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Life on Mars



  • International TV Version
  • Original Version
Release: May 26, 2012 - Author: Buster - Translator: DaxRider123 - external link: IMDB - more from this series
The Series

The BBC production Life on Mars is an interesting mix of a 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 is a comparison between the uncut British Original Version included in the DVD box set released by Contender DVD (BBFC12) and the shortened European Version, represented by a broadcast the German Free TV (FSK 12).

The European version is missing out on 8 sequences with an overall runtime of 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Time designations refer to the European version.

Runtime (not including the credits)
International Version: 51:17 min PAL
Original Version: 56:58 min PAL

Note: In the original, the episodes do not have titles. The title overlays of the German episodes will not be mentioned here.

The material we used in order to create this comparison was kindly handed to us by KSM GmbH.
Someone shot at the owner of a record store. The wounded man carries some heroin with him. Gene Hunt jumps to 3 conclusions and supposes that there's a drug war going on among immigrants. The victim - Dipak - is of Pakistani origin.
Sam visits the record store the next day. The conversation between him and the young woman who is Dipak's bookkeeper is slightly longer.

1 min. and 48 sec.

Layla: "If he's got any sense, he'll have split. Immigrants keep their head down. Disappear into ghettos. Dipak and Ravi arrive in Britain one month and they open a record shop."
Sam: "Acting like they were white. Bet the NF hated that."
Layla: "Dipak had this dream about owning a chain of record shops. Enormous ones, like, er... big music supermarkets. He was full of mad ideas. Dipak said it was great to come to a country with such brilliant music. Made up for the cold and the rain. And he always played this*). He said he thought it was really about exile. They're trying so hard to start a new life here."
Sam: "Whichever strange place you find yourself in, make that your home."
Layla: "Are you really a copper? What?"
Sam: "Sorry, you just reminded me of somebody."

*) NOTE: In the background you can hear 'Rocket Man' by Elton John.

During the interrogation of a drug dealer, Annie shows him a picture of the victim's brother who by now is one of the suspects. On the picture, Sam recognises the man whom he met shortly before he entered the record store.

19 sec.

Gene: "Bloody brilliant! Old butterfingers here meets our killer and lets him go. Couldn't catch the clap in a french brothel. Right. Where's this Ravi?"
Rocket: "You could try asking the chick."
Gene: "What chick?"

Sam visits Dipak in the hospital. A short part of the dialogue with Layla was cut out.

39 sec.

Layla: "Bye, Dipak. Er... would you mind saying goodbye? It's just that I still like to treat him like someone, you know."
Sam: "See you, mate. Keep an eye on him."

By now they were able to arrest Ravi. Gene Hunt and Sam bring him to the police station to interrogate him. The beginning of the interrogation was cut out.

29 sec.

Gene: "I've seen the accounts, You're the dirctor of three separate import businesses and the music shop. You've got fingers in more pies than a leper on a cookery course."
Sam: "Across The Universe Limited. Kampala, Istanbul, Turkey."
Gene: "You ship your rubbish from Uganda, then they add the Turkish heroin in Istanbul."
Ravi: "But I wouldn't touch heroin."
Gene: "Someone tried to kill your brother. Rocket says it was you."

Dipak was murdered in the hospital. Layla is pregnant with his kid and Sam finds out that she's the mother of his future girlfriend Maya. He unsuccessfully tries to contact Maya in the year 2006 via his walkie-talkie.

57 sec.

Sam: "Maya. Maya. I met your mum, and do you know what, when she was young, she was just like you. And you're... you... Anyway, look, I know you want to move on... but you don't have to. Because I'm still Sam, you know, I'm still here. And look it's not as if you've found somebody else."
Phyllis: "Sam?"
Sam: "Maya!"
Phyllis: "No, it's Phyllis, you berk. What are you going on about? Where are you?"
Sam: "It's a dodgy radio Phyllis. I'm chasing up leads at the community centre. Over and out."

Sam visits Layla in the record store to warn her. The police is looking for Ravi, who is a strong suspect. The shot, where Sam sneaks in through the back door was slightly shortened.

15 sec.

Sam and Annie want to bring Ravi to the police station. However, someone raids them and Sam is knocked down. When he slowly regains consciousness, a short sequence was cut out.

23 sec.

The rest of the difference in time results in a preview of the upcominc episode. However, we won't mention this any further within this report.