Which brings me to - A journey into my engagement with Life on Mars.
There is discussion of slash in this post, but no actual slash.
I regret that I didn’t post detailed episode reactions of the Life on Mars episodes directly after I viewed them. But, I didn’t. I watched the show, I enjoyed the show and the full-blown obsession came later. I only gave very brief reaction posts to Episode 1 and Episode 2 and a very general 3-4 reaction here. I should have known that this show would eat my brain, but I wasn’t as forward thinking as I wish I had been.
Okay, so… I do enjoy the time travel and coma aspects of Life on Mars, and they do fascinate me, but they aren’t the reasons I watch the show. I know that they’re important, and if they didn’t exist, the show would lose a lot, but they’re not my fundamental reasons for wanting series 2 by any stretch of the imagination. I like the concept, the concept is rad, but the characters? Now they are it for me.
I was originally Gene’s girl through and through, but on the second rewatch, I flipped and fell madly for Sam. I think it was because Gene’s complexities are more obvious on the first watch. By episode 4, we see straight away that Gene’s not exactly who all around him have been lead to believe and that there’s a contradiction between the man he is and the man he wants to be. Sam, on the other hand - well, his internal character complexities are slightly more hidden. He is the viewer in a lot of ways. We usually only see his external motivations – he wants to go home, and he can seem a bit – well, dull, without this. But when you concentrate more on him, placing this whole time travel/coma thing to the side, you get to see those little quirks in him which make him a fully rounded character.
Gene is not a fluffy bunny. He does a lot of things I don’t approve of. Yes, he is sexist. And yes, he is bigotted in various other ways too. He is violent. And he can be cruel. And he can be a total bastard. But when he trusts you? He is loyal and protective. And that gets me. Every time. Loyal and protective are the two traits which rank high with me when it comes to characterisation. I love that there’s this whole other side to Gene which is alluded to by a throwaway comment about Roger Whittaker and that this isn’t a throwaway comment, because it has later significance in one of the only scenes where crazy stuff happens and Sam is asleep.
Sam is pedantic, and self-righteous and I think he’s probably narrow-minded in his own little way. He doesn’t seem to examine his own intrinsic motivations much (but there are external narrative reasons for that.) He can be cold and equally as cruel and bastard-like as Gene. But in his heart, Sam believes. He is idealistic. He thinks justice exists and he fights for it. He’s strong in his convictions and you can well believe that he would fight to the death to uphold them. He’s learning to open up and give something of himself to others. And what we have is someone who is focussed and driven, but in his core, warm hearted and empathetic. Sam cares for others. He really does. And I think part of the reason he hides that away in a tightly enclosed box is because he cares too much.
I adore Sam and Gene together. I really, truly do. I know that they’re technically not partners, but they totally are anyway (and John and Philip tend to confirm that view when talking about them.) They are equals and they see each other as equals. They’re on this journey together. Sam’s learning to trust his instincts, and Gene’s learning to think outside the box. They compromise! They risk their lives to save each other! And then they come to blows. They’re both passionate, and when that passion is directed towards each other, sparks fly.
I don’t have to slash them, but I do. I kind of do it against my will in a way, because I cannot see a happy relationship for them realistically – and I’m all about happy relationships. I try not to do angst. But… uh… my mind has other ideas a lot of the time. So yes. The pure, pure love of Sam and Gene. It’s because they’re so dynamic with each other. I guess it’s that whole bickering trope – they’re pulling each other’s pigtails and this amuses me. But, you know, I think it’s simplifying human interaction to say that any tension between them is purely sexual, and I don’t generally think in those terms.
I usually look at (and write) their relationship as friendship, and a complex friendship which shifts and bends with new situations. Sam still doesn’t entirely trust Gene. I mean, he does trust him, I think we can see that, but by episode 8, he still says he doesn’t trust that any of 1973 is real and that’s where the disparity exists. Gene trusts Sam. He’s wary of him. He’s watchful of him. But I’d say his instinct is to believe him. I’d also say that Gene knows a hell of a lot more than he ever lets on to Sam or anyone else.
Now, when it comes to the concept behind the show, I confess I fall into the “Sam really has time travelled” camp. I tend to jump between “and is hallucinating the coma aspects” and the “and is also in a coma” theories for the secondary part, but I do think he’s gone back in time. I really want it to be that he’s gone back in time, at any rate. I don’t like the thought that characters like Gene, Annie, Phyllis, Chris, Nelson and Ray aren’t real. They’re real to me!
Which brings me to the fact that I don’t just love Sam and Gene. I love them all. I think even Ray is beginning to grow on me – that might just be because of the sheer adorable nature of Dean Andrews, or that there’s a kind of weakness in Ray which is beginning to appeal to me. Annie sometimes feels a little too perfect, and this is one of those things where you do start to lean towards her being imagined – she studied psychology at University, she worked as a barmaid, she does First Aid and she’s being accepted onto the team to help with undercover?! But then she goes and does things like get uppity with Sam, so no, she’s not perfect – she’s just awesome. And okay, even though I do slash Sam/Gene, I also enjoy the idea of Sam/Annie. And we all know Sam/Mobile Phone is the only actual OTP of the show, so that’s fine.
Part of why I love Life on Mars relates once again to the fact that it inspires me creatively. Not only does it inspire me creatively, but I actually like everything I’ve written for the show on one level or another. I have imperfections in all of my Life on Mars pieces (some of them are glaring, and if I retroactively-edited, they’d get some serious work), but overall, they’re of a much higher calibre than most of my other writings. There’s something about these characters which makes me enjoy writing them so much that I produce stuff which I can critically appraise as not being completely awful – good for my ego and for my entertainment. Plus, I feel like I can move into writing which is truly good and the promise in that brings me joy.
And the fandom? Is in some ways pretty quiet. There’s this whole silent majority which lurks – which is cool, but not what I am used to. Actually, I’d say both Harry Potter and dS probably have the same silent majorities, but they also have a whole bunch of very vocal fans, so it’s harder to realise they exist. There are a lot of people who have seen the show and love the show, but don’t really participate in the fandom. But the fandom is brilliant. Every single person is witty and lovely and it’s another caring, sharing fandom. Very intelligent people lend their time and energy to discussion and the production of fan materials and it blows me out of the water. The Railway Arms is a lovely place to spend time.
Another awesome thing about Life on Mars fandom is that it appears to be on good speaking terms with The Powers That Be. Namely, co-creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharaoh. At first, I was relatively sure that it was two jokesters having a laugh posting on The Railway Arms forums, and now I still think that – but I also think it could really be them. The whole International Emmys thing was just a bit – well – how would imposters know? I could understand that they could know that the International Emmys were coming up, and that they could read articles and know LoM won after the fact – but how’d they know it was only Matthew and Ashley going and not Tony Jordan too? I’m a skeptic, but there are times when you’ve got to put away your inner cynic. Also, if I was the creator of a show, I’d occasionally hang out on the boards devoted to it. It’s not completely unheard of. Even if it’s not really them, I have to say that both ‘Matthew’ and ‘Ashley’ amuse me deeply. Really. Very, very much.
The idea of it being them, I admit, fills me with no small amount of dread because – well – there are links to my journal on TRA (I posted them, it’s my fault) and I tend to do things like create silly photo essays and say jokey things such as “I have a massive crush on Matthew Graham”. I write a lot of fan fiction based on something they created! Some of it involves sex! Between men! Most of it doesn’t! But, still! And basically, I’m a very paranoid person. Because, clearly, I’m quite open about these things and do them quite openly, but I don’t really expect them to be accessible to – you know – the co-creators of the actual show. It’s an extremely scary notion. And the thought of someone like Phil seeing one of my posts where I’m treating him like a piece of sexual meat terrifies me in the very core of my being.
… but not enough for me to stop doing these kinds of things, you understand. Nor to start locking all instances of me doing so - the damage is done, I’d say.
Well, back to the main point of this post - YAY for Life on Mars.