Life on Mars

Life On Mars

posted Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr 17/2007 01:10  


It was the final episode last night.

I loved it.
Brilliant concept about pre-PC 1973 in Manchester.

The main concept re the ‘time travel’ conundrum can, I feel, be explained by Christopher Priest’s 1981 novel entitled ‘The Affirmation’. This novel explains much that at first appears mysterious in the TV series.

I have also just noted that ‘The Affirmation’ finishes with a ‘switch-off’ similar to that of the Test Card girl.


Here is an interesting article on ‘The Affirmation’ by Christopher Priest and how, reading between the lines, it can shed some light on ‘Life on Mars’.
This is just my reading of it.


As an aside-in-retrospection, I suppose another book that interests me vis a vis ‘Life on Mars’ is Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ (aka ‘In Search Of Lost Time’) with its treatment of memory, separate ‘selves’ of the same person and a narrative of a narrative etc.

My comparison, btw, with ‘The Affirmation’, was made in brief on the TTA ‘Interaction’ forum seven minutes after the end of LoMs final episode which clinched the comparison.


In this context, it seems to be appropriate to comment on my own posts – posts that the future changes as much as the past does.

I wonder if the LoM writers went into their own pre-LoM future to read these posts?

Indeed, did I actually speak to them in the future, the future yet to come?

I am only talking about the philosophical (Proustian, Priestian?) dual-time resolution, not the other ideas about pre-PC Manchester and the excellent Sweeney-inspired stories.


Athanasia is relevant to LoM and The A.


“But the narrative came to a halt, with no conclusion, no revelations.”

from ch 3 ‘The Affirmation’

“I invented a city and I called it ‘Jethra’, intending it to stand for a composite of London, where I had been born, and the suburbs of Manchester, where I had spent most of my childhood.”

from ch 3 ‘The Affirmation’

“‘Yes’ she kissed me briefly. ‘When you get to the clinic there are a few preliminaries[…]’

‘I have to write my autobiography?’

‘That’s what it amounts to, yes […] They renew your body, but they wipe your mind. You’ll be amnesiac afterwards. […]You become what you wrote. Doesn’t that scare you?'”From ‘The Affirmation’ (ch. 9)


More separate quotes from ‘The Affirmation’ (1981):-

“Childhood in the Manchester suburb: safe houses and streets with neighbours and gardens, school close at hand, but always a few miles to the east, dark and undulating and wild, the Pennine Hills.”

“There were now two realities, and each explained the other.”

“Soon afterwardsI I underwent a period of self-dislike, knowing I was patronizing them and I was no better than them, just younger and healthier.”

“…the artistic recreation of the past constituted a higher truth than mere memory.”

“I still knew very little about what had been done to me. That I had undegone some form of major surgery was obvious. My head had been shaved…”

“As a consequence of the surgery I had suffered amnesia…”

“I don’t feel I’m immortal. I am what you’ve made me believe I am.”


“What are you explaining, Peter? What’s left to say?”
“I’ve got to read you this.”

“Don’t torment me! I’m not mad … you’ve written nothing!”

“It’s how I defined myself. Last year, when I was away.”

“Peter, are you crazy? Those pages are blank!”

From ‘ The Affirmation’ Ch. 22


All this was solid and tangible around me, yet internally I knew none of it could be real.

From ‘ The Affirmation’ Ch. 23


It seemed that that it could be read on three levels.

The first was contained in the words I had actually written […]

Then there were the pencilled substitutions and deletions [..]

Finally, there was what I had not written: the spaces between the lines, the allusions, the deliberate omissions and the confident assumptions.

From ‘ The Affirmation’ Ch. 23


Magic Fiction:




1/4. re
Written by des – Sunday, April 22 2007
Life on Mars is incandescently good, a classic; but I’d love to know if our writers read Priest?

This is a quotation from Simon Jenner here:

April 11 2007 2.17 a.m.


‘The Dream of Wessex’ was mentioned above. It was more a replica plot of ‘The Affirmation’.

This is a quotation from me (7 minutes after the end of the final episode’s first broadcast) here:

April 10 2007 2007 10.07 pm


With regard to the two realities, the simple explanation is that they are symbiotic.


2/4. re
Written by des – Thursday, April 26 2007
Is Immortality the key? Not only that of jumping off the roof but also Immortality by self-referential screen entertainment (TV – ‘Maureen Lipman’ TV announcer monster, Test Card Girl, etc, feasting with Sweeney panthers, Sam & Gene as icons)?
Immortality as celebrity (Big Brother?) – related.  Self-affirmation by Name? 
Or as an Open University experiment in the seventies extrapolating its own future when there is a monstrous Breakfast TV replacing it!
The two realities in symbiosis by media?


3/4. re
Written by des – Tuesday, May 01 2007
More comments I made today on a message board:


I wasn’t disagreeing with the fact that many people found the ending dissatisfying (which is presumably the case) but with your own individual view that “there are so many obvious failings”, a view which, I presume, is not bolstered by the fact that many seem to agree with you. My own view, with which you may disagree, is that the ending of the TV series had no failings at all – a happy situation which, in large measure, is due, I feel, to inspiration or unconscious or conscious serendipity from a great novel I admire.
I’m sure I have the right to make this point in comparison with this novel as I would with the novel of any writer such as, for example, Dickens or Proust.


What I’m saying is that a reading of the novel in question asnwered, for me, many of the programme’s questions, as a broad-brush rationale: a symbiosis between two realities linked to immortality and memory/amnesia. Without this key, one will race round in circles after its holy grail of meaning. But, even so, the key of which I speak is also tantalisingly slippery, even with the help of the novel, but at least one becomes, I feel, satisfied, giving a neat closure to a wonderful viewing experience (if you indeed *want* such closure, as I did).


With regard to any work of literature, I mentioned elsewhere on the these boards The Intentional Fallacy:

In my view, a work, once posited in the audience arena, is something detached from the author: the author has no more right to interpret it (or compare it with other works) than anyone else. It’s free game for comment, interpretation, dissection. As a human being, however, I do hope nobody is discombobulated by anything I’ve said.

The Intentional Fallacy also relates, I feel, to what I say about any inference regarding the creation of ‘Life on Mars’. Such writerly committees (like the perceived business meeting in the last episode) are, in the manner of the general artistic process, all unknowns, but worthy of discussion, I hope, on a series of boards headed ‘Theories and Speculations’.

As in ‘Life in Mars’ itself the two realities are symbiotic, in my view, and when comparing two works of art (as I have done with a TV series and a novel) these, too, are symbiotic, through a similar extrapolated ‘time’ method.

All very Philip K Dick, perhaps.

4/4. Dr Who
Written by des – Monday, June 11 2007
The last few stories in the current Dr Who series (including ‘Blink! this weekend), seem to be taking a leaf from the affirmation-time/symbiosis-LoM TV/DVD media-thingie book!



1. Weirdmonger left…

Sunday, 2 May 2010 1:23 pm

My comments above a forerunner of my comments in 2009 about the retrocausality of the Large Hadron Collider?

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