Ashes to Ashes

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Right, let's fire up the Quattro

"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[1], 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.

Not to be confused with the unrelated South African TV series of the same name.

Tropes used in Ashes to Ashes include:
  • 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 [dead link]

Alex: Look at you. (places her hand over Gene's heart) It's beating. That's incredible.
Gene: (retaliates by grabbing Alex's breast) Fan-dabby-dozy! Now then, Bollinger knickers, you gonna kiss me or punch me?.

Chas: His name's easy. Rhymes with my favorite word. In fact, we used to call him Hunt the-
Joan: Yes, thank you, Chas. We still have diners in. (1.06)

Gene (As Alex walks into office): I didn't say come.
Alex: Oh, I'm a modern girl, Guv, I come when I need to. (2.03)

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!?
Joshua: Because I'VE HAD MY LIFE, Chris! Hers was ahead of her!

Ray: You've been a good pal to me. I don't know how to say this without looking like a twat...
Chris: Go on.
Ray: Well. If you don’t make it out of here, can I have your mug? Only mine's knackered.

  • 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.
Keats: [smiling] ...Alright!

  • 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 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.
Jackie: What about it?
Gene: Expect lots of it.

  • 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.
    • Or possibly the Antichrist: Word of God has flip-flopped.
      • Arguably the Test Card Girl and DCI Frank Morgan from Life on Mars also represent Satan in different guises, as does the Clown in season 1 of the current series.
  • 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).
  1. (played by Keeley Hawes, formerly of Spooks and the current voice of a certain female gaming character)