one story – three perspectives

I love television.  I think scripted, episodic television is a wonderful storytelling medium.  And one of my favorite television series ever is the original British version of Life on Mars.

The news about the cancellation of the American remake got me thinking.  There have now been three different versions of the Life on Mars pilot – the original, the first, unaired American pilot, and the final version of the American pilot.  I thought it would be interesting to compare how each of these tackled certain key scenes.  So, I’m going to do a series of posts, each examining how an important scene was handled in each version of the pilot.

Soon after we first meet detective Sam Tyler, he learns that his girlfriend, Maya, has been abducted by the serial killer he’s been after.  He visits the scene of her kidnapping, where (in the original) he appears calm and analytical; this is someone who is very good at bottling his emotions.  Only once he’s in his car by himself do we see him break down.  After a near-accident, he apparently realizes that he isn’t fit to drive when he’s feeling like this, and pulls over… only to be run over by another car that comes out of nowhere.

Note the cool, muted colors, emphasizing Sam's sense of alienation from his life.

Note the cool, muted colors, emphasizing Sam's sense of alienation from his life.

In the unaired version of the U.S. remake, the contrast between Sam at the crime scene and Sam in the car is much less pronounced: at the scene, he’s frantic, and in the car, he looks tense and hammers angrily on the steering wheel but doesn’t actually break down into tears.

Different camera angles than the original.

Different camera angles than the original.

In the final version of the U.S. pilot, everything happens much more quickly and Sam never has his near-accident while driving – he just gets out because he’s reached his destination.  However, the camera angles and use of color stick much closer to the original.

Sorry for the low-quality screencaps, I had to use what I could find.

Sorry for the low-quality screencaps, I had to use what I could find.

I’ll return to this idea again later and compare a few later scenes, like the first introduction of Gene Hunt and the scene with Sam on the roof at the end.  There are so many choices that go into how to present a story – hope you find this as fascinating as I do!

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