Ashes to Ashes (BBC1, 9pm)

AFTER three series, the questions posed by Life On Mars sequel Ashes To Ashes are finally answered tonight.

That’s the hope, but the writers may prefer a more enigmatic ending that leaves viewers to make up their own mind as to what it’s all about.

Ashes To Ashes got off to a hesitant start, not surprising perhaps coming after the brilliance of Life On Mars. Repeating, or rather rearranging, the backto- the-future format for a second time was a gamble.

But this third series has shown great improvement as Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) has struggled with being shot and sent back to the Eighties. Things have got more dramatic now she’s stopped bleating every five minutes about getting home and back to her daughter.

Instead, she’s been concentrating on finding out the truth about her detective boss Gene Hunt (the magnificent Philip Glenister, who’s created a TV icon in the un-PC cop) and whether he murdered Sam Tyler (John Simm), who travelled back in time in Life On Mars.

And what about DCI Jim Keats (Daniel Mays) who arrived at the start of this series with the intention of putting an end to Hunt’s shenanigans?

In the final episode, DCI Hunt and his team investigate a diamond heist following the murder of three gang members.

But, as usual, the crime of the week takes a back seat to the drama within the team.

DI Drake has been slowly piecing together what happened to Sam Tyler, egged on by the increasingly malicious Keats. She decides to pursue her own investigation into Tyler’s death, leaving the rest of the team – Ray (Dean Andrews), Chris (Marshall Lancaster) and Shaz (Montserrat Lombard) – to plan an ambitious sting operation.

That leaves an alarmed Hunt desperately trying to reach Alex before she discovers the truth. His cry of “fire up the Quattro” may never be heard again.

SO, did Glenister take any mementos from the set to remember Gene Genie by? “Well, I was the only one who didn’t have a plaque on my office door that could be removed, so I couldn’t take it with me,” he explains.

“I did debate taking the door off its hinges and putting it on my porch, but I might have ended up with half of Richmond’s police force on my doorstep asking for a cuppa, so I thought better of it.”

Next for him is playing Uma Thurman’s husband in the movie Bel Ami, which also features Twilight actor Robert Pattinson.

And then he’s reunited with Life On Mars co-star John Simm for the Sky1 drama Mad Dogs.

They, together with Max Beesley and Marc Warren, play schoolfriends invited to a villa in Majorca for a retirement party for another old pal, who has made his fortune in property.

Hawes has mixed feelings about the end of Ashes To Ashes. “It’s very sad in some respects because I’ve been working with the cast and crew for so long, but it feels the right time to finally find out the mystery surrounding Alex’s world,” she says.

“In this business you find people pop up all the time, so you never know when you are going to work with someone again.”

Marshall Lancaster is returning to the stage, reprising the role of station porter Mr Perks in York Theatre Royal’s production of The Railway Children, originally seen at the National Railway Museum in York. This summer the show, complete with real steam locomotive, is being staged in a venue created at the old Eurostar terminal at London’s Waterloo station.

But an idea has been mooted about a Mars/Ashes spin-off series featuring Ray and Chris.

“Well it’s the same old same old isn’t it?” Dean Andrews explains. “It’s difficult until somebody comes up with it. You’re always a little wary. We were a little wary going into Ashes to Ashes after Life on Mars, so to do another one...”