This post is all about The Scorpion's Sting
, a three part Life on Mars
story 'specially commissioned' by The Daily Mail.
I'm going to talk about why I thought it was a bad idea and what I found objectionable about it, so, if you're looking for a post of uncritical joy, this is not the post for you.
My first objection to The Scorpion's Sting is a purely technical one --- it clearly hasn't been edited or presented very well. There are spelling errors, grammatical errors in the narration, misused words (as far as I am aware, Nelson the barkeep is not and never should be referred to as 'redoubtable' --- which errs more on the side of a figure to be feared than one merely respected), random capitalisation, clumsy usage of 'writing the dialect' by dropping letters, and a fair few formatting problems. The illustrations accompanying the text hold very little resemblance to the people they represent. It doesn't look
My second objection to The Scorpion's Sting is the basic plotline and characterisation, which somehow manage to make less sense in context than a Carry On
film. The entire story is one long cliché abounding in unquestioned stereotypes. A beauty pageant! A vengeful contestant! Sam Tyler trapped and in peril of death by fire, oh no! Except that Ashes to Ashes
has told the audience that Sam is dead already and that the world he exists in is coppers' limbo. I won't even mention the cringe-inducing scene with the mole on Joey Lester's nose, I can't.
In terms of characterisation; unlike in the shows, there are no nuances, and what there is doesn't fit with what the television programs Life on Mars
or Ashes to Ashes
give us. There is a line from Gene Hunt that says, 'this here’s DI Tyler and a bird from the office, Annie something-or-other
, however, in Life on Mars
Gene referred to Annie as Cartwright, rarely using her first name. Instead of bringing Ray Carling up on his sexism as she does in episode 2.01 of Life on Mars
--- in which she pats him on the arse after he does so to her and refers to his posterior as "suet in a bag" --- Annie takes his barbs, 'because she's used to them.'
The Gene Hunt of Life on Mars
and Ashes to Ashes
may occasionally act like a thug, he may unquestioningly spew forth politically incorrect diatribes that have the ability to offend all major and minor groups, he fits suspects up and begins Life on Mars
corrupt. But he is also the man who accepts Sam Tyler and Alex Drake precisely because they challenge him. He is a man who speaks of the pressures of police work; 'it's a thankless task'
, LoM 1.06. Who is willing to put aside his bigotry to save the day, to change in order to police better; 'D'you know, what really sticks in my gullet is that I put a stop to it [taking backhanders, gaining ringside seats], all of it, months ago',
LoM 2.07. He has a brain, and he has a heart, and he isn't merely self-serving and crass.
My third and most vehement objection to The Scorpion's Sting is its sexism. It is one thing for characters such as Gene Hunt and Ray Carling to make sexist remarks that may or may not go unchecked. It is quite another for notes appended to the story itself to refer to women as 'pneumatic alluring competitors in the pageant', or for female characters to 'flutter delicately' into male characters' arms, while those male characters bravely storm through fire to rescue them. Or for women to scream, howl and shriek at fire, seemingly without the wherewithal to use a skerrick of logic to escape. Or for the single female officer of CID, who has already been much maligned by the aforementioned Gene Hunt and Ray Carling (who have both referred to her in a derogatory fashion, such as 'jugs' and 'WPC Bristols' --- not to mention that she's supposed to be a WDC at this stage), to be draped in a beauty pageant sash as she is being rescued by a male character, and for this to be reinforced in text (and by the progressive reconstructed Sam Tyler, who you would think would know better.)
I need to question --- who would willingly put money towards a product of this calibre? Life on Mars
the television program had high production values, attention to detail, clever plots and likeable yet flawed characters. It shone a light on issues such as 1970s sexism with an ironic wink. It featured likeable yet flawed female characters who had agency and power.
The same cannot be said for The Scorpion's Sting
. People paid for paper copies of this story and received sub-standard fare. Why would anyone want to pay more money for a Life on Mars
tie-in novel if this is the quality of the work they would receive? There is little attention to detail and slap-dash craftsmanship. There is bland, unremarkable narration, unrecognisable characters, and a paucity of wit. This is all incredibly disappointing.