An Out-of-this-World 'Life on Mars' Series Finale

Spoilers Included

Fans of ABC's Life on Mars were treated to one of the most wildly original and daring series finales in TV history. In recent years we've seen Six Feet Under kill everyone off , The Sopranos cut to black and Battlestar Galactica jump 150,000 years into the future. But Life on Mars topped all of those.

Detective Sam Tyler was hit by a car in 2008 and woke up in 1973, unsure of how he came to be there. His season-long journey to go back home finally reached its end in the final scene of the series when Sam woke up and returned to his reality. It might not sound shocking, but the twist came when Sam's present was revealed to be 2035.

It turns out the entire series was just a simulation Sam was going through on the two-year journey of the first manned mission to Mars in 2035. After hugging his boss, the screen glitched and he emerged from his space pod alongside his fellow astronauts, all of whom were the characters from his simulated life.

It turned out his simulation was supposed to take place in 2008, but a computer error shifted him to 1973 with all of his 2008 memories. As far as science fiction goes, this was a truly audacious twist that catapulted a good series into either greatness or pure trash, depending on your point of view.

But how can anyone not love the cute futuristic joke about President Obama being unable to say hello because she and her sister had to visit their sick father in Chicago? That's right, in 2035, either Sasha or Malia is the president.

In hindsight, the twist beautifully fits into everything we've seen. Throughout the entire series, others have called Sam space man and his favorite childhood toy was a rocket ship. At the time, this just seemed like slang for a crazy person, but now all of those little pieces make sense.

Ironically, we owe this brilliant finale to ABC for canceling the show early. Sometimes shows are canceled after they've finished filming, meaning they're never able to adequately conclude. Pushing Daisies, for example, still has three unaired episodes that won't appear until the DVD is released in July, and even then, the episodes were all filmed before the show was canceled.

ABC's early cancellation of Life on Mars gave the show's writers a chance to end it definitively, and revealing that the entire series was a simulation did just that. The audacity of pulling the rug out from viewers' expectations and the stunningly beautiful science fiction tone of the first mission to Mars helped to make the Life on Mars series finale something fans won't soon forget.

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Default avatar cat
Apr 5, 2009 10:09AM EDT

I hated it... I loved the show up until the finally... now I feel like I wasted my time on this show...

Default avatar cat
Apr 10, 2009 12:48AM EDT

I finally finished watching the series on my DVR tonight. I personally thought the ending was fantastic, though I'm very upset that the show was canceled in the first place.
This is the fourth show I've gotten into that's been canceled early because of poor ratings. Remember when the networks used to give these shows a chance to build an audience? Why would anyone get invested in a new show knowing that it could be canceled at any time? I wish NBC had picked this show up because they seem a little more willing to give a show a chance, and for some reason they get a lot more media buzz for their shows even though they're the lowest rated network.

Apr 12, 2009 10:57PM EDT

I have to say, being bristish and loving the original series i was very upset when i heard that the US would remake it, feeling that it would ruin the original, however i decided to watch it anyway expecting to see the same story but in an american setting (thought that might work) alas, it wasnt the same and i didnt enjoy it, especially not the finale's literal take on the name.I love the original too much to say this version was any good, but i think, if i rewatch this one and treat it as a whole new thing with the same names an not compare it, then it might be better

Default avatar cat
Apr 14, 2009 2:28AM EDT

I kind of hated the finale. I feel like it was a spin on the 'and then he woke up and it was all a dream!!' cliche ending. laaaaame. a less perfect, rationally explained ending would've been appreciated. like actual time travel. ah well, it was a good series while it lasted.

Default avatar cat
Nov 15, 2009 9:11PM EST

the ending was 'wild and original' was it?
the entire series was ripped off a british show for a start, the soul of the original series was sucked out of this remake as well by the way. Seriously, stop taking our good ideas and ruining them.

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