Life on Mars - They Filmed An Alternative Ending?

Curator's Note

This clip pretty much ‘spoils’ the ending of the BBC TV series Life on Mars, but if you’ve seen how that concludes, then this is an intriguing alternative take. It playfully literalises and makes real a piece of disinformation, or a false ‘leak’, from the production team who claimed that an alternative ending had been filmed - apparently it hadn’t - while also putting on-screen something far too culturally threatening to have ever been shown in the actual series. What we see here was implied by the final script; but this prank, this bad taste joke, this mash-up, pushes one specific, diegetic event into textually denotative status.

In a sense, it restores what was repressed, and fantastically recoded, in the ‘actual’ transmitted ending. And though it may be in bad taste, and though it may or may not be funny, for me it represents a spirited critique of specific ideological limits to this mainstream-cult telefantasy. Some Youtubers even seem to have believed this was ‘really’ an alternative ending. And furthermore, it isn’t immediately clear whether the poster is or was a ‘fan’ of the show, or whether this piece of recomposition was just a trick they particularly wanted to play.

This clip pushes me both to ponder the mainstreaming of fan practices via ‘new’ media, and to wonder about the extent to which simply showing something otherwise implied can so decisively shift the meaning of a popular TV text. This reading-writing, or consuming-producing, of LoM completely removes the Todorovian ‘fantastic hesitation’ that arguably formed much of the show’s appeal and narrative lure, and by so doing it brings the character of Sam Tyler down to earth. Puncturing the show’s pretensions in an earthy and carnivalesque manner, perhaps, this doesn’t really ‘poach’ anything from the text itself, as the meanings it produces are, if you like, there in the original. If it poaches or appropriates from anywhere, it is precisely from industry and DVD discourses of ‘extras’/extra-textual variants. So, here’s an anti-‘fantastical’, ideology-critique-supplement that says only what the original text says (but in a notably different way!), whilst ‘poaching’ from industry/promotional/DVD discourses. For such a small, small commutation test - even the end-credits are lovingly present - that really is a world of difference. But for fan(nish) practices, Gods and Devils have always been in the details.

Comments

John Hartley's picture

I've been wanting him to do

I’ve been wanting him to do that all series…

Francesca Coppa's picture

No doubt it's my background

No doubt it’s my background in performance studies, but this clip made me think about how often fanwork is about the body, about reconnecting the body to the image. Here, the body lands hard—splat!—back into the frame, and in a way, I don’t think that’s very different from, say, the erotic fanfiction that women write, which is also body-focused. There’s a similar emphasis on (taboo) physicality; here, the body is treated as a subject for comedy, while fanfiction and other erotic fan arts emphasize the body as a source of pleasure, but I think the underlying principle’s the same. As fans, we’re asserting our own presence, I think; we’re not transparent eyeballs or disembodied spectators. We’re here, present, alive.

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