Template:Episode The first episode of the first series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Ashes to Ashes, was first broadcast on 7 February 2008. The episode, known erroneously as "Deja Vu", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


21st-century DI Alex Drake seemingly wakes up in 1981 after being shot by has-been criminal mastermind, Arthur Layton. Quickly deducing that she is in the same position as DCI Sam Tyler, she enlists the help of DCI Gene Hunt and the rest of his team to hunt down Layton and his drugs-dealing ring. She believes arresting Layton will be her escape route back to 2008 - only to find herself mistaken.



DI Alex Drake is taking her daughter Molly to school on the latter's birthday. Whilst in the car, she and Molly discuss her latest case study: the suicide the preceding April DCI Sam Tyler, who during a comatose period following a 2006 car accident, came to believe he was trapped in 1973. Along the way, Drake receives a call informing her of a hostage situation underway. She parks nearby and directs Molly to stay in the car while she attends to the situation.

The hostage-taker is down-and-out Arthur Layton. Alex finds Layton clutching an un-named woman and holding a revolver to her head, their backs overlooking the bank of the Thames, and learns from the police officer at the scene that Layton had demanded to speak specifically with her by name.

When Alex gets close enough, Layton releases his hostage, instead threatening Alex with his revolver. Although his name and aged face mean nothing to Drake, Layton claims to know her and that she has her father's eyes. Drake is shocked when he twice recites the lyrics "I'm happy, hope you're happy too," and mimics an explosion sound. At that moment Molly, who had disobeyed Alex's instruction to remain in the car, runs to her and is grabbed by Layton as a new hostage; he leads her down the steps to the riverbank, threatening to kill her if followed. A frantic Alex dashes down when hearing a gunshot, but finds Molly to have been released unharmed and Layton gone.

After the hostage situation, Alex explains to Molly, "It's a hard, screwed-up world but, if you trust me, I will try to help you get through it." Alex then leaves her in the care of Evan their mutual godfather Evan White while Alex attends to reports, promising to be at Molly's birthday party in time to blow out the candles on her cake together.

Later in the same morning, Layton hides in the back seat of Alex's car and, with his revolver to her head, orders her to drive. Whilst they walk down the gangplank to an old barge, Layton calls Alex "my ticket out of here", and proceeds to place a telephone call to someone to whom he tells he has "a peace of your past in front of me; Tim and Caroline Price's daughter; and I'm going to tell her the truth about why her parents died." The other party's reaction is not what Layton wants, as he replies, "Well, that's your choice," before ending the call. In the barge, he tells Alex that, "I had an empire. Back in the day, I had connections; I had dealers on every street corner." Ignoring Alex's pleas and attempts at negotiation, he shoots her in the head and she loses consciousness, without learning about her parents' death.

The party whom Layton telephones in 2008 is not yet revealed conclusively. At the end of episode 1.8, "Alex's Big Day", Alex opines that Evan White is whom Layton calls, explaining, "I'm the piece of his [White's] past, or I will be. He'll be blackmailed by Layton for not telling the truth."

Alex passes outEdit

As happened to Tyler when he first lost consciousness, Alex sees a series of fleeting visions, several in slow motion, most appearing as non sequiturs, after hearing Molly's voice call out, "Mummy, Mummy?" The images are:

  • The bullet flying in slow motion backwards into the muzzle of Layton's revolver;
  • A deep-voiced Clown Angel of Death dressed in a pierrot costume resembling that worn by David Bowie in the music video for Ashes to Ashes and on the corresponding record jacket;
  • Herself as young Alex Price, dressed in a red blazer, red beret, and red plaid skirt, carrying a large red balloon by its red string (not unlike Tyler's fleeting image of WPC Annie Cartwright in a red dress);
  • A low-angle view up toward her father, Tim Price, wearing eyeglasses and looking stoic;
  • A low-angle view up toward her mother, Caroline Price, placing a bag into the back of a blue Ford Escort and closing the hatchback;
  • A close-up view down toward the large hand of a man and his dark sleeve, gently reaching for her own small, childhood hand which releases the red balloon string; they are standing on grass;
  • A sped-up view up toward the red balloon ascending in the sky;
  • The Clown calling toward her;
  • A view out through a automobile of her assailant, Arthur Layton, walking along the road as a young man and turning to look at her;
  • The Clown calling to her and appearing in the reflection of Layton's mirrored sunglasses as he aims his revolver at her a moment earlier; and
  • The bullet leaving Layton's muzzle, its tip faintly reflecting the Clown's face as the Clown shouts, "Alex!"

The images of her childhood self, parents, the balloon, young Layton, Escort, and the dark-suited man have the appearance of vintage videotape, playing normally, and tracking in fast-forward and reverse. Unlike the clown and old Layton's revolver, the memory images are silent but for the whirl of videotape being cued.


Alex then wakes up in a short red dress in the middle of a drugs-filled boat party in 1981. She pushes her way off of the boat, Lady Di, just as police raid the party. As she staggers around in a daze, unsuccessfully pleading for help from the police and claiming to have been shot, one of the yuppies from the boat - later identified as Edward Markham - grabs her and begins to threaten her believing she had phoned the police.

In the nick of time, a red Audi Quattro charges round the corner, driven by Gene Hunt and carrying Chris Skelton and Ray Carling. Hunt and the others believe Alex to be a prostitute and that Markham may be armed, and draw their sidearms accordingly. Hunt tells Markham, "Today, my friend, your diary entry will read, 'Took a prozzie hostage and was shot by three armed bastards.'" Carling and Skelton withdraw semi-automatic pistols with inexplicably empty chambers, necessitating that each perform the 1980s television police cliché of "racking" his slide to chamber his first round; Hunt, meanwhile withdraws a .44 calibre magnum revolver. Alex persuades Markham to surrender in order to avoid the "fatality outcome" for which she asserts the police are looking. Skelton slams Markham's head against the car while arresting. Hearing Marham address Gene as "Mr. Hunt" and Gene, in turn, address Chris and Ray by their given names, Alex recognises them from Tyler's story. Confused by the impossibility of the situation, she asks "DC Chris Skelton? DS Ray Carling?" Each answers in the affirmative, surprised that the strangely well-educated prostitute knows their names and ranks. Gene, by contrast, sees nothing unusal when she asks "Gene Hunt?" and faints. "My reputation preceeds me," he remarks.

After they pull up outside Fenchurch East police station, Alex is amazed at the reality of the situation, thinking it all an elaborate hallucination. A brief interrogation ensues between Alex and Gene. After she finds her name on an empty desk and a new warrant card, Alex and the team discover she is Gene's new DI. Gene's team applied for a transfer after the death of Sam Tyler, who apparently served faithfully with the GMP force for another seven years after the events of Life On Mars, until his untimely death the previous year. Ray explains that Sam died during a jewellery robbery. Despite express orders from Gene not to, Sam gave pursuit after the suspects and ended up plunging his car into the river- the body was never found.

Confrontations ensue as Alex searches desperately for a radio to find information on her current "real" situation, remembering Sam Tyler's experiences. While Hunt believes Markham is the drug lord, on Drake's insistence they arrest Layton. While Alex is interviewing Layton, the Clown's reflection is visible in the table. Markham appears innocent and is released.

Drake continues to believe that this is all a hallucination or dream. She tries to reason out her situation and find a radio to contact the "real world." She discovers that her assailant Layton is active and under occasional surveillance in Gene's world, but is considered a minor villain at worst. Drake is convinced Layton holds the key to both the drug ring and her return home, but finds it hard to convince Gene.

Drake returns to Layton's warehouse and purloins a notebook which appears to be in code. As she leaves she sees a frightening vision of the Clown. Drake sets a trap for Markham to try and smoke out Layton, but Markham is prepared and ambushes the surveillance team. He assaults Chris and kidnaps WPC Sharon ("Shaz") Granger as "insurance."

With Shaz in danger, all eyes turn to Gene to lead the charge. Gene quickly deciphers Drake's stolen ledger as referring to boats and tide times, and they head for an abandoned area of the Docklands. Markham is seen unloading large bags of drugs from a boat with an extensive and well-armed team. However, Drake's suspicions are confirmed when Layton arrives and takes charge.

A gun battle ensues across the river between the police and Layton's goons. Despite superior firepower, the police begin to take control and Layton flees with Shaz as a hostage. Drake sets off in pursuit and confronts Layton, but succeeds only in creating a standoff. Hunt's team reappear in Miami Vice style, having acquired a speedboat and heavy weaponry from Layton's goons. Gene unloads an entire magazine from a submachine gun towards Layton, but succeeds only in terrifying Layton and producing a minor head wound. Markham is arrested by Chris, who mockingly taunts Chris's inability to shoot him- Chris then promptly shoots Markham in the foot to prove him wrong.

Drake arrests Layton - but does not, as she had hoped, return to the "real" world. The episode closes with a mysterious message from the clown, who speaks with Molly's voice through the television - saying that Drake is still lying beside the river and that "it doesn't have to hurt".


Cast NotesEdit

Andrew Clover's website describes his role as "the Angel of Death". [1]

Cultural ReferencesEdit

  • There is an entire scene with the children's characters Zippy and George (from Rainbow) talking to Molly Drake.
  • The Clown Angel of Death's pierrot costume is modeled on David Bowie's costume in the music video and record jacket of Ashes To Ashes.
  • Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) and others sing "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce, a 1981 novelty hit which parodies Italian English, in front of Luigi.
  • When Alex is in her flat, Ashes To Ashes, sung by David Bowie, can be heard.
  • The scene in which Gene, Chris and Ray rescue Shaz and, later, Alex is a parody of Miami Vice, which featured loud, fantastic scenes involving speed boats, cocaine, blazing gun battles, and the police. The scene takes place in July 1981; whereas Miami Vice did not air until 28 September 1984 in the United States and 12 February 1985 in the United Kingdom, three and a half years after the scene is set.
  • The scene where Alex Drake first meets Gene Hunt has a shot framing Hunt between Alex's legs. This is a reference to the promotional poster for the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. The poster is seen later on the wall of Hunt's office.
  • When Alex says, "I'd like to get out of red before Chris de Burgh writes a song about me," she is talking about de Burgh's song, The Lady in Red, released in 1986, five years after this episode is set.
  • Shaz offers Gene a can of Tab (the sugar-free Coca-Cola product of the era), in front of newly-arrived Alex in July 1981. In the first episode of Life on Mars, newly-arrived Sam Tyler tried unsuccessfully to order a Diet Coke from barman Nelson in 1973. Diet Coke was introduced in the United States on 4 July 1982, a year after this episode takes place.
  • The boat on which Alex awakens in the middle of a party is named Lady Di, according to the large name plaque she passes topside, and PS Viv James informs Gene by radio that Arthur Layton has a boat named Prince Charlie. The episode takes place in July 1981, days prior to the 29 July 1981 wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles which serves as a backdrop for the following episode.



Music featured in the episode includes :


Based on overnight returns, The Guardian reported that audience figures for the 7 February 2008 broadcast of this episode, in a 9:00 pm slot on the flagship channel, BBC One, were seven million: about 29% of viewers. The figure was "in line with the final episode of Life on Mars in April last year, though well up on the earlier show's second series debut of 5.7 million two months earlier," but The Guardian noted "the heavy publicity blitz this week for Ashes to Ashes" as a factor in its success against the opposition.

Critical reactions to this first episode were mixed, with positive reviews from The Daily Telegraph,[4] The Herald[5] The Spectator,[6] and the New Statesman and negative reviews from The Times,[8] Newsnight Review,[9] and The Guardian, which described the episode as "actually pretty bad". The popular national free sheet, Metro, gave the episode four stars as "a vote of faith" on what it described as "a dodgy start".

Gene HuntEdit

Based on overnight returns, The Guardian reported that audience figures for the 7 February 2008 broadcast of this episode, in a 9:00 pm slot on the flagship channel, BBC One, were seven million: about 29% of viewers. The figure was "in line with the final episode of Life on Mars in April last year, though well up on the earlier show's second series debut of 5.7 million two months earlier," but The Guardian noted "the heavy publicity blitz this week for Ashes to Ashes" as a factor in its success against the opposition.

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