Ashes to Ashes is a British television drama series, which serves as a sequel to the 2006 series Life on Mars. It is a Kudos Film & Television production for the BBC, which was broadcast on BBC One. It premiered on 7 February 2008 at 9:00 PM GMT. Philip Glenister, who plays Gene Hunt, has stated in an interview that the programme will run for at least two series. He added that he does not think any show featuring his character should be made afterwards. Matthew Graham has stated that the programme could potentially run to three series. Filming for a second series started in Summer 2008, to be broadcast in 2009.
It is established that DI Alex Drake, a trained police psychologist, has been studying the suicide of DCI Sam Tyler and is familiar with the detailed description he recorded of his experiences of life in 1973 (whilst he was actually in a coma in 2006).
When Drake herself is shot during a hostage situation and finds herself transported back to 1981, it is her familiarity with Tyler's world that leads her to deduce she is "hallucinating". She also draws upon her knowledge of Tyler's experiences in 1973 to inform her decisions on how to act in the world of 1981. For example, she spends time finding and tuning a powerful radio so that she can receive information from the "real world", because this is how Tyler received information about the progression of his coma in his world of 1973. Alex does eventually receive messages from Rainbow characters Zippy and George, a handheld radio and the television set.
Drake is also stalked by a sinister clown in a Pierrot costume which resembles David Bowie's appearance in the "Ashes to Ashes" music video. The clown appears to echo the role of the Test Card F girl in Life on Mars.
Drake learns from DS Ray Carling that Tyler returned to Manchester in 1973 and spent seven years serving faithfully alongside Gene Hunt. In 1980 he drove his car into a river during a car chase and is presumed dead, though the body was never found.
A newspaper clipping paying posthumous tribute to Tyler's achievements hangs in Hunt's office. Hunt subsequently transferred to the Metropolitan Police, taking Carling and Skelton with him.
As in the case of Sam Tyler in Life on Mars, from Hunt's point of view Drake has asked to be transferred to his division from elsewhere. Unlike Tyler in Life on Mars, Drake is a DI in both the present day and the past.
Critical reception to the first episode of the series was mixed, with positive reviews from The Daily Telegraph, The Herald The Spectator, and the New Statesman and negative reviews from The Times, The Sunday Times, Newsnight Review, The Guardian and The Observer, which criticised the episode's direction, structure and tone (although it did praise the costumes and art direction). The national free sheet, Metro, gave the episode four stars as "a vote of faith" on what it described as "a dodgy start".
The Guardian reported on 15 February 2008 that, with 6.1 million viewers and a 25% audience share, the ratings for the second episode, shown on 14 February, were down by almost one million on the first, comparing overnight returns. It still did well against the Lynda La Plante police procedural Trial & Retribution, which fell to a series low on ITV.
After press complaints about the quality of Keeley Hawes' performance, Philip Glenister defended his co-star, stating, "It's a hellishly difficult thing to come into and I've seen how hard she works and how brilliant she is. To all those detractors, they're just plain wrong.
After the final episode The Daily Mirror stated that although one or two episodes were lacking, in the end it was a satisfying finish to a series which had a lot to live up to and deserves a second series.