Ashes to Ashes: Season 3, Episode 6

Episode 6 begins with Alex at home, asleep on the sofa. Haunting whistling is heard as she dreams of a soccer ball being kicked down the hall of the station. She picks up the ball and stares at it.

The next morning, she walks into the station… and looks confused. Police in riot gear are everywhere, and Viv is seen telling someone on the phone that all leave is canceled. When the person on the other end of the phone asks why, Viv tells him to “turn on your bloody television”.

Alex walks into the office, where the TV is reporting news of the riot and takeover of nearby Fenchurch Prison. It seems that ten prisoners jumped a guard patrol and the rest of the guards reacted with the “speed of a spastic tortoise” (Ray’s words). Alex asks if the wing held juveniles. Gene says that it does not, that it holds the worst prisoners: “You name it, they’ve raped it, robbed it, killed it.”

Gene says that their priority is a prisoner who escaped during the melee. Viv comes in and says he needs to have a word with Gene. But before they can talk, others join in the conversation and Viv gets lost in the shuffle. After Chris describes the escaped convict, Gene says that the gang can handle that by themselves, and that he’s going for a “quick refresher course” at the prison, which is only a couple minutes away. Alex, smiling, calls him “Braveheart in Paco Robanne”.


At the prison, all is chaos. The police are pelted with roof tiles, masonry, hammers and Molotov cocktails. Viv again tells Gene that he needs to talk to him, but Gene says there’s no time to chat… “it’s playtime”. We then see the scene inside the prison, and the advancing police officers are pelted with even more debris. Gene scans the prisoners and takes a long hard look at one in particular. The police advance with Hunt leading the charge. It’s like the biggest barroom brawl you’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, the police are quickly surrounded and begin to retreat. Gene calls for medical assistance on the radio, saying that they’ve walked into an ambush. Inside, the ringleader of the riot – the same man Gene eyeballed a few minutes earlier – asks if the prisoners enjoyed beating up on the police. Outside, Gene can’t find Viv, and he repeatedly calls him on the radio. It is soon obvious that Viv has been left inside and is now a hostage. Gene asks the police officers who was covering for Viv and reminds them that rule number one is to never leave a a fellow officer behind. He turns to walk back in the prison, but is restrained by several officers.

Back at the station, Alex says that they now have a hostage situation, and that they need to find out everything they can about the prisoners holding Viv. Shaz brings Alex a stack of files about the prisoners, and Alex says that they need to identify the ringleader. Gene walks in and says that his name is Jason Sacks. He also says that police constable Michael Stirling disturbed him trying to rob a garage, and that Sacks cut the officer’s tendons are burned the garage down. The officer, who apparently died, was 23.

Alex notes that Sacks is in the 19th year of his life sentence, and pins a picture of him on a board. Shaz is scared for Viv’s life, but Alex promises that they’ll get him out. Jim, always on the offensive, says that it might not have been wise for Gene to lead the attack. Gene asks Jim if he thinks all this is his fault. Jim notes that there was a fully briefed team leader on site, but suggests that Gene overruled him because he wanted a “punch up”. Gene then says that they’re going to set up an incident room at the prison. Gene spies Viv’s soccer ball and tells Alex that this is no time for play. Alex says that it’s Viv’s, a souvenir of his beloved West Ham. Alone with Gene, Jim says that it might be too late for Gene this time. Gene says that he’s not playing now. Jim walks away, whistling the same tune Alex heard in her dream.

We see the convicts mess with Viv whilst Gene and the gang set up an office in a secure area of the prison. While Gene and Alex rush to look through papers and reports, Jim casually sits with his feet up and lights a cigarette. Alex asks Gene if the prisoners made any demands when he was there, but Gene says that they were too busy throwing things at them. Alex asks Shaz how many phone lines are still working in D Block; she says three, but no one answers when she calls. Ray asks about the escaped prisoner; Shaz says that she’ll call the station. Gene suggests that Shaz try calling one of the kitchens or laundry, as there might be a prisoner hanging out there who didn’t want any part of the riot. Chris walks in and says that CCTV is working, and that the gang will want to see this. Everyone gets up except for Jim, who remains on the sofa, lazily smoking a cigarette.

Out in the lobby, the group look at a bank of CCTV monitors. Ray grabs the microphone and tells the prisoners that they’re being watched, but Shaz notes that you have to press the “talk” button first. Gene leans over and grabs the microphone:

“Listen to me, you shit-stick. This is DCI Gene Hunt and I am now taking charge of D wing at Her Majesty’s pleasure. You so much as lay a finger on my colleague I swear to God I will come in there and rip your heart out, do you understand me?”

Alex warns him that such talk will only incite the prisoners to more violence. Gene says that he’s negotiating. Alex asks if he’s negotiating like Hiroshima was negotiated. Alex then sits down in front of the monitors, just in time to see Sacks hold up a gun to the video camera. Gene asks who gave him the gun. Inside the prison, Sacks asks Viv if one cop is enough to make him a legend, because he needs to be remembered. Viv asks if “he” got out and if “he” got away. Sacks continues, saying that killing one cop is “lucky”, but three or four would be “historic”. Sacks cocks the gun and aims it at Viv, who again asks Sacks to tell him if “he” got out. Sacks says that there’s been a change of plans. He pulls the gun up and shoots out the cameras. The gang, still watching the monitors helplessly, feel their hearts sink.

Gene wants to take immediate action to get Viv back, but Alex insists that she can talk Sacks down. Gene insists that you don’t talk to people like Sacks, you just “put them down”. Alex ignores Gene and begins talking on the loudspeaker. She introduces herself and says that this is his forum, and things will happen on his time. She asks if he understands, and he gives her the “thumbs-up” sign on the last remaining video camera… but he then hangs a sign on Viv which says “One more word and he dies”.

A short tine later, we see Chris and Shaz at desks in the prison, reviewing files. Jim, still with nothing to do, leans on Shaz’s desk and says that he suspects that Gene blames himself for all this, and notes that this isn’t the first time Gene has been so cavalier with an officer’s safety. Gene walks in, and Ray stands up to tell him that they’ve gotten a tip-off about the escaped prisoner, Paul Thordy. All the regulars follow Gene and Ray out of the office, and Alex walks up demanding to know who Paul Thordy is. Gene says that he’s a con-man. Alex asks why they needed to leave the room to discuss this, but Gene ignores her, instead asking Ray what the tip was. When Ray says that Thordy was spotted at a hotel in Croydon, Gene tells Ray and Chris to go pick him up. Alex says that the matter could be handled by uniformed cops, but Gene just walks away.

In the car on the way to recapture Thordy, Chris asks if they shouldn’t have told Alex about Thordy, but Ray says she’d “go nuts” if she found out who he was. He stops the car, finding Thordy almost immediately. The two of them follow Thordy down the street and ask him if he thought he could “run away from the old team”. Paul takes off through a laundromat and runs out the back, where clothes and sheets hang from clothes lines. He finally meets up with Chris, who knocks him out, then turns to Ray and says “well, when the sheet hits the man”.

Back at the prison, someone can be heard whistling the same tune heard twice now. Shaz and Alex are looking at the monitors, and Shaz says that something’s not right. She says that she’s reviewed Sack’s reports and he’s been an exemplary prisoner: no fights, no trips to solitary confinement… nothing. Alex wonders if perhaps Sacks has just been biding his time. Jim walks in and says “I’m forever blowing bubbles”, and Shaz asks him what it means. He explains that it’s West Ham’s theme song (so now we know the tune that’s been whistled twice already). He’s tossing Viv’s soccer ball around, and Shaz snatches it on the way out, protective of Viv’s property.

Jim approaches the monitors and asks Alex what Sacks is thinking. Alex says that he’ll know that he can rely on them. Jim tries to start his anti-Gene campaign again, but Alex tells him that it’s not the right time. He insists that it’s exactly the right time. He points out that she is alone in the lobby, then asks her point blank what Gene has done. She says that Gene has covered things up, but when he presses her for more information, she remains silent. After a few moments pass, he asks if she’s ever stared at something so long that the rest of your vision goes black. When Alex asks him to explain, he says it’s how nuns see the Virgin Mary “move”. He again asks Alex what she knows. Alex says that she needs evidence before she can talk. Jim points to Viv on the CCTV monitor and says that he is depending on them to do the right thing.

Just then, Gene walks in with news: the escaped prisoner, Paul Thordy, shared a cell with Jason Sacks… and that someone has been trying to cover this up. Alex asks if he thinks the escape and riot are connected, and Gene sarcastically replies that he’s been scouring the files for his own entertainment. Just then Ray calls in on the radio to say that they have Thordy in custody. Gene says that he’ll meet them back at the base. Alex says that she’ll go with him. Gene says that she will stay here and keep an eye on the monitors (and Jim). Jim tells her to go back to the station and find some evidence before it’s too late. Alex asks about Viv, and Jim promises to keep an eye on him.


Inside, Viv kneels and prays. Sacks approaches and says that they have some “unfinished business” with him.

At the station, Alex walks in to Gene’s office and starts going through his desk. She doesn’t get far before Ray and Chris walk up and ask her what she’s doing. Alex asks where Hunt is, and we then see him beating up Paul Thordy in an evidence room. Alex bursts in and demands that he stop. Gene takes a break from beating Thordy to ask if he and Sacks planned this together. Gene says that he knows they shared a cell, and that he has a good officer (Viv) trapped in there, so what does Sacks want? Paul says that he wants to “float amongst the stars”. Gene says that the only thing he’ll be floating in is his own shit. He then gives Thordy a couple of good kicks. Alex begs Ray and Chris to make Gene stop, but no one moves. Ray does manage to says that Thordy won’t give them anything useful, and that’s he’s a bullshitter and always has been. Alex and Chris rush over to the brutally injured Thordy, and she tells him to go find a doctor. Gene insists that he will talk. Paul asks for them to just let him die.

We then see Alex walk in to Gene’s office, with Gene sitting at his desk. She says that in the three years she’s known him, she’s never come so close to hating him. Gene says that she made a good show of it, but Alex says what he did to Thordy amounted to torture. Gene insists that it was “just a tickle”. Alex asks if he’s done worse, but then cuts him off because she says she knows that he has. She says that Gene is becoming a stranger, and Gene asks what she’s doing there. Alex says that she “knows things” about Gene, things about Sam Tyler. Gene stands up and says that Viv is being held hostage, and all Alex can think about is Sam Tyler. He asks what she’s trying to prove. He says that he’s not sorry for beating up Thordy, as he is a convict who should be in prison, not on the run. He also says that Viv should be sitting behind the desk outside, and there’s something wrong with the world when he’s not. Slamming his fist onto to desk, he says that there’s a lot at stake tonight. Alex says she hopes he has a heart in there. Gene says that he has two: his, and one of a toerag he ate earlier. On her way out of his office, Gene asks Alex if she still has Viv’s soccer ball. She says that she does, and Gene says that tonight they are all Hammers fans.

Back at the prison, Shaz says that she needs to talk to Ray. He says that now is not a good time, but she presses him, saying that Chris said that he saw stars. At first Ray insists that it’s nothing, but then he admits that he saw a field of stars. He says that he probably just had one too many at Luigi’s. Meanwhile, while Ray is explaining what happened, Alex walks in and hears their conversation. Alex asks Ray if everything is OK. Chris then walks in, and he too asks what’s going on. To break the tension, Ray asks him who would win a break dancing competition: Neil Kinnock or Worzel Gummidge. Alex tells the gang that Gene said they should go home and get some rest. Chris and Shaz say they’re leaving… but not before Chris makes a few more calls and Shaz checks out a few more things. Meanwhile, Jim plays cards.

We then see Alex taking care of the sleeping gang, putting a blanket on Shaz and taking a stale cigarette from Chris’ hands. We then see her walking down the hall of the station, with Jim’s eerie whistling and sounds of Gene beating Thordy in her mind. She walks into the evidence room where Thordy was beaten earlier and sees his blood on the lockers. She then sees his tooth on a table, and when she picks it up she sees the Dead Cop in front of her. She asks why he’s trying to tell her, and says that she doesn’t want to be there any more. She begs him to show her what to do, but when she glances down at the tooth again, he is gone.

Down in the cells, Alex walks up on Jim, who is checking on Thordy. Jim says he doesn’t want him getting any more “energetic” visits from the police. Alex says that she wants to spend some time with him, and asks Jim if that is OK. He tells her to be his guest. Alex opens the window, and Thordy appears. He said he knew she’d come and help him. Alex says that he needs to help her, and that “their friend” is in danger. He says that he can, then pauses. He starts laughing, and Alex says it isn’t funny. He says that it’s hard not to laugh when you know the truth. Thordy says that none of this is real, that Sacks isn’t relevant, the riot isn’t relevant, and that the only thing that matters is “us”. She asks who he is, and he says that he’s Sam Tyler and (mimicking the opening credits from Life On Mars) he says that he “had an accident and woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in…”. Alex shuts the window on him.


At the prison, Sacks orders a sleeping Viv to wake up. He says that today’s the day he becomes immortal and Viv dies.

Alex has fallen asleep. She can hear Gene interrogating Thordy in her sleep. We see her dream, in which she replays the events of the day. Interspersed between scenes of Gene beating Thordy, Viv being watched by the prisoners, the Dead Cop and Thordy talking out of the window, we see Ray, Chris and Shaz all dressed up, laughing, and sitting at a table in a meadow. They pass around a gift which has been wrapped in newspaper. We see Chris open it. It’s a box of some kind, but just as he opens it and gets a serious look on her face, Alex is woken up by Shaz, who says she’s putting the kettle on.

When then see Alex back at Thordy’s cell. He asks if she gets the dizzy spells too, and says that they happened more and more as he “got closer”. A more agitated Thordy asks if the visions disturb her. He again says that he is Sam Tyler. Alex asks if he’s had a face transplant, and that he should know they can do that in the future. Thordy says that all things are possible, which Alex calls “bullshit” and says that he is a fantasist. She opens his file and reads off a list of Thordy’s ailments: “Delusions. Borderline personality disorder. Schizophrenic episodes”. She also notes that he’s a con-man, too. Thordy says that it’s all Gene’s doings, and that Gene doesn’t want her to believe him. Just then Gene walks in and asks if he was talking about him, as his ears were burning. Gene tells Alex that there’s been a “development” and that he needs to talk to everyone. Just as Alex turns to leave, Thordy grabs her arm and asks if she wants to get out of there. He repeatedly says that he knows the answer.

Upstairs, Gene says that he had a call from an evening newspaper, and that Sacks wants to make a statement to the press. Alex tells Ray that Thordy was Sam Tyler’s last arrest. Ray, confused, asks her what she means. Chris asks if there’s any word on Viv, and Jim says that he’s been moved. Gene invites Jim to butt in any time. Alex walks over to Ray’s desk and tells him that a week before Sam’s accident he had arrested Thordy. She asks why no one told her this. Gene asks Alex if there’s anything she “wants to share with the rest of the class”. Thinking quickly, Alex says that requesting the press is a way for the prisoners to legitimize their actions. Gene agrees, and says that he’s going to go in the prison with the press. Jim tells him to not be ridiculous, that they’ve seen him. Ray volunteers that they haven’t seen him or Chris. Alex says that a undercover operation is risky, and Jim agrees. Gene disagrees with them, saying that the prisoners are trying to court public sympathy. Shaz says that the prison is all messed up, and she and Alex note the overcrowded conditions and lack of facilities as reasons for the riot. Gene is unsympathetic, saying that the men shouldn’t have done things to end up in prison. Alex says that mocking an angry person doesn’t help. Gene says that he’s got more important things to do than argue with Alex, and walks off. Jim says that he wasn’t done, that he has updates from prison services.

In the hallway outside, Alex and Jim hear the cell alarms going off. They rush downstairs to see Thordy being pulled out of the cell with a plastic bag over his head. Alex asks what happened, and Gene walks out and says that “Jesus wanted him for a sunbeam”. She asks why he is here, and Gene says that he works there. Jim specifies why he was in Thordy’s cell. Gene says that he was helping him. Alex says that as soon as Thordy can be revived, the assistants should take him to an interview room upstairs. Gene says that Alex is coming with him back to the prison. Alex says that he was Sacks cellmate and might have valuable information. Gene tells her that Thordy is not Sam Tyler, that he’s a con-man and to neither listen nor talk to him. He says that Viv is their colleague and focus at the moment. After Alex walks away, Jim approaches Gene and says that the “good ship Fenchurch is listing” and that the crack in the hull is only going to get wider. He asks Gene what he’s going to do now, and Gene says the he’s going to show him something.

Back in his office, Gene shows Jim the log book of prison visitors for the past year. Jim condescendingly tell him that he’s done a good job, and to have a sticker. Gene says that Jim’s name is in the book. Gene says that Jim chaired a number of meetings between prisoners and the authorities. Jim admits that he sat in on some sessions. Gene asks if he made any friends whilst there. Pressed by Hunt, Jim says that “they” wanted an independent point of view, and that he was happy to help, and that none of this is helping the situation. Gene then points out that talks broke down after a week. Jim asks Gene if he’s insinuating that he had anything to do with that. Gene says that Jim had important background information that he didn’t bother telling him. Jim asks if Gene wants him to take over. He says that Gene is lost at sea. Gene says that he’s either on a leaky ship or floating on the ocean, and that Jim should make up his mind which analogy he wants to use. Jim says he’ll stick with the drowning analogy, as he likes imagining Hunt desperately trying to grab anything to stay afloat. Gene says that he has an officer in there. Jim tells him to let himself go under. Gene says that thing Jim needs to know is that he floats.

In the interview room, Alex reminds Thordy that he had said the day before that he had information that could save Viv. Paul insists that he is Sam Tyler. Alex says that he cannot be Sam Tyler, as Sam arrested him. He says that they let the “real” Thordy go and put “Sam” in his place because he discovered the truth. He says that he’s in prison for someone else’s crime. Alex says she’d heard that before from prisoners. Paul asks for his tooth, and notes that all of his teeth are fake – ruling out any dental record identification. He shows Alex his fingertips and says that “they” obliterated his prints. He is, he says, unidentifiable. Alex asks him if he has information about the riots. He says that he knows everything. Not believing him, Alex nevertheless asks him about the riot’s motives. When she tells him to think back, he says that he can only think forward to the year 2005 when he died. Alex asks him to name the 1994 Christmas #1 song. He accuses Alex of wanting to play parlor games, and says that he thought she’d be better than that. She then gives him multiple choice answers to guess the Christmas #1 single. Thordy refuses to answer, and when Alex says that his “little game” is over, he tells her not to mock him. He then tells Alex that she’ll forget things in the 1983 universe, and that’s what happens to you – you forget things.

Back in the prison office, Gene walks in with a box of “props” and tells Ray and Chris that they’re going to go in with the other members of the press. Gene tells them that they are to listen to the prisoners, take a bunch of pictures and judge the mood inside. The two say that they’re in, and Gene tells them to and change their clothes.

Alex reminds Thordy that he shared a cell with Sacks for eight months. She asks him how he seemed during that time. He says that if she lets him out, he’ll “share the secret” with her. She asked if he ever discussed starting a riot. Paul asks why she’s not listening to him. Alex asks if he had any visitors or special relationships with any of the guards. Thordy asks if she wants to know the secret. Alex says that she’ll let him out if he tells her. He says that he can’t do that. Alex asks why. He says “[b]ecause when you know, everything you thought you knew will evaporate in a heartbeat. I found the answer, Alex, and I was taken out of the game”. A weary Alex angrily says that there’s a police officer trapped in the prison, but Thordy says that Viv isn’t real and that she can let him die. Alex begs him to give her something to prove that he’s not a bullshitter and she’ll help him. Paul says that the hostage is not a hostage, that Viv is in on his own kidnapping. He says that Viv brought the gun in to the prison. Alex says that he’s lying, but Paul says that Viv has a cousin he adores in C wing. According to Paul, the cousin, Carl, has tried to hang himself twice in prison, and Carl made a deal with Sacks to help him out. Sacks would have one of his associates take the blame of Carl’s crime if he could get Viv to bring in a gun. Thordy says that the riot isn’t political, that all that is just a cover for the real motive. Alex asks what that is, but Paul won’t say. All he will say is that no more of Alex’s men should go in there, and if so something bad will happen.

We see that Ray and Chris are already in the prison, walking along with the other reporters.

Alone in her office, Alex looks through the firearm log book to see if any guns are missing. We then see her making a phone call, but the line is busy. She takes off and starts running towards the prison.

In the prison, we see the reporters being divided up into groups by the prisoners. Ray and Chris are told to stand by themselves.

Alex bursts into the prison office, telling Gene, Jim and Shaz that it’s not a riot, that it’s a setup. Gene asks what she’s talking about, and Alex says that Viv is in on it as bait. Breathless from the run, Alex asks where Chris and Ray are.

Back in the prison, Sacks asks Ray and Chris for their names. Ray says that he’s “Ray Dunstable, chief photographer” and Chris says that he’s “Chris Sawyer” from the Evening Echo. Sacks ask them if they’re cops, because he has a feeling they are undercover. Ray tries a feeble rant against the police, but doesn’t do a good job. Sacks walks up behind him and takes a deep whiff. He says he smells Old Spice, cigarettes and loneliness, so Ray could be a journalist. He directs him to the other waiting journalists. Sacks then takes a deep whiff of Chris, and says that he smells talc, fear and semen (?) and asks if he and his “bum chum” had fun on the way over. Chris says that he had a ploughman’s lunch before coming to the prison, so it could just be brie cheese. Sacks laughs and sends him to stand with the others.

Gene says that Viv was not a crooked cop and he wouldn’t have done that. Alex says that he didn’t want to go in, and that he repeatedly tried to talk to Gene before being sent in. Gene says that everything Alex is saying came from Thordy, who’s a lying bastard. Alex asks how he knows so much about them, and asks why he’s pretending to be Sam Tyler. An exasperated Gene tells her to just leave it alone. Jim stands up and says that the two of them have serious communications issues. Gene asks Jim for a moment alone with Alex. Jim says he will, and leaves… while bouncing Viv’s soccer ball and whistling that tune.

After Jim leaves, Gene says that Thordy is playing games with them, and that “they” kill cops because it gives them street cred. Gene closes the door and says that they need to put everything into perspective. He says that Viv is “one of us” and can be trusted. Alex pulls out a sheet of paper, which turns out to be a firearms audit. She says that a gun was signed out the day before in Chris’ name, but the signature on the form isn’t Chris’. Gene suddenly realizes that Thordy could be right.

Back in the prison, Sacks tells the reporters that other prisoners have demands, but he doesn’t. All he has is work, and his job is killing cops. He says that he knows the police sent in one or two spies with the journalists, and all he has to do is figure out which one(s) they are. He says that he will be successful, because he has a “pig detecting machine”. He invites Chris and Ray to have a look at the “machine”:


Ray can’t stand the sight of the bruised and bloodied Viv, so he runs out of the cell screaming “bastards!” and swinging at the prisoners. Chris runs in to help him, but the two are easily overpowered.

In the prison office, Alex plays a microcassette tape of Sacks saying that “[y]ou lot have taken the piss one too many times and now we are fighting back”. He says that he now has three hostages, and he forces the men to give their names. The gang’s hearts sink as the voices of Ray, Chris and Viv appear on the tape. Sacks says that the police sent the men in to con them, and whatever happens to them from now on will be on Fenchurch’s hands. Just at that moment, Jim walks in. The tape continues, with Sacks reading off his list of demands: immunity from prosecution for all prisoners taking part in the riot; and assurance of no reprisals from guards once the riot is over. The tape is stopped, and Jim says that he needs to step in now. He introduces Commander Grey of Special Forces and says that the Home Office has approved plans for a raid on the prison. Jim smugly tells Gene that he needs his desk. A distraught Shaz walks over and says that Gene sent Chris and Ray in there, and that it is on his hands. Gene begins to walk out of the office, but Jim asks if he has an “an acceptable level of collateral damage”. Gene turns to Grey and says “not a hair on their heads”.

Inside the prison, Ray, Chris and Viv are seated on basketball court, surrounded by prisoners. Ray asks if they should have another go at them, but Chris says that they ought to just wait, as Gene is probably working on something. Ray asks what they’re supposed to do if he can’t get to them, as they just can’t wait to die. Ray looks over and sees the gun loosely tucked in Sacks’ pocket. He says that they can jump Sacks and get it. When Chris looks up, he recognizes the gun. He sees a chip in the grip – it’s the gun he always checks out. Chris asks how Sacks got his gun, and Sacks, seeing what’s going on with the trio, loudly says that it looks like Viv’s secret is out.

Sacks walks over and says that Viv brought it in during the raid, but that he (Sacks) has decided to not live up to his end of their bargain. Viv asks Sacks about Carl; Sacks says that he is still in C wing, and when they’re done there he will “smash his way over there” and tell him about it. Viv explains his deal to Ray and Chris and says that Carl was a good kid and a good football player. West Ham were even interested in him until he got arrested. Chris and Ray say they can’t believe it, coming from Viv; Viv asks why not him. Viv says that he was “Uncle Viv” to Carl and made everything right with him from the day he was born… so if not Viv, who would look after Carl? Ray says that he and Chris put their lives on the line for him, and he hopes that Sacks shoots him first. Chris tries to calm him down, but Ray says that he means it, that Viv is dead to him and is a disgrace to the uniform. Viv tries talking to Ray, but he tells him to go to hell.

We then see Alex walking in to the office back at the station. She sees Gene at his desk and asks if he’s just going to let Jim take over for him. Gene says no, that he can get more done without him. He says that Jim is “playing soldiers”, but they have a case to crack. He says that Sacks is issuing political statements on behalf of the other prisoners. He then asks Alex, “as a boffin of the noggin”, if that is what someone like Sacks would do? Alex says no, that “altruistic traits are anathema to sociopaths”. Gene, after joking about Alex’s complex description of the situation, asks if Sacks’ aim is to kill as many police as possible. Alex agrees. Gene says that they’re not getting the whole story from Thordy, and that they need to have another word with him. Alex says that they need to “do it right” with Thordy, and that he needs to do what she tells him. Gene asks if that’s an order, then says that people might think she doesn’t trust him.

Back at the prison, Sacks hands a prisoner a length of heavy-duty extension cord and tells him to rig up the whole cage. A prisoner leads Chris and Ray to the center of the room. Chris, nervous about what might happen to them, asks Ray to tell Shaz that he loves her. Ray looks at Chris seriously and says that he’s been a good friend to him, and that he doesn’t know how to say what he wants to say “without sounding like a twat”, but if Chris doesn’t make it out alive… can he have his mug? “Mine’s knackered”, Ray says. Chris smiles.

In the interview room, Thordy says that he gave them information and now they’re back for more. He wants to know what he’ll get and when he’ll get out. Alex says that it’s not possible, that she’ll be arrested if she does. Alex asks Paul if he floated amongst the stars when Sacks was hurting him. Thordy says that he looked at the walls and saw them separating like a jigsaw. Alex says that they’re just coping techniques. Paul says that he is Sam Tyler.

In the prison, Viv suddenly gets up to try and take the gun away from Sacks, but he is pushed away. Sacks pulls out the gun and shoots him in the leg. Although Ray only a few minutes before said that Viv was “dead to him”, he rushes over to help him… but is restrained at the last minute by a prisoner. Sacks notes this, and Ray pleads with him, saying that Viv will bleed to death if he doesn’t get help soon.

Thordy tells Alex not to worry about her friends, as everything will “evaporate” if she’ll just set him free. Gene walks into the room just then, saying that it’s doubtful that he would evaporate. Paul calls them the Three Musketeers and asks if anyone’s got a camera. Alex asks Gene about what she’d said to him, but Gene ignores her, grabs Paul in a headlock and tells him to begin telling the whole story. Thordy says that he wants to die, and Gene asks if he really does or if he just wants to “be somebody” for five seconds. Gene says that he’s tired of Paul tugging on his “mighty manhood”, and he swears that he will either start talking or Gene will break his neck. Paul says that his officers will die but Sacks will walk free in a few years. Gene asks how that’s possible, and Paul says that Sacks won’t be carrying out the executions… the good guys will.

We see Ray and Chris tied to a wire fence, and some sort of electrical contraption has been wired to it.

Gene smashes Thordy’s head into the desk. Alex tells him to stop. Gene says he’s just trying to get his men out of there, and that he’s not perfect. Alex says that he’s not only “not perfect”, he’s rotten. She then says that it’s true that the ones closest to the stench are the last to notice it. Gene says that the stench isn’t coming from him, but Thordy. Gene leaves the room, and Alex asks Paul if he will swear that he is Sam Tyler. She also asks if she lets him go if all of the answers will become apparent. He says that they will.

Sacks makes sure that Ray and Chris are securely tied to the grate. He notes that capital punishment has returned to the UK, and relishes in the fact that it will be the police killing one of their own.

Back at the station, we see Alex leading Paul through the halls. She stops at the desk and asks for his possessions, and hands him the keys to a car, saying that there should be enough money inside for him to get away. She hands him the envelope with his personal effects, then asks what the secret is. He says that there’s a tin box inside the envelope, and that the answer is in there. He wishes her luck, then takes off. Alex opens the box and finds some sort of schematic.

In the prison, Sacks finds that everything is ready to go.

Thordy takes off in the car, but is soon followed by the square headlights of the Quattro. Gene gets ahead of him and cuts him off. Two uniformed cops take Thordy out of the car, and Gene asks if he really thought Alex would fall for his lies. He tells Thordy that good cops stick together, and he should know that by now. Just then, Alex comes running from an alley and says that they have to get to the prison now. As Gene and Alex get in the car, Thordy cries out that she can’t trust him.

In the car on the way to the prison, Alex tells Gene that Sacks has electrified the prison and set up trip wires. If anyone goes in Ray, Chris and Viv will be executed.

Inside the prison, convicts cheer and jeer… until the sound of heavy boots is heard. A quiet comes over the crowd, and Sacks tells the cops that their execution squad has arrived, causing the prisoners to begin another round of cheers.

Outside, Gene and Alex pull up just as Jim gets ready to go in. Alex begs him not to go, but Jim leads the team in anyway. Gene grabs a rock and takes off down a tunnel with Alex following. It’s now a race to see who gets there first: the riot police or Gene and Alex.

The prisoners begin arming themselves for the riot police that will soon emerge. Sacks jokes to Ray and Chris that the cavalry are coming.


Chris and Ray look like two men who know they are about to die. But just as the cops begin their countdown to storm in, Gene finds what he was looking for: an electrical box leading into the prison. He heaves the rock at it with all his might, causing the box to spark and the prison to be plunged into darkness.

The riot police storm the prison and seem to have most of the prisoners well in hand by the time Gene and Alex show up. They free Chris and Ray, and ask about Viv. Chris says that Sacks took him. Gene takes off looking for him. He calls out for him on the radio, and Viv weakly answers. He begs Gene not to tell his mother that he was scared. Gene says that he has the heart of a lion. But suddenly a shot rings out, and Sacks is seen running out of a room and up some stairs. Gene takes aim and hits Sacks in the chest. He demands to know where Viv is, but Sacks only says that his place has been assured. He is now, he says, immortal.

We see Jim walking slowly through the prison, alone. He is whistling the same tune heard throughout the episode. He sees Viv lying down a hallway, and he turns and slowly walks towards him. Jim looks down at Viv, who is gasping and whimpering. Jim takes off his gloves and slowly bends down. He puts each of his hands to the side of Viv’s face and holds him while he convulses and dies. The faintest smile appears on Jim’s face.

Gene shows up and runs to Viv’s side. Jim says that he just got there and that he thinks it’s too late. Gene shoves him aside and gently picks up Viv. He begs Viv to stay with him. A petty Jim asks what he’s trying to accomplish, but Gene (rather forcibly) tells him to shut it. The rest of the gang shows up, and Gene tells them that Viv defended this wing of the prison, alone, to the death. He says that it’s time to forget past mistakes and that Viv is a hero now. Ray walks up to help Gene. Alex steps forward, but Jim stops her and asks how many must die before she tells the truth. Alex, at the very least sensing that this is the wrong time for this, jerks away from him.

Back at the station, Alex, alone, sits at her desk. She puts her hands on Viv’s helmet and begins to cry. Suddenly Dead Cop appears. She again asks how she can help him. The cop looks at Gene’s office, and Alex, taking the hint, walks in there and begins going through his desk. She finds a tin box in one of the drawers and opens it. It contains a roll of film… and a black and white picture of Dead Cop… whilst very much alive:


She looks up at Dead Cop and finally notices that his epaulet numbers are 6620. She looks at the picture again and sees that the cop in the photograph also has 6620 on his shoulders.


– Although Britain was home to many riots in the late 70s and early 80s – riots occurred in the Handsworth suburb of Birmingham, the Toxteth riots took place in Liverpool, multiple riots took place in Chapeltown in Leeds and, of course, the Brixton riots took place in London – most of these involved racial issues between blacks and the police. The riot shown on TV in this episode – the Strangeways Prison riot – didn’t happen until 1990.

– Is this the first time that Ashes to Ashes has placed an actual historical event in the “wrong” time period? There have been many instances of real-life events occurring in the Ashes universe (the Falklands War and the 1983 General Election, for starters), and there have been episodes based on actual events that have been fictionalized and put in the Ashes time frame (the robbery in the season 2 finale, for example). But this is the first I can recall a real event being referenced at the wrong time. Of course, the show has used real news footage to represent fictional events before (like the Blue Peter incident in episode 4 of this season), but still… I think this is the first “tongue-in-cheek” reference to real events.

– Strangeways – one of my favorite placenames of all time – was originally a prison outside of Manchester, England. After the aforementioned riots, the prison was rebuilt and renamed HM Prison Manchester. Many Americans in the 30-40 age bracket know of the prison thanks to The Smith’s 1987 album Strangeways, Here We Come.

– William Wallace had the nickname “Braveheart” long before the Mel Gibson film, and Paco Rabanne is a Spanish-French fashion designer. Once considered the height of fashion, Rabanne traded high-end couture for mass-market appeal, and his name is now synonymous with cheap colognes and accessories sold at discount stores like Ross and Marshalls in the United States. His company apparently still markets a line of 36 fragrances, but I haven’t heard of anyone actually using a Paco Rabanne fragrance since 1986.

– I’ve watched the bit with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” at least a dozen times so far. The camerawork when Jim is shown, the bit with Gene walking down the hall with the riot cops, and the reveal at the prison is just… breathtaking!

– I’ve seen a surprising number of British prison signs, and all of them say “HM Prison [name]”, where “HM” is “Her Majesty’s” and [name] is the name of the prison, such as “HM Prison Strangeways”. I’ve never seen a sign that just said “HMP [name]”. Goof or not? I don’t know.

– As mentioned in the recap of Season 3, episode 1, West Ham United are a London-based soccer (football) club. Originally founded as Thames Ironworks, the club’s nickname is “The Hammers”.

– For those of you who went to a public school in Alabama, Hiroshima was the site of the first nuclear weapon blast in World War II.

-In British usage, a “B&B” is a small, family-run hotel that offers rooms and breakfasts. In America, they’re usually much more upscale, and are frequently used on romantic couples getaways. Most British B&Bs are more on the “motor lodge” level of comfort than anything really nice (although there are many really nice B&Bs in the UK).

Croydon is a city approximately 9.5 miles south of Charing Cross, which is itself just south of Trafalgar Square at the intersection of the Strand, Whitehall and Cockspur Streets; distances to and from areas around London often use Charing Cross as a starting or ending point. Croydon is dear to my heart, as it was the birthplace and childhood home of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, two-thirds of the band Saint Etienne, one of my all-time favorite pop groups.

– “Toerag” is woefully outdated British slang for a person who used an old rag as a sock, generally a bum or vagrant, or perhaps a prisoner on the run. Either way, to be a “toerag” was to be a person very low on the social scale. The word was used heavily in 1950s and 1960s British TV shows before “racier” terms like “wanker” became acceptable, so the term has something of a Leave It To Beaver type quality in the UK.

– I covered Worzel Gummidge a couple of episodes ago, but I neglected to mention that Gummidge (the scarecrow) had several heads, and he would use the “best” one relating to a particular situation. Thus, Chris asks if Gummidge can “wear his break-dancing head”.

Neil Kinnock is a Welsh Labour politician who became opposition leader when Michael Foot was dismissed after the 1983 election.

– Loved that when Alex took sleeping Chris’ cigarette away, he started sucking his thumb!

– I can’t find any reference to a “Hangover Syndrome”, other than actual alcohol-induced hangovers, a line of clothing, and various news articles (“Obama Hangover Syndrome”). Is this a writers’ goof, or was Alex just making something up on the spot?

– When Gene says “like the bloody Paddies in the Maze”, he’s referring to a hunger strike undertaken in 1981 by Irish Republican prisoners in Maze Prison, outside Belfast. In a (vastly oversimplified) nutshell, the Irish Republicans considered themselves to be prisoners of war, and demanded to be treated as such instead of regular prisoners. The British gave such prisoners “Special Category Status” in 1972 which met most of their demands, such as being exempted from wearing prison uniforms and doing prison labor. However, the British government ended the practice for all paramilitaries convicted after March 1, 1976. In 1980, seven prisoners began a hunger strike, which lasted for 53 days. The British, trying to save face, came up with a proposal to meet the striker’s demands, and the hunger strike was called off as several of the strikers were in very bad health. However, it soon became clear that the British government had no intention of living up to its promises, so in March of 1981 another hunger strike was called. This time the strikers joined in stages, in hopes of keeping the strike going as long as possible to embarrass the British. Both sides refused to back down, even when such notable people as Síle de Valera (granddaughter of Éamon de Valera, the Republic of Ireland’s first president), John Magee (Pope John Paul II’s personal envoy) and several European Commission of Human Rights officials tried to intervene. On May 5, Bobby Sands, leader of the strike, died, setting off riots in Belfast. 100,000 people attended his funeral. In the coming weeks, three more strikers died. In all, ten strikers died, and thirteen others began to strike but were taken off at the orders of either their families or medical officials. In the end, Thatcher, who had shown no remorse whatsoever for the victims, became Public Enemy #1 to Irish republicans, and Gerry Adams’ behind the scenes negotiating lead to his Sinn Féin group becoming a legitimate political party.

– Many of the complaints Alex and Shaz note about fictional Fenchurch Prison were actual reasons cited in the real-life Strangeways riot.

– As I believe I’ve mentioned in past recaps, the “Christmas #1 single” is a big pop culture deal in the UK. Bookmakers take bets on what the song will be, and people buy singles and cheer for their favorite artists. The songs are usually, but not always, Christmas-themed. In 1994, the year Alex asks Thordy about, the #1 song was East 17’s “Stay Another Day”.

– Although Alex seems to be annoyed with Thordy in the scene where she asks about the 1994 Christmas #1 single, he does hit home. Alex has been afraid of forgetting Molly and her 2008 life. In fact, in the season 2 finale, Gene mentions that Alex used to talk about her daughter all the time, but never does any more. Alex slaps him for this.

– Two of the most popular nicknames for British (well, London) police officers are “Bobbies” and “Old Bill”. Bobbies, often used in a positive “warm, fuzzy” sense comes from Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister from December 10, 1834 to April 8, 1835, who is best remembered for starting the first regular police forces in the United Kingdom. The origin of “Old Bill” is much murkier, and the Met’s own website cites 13 possible origins of the name. Until the debut of the popular crime show The Bill, the term “Old Bill” was most often used in the criminal underworld and not by average folks.

– A ploughman’s lunch is a cold snack or meal served in the UK. It typically consists of cheese, relish and buttered crusty bread. It is often served with a salad, although an apple, onions, hard boiled egg, potato chips, and pâté are common additions. Although the term dates back to 1837, many are convinced that the dish didn’t exist until a marketing campaign by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960s. It’s very difficult to find any references to a “ploughman’s lunch” before the 60s, but a 1956 issue of A Monthly Bulletin (a trade publication for brewers) talks about the Cheese Bureau, “which it says ‘exists for the admirable purpose of popularising cheese and, as a corollary, the public house lunch of bread, beer, cheese and pickles. This traditional combination was broken by rationing; the Cheese Bureau hopes, by demonstrating the natural affinity of the two parties, to effect a remarriage'”, implying that such a dish was common before WWII. Early references to “ploughman’s lunches” are thought to be talking about their actual lunch (just as one might say a “mechanic’s lunch’ or a “mailman’s lunch”) and not to a particular dish.

– When Gene says “Blimey, try saying that with a mouthful of Bakewell”, he’s referring to the Bakewell Tart, also known as Bakewell pudding, a pastry from the town of the same name in Derbyshire. The recipe dates back to 1820.

– Why are the Three Musketeers always seen as sword fighters in movies and TV shows? Don’t they have, you know, musket in their name?

Matey is a brand of bubble bath in the UK, not unlike Mr Bubble here in the US.

– The death penalty was abolished for murder in Great Britain in 1969 and Northern Ireland in 1973, although it remained unenforced in other statutes (especially treason) until 1998. On October 10, 2003 the British parliament accepted the 13th protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans capital punishment in all cases at all times (even in wartime!). Confusingly, even though the UK abolished the death penalty, countries who remained in the British Commonwealth (especially Caribbean islands) still had the death penalty in their jurisdictions and still had Britain’s Privy Council as a count of final appeal. Many of those countries severed ties with the British court system in 2001 to speed up executions. And despite the “enlightened” view of many Europeans, a large majority of Britons (as many as 70% in some cases) have told several polls over the years that they would prefer that the death penalty be brought back. Read more here.

– In Britain, the Dolomite was a popular car made from 1972 to 1980. In America, Dolomite was a 1975 blaxploitation film. I think our film was more badass than your car, although it would take longer to sort out all the mergers and divestments of British Leyland than it would take to watch the movie.


This was one of those episodes I wasn’t crazy about on first viewing, but really enjoyed the second time around. I really have watched the “Sunday Bloody Sunday” scene about a dozen times; the beginning of that song always blew me away, and the camerawork in that scene is just incredible. It just might be my favorite 45 “non-important” seconds of the entire series.

I’m not sure what to think about Paul Thordy. He certainly seemed like a bullshitter, but he said the answer would “be in the tin box”, and later, Alex found the film and a picture of Dead Cop in a tin box in Gene’s desk. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We all know how often the writers like throwing out red herrings on this show. Maybe Dead Cop was on the take, and that somehow relates to Sam Tyler’s “death” (assuming Sam is actually dead). Maybe there’s no real story behind Dead Cop at all. Who knows?

It’s sad to see Viv go, though. He was one of my favorite side characters, and – to paraphrase Gene – the Ashes to Ashes universe won’t seem entirely right without him behind the desk. Still, I can’t help but think if this had happened in “real” life, that Viv might have asked Gene for help before striking out on his own. If there’s one unambiguously good trait about Gene Hunt it’s that he’s intensely loyal. If Gene is your friend, he will move heaven and earth to help you out, especially when the chips are down. I can’t believe Viv let things get to that point without involving Gene… but then again, I’m not a writer for the show, so…

Plus, Viv’s death gives Jim more ammunition against Gene, even though the death was almost entirely Viv’s own fault. What a smug little bastard Jim is… playing cards and calmly smoking cigarettes while the Fenchurch gang are in peril, bringing up his anti-Gene talk at the entirely wrong time… God, I just wanna smack that guy! And I couldn’t have been the only person who thought that Jim was going to “put Viv out of his misery”, right?

So – what do we really know about Jim so far? Not all that much. But we do know from Life On Mars that Sam Tyler was approached by DCI Frank Morgan to get dirt about Gene, just as Jim is doing with Alex. Only Jim seems to really take this personally, doesn’t he? Would anyone be surprised to find out that Jim is somehow related to someone who Gene hurt, or killed, or put away for life?

One thing I will say about the writers is this: they do an excellent job of putting your head in a vise, don’t they? When things start looking up for Sam or Alex, they start going downhill for Gene, and it seems like the series goes from a gentle, meandering river to rushing rapids in no time. Although there are only two episodes left, from next week’s previews it looks like there might be two lifetimes worth of stuff crammed in there!

And lastly, kudos to Marshall Lancaster in this episode. I thought he really looked like he knew he was going to die in this episode. First Dean Andrews, now him. The gang is stepping it up… and I can’t wait for the next episode!


U2 – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
David Bowie – “Scary Monsters (Super Creeps)”
Echo and The Bunnymen – “The Cutter”
Cockney Rejects – “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”

2 Replies to “Ashes to Ashes: Season 3, Episode 6”

  1. Loving the reviews (prisons in UK are usually HM Prison Slade or whatever) Didnt like this episode as like you, was v fond of Viv. Sunday Bloody Sunday scene was fab. But very dark and uncomfortable to watch. Hate how the gang is crumbling and falling apart. Is Jim killing these people when he holds their heads btw? Was there any significance in the opening shot Alex is sleeping and you never see her wake up.
    Just watched episode 7 – its a good’ un

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