Ashes to Ashes: Season 3, Episode 1

“My name is Alex Drake… and, quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine.”

So begins season 3 of Ashes to Ashes. The credits start the episode, and we’re then sent to 2008 (or is it 2009 yet?), where Alex is talking to a therapist. The two discuss how “real” her visions of the early 80s world were. The doctor then asks if she’s still “hearing voices”. Alex says that she isn’t. She’s asked if she still dreams about Gene Hunt and we then see a montage of Hunt kicking ass to the tune of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries”. Alex ignores the question. Then doctor then asserts that her “dream world” wasn’t real. Alex says that Sam Tyler was in a coma too, and that he went to the same place as Alex, so how could it be possible for the two of them to “imagine” the same thing? The doctor assures her that Sam Tyler is dead and that the world she imagined isn’t real.

We next see Alex at an electronics store looking at DVDs. She “sees” a DVD for a movie called Legal Force, which has Gene, Ray, Chris and Shaz on the cover:

We’re pretty sure she’s imagining it, especially when, a few minutes later, we see Ray suddenly appear on a wall full of TVs. He’s begging her to wake up, as a girl has been kidnapped and, with Hunt on the run from the authorities for shooting Drake, he (Ray) has been put in charge. The screens then burst into static for a second, and then Chris appears, offering Drake a melon (he says he couldn’t find grapes). He too begs her for help with the kidnapping. He then says that Shaz will be coming in soon, and also mentions that he and Shaz have broken up. Another burst of static, and we see Shaz, who offers to clean up the melon on the floor. She then gives an emotional plea to Alex, saying that she made CID better then left her hanging.

The screen then changes to static yet again, and an unfamiliar male face appears on the screen. He looks at Alex, lying in a hospital bed in 1983, and says “look what [Gene Hunt’s] done to you”. He further says that she doesn’t know him, but he knows her, and he knows that she’s “the best of them”. He also says that he (Hunt) did this to her and he doesn’t want history repeating itself. The faces of Ray, Chris and Shaz quickly cycle through multiple times… until the face of Gene Hunt appears, saying “Wakey wakey, Drakey”.

Alex turns and starts walking away from the TV screens, but there are hundreds of screens in the electronics store. She can’t get away from Hunt. We then see Alex outside the store in Piccadilly Circus, and Gene’s face appears all over the famous video screens there, begging her to wake up.

Alex turns to run, but instead runs into a wall. She’s now in a cell of some sort. She looks out the window in the cell door and sees herself in a hospital bed. On a wall, a TV is showing the news, which is running a report from Lancashire of a long-dead body, possibly that of a police officer, being found. Just at that moment, the clock changes from 9:05 to 9:06 and Alex turns around to find a police constable with half his face gone in the cell with her. The screen goes black, we hear Gene calling Alex’s name one last time… and Alex wakes up in her hospital bed back in 1983, thanks to a slap in the face from Gene Hunt. Gene hands her some clothes (“they’re even clean!”) and she slowly wakes up and gets dressed.

As they walk down the hall, Alex tells Gene that they she was having a dream about being at home (2008). She then mentions the young officer without a face she saw, only to be interrupted by Hunt, who tells her that they have to clear his name with “D & C” (Discipline and Complaints, similar to “Internal Affairs” in American police lore).

We then see Gene and Drake in an alley or room somewhere, where Gene tells Alex that he fled abroad, first to the Isle of Wight, then to Costa Brava in Spain.Gene then says that he wondered why he was running from the law, and decided to come back to clear his name. He then “apologizes” to Drake for shooting her, but also accuses her of “falling wrong”. She accepts his apology, and when Gene says that the people from D&C will be gunning for him, Alex says that there’s only one thing they can do: “fire up the Quattro.”

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The two arrive at Fenchurch East, where Viv is dealing with an old woman who’s lost her dog:

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find Tinkerbell as soon as we… Bugger me sideways!”

The two then walk into a completely disorganized CID. Everyone looks at them as if they’ve seen ghosts. Gene sees an easel with notes for the Dorothy Blonde kidnapping Ray had mentioned earlier. Gene asks who’s in charge of the mess, and Ray confirms that he is, and that he’s been promoted to a Detective Inspector now. Gene asks for further details about the kidnapping. It seems that the girl was snatched on the way to school by three masked men, possibly in a Ford van. Gene then says that it’s going to get busy in here, as he expects D&C to find him any minute. Gene then says that he wants to see the Blonde family as soon as they arrive. He also warns Ray:

“And Ray, if you come in here again dressed like a maths teacher, I will paint your balls the colour of hazelnuts and inform a bag of squirrels that winter’s coming.”

Alex goes to the kitchenette to make some tea. “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant plays on the radio, when suddenly the song breaks up and a voice talks about “Molly”. Alex picks up the radio and starts talking to it just as Shaz walks up. Alex (yet again) tries to explain herself to Shaz but only comes across sounding like a loon.

A strange woman suddenly walks though CID, and Shaz tells Alex that it’s Marjorie, Dorothy’s mother. Marjorie is very upset, and appears to be on the verge of a giant crying spell, if not a complete breakdown. Her husband David comes up to comfort Marjorie, and explains that Marjorie received a bruise trying to fight off the kidnappers.

We next see Gene, Alex, David and Marjorie watching a video tape of Dorothy made by the kidnappers in which she holds up various signs that say things like “Do the right thing and I will be fine” and “Don’t do the right thing and I will die”. Alex goes to rewind the tape to see something, but Ray stops her as the tape gets jammed in the VCR. Alex assures them that she can straighten it out. And she does, without the help of the “techno twats” at Scotland Yard. Alex pops the tape in a VCR at her desk and sees the ransom demand:

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No one has been able to figure out what the numbers mean, until Alex suggests that they might be Bible verses, although those are usually in sequences of three, not four. The gang discuss several theories and facts about the case, but Gene says that “nothing is certain” until he’s “brought up to speed”.

We then see Gene interviewing David and Marjorie. David says that his company, Dot Matrix, makes microprocessors for arcade games, but is transitioning over to 8-bit processors. He also says that the company was named after his daughter (Dorothy = Dotty = Dot Matrix) and that Dorothy’s mother died when she was six. David and Marjorie met at an electronics store when he was in college and she was recently divorced. Gene asks if the company has made any job cuts recently. David says that he has, and when Gene asks if any of them “turned nasty”, Marjorie says that they have not, as David is quite sensitive to it. Gene then asks if the couple have money, and David says that they do, but he’s been putting all his spare money into the business, and mentions a new warehouse development. When David asks why they’re talking about all this and not out finding his daughter, Alex reassures him that everything is being done to rescue her.

Back in the main office, Shaz wonders why the kidnappers used code, while Ray wonders how Gene can simply waltz back in and take charge. Chris gives both of them answers, then Ray says that he just wants to hear Gene say those three little words: “Well done, Ray”. Alex and Gene then walk into the office, where they both see Jim Keats of D&C waiting for them. Gene sarcastically notes that the “rubberheelers” are here, while Alex flashes back to the vision of Jim she had at the electronics store. Jim asks Gene to take a walk with him; Alex slowly follows behind.

We’re then taken to Luigi’s, where Gene, Alex and Jim have coffee. Thanks to some amusing dialog between Luigi, Alex and Gene, Jim says that Alex and Gene have a certain chemistry, and that he’s sure Gene didn’t mean to shoot Alex. Gene, in a rush to find Dorothy’s kidnappers, thanks him and gets up to leave. Jim asks him to sit, and even shouts at some fellow officers who are escorting the party to back off. He then asks if they’ve heard of “Operation Countryman”, an investigation into corrupt cops. He says that the shooting makes him suspicious, and that Fenchurch East is now “on his radar”. Alex assures Jim that Gene is “one of the good guys”, and Jim says that if it were up to him, there’d “still be room for the mavericks”, thus hinting that Gene’s days as a cop are numbered. Jim says that he must suspend Gene. Gene says that he’ll go… on one condition: that Jim’s goons stay at the bar. Jim plays “good cop” by sympathetically insulting his “goons”, then thanks Gene for leaving without putting up a fight.

After Gene leaves, Jim and Alex talk about how Jim visited her at the hospital. Alex says that she wants to “go home”, but there’s something else, and that Gene’s at the heart of it. It’s unclear whether Alex is talking about herself (i.e.any “unfinished business” she might have had to cause her to travel back in time again) or if she means that Gene is up to no good (Sam’s death, and\or other corruption that Jim’s interested in). Jim then looks at his watch and notes that it stopped at 9:06 exactly – the same time Alex went back in time again. Alex then asks Jim about what he meant about history repeating itself. Jim avoids the question for the moment, and says that Gene will be OK. He then quotes the Bible and says that he’s here to help.

Later that night, we see Alex, alone in her apartment, thinking about the dead police officer she saw in her vision. Just at that moment, the TV goes from Top Gear to static, and Alex rushes over to the TV set. After talking to the static about herself and her situation for a few minutes, the image of the dead officer standing in a field faintly appears. Just as Alex asks who he is and how she can help him, the TV turns back to Top Gear, where a Quattro similar to Gene’s is being reviewed (humorously, the reviewer mentions how it “catapulted out of corners”… just as Gene does on a regular basis!). Alex takes the mention of the Quattro as a sign.

The next morning, Alex walks up to Chris at his desk. Chris and Shaz have been working on the ransom code, and Alex has figured out that it’s book, chapter, verse… then word. The three quickly decode the message as “fifty grand cloth bag behind hammers”. Alex then lines up the gang, who are stumped as to what the message means… until Gene walks by and says that “hammers” means the West Ham football club, and that the drop will be at Upton Park, where the team plays.

Alex and Ray then follow Gene into his office and remind him that he has been suspended. Ray also suggests a sting operation, which Alex surprisingly agrees might be their best option. Even more surprisingly, Gene agrees that he should keep a low profile, and that Ray should lead the operation.

We’re then taken to Dot Matrix, where Ray is trying to convince David and Marjorie to go through with the sting operation. The couple are very much against it, although Alex and Marjorie share a look which indicates that she’ll “work on” her husband. Alex then walks over to Chris, who says that he’s found that the company has a warehouse for storing computer chips from Japan, only it’s not occupied yet, due to “Health and Safety” issues. Chris also says that, as best he can tell, the business is just barely keeping its head above water. He also says that an employee let it slip to him that David transferred his mortgage to Marjorie’s name. Alex then apologizes for the situation between he and Shaz, which Chris philosophically waxes away as “best to lose a lover and keep a friend”. Alex asks if his IQ has doubled since she was away.

Back at the station, Chris verifies that David has moved his mortgage into Marjorie’s name, and that her previous married name was Marjorie Soaper. The name sets off warning bells with Gene, who is then informed that her ex-husband, Gary Soaper, went to prison for five years for breaking and entering and blackmail, and that he broke out of Wormwood Scrubs five months ago when he was being transferred for medical treatment. He stole and smashed up a car whilst on the lam, and is now in long-term care at the hospital. Gene slowly starts putting the pieces together: David desperately needs money, and his wife has connections to the crime world.

Gene then takes off to the hospital to see Soaper. There’s just one little problem:

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Soaper has burns over 90% of his body and severe brain damage. Alex suggests that he barely knows that they are there. Gene, to convince himself, goes to punch him, backing off at the last minute. When Soaper doesn’t react at all, Gene is convinced. The two turn to leave the room, only to run in to Jim in the hallway, who strongly suggests that he can have Hunt arrested. Hunt walks off in a huff, and Jim muses that, with his better education, he should have won that debate. He then tells Alex that she is here for a reason, but perhaps it’s to help him, and not Hunt. He says that Hunt “is at the heart of this” and that they’ll keep talking.

Later, the gang plans the sting operation at Luigi’s. Ray says that because Hunt is officially suspended, he will be taking the lead, and he will be the one to tell the group when to strike. Just then, Chris walks up with news that Gary Soaper was acquitted of kidnapping in 1977. Just then, Marjorie walks in, and asks Alex for a word. She volunteers to wear a wire, but Alex slows her down by reminding her that her ex-husband was involved in a kidnapping six years ago. Marjorie says that Gary met a Methodist man in prison, and initially became his friend because their religious activities covered some garden-variety prison smuggling. She then says that Gary fell under the man’s spell. Gary told the man – who was in for kidnapping – that David had money.

The next morning, the gang is ready for the sting. Uniformed cops are by the stadium, while Chris waits outside the Blonde’s house for David to leave so he can set Marjorie up with the wire. At the stadium, David shows up with the money, and a few minutes later the wired Marjorie appears. A blue Ford van suddenly appears, and a nervous Ray calls in the cops too soon. The van speeds off, but not before dropping off what appears to be a body wrapped in a rug. Thankfully, it’s only a dummy. An angry David lashes out at the police, but Alex is able to use her psychology skills to calm him down. Alex stops and takes a closer look at the dummy, and finds a video tape hidden in the rug.

Back at the station, the gang looks at the tape, which is of Dorothy, who says that the ransom is now £60,000. In the tape, two clues are found: the fact that they’ve given Dorothy a TV, and that one of the kidnappers seems to have a wheezy cough. Gene tells David that the kidnappers have been watching them, and that there’s something that David is not telling them. When David protests his innocence, Gene asks him straight-up if he used one of Marjorie’s criminal contacts to get a loan. David strongly denies this, and says that they’re going to go home and wait for further instructions from the kidnappers… and they don’t want any more “help” from the police.

Alex then tries to comfort Ray, who feels as if he’s failed miserably. Hunt orders a tail be put on the Blondes, but Drake denies this, saying that they have to go about this from a different angle. She walks over to Ray and tells him to visit every TV rental shop in the area – the man holding the camera had that distinctive cough, and perhaps someone at a rental store will remember him renting or buying either a TV or video camera, or both. Chris then walks in with a countdown clock he’s borrowed from the police gym (Gene: “We’ve got a gym?”) and Ray says that the torched van has been found. Shaz tracks down an HVAC repairman working in the building, because Alex wants to know about the curious fabric the dummy was wrapped in.

Things more quickly now. Gene demands a list of Soaper’s known associates. Ray says that the dummy came from a Dumpster behind a warehouse in Wapping. Alex walks in and says that the dummy was wrapped in blue asbestos. When everyone gives her a blank look, Drake reminds them of the dangers of asbestos. The gang continue to give her blank looks. She then says that asbestos can “rip your lungs to shreds”, then mentions the man on the tape. Gene is convinced that Soaper is behind it all, but Drake reminds him that he’s a vegetable in the hospital. Drake mentions the unknown man that Marjorie mentioned the previous night. Gene asks for a name, and Alex says that she doesn’t have one.

“We’re looking for a bloke who has done time. That narrows it down to most of Earth and the whole of Sunderland.”

Alex then berates Gene for his style, and says that his people would “flourish” if only given the chance. After a few minutes of this, Gene asks if this has turned into The Claire Rayner Show and says that he’s had enough.

A couple of hours pass, and Chris walks in the office, noting the bedlam out in the hall being caused by Soaper’s cronies. He’s also found out that one William Carburton, a Methodist, was doing eight years at Wormwood Scrubs for kidnapping. He was released a month ago to a Methodist hostel in Stepney. Alex notes that the deadline is now less than three hours away, and says that they should go talk to Carburton.

We then see Chris knocking down the door at the hostel. He and Alex enter the house, and, finding no one, go to the basement. A man appears, in only his underwear, at the top of the basement stairs. Alex asks if he’s William Carburton. The man says that he hopes that Carburton is with Christ. When asked to elaborate, the man says that Carburton had three heart attacks in prison, and had another while staying at the hostel and died two weeks ago. Chris shows the man a picture of Soaper; the man says that he knows him, and that he attended Bible studies at the prison. Alex scolds Chris wasting time by showing the man the picture, because Soaper is a brain damaged vegetable. The man said that Soaper called for Will a couple of weeks ago, and that he most certainly wasn’t brain damaged.

Back at the station, Gene humbly asks Shaz to do a bit of spying on the Blondes. At their house, Shaz reports that it looks like they’re still waiting for instructions from the kidnappers.

Gene, still at the station, asks Ray if he’s found out anything from Soaper’s associates. He says that he’s found nothing, and proposes that they let the deal go through and catch the bad guys after the exchange. Gene says that his gut tells him that they’ll kill the little girl, as she knows too much about her captors now. Just at the moment, Alex radios for Gene and tells him that Soaper has been making phone calls.

Gene, Alex, Ray and Chris suddenly burst into Soaper’s hospital room, and the man suddenly gets a worried look on what’s left of his face and reaches for a drawer. Alex opens it and pulls out some rosary beads the man had been reaching for. Alex turns to Gene in surprise, but Gene hasn’t caught on that a Methodist doesn’t use rosary beads. Suddenly, it’s clear to everyone: the man in the hospital bed is not Gary Soaper. Meanwhile, Shaz reports that Marjorie has left her house, but she gets confused a few seconds later when David leaves the house too… heading in the opposite direction.

So – the man in the hospital bed was used as a decoy during the jail break, but got into an accident and now everyone thinks he’s Gary Soaper. Soaper has been lying low all this time, but now he needs money, and he called Carburton for advice. And Marjorie must know that it’s not her ex-husband in the hospital, which means that she’s in on it, too.

While the gang are driving somewhere, Alex notes that Marjorie is in on it, but she’s scared and wants an out. She suddenly tells Gene to stop the car, and she asks Chris why the scene at Dot Matrix was so chaotic. He says it’s because of the computer chips. They were supposed to be in the warehouse, but that had been cleared out for “health and safety” issues. With nowhere else to put the chips, they put them in the office. With less than 50 minutes to go, Gene revs the engine and takes off to the warehouse.

At the warehouse, Ray and Chris quickly find Dorothy’s jacket. Alex, searching by herself, hears a TV behind a door. She quietly radios the others, and soon the bust the door down. Alex takes Dorothy away, while Gene gets Soaper in a headlock and takes him into custody. A grateful David thanks Gene, which gives Alex pause.

We then see Alex and Shaz, waiting with another officer, at the foot of the stairs at the Blonde’s home. Marjorie, knowing the jig is up, slowly walks down the stairs. David tells her to get out of his house. Marjorie puts her hand on Dotty’s face, which enrages David, but Dotty tells him not to yell at her. Marjorie says that she’s leaving now, and that Dorothy was the only woman David really cared about. Marjorie then turns to Alex and admits that she loves Gary, and how good it felt when he came looking for her when he broke out of prison.

Back at the station, celebratory drinks are passed around while Gene thanks his crew. He especially thanks Ray who, even though he screwed up that morning, at least took bold action. Ray at last got to hear Gene say “well done, Inspector”. Gene goes back into his office, and Shaz comes over to Alex, who is sitting by herself. Alex talks about how she’s thinking of them all, and how Gene is at the center of this (obviously, Shaz interprets this differently).

Jim suddenly walks in the room, and everyone goes quiet. He asks them not to give him the silent treatment… especially as he he’s brought a bottle of champagne. Jim says that everyone proved him wrong today, especially Gene. He further says that the entire station is made of mavericks, and that means that C&D will have to asses their suitability. Everyone groans, but Jim interjects that he’s going to be the one doing the assessment and that he has a soft spot for the “old ways”.

Jim, who had previously been all smiles, walks in to Hunt’s office and says that he hates him, and hates everything that he stands for. Gene hands him a drink while Jim continues his tirade, saying that some of the police under Gene’s command might have made decent cops, but that they’ll all be “getting pissed while I dismantle this station around them”. Gene, barely fazed, asks if he’s up to the task. Jim says that it’s not about them, it’s about Gene, and what he’s done in the past.

Alex, meanwhile, is moving a filing cabinet when she comes across a file about Sam Tyler.

Back in Gene’s office, Jim’s tirade continues. He says that he “knows what Gene did” three years ago.

Whilst looking at Tyler’s file, the dead cop appears in the doorway. A scared Alex walks away.

Ray interrupts Jim’s tirade by saying that booze time is wasting. Jim walks over to Alex’s desk, where she’s just returned from the filing room. He tells her to take care of herself, and that he really is there… to help her find the truth.

OTHER STUFF:

– In the opening scene with the doctor, Alex says “Sam told me when he woke up, that he could hear them [Hunt & Co.] begging him for help”. Is this the first mention that Alex actually knew Sam Tyler? We know that she’s seen all of his personnel files, but if I’m not mistaken this is the first time that Alex has said that she actually met Sam in the flesh.

– I like the little joke that when Chris put the melon down, it rolled off the nightstand in Alex’s room and hit the floor.

– In the scene with Alex in the electronics store, Shaz says that she’s “back to making bloody tea and biscuits” and that she “should have gotten a job at Peak Freans”. Peak Freans was a manufacturer of biscuits (cookies) in the UK. Founded in London by James Peek and George Hender Frean in 1857, the company sold several varieties of cookies, including the Garibaldis which are so popular in the “Life On Ashes” universe. The company was bought by United Biscuit and the Peak Freans brand name was dropped in 1989, although it’s still used in the US and Canada.

– When Gene slaps Alex and wakes her up in 1983, he says that he “had a mate called Brian Batts used to get on the voddy t’s and wind up sparko in his own sick.” He is referring, of course, to vodka tonics. “Sparko” is British rhyming slang for “asleep”. I have no idea who (if anyone) Brian Batts is, but Bryan Batt (the American actor and designer) used to play gay illustrator Sal on Mad Men.

– When Gene first talks to Alex he says that they’re a team, like “Bodie and Doyle”. This is a reference to The Professionals, a British cop show which aired on ITV from 1977 to 1983. The show was ITV’s response to The Sweeney, the show that Life On Mars was either “ripping off” or “paying homage to”, depending on your point of view. In the next sentence, Gene then says that he’s “the one in the SAS” (Bodie) while Drake is the “one with the girl’s hair” (Doyle, the more educated and “fruity’ – for lack of a better word – of the two). Like Gene Hunt, both Bodie and Doyle were known for their… “enthusiastic” driving skills in the show.

– When Gene first mentions “D and C”, Alex thinks he’s referring to “dilation and curettage”, a type of abortion. Hence Alex’s “that’s a gynecological procedure” comment.

– The Isle of Wight isn’t, technically speaking, “abroad”. Where the islands of Jersey, Guernsey the Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies and not part of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Wight is. In 2001, the island had 132,731 permanent residents and a single Member of Parliament… making it the largest single constituency in the UK.

– When Gene asks for details about Dorothy’s kidnapping, Chris says that the van with the masked men “could have been a d-reg”. This refers to Britain’s previous license plate system. The first letter of the tag indicated the year it was issued (starting with A in 1963, and ending with X and Y in 2001). So a “d-reg” tag would have been issued in 1966. Read more about the system here.

– The Ford Transit is a popular type of van in the UK. It was especially popular with criminals in the 1970s – according to British police, around 70% of all robberies where the criminals made use of a motor vehicle used a Ford Transit.

– Gene says that “D & C will be zooming on over in their Datsun Cherries” to question him. People under the age of 30 might not know that Nissan was once known as Datsun outside of Japan. The brand was created by the DAT Motorcar Company in 1931 as “Datson” to distinguish this smaller car from the larger DAT automobile. Nissan bought DAT in 1931 and changed the name to Datsun because “son” also means “loss” in Japanese. In the United States, Nissan slowly converted the Datsun name over to Nissan in the early 1980s. The “Datsun” brand was discontinued in 1986.

– The Datsun Cherry was a real car. Why Gene uses it as an insult for the D&C people is a mystery to me. The car wasn’t very “manly”, so perhaps that’s it. The car also looks like one of those boring, fuel-efficient types that accountants like to drive, so maybe that’s it. If anyone can help me with this, I’d appreciate it.

– “Dot Matrix” is a type of printer where a moving set of pins are fired at a ribbon. The pins fire in the shape of letters and press against the ribbon, which makes contact with the paper, thus producing a printed letter. Although dot matrix printers are long dead in the home and most offices, they’re still used in many commercial applications, especially where multiple copies of a document are needed. Automobile repair shops, for example, seem to be hanging on to dot matrix printers. Dot matrix printers are also still used in many industrial applications, such as quality-checking hardware and report printing.

– 1983 seems a bit late to be “transitioning over to 8-bit processors”. The Intel 8008, the world’s first 8-bit processor, was introduced in April, 1972. By 1974, Intel had released the wildly popular Intel 8080 chip, while competitors had released other chips, such as the Zilog Z80, Motorola 6800, and MOS Technology 6502 within a year. In fact, the first 32-bit chip, the Motorola 68000, was released in 1979, four years before the events in this episode of Ashes to Ashes. Although bleeding edge at the time, the 68000 was a sign that 8 and 16-bit chips were on their way out already.

–  Marjorie says that she met David at Tandy’s. Tandy Corporation was a leather goods manufacturer based out of Ft. Worth, Texas. The company bought the then-ailing RadioShack company in 1963, and eventually sold off all its non-electronics businesses. RadioShack introduced a popular personal computer, the Tandy Radio Shack 80 (more commonly known as the TRS-80) in 1977. In 1990, the company sold its computer business to AST, and the Tandy brand name was discontinued. In May 2000, the parent company dropped the Tandy name when it was officially renamed the “RadioShack Corporation”. How any of this relates to Ashes to Ashes is that the company ran a chain of retail stores in the UK and Australia under the “Tandy” name from the 1970s until 1999, when the chain was sold to Carphone Warehouse, who either shut down or rebranded the retail locations.

Doris Lessing is a left-wing author. Originally born in Persia (Iran) to British parents, her outspoken stances on apartheid and nuclear arms got her banned from South Africa and Rhodesia for several years. I’ve never read any of her books, but Ray’s assertion that it’s “bloody lesbian poetry”, while not right (she actually wrote novels with Communist and Sci-Fi themes), doesn’t appear to be exactly wrong, either.

Operation Countryman was a real investigation into corruption of London police. Running from 1978 to 1984, the investigation started with the City of London police department, but then expanded to include the entire Metropolitan Police Force (the City of London, a tiny 1 mile square borough in the heart of London, had, and still has, its own independent police force). As you might expect, the investigation met with serious obstruction from the police force, and even had to be moved outside London to prevent tampering. Although 400 police officers lost their jobs as a result of the investigation, not a single officer was brought up on charges, despite the investigation’s recommendation that 300 officers be charged. Strangely, the investigation’s final report is still “classified”, and all successive Home Secretaries have resisted calls from Members of Parliament to release it.

– “Cannon and Ball” are the British comedy team of Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball. The duo’s first TV appearance was in 1972, and this was eventually parlayed into their own show, The Cannon and Ball Show, in 1979. The duo, who were actually estranged for many years and barely on speaking terms outside of their stage work, released a single film – The Boys in Blue – in 1982. It was a remake of the 1939 comedy Ask a Policeman, in which barely competent policemen are told that the lack of crime in their sleepy village doesn’t justify their existence, so they begin to manufacture crimes to keep their jobs… only to discover real crimes being committed. If this sounds similar to the 2007 film Hot Fuzz, it’s because Ask a Policeman was a big influence on the film.

– The Bible quote Jim mentions at Luigi’s is Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Top Gear started as a local show on BBC Birmingham back in 1977. It was then picked up by BBC 2 and made national. Originally a conventional (and, to be honest, somewhat boring) show about cars and motoring issues, the show got a massive boost in popularity when Jeremy Clarkson joined the cast in 1988, adding his own brand of humor, controversy and harsh criticism to the show. When Clarkson left in 1999, the show’s popularity plummeted, and the BBC decided to “relaunch” the series in 2002. The original Top Gear is often referred to Old Top Gear, to differentiate it from the newer, studio-based version of the show.

– West Ham United, founded as Thames Ironworks in 1895, play their matches at Boleyn Ground, so-named because Henry VIII’s wife once stayed at (or owned) a house on the grounds. However, most Londoners simply call it Upton Park, after the neighborhood. The Hammers have played at Boleyn Ground since 1904.

-As mentioned several times last season, Wormwood Scrubs is a prison in London. It was featured in the original version of The Italian Job film, The Sweeney TV show (itself a direct inspiration for Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes), as well as The Jam’s song “Down in a Tube Station at Midnight”.

– When Gene finds out that Marjorie was first married to Gary Soaper, he says that David and Marjorie are “not quite Terry and June any more, are they?” Terry Scott and June Whitfield were the stars of a popular British sitcom called Happily Ever After. The show was fairly saccharine, so a good American translation might be “Ward and June” from Leave It To Beaver.

– When planning the sting operation at Luigi’s, Gene asks Luigi to knock off the cork popping as they’re trying to conduct business. Luigi points out that he’s trying to run a business too, and that it’s a restaurant. He then says “who dare, he wins”. This is his Italian version of “Who Dares, Wins”, the motto of Britain’s Special Air Service, one of the most elite commando units in the world.

– “Not a dickie bird” is British slang for “nothing at all”. When Ray says it during the sting operation, he means that nothing is going on.

– Although health concerns about asbestos date back to the first century AD, when the Romans noticed that slaves who wove asbestos cloth seemed to get respiratory diseases, the material wasn’t fully banned in the United States until 1989. And although British researchers were the first – in 1924 – to notice the dangers of asbestos in the industrial workplace, asbestos wasn’t banned in the UK until 1999.

– After her “asbestos speech”,  Gene Hunt calls Alex “Bamber Gascoigne in drag”. Bamber Gascoigne is a British TV presenter and author, and was the original host of University Challenge, a nerdy game show in which teams from universities square off on insanely difficult questions. The show was based on an American show called College Bowl, which aired on NBC radio from 1953 to 1959, and then on NBC TV from 1959 to 1970. Similar contests have been used as plot devices in many TV shows and movies, such as Freaks and Geeks and Mean Girls. University Challenge and Gascoigne himself were spoofed in the “Bambi” episode of the early 1980s British comedy The Young Ones (incidentally, that episode featured cameos from Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson, who played the team from Oxford University).

-Claire Rayner is a British journalist, mostly known for writing an advice column (known as “agony aunts” in the UK) for years. Born Jewish, she is devoutly secular, a staunch Republican (in the British sense of the word) and supports many health causes. I bet she’s a blast at parties.

Nationwide was a BBC current events show, not unlike America’s 60 Minutes or 20/20. It ran from 1969 to 1983. While the show was as famous as 60 Minutes for its investigative journalism, the show was also well-known for its “April Fool Reports” which appeared to be so genuine that many people truly believed that a secret research institute was breeding dinosaurs in the jungle, or that a library was built upside down because the contractor had held the plans upside down during construction.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s good to have Ashes back, but I’m not sure I entirely enjoyed this episode. There was the obvious plot hole – why not check out the warehouse earlier? – but I can overlook that, I suppose. I guess I just don’t like the Jim character, his cool name aside. In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that Gene Hunt is a good guy, and it’ll break my heart to find out otherwise.

More soon.

MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE:

Kings Of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Eurythmics – “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Eddy Grant – “Electric Avenue”
Simple Minds – “Promised You a Miracle”
The Allman Brothers Band – “Jessica” (Top Gear theme)
Trio – “Da Da Da”
New Order – “Blue Monday”
David Bowie and Queen – “Under Pressure”
Katrina and The Waves – “Walking On Sunshine”
The Police – “Every Breath You Take”

4 thoughts on “Ashes to Ashes: Season 3, Episode 1”

  1. Thank you Thank you for doing these great and reallydetailed updates. My Ashes to Ashes enjoyment is now complete. Not sure if dont like Jim based on looks or because he is out to get Gene. But I think it is because the actor si too young – why would he hate Gene and his “old ways”. Surely it would be more convincing if he was a contemporary of Gene?
    Didnt know any of that stuff about Operation Countryman. Great Info.
    Am torn between never wanting the series to end and dying to know how it finishes

  2. So, I realize it’s been nearly a year since you posted this (late late late, to the party, Kate!) but I just finished a massive mainline of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (first time viewing of Ashes!) and I’m reading and enjoying all of your recaps.

    As a longtime fan of Top Gear (I did a little dance when I heard ‘Jessica’ playing in the background and recognized the logo in this episode), and a general car enthusiast, I’d just like to point out that the Datsun Cherry was the fore-runner to the Nissan Sunny (the most boring car in the universe, until the Chevy Malibu) and enjoyed the same sort of cachet, ie: none at all. It was, I believe, at the time, the coveted “Cheapest Car In Britain”, and generally speaking, a piece of crap, especially when compared with the Quattro (omigod, first ever four-wheel-drive with a turbocharged engine, omigod, WHAT a car). I laughed and laughed at that line, because that’s EXACTLY the sort of car Gene Hunt would abhor. Gene’s car snobbery is one of the most endearing and lovable things about him, to me. But then, I enjoy Jeremy Clarkson even though he’s clearly a jerk. ;)

    Anyway, sorry for the year-late rambles, but thanks for the recaps! I enjoy reading other people’s takes on shows I enjoy, and yours have been extremely entertaining!

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