SPOILER CITY: Life on Mars ending, and the Constitution

First off, let me say SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER – if you’ve not watched the ending of the US version of Life on Mars, and you plan to, stop reading here now.

First, I’ll make my quick qualitative comment — that was an ending that explained everything but excused nothing. Finding out it was all just a dream makes the exercise rather pointless. And seeing the manufactured dream populated by folks he knows in his present doesn’t make much sense since the initial dream he was having (2008) was not so populated. Had they sprung for getting Lisa Bonet in at the closing, I might’ve bought at least that aspect of it.

But there are actual Constitutional issues with the ending. We are told that the date is 2 March 2035. We are also told that “President Obama really wanted to be in the control room when you landed, but her father is seriously ill, so she and her sister went to Chicago to be by his side.” Presumably, we’re meant to believe that either Sasha or Malia Obama has followed in their father’s footsteps. But there’s a problem. Barring any Constitutional changes, the four-year term for president that includes March second, 2035 commences on January 20, 2033 – and Malia (the eldest of the two) will not be qualified to be president on that date. There is a Constitutional requirement that the president be at least 35 years old, and Malia (barring any future discoveries of irregularities with her birth certificate) will still be several months shy of that mark. She couldn’t even have been elected vice president on that round, since the central legal qualification for a VP is that they be qualified for the Presidency. So is the scenario we are seeing in Life on Mars impossible? No, and I’ll tell you why:

Malia Obama is Gerald Ford.

Ford, you’ll remember (if you’re old and cranky like me) never went through the traditional democratic election process to become president, at least not successfully. He was selected and confirmed as VP when Spiro Agnew had to step aside, then rose to the presidency when Nixon resigned. So Malia must’ve been named VP sometime mid-2033 or later, and ascended when some president stepped aside. (And yes, we know it’s Malia; Sasha would still not be old enough to be president when these events take place. And lest anyone suggest it, it cannot be President Michelle Obama, as her father is already deceased.)

Okay, okay, we’ve settled that. But elapsed travel is 2 years, 3 months, and 22 days. Which means that they left Earth (and presumably went into stasis) on November 10, 2032… two days after the presidential election. So shouldn’t there be at least a little reaction to the president named not having been the president or vice president elected? Even if it was an election-of-2000 scenario where the results weren’t settled by the time they left, you would still expect the president to have been a candidate, right?

Ah, Life on Mars. Never totally warmed to it, kept watching it… but now I’m concerned with its realism?

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Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 10:13 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I actually didn’t have a problem with the basic ending/explanation. I took the fact that the other astronauts were characters in the 1973 portion of the dream to be a result of the “glitch” that shifted him from the 2008 Lisa Bonet involved scenario.

    HOWEVER…The President Obama remark almost ruined the entire episode, if not the series, for me. Even without looking up the actual ages of the possible choices, it seemed unlikely, if not Constitutionally impossible to me. Especially since there was a perfectly good (and Constitutional) alternative that they could have used. If they had just made mention of President CLINTON and her father, it would have worked perfectly

  2. Or make it 2045. Perhaps there’s something I’m not remembering – was there a mythology reason or even a Bowie-reference reason for 2035? 2045 sounds much more “natural” to use, in that it means that th dream started in 2043, he meant to be dreaming 35 years in his past (2008), and the glitch took him an additional 35 years beyond that (1973).


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