but also from the detailed reports logged by none other than Sam Tyler, which Alex has previously spent months pouring over. Alex is ripped from her current world of sexual equality and respect in 2008 and finds herself opposite an arrogant fellow DCI in a Two Tone, New Romantic Eighties London...

The follow up to Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes sees the return of DCI Gene Hunt and his faithful team comprised of Ray Carling and Chris Skelton. Swapping the Ford Cortina for an Audi Quattro, and Manchester for London, DCI Gene Hunt's life is about to get even more complicated when he receives a new DCI in the form of Alex Drake.

Drake, who studied the original case of Sam Tyler, thinks she knows what's going on when she suddenly finds herself in 1981. She knows that she's been shot and is probably in the process of dying and that her mind has created this reality as her brain attempts to make connections between neurons as her life slips away. She soon realises that the time period she is in is only a few months away from one of the most catastrophic events of her life - the death of her parents, who were killed in a car bomb which she witnessed.

Episode 1: When an armed gunman with a hostage asks for DI Alex Drake, she can't understand why. The gunman, Arthur Layton, starts ranting something about how her family destroyed his past and then shoots her. Drake awakens in 1981, dressed as a prostitute in a brothel. She is arrested in a police raid, where she recognises DCI Gene Hunt and his team from the descriptions originally given by DCI Sam Tyler (Life on Mars) about his experiences when he travelled back to 1973. When Hunt and Drake's investigations into a drug ring brings them face to face with Layton, Drake believes that he could be the key to allow her to return to her own time.

Episode 2: With protests in the Isle of Dogs looking to get out of hand, DCI Hunt is under orders to ensure that everything is cleared up before the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. There is evidence to suggest that a bomb will be detonated and a suspected member of the London Liberation Front is arrested. Drake is shocked when she comes face to face with her mother, a lawyer, who is defending the arrested man. There's one of the best throw backs to the '80s here, well for me at any rate, as the property developer that Drake has to protect drives around in a De Lorean DMC-12.

Episode 3: Hunt and the team investigate a prostitute's rape allegation, but this is 1981 and the police don't really have the manpower to look into what they deem a victimless crime. It appears that this rape fits the profile of a recent spate of attacks on prostitutes and one innocent woman, who was killed. Could a possible serial attacker be about to escalate his attacks? It's interesting to see how things have moved on since the '80s. The fact that the police weren't really bothered about a prostitute being attacked, even though a man out there seemed to have a thing for cutting women, is a worrying thought.

Episode 4: CID is brought in to investigate a suspicious death. In their investigation they stumble across a plot to sell stolen government secrets to the Revolutionary Workers Front. Drake believes it's more than a coincidence that her mother knew the dead man, and is convinced that her mind has created these connection for some reason. Could it be that she's been sent back to save her parents?

Episode 5: Hunt and Drake discover that a notorious pimp and drug dealer is planning to expand his empire thanks to a lucrative firearms deal - a deal that will flood the East End of London with weapons. In an attempt to find out what he's up to the team go undercover in a gay club. When it's discovered that Carling is the target's type (a real man's man) he reluctantly goes all out to literally get his man. This episode also illustrates how political correctness has moved on. Some of the comments made by the police about the homosexual community wouldn't be tolerated in today's society.

Episode 6: When two armed robbers hold up a post office, Hunt recognises the modus operandi of a renowned criminal, Chas Cale. However, when Hunt follows his hunch, he discovers that Cale is too old and ill to have been involved. So who on earth is responsible? While not the best episode this series, I enjoyed it more that I should have down to the fact that several scenes were filmed in Tobacco Docks - in a now closed bar called Henry's. This is an old haunt of mine and I spent many happy evenings there before it was closed down. It was a bit surprising to discover that the interior is identical to how it used to be.

Episode 7: Hunt and his team are attempting to track down two armed robbers who stole money from a fundraiser who has been travelling across the country in a bathtub full of baked beans for Children in Need. Drake convinces Hunt to be interviewed live on TV's Police Five, but Hunt is uncomfortable being under the spotlight - preferring to get on with the investigation rather than having makeup applied to his face and speaking politely in a TV studio.

Episode 8: With only a day left until her parents are to be killed in a car bomb, Drake thinks she's got it covered. She has her parents arrested for drug possession, knowing that she can let them leave the police cell once the allotted time has passed. To be on the safe side she also tracks down the car they were driving, from her memory, which she works out belongs to her uncle, and has it destroyed. But can she really change the fate of her parents?

Extras include: Audio Commentary on episodes one and two; Set Tour (8 min, 20 sec walk through several of the sets); The Car Explosion (6 min, 41 sec look at filming the car explosion scene); Life After Mars (29 min, 42 sec behind the scenes featurette); Deleted Scenes (7 min, 28 sec worth of scenes cut from the final series. However, there's one scene - in which Drake is explaining to Hunt about the future of Princess Charles and Lady Diana - which explains where Hunt got his tampon reference which appeared in the finished episode).

This whole series is bound to bring back a lot of old memories for a lot of people. The music, the fashions, the ability to smoke anywhere and not wear a seatbelt in your car are all captured in this slice of '80s life.

If you were a fan of Life on Mars then you'll want to watch this spin-off series. And if you're a child of the '80s there are enough references to ensure you'll be in heaven.


Darren Rea

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