I don’t know what to think about this episode of Ashes to Ashes. On the one hand, the “crime of the week” was pretty mundane; on the other, the people the crime happened to were interesting… plus, we finally meet Creepy Doctor! Read on, folks!
This week’s episode kicks off with Alex sleeping on her sofa, with the TV blasting static in the background. The TV suddenly switches to a children’s show, and Orville the Duck (see “Other Stuff” section, below) says that he’s worried about Alex because he thinks she’s going to die. Keith tells Orville told that Alex isn’t going to die because she’s at the hospital, and when she arrived there were two bouquets of flowers waiting for her. The screen suddenly goes back to static, and Alex hits the TV, trying to get the show back.
We next see an amusing throwaway scene: Gene and the gang are in the Quattro, chasing a panel truck with French markings. The driver of the truck finally pulls over, and the gang gets out. Gene tells Chris to go and hassle the driver. While Chris has the man looking for paperwork, Ray and Gene open the trunk of the Quattro and pull a man out. The man’s hands are tied and there’s tape over his mouth. Gene and Ray take him to the back of the truck, where they open the back door and toss him in. “Now go and be a pain in the derriere to the gendarmerie!”, Gene says.
Back in the car, Alex lectures the rest of the gang on what amounts to an illegal kidnapping, then proceeds to lecture Chris about smoking. Ray, who has been reading the newspaper, complains about the “anti-police” headlines that have been all over the place lately. Gene says that he wishes the reporters would find someone else to pick on. Chris thinks it should be mimes. Ray says that a kid spit in his face that morning because he was a cop. Viv then comes over the radio, taking about a burglary at 2 Stanley Road. Gene tells Viv to give it to some uniformed cops, but Alex suddenly becomes quite animated and demands that they go investigate. Gene asks why they should go, and Alex says that “it’s Pete’s dad!” When Gene asks who Pete is, Alex says he is Molly’s father, and that they’ve got to get to the Drakes. Gene wonders if they “have the misfortune” to be related to Alex. Alex says that “it’s going to be weird”, to which Gene quips “that’ll make a nice change”.
So yes – there’s been a burglary at the home of Alex’s future in-laws.
At the house, we see Alex’s future father-in-law being led to an ambulance after being hit in the head. She calls out to him, then realizes that he can’t hear him. It dawns on her that this is the incident which led to him to become deaf. Alex hugs future mother-in-law Marjorie, and tells her that everything will be OK. Chris, seeing to two women embrace, says “it’s all gone a bit Martina Nav.. Navra.. that tennis bird”.
Inside, Gene and the gang look at the mess left from the burglar. Gene, feeling the whole thing is a waste of time, blithely tells everyone else to “leave it for forensics”. Alex, miffed at Gene’s nonchalance, tries comforting her future mother-in-law. Marjorie says that the thief took £1000, jewelry, and a necklace that she was wearing. The couple’s son, Peter (Alex’s future husband!) then shows up. Marjorie asks him to take their cat Molly (!) outside:
Alex, as you might guess, is a bit gobsmacked at seeing her future husband as a teenager. She follows him outside and accosts him for abandoning Molly… only she’s thinking about their baby, while he’s thinking about the cat. Alex gets really emotional, first almost crying, then giggling at her future husband’s teenage goofiness.
Back inside, the gang are distracted when Marjorie’s friend Gaynor Mason walks in with her enormous rack. She says “Ola!” which makes Alex ask if she’s from Spain. She says that she has a Spanish ex-boyfriend. Marge asks Gaynor to look in to Bryan (the husband) while she settles things at home. Alex then asks Marjorie to describe the assailant. She says that he was tall and had a London accent. When Alex asks about his face, Marjorie says that he was wearing a Margaret Thatcher mask. This causes Gene, Ray and Chris to perk up, as this is the calling card of a thief called “Metal Mickey”.
We next see Metal Mickey’s head being crammed into a toilet at the Fenchurch East police station. Mickey swears that he did not commit the crime, but Gene tosses him around anyway. Gene then calls in “Raymondo”, who punches Mickey exactly once in the stomach. Gene asks Ray if he’s ill, as he only punched the suspect once. Ray then apologizes then “goes back to work” on Mickey. As Ray continues beating Mickey up, Alex walks in and protests that Mickey has a metal plate in his head (thus his nickname). Gene says that he knows about that, and with any luck, Mickey will “be able to pick up that new channel”. Despite being beaten to a pulp, Mickey continues to plead his innocence. Gene leaves the toilets in disgust, and Ray says that he’s “sick of this shit”.
Alex goes to the hospital to check on Bryan. She sees Pete and starts chatting with him, unnerving the poor kid by knowing so much about him. She then goes and checks on Bryan, and has a cathartic “conversation” with him (he’s deaf remember?). She thanks him for being such a stand-up guy and a lifesaver after Pete left Molly when she (Molly) was six months old. Pete cannot hear her, but he looks at her and seems to understand.
Back at the station, Gene is giving another of his “cops gotta be clean” speeches. The troops reluctantly give him a half-hearted “yes, guv” (probably because they’re sick of hearing about it, not because they’re dirty). Chris, who has apparently given up smoking, sits at his desk, nervously tapping his pencil. Ray quietly fills out an application for the army. Alex, meanwhile, stands at the whiteboard, brainstorming. Shaz is the only one paying attention to her, and Alex berates everyone else for not giving her attention. Viv then walks in with some interesting information… the fingerprints found by forensics at the Drake’s house belong to George Staines, an infamous criminal that supposedly died two years ago. Gene, thinking this would make a great headline for the Met, suddenly gets interested in the case.
Gene and Alex go to visit George’s mother Elsie. While preparing a snack of tea and flapjacks for Elsie, Gene and Alex stumble across a large stash of cash in a biscuit tin. They also find out that Metal Mickey was the person who identified George’s body. Gene starts to smell a rat, and the rest of Stanes’ gang is brought in for questioning back at the station. They deny any knowledge of Stanes being alive. As Alex and Gene walk to the interview room to talk to Mickey again, Viv walks up and tells Gene that the Commissioner is on the line for him. The Commissioner then goes off on Gene (who holds the phone away from his ear), while Alex and Chris get nowhere with Mickey.
“Stop pissing us about, Mickey! If you don’t cooperate with us, I swear to you I will personally see to it that your nuts get squeezed very tightly in a vise. So unless you want to end up with a voice like a Bee Gee, I suggest you start telling us the truth: did you burgle the Drakes?” – Alex, to Mickey
A frustrated Alex tells Chris to keep him there, while she tracks down Ray, who is still filling out his army application. He sighs and reluctantly goes to the interview room, where Mickey again says that he had nothing to do with the break in… but admits that George is alive. Mickey says that George paid him some money to identify the body, which was actually that of “some old tramp who died in a fire”. George put his sovereign ring on the body because he wanted to disappear to Spain.
Mickey’s mention of Spain makes Alex think of Gaynor Mason, who said that she had a Spanish ex-boyfriend. They bring her in for questioning, but she says that she has no idea who George Stanes is. Gene points out all the connections between Gaynor, George and the Drakes, but Gaynor chalks this up to a massive coincidence. Viv later gives Alex a message – a man named “Boris Johnson” left her a card that simply says “Luigi’s 22:15”.
We next see Ray escorting Gaynor to her cell. She then tries seducing Ray (for reasons I can’t quite grasp; it’s not like Ray would let her out or anything). She compares him to Clint Eastwood – the “strong, silent type” who’s a really a hero underneath his rough exterior. Ray says that cops aren’t seen as heroes any more, and that he plans to join the army, as “another Falklands” will happen soon.
At Luigi’s that night, Alex sits and waits for Creepy Doctor. He never shows, but Alex finds another card on the table underneath the bread basket that says “Sorry I missed you”. Alex goes back to the station, and we see her scribbling on her ever-present whiteboard… when suddenly a man appears out of nowhere.
Ladies and gentlemen meet Martin Summers, “Creepy Doctor”:
Alex pulls a gun on him the second he enters the room. He is nonchalant about it, even telling her to shoot… but, he warns, he might be the only person that can help her return home. Alex mentions his phone calls, the roses he sent “like a crazed stalker”, and the incident the first time they met… and he tells her not to be scared?
He says that he had to make sure that she was the person he was looking for, as there aren’t a lot of people there from the “other world”. He asks what she would think if he said that she had been shot in the head, has just arrived at the hospital, and that Molly is on her way there… would that convince her that he’s from the future? He points to the whiteboard, calling her breakdown of the case “clinical”, and that he’d prefer using DNA. Not only does this finally convince Alex that Summers is from the future, it also makes her realize that he’s a cop.
She asks him about it, and he admits that he was a cop, but is retired and disgraced. Alex asks about the roses, and if they stand for Operation Rose. He says that the operation could be her exit route. She realizes that it will be about police corruption; Summers agrees with her, saying it “won’t be pretty”, but then… how badly does Alex want to see Molly again? Alex asks why, if he’s so sure that he can get her home… why is he still here? Summers says that he’s dying too, a “slow and painful” death, and that he prefers this place, where he can do anything he wants (he glances at and waves the cigarette in his hand as he says this, implying that he has cancer in 2008). Truth is, he doesn’t want to go back. Alex says “you want me to be corrupt?”, to which Summers says that, after six months, when she can no longer remember Molly’s face, she will beg him for help. He says that he doens’t have much time to wait for an answer… and neither does Alex. He then turns and walks out of the room.
The next morning, Alex asks Shaz to find out anything she can about a man named “Martin Summers”, an ex-cop in his mid 50s. Alex runs into Gene, who has brought Elsie in for questioning. Well, not really. He knows that she’s honest, that she never took any money from George’s crimes. But he knows that George loved (loves?) his mother, so he decides to hold her as long as he can, thinking her absence might draw George out. As Gene is walking Elsie to the exit, Gaynor walks by and Elsie says hello to her. Everyone stops and Alex asks Elsie how she knows Gaynor. She says that she popped in yesterday for a cup of tea, saying that she was a friend of George. Before Gaynor can leave the station, Gene has her taken back in for questioning.
He says the she knew that Stanes wasn’t dead. She says that he is dead… “at least the George you knew”, that he’s “trying to change”. She admits that she knows him, that he’s alive. She says that she’ll lead them George for £1000. Gene laughs, then she suggests £500. They agree on a price, then Gene tells her to have him meet her at one of George’s old haunts: The Peacock Pub in Stepney. While waiting for the appointed time (7:00 pm), Gene and Alex have a heartfelt conversation about the Drakes and the crime against them:
“Listen to me… we have the public’s faith in us going down faster than Linda Lovelace… If there’s one thing I can be sure of it’s that Gene Hunt will find this maggot and put him away until the end of his days. Now… dry your eyes, Bols… we have scum to catch.” – Gene, to Alex.
We next see the gang outside the pub on stakeout… only the plan falls apart when Gaynor is found behind the pub with a head injury. Chris and Ray go with her to the hospital, while Alex gets a call that Bryan Drake has checked himself out of the hospital. Gene and Alex go to visit the Drakes, and Marjorie says that they received £500 in the mail. Alex asks about Peter, and Marjorie says that he’s in his room. Alex volunteers to go talk to him, and Marjorie agrees.
In Peter’s room, Alex continues to befuddle Peter by knowing so much about him. For example, when she goes to sit on his bed, it creaks, and she says that she’d “forgotten that it did that”. Alex spies some weed in a corner of the room Peter denies that it’s his, and Alex says that she knows he smokes, as she’s seen him do it. She opens a blue box and find his mother’s necklace inside. Alex now thinks that Peter is the one that committed the robbery. Peter takes off, and Alex takes after him, but he loses her. Chris then calls Gene on the radio, saying that he’d better come down to the hospital.
At the hospital, we see Gaynor’s wig on the nightstand of her bed. Chris says that there’s “more to Gaynor than they thought”… and then he lifts the sheets and says “about six inches worth”. Come to find out, “Gaynor Mason” is really George Stanes. He’s had the “top half” of gender reassignment surgery done, but is still saving up for the “bottom half”. The gang stand outside Gaynor’s room, taking swigs off of Gene’s flask, talking about how shocked they are by the whole thing. Alex, amused, starts describing how the “bottom half” surgery works, which almost makes everyone else sick.
Gaynor eventually wakes up, and Gene interrogates him… or her. Whatever. Gaynor refuses to talk until Gene calls her by her female name. Gene refuses, and leans over to call her a bunch of names. George\Gaynor knees him in the nuts and takes off out of the room. Her escape is short-lived however: she runs down the hall, only to find the doors locked. Ray and Chris have taken off after her. Gaynor gives Ray a good elbow, but then Chris returns the favor by kicking her in the nuts.
Back in her room, Gaynor says that she stole from the Drakes because she was desperate to get the money for the rest of the operation, which was done in Spain. She says that the doctors there blackmailed her, upping the price and then threatening to turn her in if she didn’t pay the new price. She also says that she wore the mask to frame Mickey, and that the Drakes weren’t supposed to be home when she broke in. She also says that she doesn’t blame Peter, who chased after her for wearing the necklace, then knocked her in the back of the head with a brick outside the pub to get it back. She says that she went back to see Elise to “say goodbye”, and that she felt bad for her, so left the money for her in the tin.
She then asks Alex (and Gene) if they’ll keep the news quiet, as it would break her mother’s heart. Gene says that she’s in no position to make demands, and tells Ray to cuff him.. errr, her. As Ray is cuffing her up, Gaynor asks if he’s decided about joining the army. She says that she “wants to go to sleep at night knowing that there’s cops like you helping keep good people like my mum safe… besides, khaki is not your color”. Ray is taken aback by what she says.
We next see Gene, alone with Elsie at her house. She admits to finding the £500 in the biscuit tin, but says that she knew it wasn’t hers, so she sent it to the Drakes. Gene says that she could have gone to the Bahamas with the money; Elsie says that she couldn’t take the heat there; this amuses Gene, as Elsie has the heat on full blast.
Back at the Drakes, Alex walks in to Peter’s room and asks why he didn’t tell her about the necklace. She then winds him up about going to jail, although she has no intention of really sending him there. She says that she won’t take him in if he promises to look after his mother and father. He agrees. She also tells him to be nice to Suzie (a name we earlier saw him doodling on a notebook) and especially any girls named Alex. She then tells him to especially take care of Molly, but again Peter thinks she’s talking about the cat.
Back at the station, Chris talks about how easy it is to confuse transsexuals for “real” women, and gives Boy George as an example. Shaz then tells the room that he had a crush on Boy George until Shaz pointed out that he was a man. Chris tells her to shut it, which causes Shaz to come over and give him a handful of money. Chris asks what it’s for, and she says “fags”. He says that there’s enough there for five packs, and Shaz says “I know, get five, get ten, get twenty… I don’t care.. but please please start smoking again”. hehehehe! Shaz then tells Chris to hurry up or they’ll be late for their film… Tootsie! On the way out, she also tells Alex that she couldn’t find any information on Summers.
Alex then goes into Gene’s office, where he laments the position he’s in. He says that he “could retire” on being the cop that brought in George Stanes, but that he doesn’t want to break his mom’s heart, that it’s not her fault she loves him. Alex asks what he did, and Gene says that he’s arrested Gaynor Mason for the robbery. Alex then says something to the effect of “underneath all your sexist, macho BS, there’s really a kind man inside” and that she’s going to buy him a large drink.
The episode ends at Luigi’s, where Alex convinces Ray not to join the army… by ripping up his application form. Alex then sees Martin Summers walk in the bar. He asks if she has an answer for him. Alex desperately wants to get home to Alex, but she turns down his offer, saying that she simply could not be a corrupt cop. He says that he expected her to say that, but that Operation Rose might change her mind. She sits down at the bar again, and Luigi says that he thinks she did the right thing.
– Keith Harris is an English ventriloquist, whose childrens’ show (the imaginatively titled The Keith Harris Show) debuted in 1982 and featured Orville the Duck (who was seen in this episode) and Cuddles the Monkey (who was not). He flirted with bankruptcy after the show was canceled, but he remains a minor celebrity in the UK thanks to appearances on Harry Hill, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Trisha, Banzai, Little Britain and The Weakest Link.
– Harris says that there were “two beautiful bouquets of flowers” waiting for Alex when she got to the hospital. Is there any significance to this? It seems odd that there would be flowers waiting for Alex at the hospital, no?
– The only “French” words on the panel truck are “Rue De Zephidrine, Paris”. What the hell does that mean? Google only comes up with this link to a blog entry on The Life of Wylie (a TV blog run by the Manchester Evening News). I can’t help but think it’s important, but Google Translate doesn’t have a French word for “Zephidrine”. Without the Z, the word is similar to ephedrine, a low-level drug often used for appetite suppression, to aid concentration, or as a decongestant.
– Wikipedia defines gendarmerie as a “military body charged with police duties among civilian populations”. Although many English speakers use “gendarmerie” to refer to any French police officer, this is inaccurate. In France, only “para-military” officers should be referred to as such. Having said that, the French language title of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is “Gendarmerie royale du Canada”, because the RCMP were once a military force (but, confusingly, not part of the Canadian army).
– When Alex hugs her future mother-in-law, Chris tries to pronounce the name “Martina Navratilova”. Navratilova was one of the best tennis players in the world, winning 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She “came out” in 1981 shortly after gaining US citizenship. Although most weren’t surprised by the revelation, it was still unusual for someone to be openly gay in 1981.
– The “new channel” Gene was talking about when Ray is busy beating up Mickey is none other than… Channel 4. As the name suggests, Channel 4 was the fourth major British network, after BBC1, BBC2, and ITV. It was formally created by an Act of Parliament in 1982 and began broadcasting later that year on November 2. Because part of its remit was to cater to minority groups (but also because it wanted to set itself apart from the BBC and ITV), Channel 4 was known for its… let’s just say “risque” programming amd its support of independent films. Amusingly, Gene and Chris think the station is “ambulance-chasing telly” and that it’s for “students with greasy hair and the clinically insane”. Of course, Ashes to Ashes is a BBC production.
– Chris says that his aunt is crazy and that she “thinks she’s married to Malcolm Muggeridge”. Muggeridge was a British journalist, author, satirist, media personality, and soldier-spy. Muggeridge is best known (if known at all here in the US) for his public feud with John Cleese and Michael Palin in a televised debate over the perceived blasphemy of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Originally a womanizing, chain-smoking agnostic whiskey drinker, Muggeridge became a Christian in 1969 and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1982. Many of his post-conversion works compare favorably to the writings of C.S. Lewis. He was born in Croydon on March 24, 1903 and died on November 14, 1990.
– Gene describes the beating of Mickey as “useless as a pair of slippers for Douglas Bader”. Bader was an ace pilot for the Royal Air Force during World War II. Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and on December 14, 1931 at Woodley airfield near Reading, he was involved in an accident that took both his legs (hence Gene’s joke). Although released from the RAF on April 30, 1933, he came back during the Battle of Britain. He was considered a hero of his time. He died on September 5, 1982, so he might have been fresh in Gene’s memory at the time of this episode.
– According to his Army recruitment application, Ray Carling lives at 22 Forest Street in London. It’s apparently a real address. According to this site, a house at that address sold for £235,000 on August 21, 2006. The full address is: 22 Forest Street, Newham, London, Greater London, E7 0HW
– In the UK, “flapjacks” are a type of bar cookie, usually made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. It’s sort of a sweet, unhealthy version of a granola bar, as evidenced by the fact that they’re known as “muesli bars” in Australia.
– At Elsie’s house, she says that George used to sing “Don’t Fence Me In” to her while eating snacks. The song was originally written by Robert Fletcher, an engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana. Cole Porter bought the song from Fletcher for $250 and intended to use it in a cowboy musical called Adios, Argentina. However, the film was not made, and the song was released as a single, where it became very popular. Roy Rogers made it popular again when he sang it in the film Hollywood Canteen. Kate Smith introduced millions to the song in a radio broadcast on October 8, 1944. That same year, the song was recorded by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.
– Loved the joke about the one-legged guy playing for Millwall!
– Also loved the “Under Pressure” montage while Mickey was being interviewed and Gene being chewed out by the Commissioner. The use of cigar and cigarette smoke and the way they stopped the music at just the right time… masterful!
– A “sovereign ring” is a ring with a gold coin (usually a soverign, duh!) embedded in it. Fashionable in the 70s and 80s, they are considered either “tacky” or “bling” today.
– Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (Boris Johnson) is an English politician and journalist. A longtime member of the Conservative Party, Johnson was elected to Parliament from Henley-on-Thames in 2001, and was elected mayor of London on May 1, 2008. Although this election came after Alex was sent back in time, she would surely know the name and get Creepy Doctor’s “joke”, as he is one of the only British politicians known mostly by his first name only. Anyone that follows British politics at all knows who “Boris” is. He is also known for his wild hair and unkempt appearance.
– After Ray leaves the cell where he put Gaynor, we see Gene reading The Sun newspaper. The date on the masthead is Monday November 8, 1982.
– There was a lot going on in the first scene with Alex and Summers. Why does he refer to 2008 as the “other world”? Why not say “the future” or “our time”? What caused his disgraced fall from the police department? Which police department? Does he have cancer in 2008? How could he tell that Alex was from 2008? How does he know that Alex will slowly forget what Molly looks like?
– I’m not sure I follow the story about Peter seeing Gaynor wear the necklace. She didn’t appear to be wearing it when she went in to the pub (and no one noticed it), so when did the whole thing go down, exactly?
– POSSIBLE GOOF: Shaz tells Chris to hurry up or they’ll be late for the movie. Chris asks what film they’re going to see, and Shaz says Tootsie. The film didn’t come out until December 17, 1982 in the US, and probably came out later than that in the UK. Of course, the film is about an out-of-work male actor that dresses up as a woman to get a job on a soap opera, so its possible that Shaz was just giving Chris a hard time.
– Martin Summers must be “real” (not a figment of Alex’s imagination), since Gene and Luigi both see the two talking at the end of the episode.
– It was good seeing Sara Stewart again. I really liked her as the insane mom Stella in Sugar Rush.
MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE:
The Jam – “Funeral Pyre”
Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots
Blondie – “Atomic”
Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
Nino Rota – “Guido E Luisa” from 8 1/2
UB40 – “Food For Thought”
New Order – “Temptation”
The Clash – “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
David Bowie – “Speed Of Life”
Bill Withers – “Just The Two Of Us”
Madness – “Embarrassment”
David Bowie – “The Man Who Sold The World”