Sam Tyler is a fictional character in BBC One's science
fiction/police procedural drama, Life on Mars.
In the original British version of Life on Mars, Tyler is played by
John Simm and in the American version he is played by Jason O'Mara.
1 Life on Mars
1.4 Life after 1973
2.1 Personality and appearance
4 External links
Life on Mars
The character of
Sam Tyler is the main protagonist within the
programme. During the first episode, Tyler is hit by a car in 2006 and
wakes up in 1973, finding himself working in the same police station
and location as he did in 2006, albeit as a DI (Detective Inspector)
rather than his 2006 rank of DCI (Detective Chief Inspector).
Throughout both series, it remains unclear to both the audience and
character whether he is mad or in a coma or has actually travelled
back in time.
Upon waking in 1973, Tyler finds himself working at the same station
he is based at in 2006, under a "rough-around-the-edges" boss, DCI
Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). During the two series, Tyler frequently
clashes with Hunt regarding their different policing methods. Tyler,
being a 21st-century detective, is forensically aware and procedurally
correct, whereas Hunt values violence, corruption and gut instinct in
order to catch criminals. In the end, the two develop a love-hate
relationship and respect each other's input.
Throughout the series, Tyler frequently hears and sees things from his
life in 2006. While in 1973, Tyler often sees images from the present
day on his television, hears loved ones and medical staff talk about
him and to him through phones and portable radios, along with being
stalked by Test Card Girl (Rafaella Hutchinson & Harriet Rogers)
and experiencing recurring hallucinations.
Tyler becomes good friends with
Annie Cartwright (Liz White) and she
is the only character in the programme to whom he reveals his true
situation. Tyler also becomes friends with
Chris Skelton (Marshall
Lancaster) who attempts to learn from Tyler's modern policing methods,
and is introduced to tape-recording interviews by Tyler, something
which was not standard procedure in the 1970s. However, Tyler often
Ray Carling (Dean Andrews), as he views Tyler as stopping
him from being promoted to Detective Inspector.
While in 1973, Tyler finds himself investigating many crimes with the
CID team from serial killers, armed robberies, murders, a hostage
situation and a suspicious death in police custody.
During episode four and episode eight, Tyler meets his mother Ruth
(Joanne Froggatt) and his father, Vic (Lee Ingleby). Despite thinking
that persuading his father to stay with his mother might enable him to
return to 2006, this plan is revealed to be unsuccessful.
During the series finale, a new character is introduced: Acting DCI
Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown) to temporarily oversee CID after Gene Hunt
is wrongly suspected of murder. Tyler is convinced that Morgan is his
surgeon, attempting to revive him from his coma. However, Morgan
reveals that Tyler is DCI Sam Williams of C-Division at Hyde and a
part of M.A.R.S. (Metropolitan Accountability and Reconciliation
Strategy), a taskforce to deal with corruption in the police force. He
also reveals that "Williams" was sent undercover with a fake identity,
DI Sam Tyler, to infiltrate Hunt's team, but developed severe
concussion and amnesia after a bad car accident on the way. After
finding evidence to substantiate Morgan's claims, a distraught Tyler
begins to doubt if he is actually from the future.
Morgan convinces Tyler that exposing
Gene Hunt and his CID team while
on an undercover operation to catch a violent armed robber, Leslie
Johns (Sean Gilder), will enable him to return to the future. While
the undercover operation is in progress on the train that Leslie Johns
and his team is attempting to rob, Chris, Gene, Ray and Annie all come
under fire and are caught out in the open. Tyler rushes to Frank
Morgan who is observing the situation from inside the train tunnel and
asks for his promised armed assistance. Morgan refuses and tells Tyler
that they are to let Hunt and the rest of CID die in the fire-fight,
as it is the perfect way to expose Hunt. After talking to Morgan,
Tyler wakes up in 2007.
Upon recovering, he becomes a shell of his former self, remaining
emotionally scarred and haunted by the promise he made to Annie in
1973, to return and save her from the fire-fight on the train. We see
him back in the clinical, bureaucratic, modern world of policing.
After alienating his cold, unsympathetic colleagues and confiding to
his elderly mother, he commits suicide by joyfully taking a running
jump off the police station roof.
Tyler re-appears in the railway tunnel in 1973 and promptly kills
Leslie Johns, saving the team's lives as he promised. After being
thanked by the team and kissing Annie, Tyler receives a message on
Gene's car radio from 2007 that he is "slipping away", implying that
he has chosen to stay in 1973. This time, Tyler finds the strength to
turn the radio off and rides off into the sunset with Hunt and the
rest of the team.
Ashley Pharoah and
Matthew Graham have confirmed that
they intended Sam's jump to be suicide. In an interview with the
Manchester Evening News, Graham states that Sam is now in the
afterlife, where time lasts an eternity compared to the suicide's
duration of a few seconds: "The truth is, when I wrote it, what I was
trying to say is that he's died, and that for however long that last
second of life is going to be, it will stretch out for an age, as an
eternity for him. And so when he drives off in that car, he's really
driving off into the afterlife."
Life after 1973
During Life on Mars' spin-off, Ashes to Ashes set in 1981, it is
Sam Tyler lived for a further seven years. Tyler later
Annie Cartwright and died in 1980 after unintentionally
driving his car into a river while in pursuit of a suspect, from which
his body was never recovered. Jackie Queen described Sam and Annie as
the "happiest couple" she had ever seen and that Tyler was the "most
loved man she had ever met."
During the first episode of series three of Ashes to Ashes, the nature
of his death is raised when Alex Drake discovers a witness statement
implied to have been written by
Gene Hunt with various parts blacked
out, accompanied by Alex seeing visions of a man with injuries to the
left side of his face dressed in police tunic and greatcoat. In the
second episode, DCI Jim Keats, an officer from the Discipline and
Complaints department, intent on removing Gene Hunt, states he
believes Gene killed Sam Tyler. In the fifth episode, Gene destroys
Tyler's clothes (which Alex had requested from Manchester) and the
censored file in order to prevent her from learning the truth about
his death. In the following episode, a suspect who is not only a known
fantasist but appears very different physically from Sam tries to
convince Alex that he is
Sam Tyler after undergoing extensive plastic
surgery, and that he is from the future. He quotes Sam's usual speech
in the Life on Mars introductions, claiming that nobody else is real,
although he still seems to be pleased when he, Gene and Alex are in
the same room, calling them the 'Three Musketeers', and avoiding
Alex's attempts to test him for future knowledge by claiming that such
details are forgotten after too long in the past. Gene tells Alex that
he helped Sam fake his own death, meaning Sam was still alive but had
disappeared into thin air.
During the penultimate episode of series three, after being asked by
Alex Drake if Hunt murdered Tyler, Hunt explains how after a few weeks
of Tyler acting "weird" he helped him fake his own death as Tyler "had
to go". In the finale, it is revealed that some years later, Sam Tyler
had taken Gene's offer of going "to the pub"—accepting his death in
the real world, and moving on from his life in the past.
Personality and appearance
Tyler is displayed to be a professional and procedurally correct
officer who dislikes corruption and brutality. An example of this is
found in episode four when, after discovering that the entire CID are
being bribed to help a local crime boss, he tries to end the corrupt
For the majority of his time in 1973, Tyler wears a black leather
jacket with jeans or plain trousers and typical shoes of the day, with
his collar spread out and no tie, unlike the rest of Hunt's CID.
During his brief showing in 2006, he wears a formal dark navy suit
with a tie. Tyler also wears a
St. Christopher pendant, reflecting his
time traveller status as
St. Christopher is the patron saint of
Tyler's main relationship with another character in the show is with
Annie Cartwright, who throughout the two series is the only character
who he fully enlightens to his situation.
Chris Skelton eventually become friends, with Chris seeing
him as a role model and attempts to learn from his modern policing
techniques, such as tape-recording interviews and forensic awareness.
However, Chris finds himself "torn between" Tyler's methods and
Hunt's. Chris later states that he's not sure if they were friends,
Sam was "more of a mentor, really".
Throughout the two series,
Ray Carling and Tyler often clash.
According to the series website, this is because Ray was seen as the
"golden boy" and had applied for promotion before Tyler arrived as the
new Detective Inspector. Carling frequently insults Tyler and disobeys
his orders, and has an extreme loyalty to Hunt which is often a source
of conflict. According to the series website, they also clash because
Carling is a similar character to Hunt.
Despite the love hate relationship and constant disagreements Tyler
and Hunt suffer, they eventually become to respect each other's
methods, with Hunt respecting Tyler due to his tireless and methodical
investigation techniques and, while not agreeing with all his methods,
Tyler respecting Hunt's ability to get results. The creators have
stated that his is because Hunt "sees a lot of Tyler" in himself. They
both appear to trust each other as in the seventh episode of the
second series, Hunt calls Tyler first after he wakes up to appear to
have killed a man while Tyler appears to be the only officer who
believes that Hunt is innocent and eventually he is proved right.
During the first episode of Ashes to Ashes, Carling's attitude towards
Tyler appeared to have softened. Carling acknowledged Tyler's bravery
in saving his colleagues during the last episode of Life on Mars, but
he still criticises his tendency to disobey Hunt.
Chris Skelton operates the receiver for a wireless bug, and boasts
that he had been taught about such things by "The great Sam Tyler
Among the many disparaging nicknames that Hunt bestows upon him during
the course of the series, Tyler earns at least one positive nickname:
the "Boy Wonder".
^ "Interview with Matthew Graham". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved
Sam Tyler (Life on Mars)
Sam Tyler (Internet Movie Database)
Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes
Life on Mars
List of characters
South Korean series
Ashes to Ashes
"Series 1, Episode 1"
"Series 1, Episode 2"
List of characters