The short-lived US version of "Life on Mars" came to an end a few hours ago with a completely 'out there' solution that's dividing audiences - some liked it, others calling it the worst TV ending since "St. Elsewhere" took place all inside an autistic kid's head. One thing is for sure, it's a radically different departure from the original British series finale in 2007.
SPOILERS FOR BOTH UK & US VERSIONS AHEAD.
The US version revealed that the show was all a computer simulation in Sam Tyler's mind. He along with Annie, Ray and Chris are astronauts on a manned mission to Mars in 2035 who have been in hibernation for over two years.
A neural stimulation program kept their minds busy, Sam's was set with him playing a cop in 2008 but a glitch in the system pushed him into 1973 but kept his 2008 memories intact. The program helped him workout his psychological issues including that of his domineering father Major Tom who appeared as Gene Hunt in the recreation.
Other revelations - Windy was the onboard computer, their spaceship is called the Hyde 125, and the little rover is the landing vehicle on the planet's surface.
Compare this with the UK ending where a train robbery sting gone wrong leaves everyone's lives in jeopardy just as Sam walks into a tunnel of light, causing him to awaken from his coma back in 2006. Soon after at a police briefing, he seems distracted and realises he cut himself and can't really feel it - that his modern life is empty and hollow.
Walking onto the roof of police headquarters, he looks around as Bowie's song plays and the same camera shot as his awakening in 1973 floats around him. He walks, then runs towards the edge of the building as he begins to smile and leaps off the railing and into the air - his body falling as the screen fades to black.
He steps out of the darkness of the train tunnel in 1973 and shoots the crooks before they can kill Gene, Annie and the others. Soon after he and Annie finally kiss just as Gene, Ray and Chris pull up in the car on the way to a bust. He hops in and they drive off as the creepy test pattern girl skips into frame, waves goodbye and turns the picture off.
MAJOR SPOILERS END
Reaction to the US ending has varied:
"Is this the most imaginative ending these writers could come up with? A giant boooo and a long hiss from me on the disappointing end.I did not see the British counterpart. If it had a similar ending, I will not make the effort to catch that series either" says Satellite Guys
"If we were dragged into, say, three seasons of this show — caring about them all and their relationships with each other — we’d feel cheated in the end" says Clique Clack
"So, did it work? For me, yeah. I want to buy the DVD and look for clues sprinkled throughout the series. It explains everything, and it also explains away any anachronisms. I have to admit, I prefer this ending to the BBC series" says Zap2It
"I'm not going to expend an overabundance of words describing the sheer, colossal blunder of the Life on Mars finale... I still can't believe any of the staff thought this was a good idea, let alone an ending that had to be used" says Even the Waves
"it actually ruins this once fine show, and makes you wonder if cancellation was really a bad thing" says one of many mixed reviews on TV.Com
For those fully into the 'Mars' saga on both sides of the pond, the specially-shot trailer for the upcoming second season of 80's-themed spin-off "Ashes to Ashes" also went online today with Chris sporting new locks, Gene being his usual violent self, and both Shaz and Alex with interesting new hair styles.
The upcoming eight episodes, set in 1982 during the Falklands War, promise to be darker and there's apparently some angles that will tie back to the original "Life on Mars". Season 2 begins airing in the UK mid-April. In the US it will begin the week after the season one finale late this month.