...what the hell is wrong with Alex Drake? She must be the most frighteningly mentally unbalanced character to appear on British television outside of a comedy. Okay, so she's a psychologist, and believes that she knows exactly what's going on for this reason. But... what does she do? She derides everyone by constantly referring to them as 'constructs' and 'figments of her imagination'... whilst at the same time trying to talk to them and win them over with her psychology. SHE IS MAD AS A HATTER!
When some poor bloke is worried about his pub getting torn down, and Gene strikes a bargain with him not to protest, she gets pissed off and screams at everyone to shut up because it's HER imagination ergo SHE should be the hero. And then once she has everyone's massively bewildered attention... she tells them to get the fuck over themselves because she's seen the future and the pub's gone. She grins madly with a terrifying glint in her Bonnie Langford-esque eyes that tell you clearly, and quite terrifyingly, that she belives that this is the winning approach. She is then shocked at being told to fuck off.
The next scene she pisses herself laughing upon hearing that a dog got blown up.
You are a sick, SICK human being, biotch!
What I find incredible is that anyone could actually appear more insane than Sam Tyler. Or more anachronistic. Or more antisocial. Because on reflection, Sam wasn't really any of those things except when he was in some sort of acute trauma. It was just the force of it I felt made it a bit incredible that everybody in the nick accepted it, but then it became clear that they all thought he was a little odd and decided to deal with it.
But Alex... I can't help but get the vibe that she was seriously mentally abnormal BEFORE the experience. It's the only explanation I have. In fact, only ten minutes into watching Episode Two as it is, a drinking game is already well into formation: a shot everytime Alex pisses somebody off by breaking the fourth wall (Yourself not included) It's happened at least three times already in this episode and just gets more grating each time.
The thing is... despite all of her amazing analytical profiling skills, that strangely enough tells her what sort of stuff she's meant to say but she's unable to put any of it to use without words of greater than three syllables causing her to be worse off than Gene Hunt, she is actually well behind where Sam was at in terms of working the whole thing out by this point. She keeps viewing everything that happens as a direct figment of her imagination. Whenever anything odd or unexpected happens, such as when Gene gets so pissed off at her ability to turn any civilian AGAINST the police force he makes up some bullshit about ritualistically cattle-branding every female detective on the arse, her reaction is "Why would I make up something like that? I must have some imagination!" Sam realised at the end of Episode One, and had had the feeling since trying to walk out of the limitless groovy cityscape right near the start of the ep, that the world couldn't be powered by his imagination alone, because it contained things that would never occur to him.
Oh, and now she's ignoring everything to try and get in the pants of a leisure-suit wearing money-slut.
* * *
...hmm, now I am well finished watching the episode and it leaves me with some serious questions regarding the character and the overall direction of the series.
1) Why the hell didn't we get to see Alex's arse? Jesus Christ, I thought that was the whole reason for casting Keeley Hawes, and you have a SUBPLOT revolving around her needing to bare her arse to the entire station... and then it never happens. This is beyond a mere 'tease'. Worse... we get to see Philip Glenister's arse instead! What is this shit?
2) On to matters of her character... she is even worse off than I guessed. Even when Sam was barking up the wrong tree entirely looking for some significant, monumental act that would set him free, you could see the logic behind it. And you could appreciate the fact that he was trying always to do the right thing. Whereas Alex... she meets her mum and goes all gooey, before demanding that she MUST see this stranger's daughter. Understandably, she is put out and calls Alex a freak. Alex's response... "I know she's just a figment of my imagination, but I'll show her.." And how does she 'show her' - by running off to have sex with a Tory property developer
If anybody can join the dots in that particular line of logic, they need a MENSA certificate. And a straitjacket. In that order.
Setting aside the fact that her mother, id or not, would be unaware of the fact she HAD slept with him in light of the fact she WASN'T THERE, and that she wouldn't care because she had no respect for Alex anyway... wouldn't you be able to take advantage of the supposed 'irrelevant' nature of all of the 'hallucinations' by... say... punching her in the face? Wouldn't that be more immediately satisfying.
3. Beyond everything else, such there being far more evidence that Alex is mad than there ever was suggestion that Sam could have been mad, there is the usually straightforward matter of her role in the series. She is supposedly the audience identification figure, of course, but being seemingly criminally psychotic, deranged and unfathomably eltist she doesn't fill this role very well. As is evidence by the fact that I'm still struggling to grasp just how fucked up she actually is..
Then we're left with the question of whether she is the heroine. Sam Tyler, after all, was undisputably the hero. But here's the real problem... for the entire first episode, Alex is completely off the fucking clock and never comes back down. She runs into trouble and is about to get herself killed before Gene comes in and saves the day. In return, she calls him an idiot and refuses to show a modicum of gratitude.
The second episode has a plot so poorly written I can barely decipher what exactly is meant to be going on or why I should care, but as far as I can make out Gene is the one who actually cracks the case. Whilst Alex uses her 'empathy' to describe to a suspect the scenario he supposedly went through which is complete bollocks.. but inspires him to become a suicide bomber. Erm... 'yay'?
In summary, what we're left with is an insane, uppity elitist woman of reasonable attractiveness who refuses to take her clothes off, is a Grade-One hazard to her own health with zero survival instincts, specialises in making bad situations worse, doesn't take advice, and has trouble speaking real (as opposed to 'textbook') English. It's a complete mess, isn't it?
Alex Drake is so utterly unsuitable as a main character that I'm left with one assumption... Ashes to Ashes is not simply, as it has been said, a more 'light-hearted' version of Life on Mars, but one, long, ultra-ironic and self-referencing joke. The butt of the joke is Alex. In a counterpoint to Sam, who was just an everyman but managed to become a hero in the time he was stranded in, Alex is a psychologist who studied Sam's case, logically the best possible person to survive the journey... and she is fucking hopeless.
Unlike a certain setpiece from the new series of Doctor Who I could mention.. I hope this joke isn't drawn out too long.