Life on Mars: Was There a Mistake in the Last Episode?

Life on Mars finaleLast week, we said goodbye to ABC’s Life on Mars after a too-short run of 17 episodes. Love or hate the ending, most people are happy that the show’s executive producers — Josh Appelbaum, Scott Rosenberg, and Andre Nemec — had a chance to wrap things up before the TV show said goodbye to primetime.

As those who tuned in on April Fool’s Day found out, Sam (Jason O’Mara) was not actually a cop from 2008 as we’d been led to believe. He was actually an astronaut from the year 2035 who had been placed in a state of deep sleep for a long trip to Mars. In his dream state, he was supposed to be living out a fantasy about living as a 2008 detective. His spaceship was hit some turbulence which caused the program to malfunction, sending his fantasy persona back to 1973. Elements of his 2035 life and versions of his fellow space travelers (Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, Jonathan Murphy, and Harvey Keitel) were present in this new dream and kept our favorite “spaceman” off balance and confused.

At one point during the series, Sam learns (via one of his strange flashes) that Obama had been elected President. At the time, viewers simply assumed that this referred to Barack Obama being elected last November.

In the series finale, we find out that the flash was referring to a different President Obama from the year 2035. While Sam is communicating with Earth, he’s told that President Obama wanted to greet the space travelers but she had to go to Chicago with her sister to see their ill father.

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The general assumption has been that the President Obama in 2035 is actually the daughter of our current Commander in Chief. A clever little twist.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. As Alan Pergament points out, Malia, the eldest of the two Obama daughters, was born on July 4, 1998. That would make her 34 years old in the year 2032, the year of the last election prior to 2035. Our Constitution states that you must be at least 35 years old to be elected President so Malia would be too young.

Sure, the Constitutional age requirement could have been reduced or she could have come into power in another way but those seem pretty unlikely.

It’s a finale nitpick for sure and likely wouldn’t diminish the ending for anyone. Are there any inconsistencies from the series that, in retrospect, have bothered you? In the past week, have you changed your opinion about the last episode?

For those who missed the very end, you can see it below thanks to a YouTuber. To see the whole episode, head on over to

Canceled and renewed TV show

18 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. debra says

    Darn Im sorry I missed the end.I hope it gets back on reruns.I realy liked the show.I was the best cop show on tv,Next to NYPD and Hill Street Blues

  2. Dieter says

    Was there a mistake? Yes, two nit picks…

    1. Unless technology improves out of sight between now and 2035, it isn’t going to be possible for a space ship in Mars orbit to communicate in real-time with mission control, assuming that mission control is somewhere in the vicinity of Earth – but this is what we see in the final minutes of the show.

    2. It is a bit doubtful that a long-term manned space mission would include a father and son team, particularly as they had unresolved “issues”. If you are going to be living in each other’s pockets for who knows how many months then compatibility, teamwork and appropriate personal relationships will be all important.

    Actually I wondered whether Major Tom was Sam Tyler’s step father, not father, but the point still stands.

  3. Dr. J. says

    “All the salty margaritas in Manhattan” was a direct reference to the Warren Zevon song “Desperadoes Under The Eaves” the last song on his 1976 self entitled album. The words are ….drink all the salty margaritas in Los Angeles….”. Got to wonder if that was just a slip of the writer’s brain or if was meant to be noticed?

  4. Chris says

    Actually, at the time of the episode, they were talking about Barak Obama. After his name was mentioned Sam replied..”He won?” So the reference originally was meant for our current president.

  5. rac76 says

    At first I thought that the ending was a bit cheesey, and I’ve been saying that on different boards. Yet, I just watched the 10 minute clip on this page, and it didn’t seem that cheesey the second time. It makes sense to me that it was all a dream, and how they referenced the “Wizard of Oz”. I enjoyed the ending, and I look forward to buying the dvd set to see the clues that are placed throughout the season. It’s just sad that it had to go so early.

  6. Kelley says

    It is a more realistic ending then the Brit version. Don’t read more if you want to catch that series. The guy wakes up from a coma, decides he liked the coma world better than his real world and jumps off a roof to put himself back into his coma world. That was shocking!

  7. Weresmurf says

    Ok…. 2035….


    That’s 37 years dude. Maybe 36 if she hasnt had her birthday yet. It’s not impossible at all, just unlikely. It’s not an error.

  8. says

    The finale was terrible. Some people here seemed to buy into it. No ” Life on Mars ” at the end as well. The finale negated everything that they were setting up. (I blame that on the sudden wrap up with no new seasons) The whole thing with his old cop friend and getting to say goodbye. The mother / father thing. It was all meaningless.

    and stop putting ads in our comments that is tasteless

  9. BBussey says

    @Rocio – Probably not intentional since the series was filmed on location in NYC, but as Admin says it works since it was a computer-simulated reality anyway.

    Clever ending, and foreshadowed from Episode 1 forward when you go back and review.

  10. Mike says

    That’s a glitch? What about the fact that when all the males awaken on the space ship they are clean shaven?

  11. Rocio says

    Another glitch… if you pay attention to several shows in 1973 you can see modern satellite dishes on the apartment windows. Maybe it was intentional.

  12. Kermode says

    Come on geekboys – clearly it’s Michelle Obama!

    (Oh and – a twist is only clever if it is actually clever)

  13. JackieReacher says

    “Sure, the Constitutional age requirement could have been reduced or she could have come into power in another way but those seem pretty unlikely.”
    Seriously?? We’re talking about deep sleep or stasis for trip to Mars where an “astronaut” can be made to dream/fantasize whatever and it’s “unlikely” she could have come to power another way?

    C’mon! Seriously? You really think we’re going to have such technology and the ability to send men to Mars within the next 25 years? A change in the age requirement or Malia getting to office another way is much more likely.

    It was a clever litte twist as you said. Let’s leave it at that.

  14. BowieFan says

    That’s not the only thing they got wrong. Elton John? ELTON JOHN??? Everything out of that series was based on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars. What? Couldn’t get the rights to Moonage Daydream or Starman? Gimme a break!

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