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Life on Mars



  • International TV Version
  • Original Version
Release: Apr 09, 2012 - Author: pippovic - Translator: Tony Montana - external link: IMDB - more from this series
The Series

The BBC production Life on Mars is an interesting mix crime story and time traveling themes. After an accident during an investigation in 2006 Detective Sam Tyler suddenly awakes in the year 1973. Is he in a coma? Or crazy? Or did he really travel in time? Sam tries to answere these questions and at the same time has to solve some difficult cases with his new boss Gene Hunt. Whoever is into British humor and likes the typical Seventies style should check this series out. It does not contain a lot of action but it is really interesting to see the cops do their work without modern technologies. One of the most interesting characters is Gene Hunt, who constantly makes cynical remarks and quite often approaches his job the tough and brutal way. The producers of the series paid a lot of attention to the small details, which makes it really great to watch. Additionally, the soundtrack always features the apt rock music of the area. However, if someone prefers the CSI style with a lot of special effects, this might be a bit boring for him and he should not bother watching it.

The Versions

Just like other TV series, BBC 2 produced two versions of Life On Mars: an Original Version for the UK market and a shorter version for the TV broadcast to have more slots for commercials. Furthermore some of the escpecially in the US TV critical dialogs and nudity scenes were cut out. Often could be read that the shorter version is a so-called "Euro Version", which was produced for other European countries (which could also be read in the old intro here), and that the Original Version was produced exclusively for the UK market. Nut it turns out it's not that simple even though a reconstruction of the events is impossible because we couldn't get hold of the TV Versions.

Here's what we could figure out: according to different reports, the shortened versions were shown when the series premiered on the BBC. But like I said, the reports about that are different. The IMDb for instance only lists the shorter versions for the reruns on another network.

It's also not correct that the shortened versions were only sold to other European countries. It's clear that the shortened versions aired on BBC America or BBCA (the BBC subsidiary in the US). This info can be read in many DVD reviews about the series and lots of reviews written by the IMDB users. Unfortunately, it's not certain whether the shortened version in the US is equal to the shortened European version, escpecially since the US DVDs contain the Uncut Version and getting hands on the TV Versions from the US is quite a long shot (please let us know if anyone could help us out here).

According to lots of reports, the US Version has a standard length of approx. 42 min while the shortened versions used for the comparison have a length of approx. 52 min. Several reviews and the IMDB claim differently: they're all talking about a length of approx. 42 min. And it would make perfect sense perfect 42 min is the standard length for a TV series in the US. Added up with the comercials, a complete hour has been reached. Nevertheless not any TV series has a length of 42 min per episode of course. Unfortunately an info about the exact length without the commercials on TV in the US couldn't be found. On the contrary, many cuts of the compared shortened versions are equal to the cuts in the US Versions. The fact that minor scene cuts with contents like nudity or offensive dialogs are typical for the US TV. Another aspect is the fact that the BBC was calling the shots for the TV Versions in UK and US. Two different versions were produced from the beginning and it's likely that the shorter versions are the versions sold worldwide.

This so-called International Version was offered to a lot of network. This is also the version that aired in Sweden. In Germany, the network "Kabel Eins" bought the rights in 2006. In February 2007, when the German audio track was finished, season one aired at prime time on saturdays. It became a complete desaster because the potential target group was either going out or watching a movie or a show on one of the other networks. The result were low ratings so that the decision not to air the second season was being made.

Shortly afterwards, KSM released the entire 8 episodes of season 1 on DVD. Unfortunately, the release only contains the International Versions. This fact spread like a desease, not more than 10,000 pcs. were sold. A lot of fans prefered to get the Uncut Version in the UK. In June 2009, there was a rerun on Kabel Eins. The entire first season aired, followed by one episode of season 2 every saturday at about 11 p.m. Unfortunately, the season 2 episodes were also the shortened versions. In addition with the suboptimal time slot, the ratings were low again. For some reason, it looks like Germany is only country where the TV Versions have been released on DVD so far. But according to KSM, that's the version they got from the BBC. Which means it's uncertain whether the TV Versions have been released in other countries or not. I can only say for sure that the DVD and BD releases in the UK and US both contain the Uncut Version, despite the shortened versions that aired on TV there.

Sequels and Remakes

The BBC produced a sequel series call Ashes to Ashes, featuring a similar story and part of the original cast. There, police psychologist Alex Drake, who investigates Sam Tyler's case, is being shot in the head and awakes in 1981 to work with Gene Hunt and his team there. In 2008, the US network ABC produced a remake, in which Harvey Keitel played the character of Gene Hunt but which was cancelled after one season. In Spain, they also made a series called La chica de ayer, which is based on Life on Mars.

This Comparison

This comparison covers the third episode of season one between the uncut British Originaly Version taken from the Contender DVD (BBFC12) and the cut Euro Version taken from the German Free TV Broadcast on Kabel Eins (FSK 12).

A total of 6:09 min was removed in 15 cuts (outro not included). Time designations refer to the cut version.

Running time (without outro)
Euro Version: 50:55 min
British Version: 57:04 min

Note: In the original, the episodes do not have titles. The title overlays of the German episodes will not be mentioned here.
The Euro German Version also contains the German alternate title. Furthermore the image section is different here so that the additional title is more or less centered. The title sequence remains unchanged since the second episode.
no difference

The cops draw lots from a jar for a horse race.
21.52 sec

So does Hunt. Sam wants to change lots with him because he knows the horse "Red Rum" was going to win.
20.76 sec

Sam recognizes lots of familiar faces in Warren's club. Among them the soccer players Booby Charlton, Francis Lee and Denis Law who were all playing for ManUnited at the time when the series takes place (1973). Furthermore there's Marc Bolan, head and founder of the band T.Rex, is in it but Gene doesn't know him. Sam goes to Bolan and introduces. When Gene calls him, he first leaves but then an awesome insider gag follows. Sam returns to Bolan and tells him to drive carefully, especially in Minis. That's a reference to Bolan's death in 1977. He died in a car accident with a Mini Cooper but he didn't drive, he was just on the passenger seat.
47.12 sec

In the Euro Version, Gene kicks in the door immediately. In the Original Version, he knocks first.
4 sec

In the hippie appartment, Hunt comes up with another line. Hunt tells him he would grab his stinky gear and leave town before sunrise if he was him. Subsequently Hunt asks them another question.
14.04 sec

Sam is at the bar, the bribe money is right in froint of him. He taalks to Nelson while Nelson is cleaning up.
59.68 sec

Extended shot of Sam talking to his mother. She asks him to put the money away. He suggests to bet the housekeeping money on Red Rum (he presumably knows Red Rum is going to win) but his mother thinks that's nuts.
31.04 sec

Sam puts the sliced pieces of Mango in the pan and stirs. Joni comes from the shower and asks the incredibly stupid question what he was doing. His adequate answer: "Cooking". Joni's follow-up question "What's that?" refers to the mango and in the Euro Version it's already audible from the off while Sam is slicing the fruit.
12.12 sec

After Sam said said it was a mango in both versions, Joni comes up with a further question about groceries in the Original Version.
8.4 sec

While both versions contain a short shot of Sam, the noises of the surveillance devices at the hospital bed are already audible in the Euro Version. In the Original Version (the shot of his is approx. 1.5 sec shorter here) he gets confronted by Phyllis at first. She says she was missing several handcuffs. Sam's collegues are laughing their asses off. Then she snaps at him that, by taking care, she didn't mean to get laid with that person. After Gene's warning to be careful with him, Phyllis asks for Joni's whereabouts. Sam replies he didn't know. Phyllis leaves without saying a single word. Not until now the noise of the surveillance device in the Original Version.
22.8 sec

Gene also pushes Sam into the room and gives it to him straight.
22.04 sec

All people in the pub are thrilled by the horse race they're watching on the new-installed TV. Sam and Nelson are having a little conversation again. At first Nelson asks himself whether or not the TV is steady. Sam calms him down. Then Nelson asks Sam what the chili was like - he's obviously refering to the incident with Joni in Sam's appartment. Sam responds it was awesome. Nelson says it might have been a little bit too awesome from what he'd heard and smiles.
38.68 sec

The poeple in the pub are still thrilled. Red Rum crosses the line as first. Gene Hunt in particular is really glad about it. Chris tells Sam Proud Percy (the horse which Sam got) tumbled and needed to get shot.
27.32 sec

Gene asks Sam how he'd known that Red Rum was going to win. Sam replies it was just a hunch. Gene asks if Sam had been using insider infos and Sam replies he wouldn't dare. Gene responds he'd never thought that he (Sam) could trap a potencial killer in a freezer. Sam answers he wouldn't answer the questions under different circumstances. During the conversation, the trapped guy's yelling and smashing against the door is audible in the background.
30.88 sec

Extended shot of Sam looking at the photo which shows him as a kid with a police cap.
8.92 sec

The TV Version (Euro Version) lacks the final credits of course.
36.4 sec

The Original Version contains a preview of the next episode.
42.12 sec