I was expecting to be disappointed by the ending of Life On Mars, and, of course, I was. There was no way, to my mind, that they could wrap everything up and leave everyone happy, because too many contradictory things had gone before.* The ending I had in my head was, to my mind, a better one, but that of course is because it’s the sort of ending I like.
Still, at least, the ending was a lot braver than many that could have been written – braver for the BBC to produce, I mean, not necessarily braver for the writers to write. And the “it was all in his head all along” resolution is a handy get-out clause for all the little anachronistic niggles that pedants like me notice – there’s no way a Victorian stonemason would have used nicknames like “Sam” and “Vic” on a tombstone; the game of noughts and crosses on the TV test card was wrong; and those maroon railway vans were 10 years out of date for ’73, they should have been blue to match the engine.** Like I said with Doctor Who the other week: it’s all entertainment, and we shouldn’t try to read to much into it. There’s no point searching for hidden messages, Baconian-style, when the writer is here to tell us there aren’t any.
* specifically, episode one of series two, where the audience is at least led to believe that Sam’s behaviour in “1973” can radically alter the present day.
** which was, at least, pretty much correct for the period, albeit not entirely