The lesson as always, kids: Look both ways before your cross the street. Or, ignore that goddamn radio, maybe. Or perhaps even, don't listen to any Bowie tracks prior to the Let's Dance album. Yes, life is full of many lessons.
But will it be full of Sam Tyler? At the moment, things are not looking promising for him -- the camera's gone sideways, and the screen's getting all blurry, and Bowie's crescendoing his way into the chorus. And the next thing you know, after some shots of what appears to be Sam following after a red dress fleeing through a field, Sam is sitting up. The apartment building he was rushing towards has been replaced by an empty lot (though a sign promises that construction on the Cataldo House Apartments will begin in the fall of 1973). His stylish suit has been replaced by threads you'd find in the Historical Atrocities section of your local thrift shop. That David Bowie-playing iPod, has been replaced by an eight-track cassette of Hunky Dory, and that cassette is playing from an orange muscle car, not a Jeep. That must have been some collision.
Even worse for Sam, he scrambles his brains even further, bumping his head on the muscle car when a beat cop tells him that he can't be parking out here in this field. Sam protests that this isn't his car -- the license and registration in the glove box begs to differ. Sam protests that he was driving a Jeep. "You were driving a military vehicle?" the cop asks incredulously. "I need my cell," Sam says, frisking himself in vain for a technology that won't come into vogue for another two decades or so. "You need to sell what?" the cop asks, because of course, things are very different in 1973 than they are today, and if you don't believe me, this episode will be happy to drive home that point several more times. I realize we need to establish that Sam is both a) out of time and place and b) disoriented, but I beg of you, Life on Mars, save the excessive technology-that-we-take-for-granted-doesn't-exist-in-1973?-what-a-country! shtick for next fall's Yakov Smirnoff pilot. A confused Sam steps away to gather his thoughts, only to look up and see something that truly does blow his mind -- a pair of still-standing World Trade Center towers. "No way," he mutters, as the soundtrack kicks the volume on the Bowie tune up to 11. Very striking. And just a touch bit off-putting, if you ask me. You didn't? Well, then you can just watch the opening credits by yourself, then.