Star copper comes from another planet
Life on Mars 8.30pm, ABC1
I HAVE been an admirer of British actor John Simm since his breakout performance in the 1997 BBC drama series The Lakes . His philandering, gambling Danny Kavanagh was an angry yet intriguing and even likable young man, a persona Simm took to the summit five years later as Raskolnikov in a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment . ( Note to UKTV: please, please repeat that superb twoparter.) He was good, too, a year later as the investigative journalist in yet another BBC series, the political thriller State of Play .
I remember being excited at the prospect of seeing Simm in Life on Mars when the BBC announced the series in late 2005, but for some reason I didn’t manage to catch it, perhaps due to the 16- month gap between its debut in Britain and its first screening here. So this review is based solely on tonight’s episode and anyone who has been watching the series will know more about it than I do. We’re also coming in halfway through the second and final series, though a Simm- less sequel, Ashes to Ashes , has just started in Britain.
The first thing to say is that Simm is a star, an actor who commands attention whenever he is on screen. Producer Davis Snodin put it well when explaining why he was cast as Raskolnikov, a ‘‘ man you want desperately to get away with murder’’: ‘‘ He is intelligent and sexy, but not in a conventional way. He can combine charm with arrogance.’’
Simm would be capable of carrying a show such as Life on Mars , but he doesn’t have to, thanks to a solid support cast led by Philip Glenister, an actor who gives Ray Winstone a run for his money in portraying the rugged vulnerable type.
Here’s the set- up: Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler ( Simm) is hit by a car in 2006. He wakes up in 1973. ( The series title is taken from a 1971 David Bowie song.) Is he in a coma, has he gone insane or has he really travelled back in time? We don’t know, but until we do he’s back on the force, second- in- command to DCI Gene Hunt ( Glenister), and struggling to reconcile modern policing proce- dures with the methods of a squad straight out of The Sweeney . He has an admirer in the token woman on the force, whose presence provides her superiors with lines such as ‘‘ Excuse me, missus woman!’’
Tonight they investigate a kidnapping linked to a child murder. The Sweeney it is not, but it is solid, wellacted entertainment.
Time traveller: John Simm as the policeman transported to the 1970s