The long and short of it is, if you watched and liked the US version, you should enjoy Life On Mars: The Complete UK Collection ... if you can work through the thick accents and 70's slang, that is.
DCI Sam Tyler (John Simm) has had a funny thing happen to him on the way to work. He got hit by a car and woke up in 1973. Now this modern-day cop has to deal with the rougher time and rougher way to police the public. Tyler finds out that he is a transfer from Hyde Division "C" to Manchester and the station he finds himself in is his own, just 30 years earlier, and the head of the department is the hard-nosed Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). Also on the force at Division "A" is Hunt's protege, Ray Carling (Dean Andrews), whom Sam is replacing as the second-in-command, Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster), a young copper who is still learning how things are done, and a member of the Woman's Police, Annie Cartwright (Liz White).
While Sam tries to struggle with his new surroundings, he is also constantly reminded of how far he is from home. He constantly hears voices talking to him as if he is in a hospital, but the exact cause of his unusual time-travel leaves him in the dark. Eventually he runs into characters like his mother, a four year-old version of himself and even his father, which all lead to himself feeling more and more confused about both what is really going on and his purpose.
The show ran for 2 seasons and each season has eight episodes, so like many British series, there aren't a lot of episodes, but what it has is great. Each of the characters go through some interesting arcs. Not only is Sam going through his own journey, but Hunt starts to rely on Sam's by-the-book nature to back up his own brutish style of investigation, while Ray's antagonistic feelings towards Tyler get more and more apparent and Skelton ends up learning from both Hunt and Tyler and becomes more of a blend of the two extremes. Of course, one of the more obvious character arcs is that of Annie and Sam's growing relationship. While Sam's belief that everything around him is fake keeps him at arms length from Annie, the longer he stays in 1973, the more conflicted he becomes when it comes to the female cop.
I was quite impressed with Life On Mars: The Complete UK Collection's special feature list. Every disc has something to enjoy. There are a couple of lengthy featurettes about the show's creation and return in Series 2, as well as shorter ones that usually involve interviews with various crew members like directors or the set designer. There is also a slew of behind the scenes featurettes for particular episodes and even a gag reel. The only real disappointment involved the special feature "The Music of Life on Mars." While watching the series, I couldn't help but notice the tons of awesome licensed songs that were used and were very fitting of the era in which the show took place. I had expected this featurette to be about the music selection. Instead, it was about the show's composer and how he made the theme song and a few other background tunes. While interesting, it wasn't what I was hoping for.
While Life on Mars is a great show that I highly recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in either science fiction or police drama shows, it is always hard to recommend a British series when you don't get a lot of episodes for the amount of money you have to shell out. If you have the slightest interest in this show, then at least rent the series, you might even find it worth the full purchase.