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"My name is Alex Drake. And quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine."
—Alex Drake, opening titles (series 3 episode 1).
Spinoff from Life On Mars, which started on 7 February 2008 and concluded 21 May 2010. DI Alex Drake, the police psychologist who debriefed Life On Mars protagonist Sam Tyler, is shot and finds herself in the same world that Sam visited; only it's 1981 London and she's being stalked by the clown from David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes music video.
Now she has to figure out just what's going on. She's convinced that the world is just a construct of her subconscious created from her sessions with Sam, but there are some inconsistencies and other constants that she shouldn't even be aware of: including the presence of one Gene Hunt. Then her memories of the real world start to intertwine with the events she witnesses in 1981, creating even more doubt as to the nature of the reality she has found herself in.
- Ask a Stupid Question: Chris asks a South African freedom fighter who is revealed to have killed several police officers ten years ago in a bomb attack back home if he's frightened to be returned to South African custody, even though they both know he will be tortured to death.
Joshua: OF COURSE I'm frightened!
- Arc Numbers: 6-6-20. In a bit of a Genius Bonus, has three different meanings. First, it's Gene's badge number back before he got killed. The other two are references to bible verses (as noted in the episode before the numbers first appeared, the three numbers represent book, chapter, and verse) From the book of Joshua (using one reckoning) "When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city." (what Keats claims he's going to do to Hunt's stomping grounds). However by another reckoning (where the Old and New Testament are treated as seperate books), it refers to this passage from Romans "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness." (a reference to them all being in some sort of purgatory)
- Astral Checkerboard Decor: The C.I.D. ceiling. Note the above picture.
- Badass Longcoat: Gene Hunt often wears a trench coat in this series.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Alex and Gene
Alex: Look at you. (places her hand over Gene's heart) It's beating. That's incredible.
- Between My Legs: Gene's Crowning Moment of Awesome introduction, no less
- Big No: Alex's response to failing to save her parents.
- Bittersweet Ending: The finale.
- British Brevity: Three series of eight episodes each when it finished- about the same as one American season.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Masons who dominated the police force in the 1980s are portrayed this way in Season 2. Truth in Television.
- Catch Phrase: Gene never seems to be able to say the word "armed" without following it up by "bastards".
- Also "Let´s fire up the Quattro!"
- Cerebus Syndrome: After a fairly fluffy first series, things started to get rather darker in the second, with the final third series veering into full-on horror at times.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: Gene Hunt dresses in black and drives a flash red motor, cementing his status as Anti-Hero. Jim Keats in S3 wears gray and drives a white car.
- Continuity Lock Out: It's possible to watch A2A without first seeing Life On Mars. It's just really, really confusing and virtually all of season 3 is nigh-incomprehensible. And not nearly as meaningful.
- Cool Car: Gene's Audi Quattro.
- Also in episode 1.2, the Thatcherite Wanker´s DeLorean
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Sally in series 2 ep 1, Supermac, Martin Summers, Louise Gardiner and Viv all die in either Gene's or Keats' arms. The fact that they do proves an important plot point.
- Dirty Harriet: Alex arrives in 1981 dressed as a prostitute, and the entire station thinks she actually is one--until she produces her warrant card.
- Distaff Counterpart: As Life On Mars featured a male lead.
- Dream Sequence: Alex's wacky dream sequences are a major part of the show. And sometimes they count as Crowning Moment of Awesome or Crowning Moment of Funny. With Crowning Music of Awesome included. For example this sequence. Or this sequence.
- Drives Like Crazy: Gene Hunt thinks stacked boxes are there to be driven through.
- ... or so you'd think. The one time this seeming Chekhov's Gun presents itself - fully obstructing the exit from a tunnel, the Gene Genie slams on the brakes, pulls up short, reverses back through the tunnel and takes the long way round.
- The Eighties
- Eighties Hair: Alex used to provide the picture for that page.
- Enemy Mime: the David Bowie-esque Pierrot which replaces the Creepy Test Card Girl from Life On Mars
- Fair Cop: Alex in particular, but others as well. Shaz especially.
- Also, some of the extras who appear in the show too. (Especially the female prison guards).
- Fan Service: Alex, mainly, but also Shaz, Gene and Chris.
- Game of Strip Poker, anyone?
- Chris doing a Full Monty strip
- Alex dressed as a hooker. And her Catwoman outfit.
- Chris and Shaz in their New Romantic clothes
- Shaz in a hostess uniform
- Don´t forget the Gratuitous Sauna Scene and the Hot Vault Scene: Semi-naked and sweaty Gene. This female troper can´t think of anything more delicious.
- Phil Glenister in semi-formal wear twice in series 3.
- Also, some of the extras who appear in the show too. Namely Joanne Froggatt when she appeared.
- Fan Service Pack: Chris. In series 1 of Life On Mars, the production team gave Chris waterwings along with his swimming trunks to tone down the sex appeal. By series 2 of Ashes to Ashes, they had him being attractively postmodern to Shaz. Marshall Lancaster appears to have been working out in anticipation of more exposure in series 3.
- Flip-Flop of God: Jury's still out on exactly what Keats is. According to Matthew Graham, he's either Satan himself or the Antichrist, but Ashley Pharaoh apparently didn't write him either way, just leaving it with "evil".
- Foreshadowing: Lots and lots of it.
- Framing the Guilty Party:
- Ray does this in 1.03 because the victim is too afraid to go to court.
- Alex and Ray do it again in 1.08., although it's more like "Framing the innocent party in order to place them in a prison cell and prevent them from dying".
- Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique: Trope Namer.
- Genre Savvy / Wrong Genre Savvy: Alex thinks she's in Life On Mars, this means she's right about some things and wrong about others. It confuses and occasionally insults the other characters.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Gene. Hunt.:
Gene (As Alex walks into office): I didn't say come.
Gene: A foursome! It's all your Christmases come at once. (from the Sports Relief episode)
Gene: You're chirpy, Bolls. Been sitting on the washing machine again? (2.02)
- Grim Reaper: The Clown in season one. Jim Keats appears to channel him at several moments in season three.
- Until it is revealed that Keats is actually a demon, or possibly Satan
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Ray and Chris. Shaz lampshades.
- Historical In-Joke: Turns out that Gene chasing a suspect was responsible for the 1983 vandalism of the Blue Peter garden.
- Heroic BSOD: Everyone gets one of these in the final episode when they finally remember who and where they really are. They accept it by the end, however.
- Heroic Fire Rescue: Ray runs into a burning building when he hears a woman in there. This trope is subverted, because a fireman ends up saving both Ray and the woman from the fire.
- Heroic Sacrifice / Take Me Instead!: An older member of the ANC confesses to murder even though he will be sent back to South Africa and killed to protect a young woman who actually committed the crime.
Chris: Why did you cover for her!?
- I Call It Vera: Gene keeps a crowbar in his office that he calls "The Search Warrant". Ray squees when asked to go and fetch it.
- If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: Played for drama in one heartbreaking scene from the third series:
Ray: You've been a good pal to me. I don't know how to say this without looking like a twat...
- Insistent Terminology: Gene keeps misrendering Alex's specialty as "psychiatry." The one time he gets it right -- "psychology" -- she corrects him anyway through sheer force of habit.
- Insult Backfire:
Alex: Go to hell.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mainly Gene. Ray also counts.
- Karma Houdini: Ray and Gene to a lesser extent, even more so than in Life On Mars.
- Joshua of the ANC in the penultimate episode, who Chris lets run from custody even after hearing that he killed several South African police officers with a bomb ten years ago.
- Lady in Red: Alex's first 1981 outfit.
- Late Arrival Spoiler: Trust us, you really need to have watched Life On Mars before you see the A2A pilot, since it ruins the ending. If you haven't, the shot of Sam's file clearly stamped "SUICIDE" - which is how LOM ended - is kind of a shock. This doesn't even take into account how confused you'll be when Season Three rolls around and the LOM references are flying right and left.
- Les Yay: Alex and Shaz.
- Literary Allusion Title: To be more precise, a Musical Allusion Title to the David Bowie song of the same name.
- Local Hangout (but not My Local): Luigi's
- Locked in a Freezer: Alex and Gene are locked in an air-tight room at one point (with an increasing temperature in more than one sense), and Alex is left for dead in a freezer in a later episode.
- Magical Negro: Nelson, in a cameo at the end, who is implied to be a Saint Peter equivalent.
- Mind Screw: the end of Season 2.
- The end of S1 is pretty Mind Screw-y too, the man in Alex's memories turns out to be Gene Hunt, who is supposedly a fictional construct.
- Mind Screwdriver: Just for a change of pace, the Grand Finale in Season 3 actually explains much of the weirdness.
- Misaimed Fandom: Or is it? Who's the star of this show, anyway? Seems like Drake and Hunt are actively dueling for that right; the narration, all the private introspection scenes are Drake's, but the Gene Genie acts like he's in charge (justified, perhaps, because he is,) so often and so strongly that he often winds up as the dominant character. This wouldn't be confusing if it was Law and Order, but Gene's strength of acting is strange considering Alex is supposed to be locked in her own mind.
- Arguably the easiest way to put it is that while Alex is the main character, Gene is the central character.
- The misaimed fandom now apparently includes the UK's two largest political parties. The Labour party was reported on the morning of 3 April 2010 to have put out an advertisement claiming that opposition leader David Cameron would 'take Britain back to the 1980s', and showing him Photoshopped on the front of an Audi Quattro a la Hunt. Within the day, the Conservatives responded with a re-Shopped version announcing 'Fire up the Quattro. It's time for change.' It's not clear why Labour (who are perceived as weak on crime) thought that likening the other guy to everyone's favourite Cowboy Cop was a smart plan.
- The Mole: Chris, in episode 7.
- Near-Death Clairvoyance: Possible. The last thing Alex remembers before waking up in 1981 is getting shot in the head.
- As confirmed by the finale, Alex has been dead throughout the whole of series 3.
- Nostalgia Heaven: The entire series, apparently.
- Nothing but Hits: Averted. While the music is from the 80's, lots of it is not the biggest hits from the decade, but regular songs from the decade. Well known hits do come up occasionally, but not every single song is an iconic one from the decade.
- Opening Narration: Unlike in Life On Mars, it changes as time goes on.
- Series 1: "My name is Alex Drake. I've just been shot, and that bullet has taken me back to 1981. I could be one second away from life...or one second away from death. All I know is that I have to keep fighting. Fight to live. Fight to see my daughter. Fight to get home."
- The series 2 one is a bit more concise: "My name is Alex Drake. I've been shot, and that bullet's taken me back in time. Now I'm lost in 1982, and all I can do is fight, and search, and stay alive. Because somehow, I will find a way home."
- Series 3: "My name is Alex Drake. I was shot and found myself in 1983. Is it real? Or in my mind? Either way, I have to solve the mystery of what all this means and fight to get home. Because time...is running out."
- The first episode of series 3 actually shortens it so much it borders on Lampshading -- "My name is Alex Drake. And quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine."
- The finale omits it entirely.
- Psychopomp: Gene's role seems to be to shepherd the souls of dead coppers who died with emotional issues to work out, give them time to come to terms with those issues and usher them on to the afterlife. Oh, and protect them from Keats, who may or may not be The Devil (or one of his minions).
- Police Brutality
Gene: One more thing, luv, about police brutality.
- Pretty in Mink: Alex, in her posh hooker getups and her date outfit in 3.07.
- Punny Name: Maybe a Shout-Out to The Simpsons. When Alex gets Shaz to take messages for her, she takes them from Hugh Jarse and Mike Rotch, both used by Bart to prank Moe.
- Redemption Equals Death - Mack in S2. It's subverted with Viv in series 3; his pained expression and the statement that police officers have to "finish the job" to be redeemed (which Viv never does) implies that Viv has ended up damned. This is further implied when Chris mentions having had a nightmare about Viv "hunched up amongst all this fire.".
- Rule of Cool: inverted in a rare in-universe Lampshade Hanging of crime series' dramatically oversimplified police procedure and absence of the real-life tight regulations on violence and taking actions without a warrant (even in the 1980's), in the final episode.
Keats: [looking unbelievingly at the team's shocked expressions after removing the ceiling to a view of the stars and revealing CID to be a construct of the afterlife] Oh come on... You didn't think this was like, a real police station, did you? What!? You think that they actually worked like this!? IT'S HIS GAME!
- Satan: Keats, revealed in the Grand Finale.
- Self-Parody: "Fire up the photocopier."
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In series 2, Alex believes this is the reason that she, Sam and Martin Summers went back to years that were significant for them.
- Ship Tease: Gene and Alex. A lot.
- Happens with Shaz and Ray in season 3 a bit, as well as with Alex and Keats.
- Shipper on Deck: Shaz and Luigi for Gene/Alex.
- Shoot the Dog: Gene does it literally in Series 2. Unlike Sandra Pullman , he gets away with it.
- Stopped Clock: A seemingly minor plot point. Whenever Alex asks Keats for the time, he gives her the same time: the minute she died. It later convinces her to move on to the afterlife.
- Supporting Protagonist: Alex for Gene.
- Third Is 3D: A 3D episode was considered for the third series, but scrapped.
- Time Travel: Sort of. Alex wakes up 27 years back in time, but (at least at first) believes it to all be in her head. It is later revealed that it is in fact a separate world for the souls of lost coppers.
- Token Minority: Viv. Luigi, a bit.
- Tsundere: Alex, especially in S1.
- Villainous Breakdown: Keats in the finale, complete with Trash the Set.
- Will They or Won't They? - Gene and Alex.
- And as of the finale - they kiss, but that's going to be it.
- Woman in White - Some of Alex's outfits, and of course, her leather jacket from S1 and S2.
- You Cannot Change the Future:
- Played straight in the series 1 finale, when Alex's parents die despite all her efforts.
- Subverted in series 2 when Summers shoots his younger self, causing Alex to have a mini-breakdown over her own failure to save her parents.
- Younger Than They Look: Despite having the appearance of a middle-aged adult, Gene is technically a nineteen-year-old boy (given that he died at that age and still retains much of his teenage mindset). It is implied that whilst in purgatory, he adopted the appearance he imagined he would have had as a seasoned adult cop.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters:
- Gene and Alex argue about Nelson Mandela, whom Gene maintains is a terrorist.
- Turns up again in the penultimate episode where members of the ANC (African National Congress) turn up in the flesh, and are treated with respect by the more progressive members of the team (Alex and Shaz) and the opposite by the men of their time (Gene and Ray).