It's 1973 -- do you know where your detective is? If it's Sam Tyler, the answer is still hopelessly stuck in the past, with no idea as to why he's there and even less of an idea as to how to get back to his own time. Still, he's got a hot next-door neighbor with a habit of wandering the halls in the buff and baking marijuana-laced pasta dishes. So you take your victories where you can find them.
And Sam has to, because Lord knows that the whole fighting-1970s-crime-with-aughties-sensibilities isn't working out too well for him. In this episode, someone is robbing the check-cashing stores of New York -- and leaving a string of dead bodies in their wake -- and Gene Hunt figures he has a pretty good idea as to who. What he doesn't have, however, is enough evidence to secure a conviction, though he's certainly willing to plant some on the suspect. Sam has a better, less-ethically-awful idea though -- why not release the suspect and then plant a tail on him? And it all works out perfectly, too, until there's a gun battle and the 125th Precinct's receptionist is caught in the crossfire. This serves to make Sam more popular than ever in the squad room.
Of course, Sam's a virtual prom king then, compared to how the other cops feel about him when his subsequent investigation suggests that uniformed cops are assisting in the robberies of the check-cashing joints. At the suggestion of Ray Carling, Sam goes behind Hunt's back to seek an assistant district attorney's help. But it all gets back to Hunt, Sam is ostracized even further, and Ray and his mustache have a good laugh at setting Sam up like that.
As it turns out, the receptionist was actually the inside woman on the robberies, feeding the crooks information and giving them police uniforms to aid in their stick-ups. Sam and company thwart the robberies, which were being committed to raise cash in order to fund a big heroin operation, and everything turns out to be hunky dory, to quote another David Bowie project.
Everything, that is, except for Sam's mental state. The poor guy is beginning to forget what Maya even looks like, and every now and again, he notices that he's being followed by something that looks like the Mars Rover. But by episode's end, he looks up at the stars and is able to hear Maya's voice, prattling on about how she misses him. So I guess that's good. Me, I'd wonder what's so bad about the coma if the alternative is having to listen to Lisa Bonet for long stretches of time.
Previously on Space Oddity, Sam Tyler was a police detective in present-day New York until the precise moment that he wasn't. Now he's a police detective in the New York of 1973 and he'd sort of like to figure out what the hell he's doing there...
... and he clearly hasn't figured it out by the start of episode two, as he's furiously scribbling possibilities on a chalkboard in the middle of the 125th Precinct. These chalk-encapsulated musings, he explains to a curious Annie, are the possible explanations for what he's doing in this, the One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy-Third year of Our Lord. If you're scoring along at home the options are: Coma, Drug-Trip, Time Travel, Different Planet, Extra-Terrestrial, Mind Experiment, Heaven, Insanity, Brain Tumor, Virtual Reality, and Multi-Dimensional Travel. You forgot "TV Show Premise We 'Borrowed' From the British" -- though perhaps that's what the question mark on the right side of the chalkboard is supposed to represent. Actually, Sam explains, the question mark represents the unknown -- "All the things I haven't thought of yet," he says. "And it's the one out of all this that scares me the most." Really? Even more than "Contestant on a Japanese Game Show?" You're made of sterner stuff than me, Tyler.
Annie decides that there's far too much introspection going on in here and erases the chalkboard -- well, all except for that troubling question mark. "If the lieutenant sees this," Annie says, referring to the charming Gene Hunt, "you'll wish you could go back in time." It's true -- as far as Gene is concerned, Contemplating the Reason for Your Existence is a punchable offense, right up there with Mouthing Off, Looking at Me Cross-Eyed, and Breathing Too Loud. But Sam is less concerned about Hunt's censure -- and his fists -- than he is with a more personal matter: he can no longer remember Maya's face. Well, win some, lose some, I say, though it's possible I'm letting my feelings toward Lisa Bonet skew my attitude. Sam seems genuinely broke up by this development. Perhaps he never had to sit through Angel Heart.
Annie suggests that maybe Sam drop all the crazy talk about 2008, and Sam agrees that maybe she has a point. "What I'm doing in 1973 and how to get back, I'll figure it out on my own," he says. "But until then, I guess I'm left with only one option... to spend my time here doing what it is I do best." Moping? Rocking those wide-collar shirts? The New York Times Crossword Puzzle? "Catching bad guys," Sam concludes. Oh, right. That.