Episode 2.08 (Life on Mars (UK))
(NOTE: This article needs information re: the effect and fallout at TRA - right now it is mostly LJ-centric)
The only real friction that ever occurred in the Life on Mars-UK fandom was over episode 2.08, the final episode of the series. In it, Sam Tyler's condition was irrefutably shown to be coma-induced, and that his "time traveling" was simply a symptom. He wakes up in 2006, which is dull and grey cinematography-wise, after leaving behind his 1973 companions in a potentially fatal showdown with the criminal Leslie Johns. Distraught over his perceived desertion of the people he believes matters most to him, Sam jumps off the roof of the Manchester Police Headquarters to his death. The final scene shows him back in 1973 with Gene Hunt et al, happy with his life as they all drive off into the streets of Manchester in Gene's Cortina. The Test Card Girl steps up to the screen and clicks it off, indicating that Sam Tyler is finally dead.
While some ambiguity can be read into the final scenes, producer Matthew Graham has stated that the series ended with Sam actually committing suicide, and that Sam's experiences 1973 were entirely a dream world. However, that statement was released some time after the episode aired, so the LoM-UK fandom was able to discuss and interpret that episode independently of the producers' actual intentions. However, the possibility that "what you see is what you get", i.e. that Sam Tyler did commit suicide and that Gene Hunt and everything in 1973 were entirely made up, shook many fans to the core.
OVERVIEW OF THE FALLOUT
The final episode of Life on Mars (UK) aired on April 10, 2007. Reaction at the time was mixed, as most fans focused on their happiness that Sam was back in 1973 and either disregarded the questions that his suicide raised or found ways to dismiss it (one theory that still continues to be popular is that Sam waking up from his coma in 2006 was its own dream, and that his suicidal leap off the top of the building was his "taking the definitive step" to wake from his coma back in 1973).
However some fans were extremely displeased with the ending, and while they were (and are) in the minority it included many well-known/high-profile fen. On April 15, 2007, Pink_Bagels launched a new comm, JumpingOff for the purpose of discussing 2.08 in a supportive atmosphere, and also to keep the main Lifein1973 comm from becoming a war zone concerning the matter. It was a success on both counts, and to this day JumpingOff is still an active comm (albeit not very busy either; people usually post there upon re-watching the episode or reading news in the media about it, such as reviews).
The fact that what could have been a very divisive situation was defused and did not lead to much fandom wankage nor split the fandom is a result of both the small size of the fandom (which could not reasonably expect to support a split and survive) and the generally mature personalities involved.
However, it must be noted that many of the original 2.08 Deniers dropped out of the fandom, either permanently or for a period of a year or more. The emotional impact of Sam Tyler's suicide and how it was handled was, in some cases, extremely upsetting and to this day many members of the fandom tred carefully around the issue out of compassion for those of their peers who find the subject a sensitive one.
The main issues contested by the 2.08 Deniers fall into two categories, which naturally overlap:
1. Production Values: It is claimed that 2.08 was poorly produced, written, and/or directed, forcing Sam Tyler's character development to go into a direction that does not logically or psychologically follow his previous behavior. People who focus on this aspect sometimes agree that his suicide was a dramatic possibility, but the lead up to it cheapened the act and made no sense in the context of the over all series. It should be noted that John Simm's portrayal of Sam Tyler in this episode is rarely criticized, and that blame for these perceived problems is always laid squarely at the producers' feet.
2. The suicide: Many viewers, even ones who feel the production standards were up to par, were upset by the "positive" portrayal of suicide. It has been argued back and forth a number of times whether Sam's suicide was justifiable (dramatically speaking), and given the emotional and subjective nature of a topic like suicide there has been almost no consensus about it. Most of the criticism is based on a deep displeasure with the idea that the show endorses "Better Living Through Suicide." However, there is also the criticism that the suicide was simply out of character and made no sense. Some comments have been made to the effect that had the entirety of a season been devoted to the lead up of Sam choosing his life in 2006 or a "happier death" in 1973, it might have been a valid if tragic ending.
April 10, 2007: Initial airing of episode 2.08
April 14, 2007: Launch of JumpingOff
Wikipedia Entry on 2.08 (yes, there is a whole entry on it)