Alex Drake (the smoking hot Keeley Hawes) is a trained police psychologist and negotiator who has recently been researching the case of Sam Tyler, an officer who claimed to have been sent back to 1973 after being hit by a car in 2006.
In the first two of the five series (Life On Mars), Tyler was in a coma for some time after the car accident. On regaining consciousness, his accounts of DI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), DS Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) and DC Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) were dismissed as fantasy, but for Alex, it’s all about to get very real.
Lured into a disused shipping container by a seemingly mentally afflicted man with a revolver, Alex is shot in the head and wakes up to find herself in a brothel (and dressed as a top-class prostitute, phwoaar)... in 1981. The red Audi Quattro comes screeching to a halt and out steps DCI Gene Hunt. Screw forms and bureaucracy, Gene is a copper from the good old days of gut instinct and steel-toecap boots. Alex Drake is his new DI.
Over three series (and twenty-four one-hour episodes) as the team punch, kick, shoot (and subject to psychoanalysis) most of London’s criminal low-life scum, Alex and Gene develop something of a love-hate relationship with each other. But is Alex still alive?
At the end of series two, Alex wakes up in 2008, having accidentally been shot by Gene during the foiling of a group of corrupt officers – but there’s no bullet wound on her forehead. Is she dead? When she returns, it’s 1983 and the increasing bureaucracy in the force arrives in the shape of DCI Jim Keats (Daniel Mays) – there to investigate Gene’s conduct.
The exquisite aura of evil which manifests itself around Keats is of Rickmanian proportions, which, combined with his fantastic socially-awkward deportment, is more scary than the whole of The Woman in Black. All of which is rather fitting, but we’re already far enough into spoiler territory!
All in all, Ashes is brilliantly thought out and some of Gene Hunt’s witty quips will have people surrounded by armed bastards and firing up imaginary Quattros (or should that be Quattri?) for some time to come. Watch it!