Ashes To Ashes speculation: just who is Gene Hunt?

We begin a series of articles where we attempt to unravel the mysteries of Ashes To Ashes. And where better to start than DCI Hunt himself…

Ashes To Ashes Series 3

In conjunction with the fine folks at The Railway Arms, we’ve been putting together our theories for how the last four episodes of Ashes To Ashes will turn out. Thus, thanks to the many contributors at The Railway Arms forums, we’ve been asking the big questions regarding exactly where the finale of Ashes To Ashes will take us.

We’re kicking off today with one of the big ones: who exactly is Gene Hunt?

We already know that show co-creator and co-writer has summed up this series as The Gene Hunt Story, where we find out who he is and where he fits into the world created across Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes.

So who is he? Here are the thoughts put forward by ourselves, and some of the far-brainier-than-us forum members at The Railway Arms. We should point out that this is all speculation: there are no spoilers here because we don’t know the answer, nor do we have any more clues than you.

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Gene Hunt Is Dead

A popular theory. Mothgirl argues, for instance, that “Gene died when he was quite young in the force; a fresh-faced policeman who was brutally attacked and sustained heavy facial injuries” (you can see where that theory leads!). She continues, “To everyone, he had disappeared: run away from his duties, his colleagues confused and disappointed with his conduct. His character was such that he couldn’t rest peacefully, so he ends up in another reality being the copper he never got to be in the ‘real’ world.”

That’s an idea with real substance to it. What’s to say that Gene Hunt isn’t going through the same kind of thing that Sam Tyler and Alex Drake are? Denial, says show co-chief Matthew Graham, plays a large part in Gene’s character. That could, therefore, account for why he’s never mentioned this before.

Rachael 89 is on a similar track. “He died as a young PC in the 1960s, and draws upon the memories/environments of others like him to build convincing versions of the ‘future’ he never actually had. This will sound all la-di-da, but I was reading Edgar Allan Poe’s Ligeia and there is a strong emphasis there on the potential of a strong will to transcend death,” she argues. “The reason Gene is the centre-point of the mythology of LOM/ATA rather than any of the other characters is because his strength of will was the strongest, and he would have had the most potential out of them all had he lived. Although I hate to use this word, there is almost something parasitic about him in certain scenes, as if he literally needs the people around him to conform to his demands of them. For example, I took Shaz’s saying she was going to leave the force as saying she was going to leave his world. Gene couldn’t allow that to happen so he coerced her into staying, prompting the somewhat forbidding ‘darkness closing in’ moment and the musical cue from Life on Mars.” She’s not sure whether Gene is aware of all of this, but again, it’s a compelling theory.

Finally on this one, Mrs Hunt – and she should know – gets straight to the point: “He’s the dead copper. He’s in denial about his death and has created his own world.”

Gene Hunt Isn’t Real

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Another popular argument is that Gene Hunt is an imaginary figure. Antiquarian is subscribing to this notion. “He’s a collective construct of the people who end up in his (under)world and he takes on the traits of their personalities as a result. He seizes his chance to arrive in people’s lives when they’re in need of guidance, he may even be claiming people’s souls before they realise they’re dead,” they argue. “He saves some (they become the good guys) and some are beyond redemption (they become the villains). Ultimately he doesn’t know that he’s operating as anything other than a human being and a copper in a world that needs cleaning up. He may be one of many DCIs who fulfil this role and Keats is another ‘soul collector’. I don’t think he’s ever been a real person in our world.”

Attala, meanwhile, reckons he’s some kind of genetic defect or tumour that’s actually attacking Alex Drake’s health. “He’s the ‘Lethal Force’,” they argue, which was the DVD title from the first episode of this series. “This ‘gene’ had the potential to kill Sam, but didn’t; it was benign. Alex’s isn’t benign. Alex and Sam might share the same ‘gene’.”

He’s Just Gene Hunt

What if the Gene Hunt character is something of a red herring, and is exactly who he appears to be: a copper who has moved between Manchester and London, and is gradually getting more and more outdated?

OscarPapaRomeo semi-subscribes to this, with the caveat that “he is the key to getting back”. They explain further, mixing in the tumour theory. “All the people who get transported to his world are actually close to death and there is no way of surviving. If they believe that Gene is the ‘tumour’ and they have to ‘get rid of him’ then they try it, but when they betray him they die in the cold horrible real world. If they stick by Gene, they survive in the alternate world and still get to hear from their loved ones.”

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Gene Hunt Is An Ideal

Here’s an intriguing theory, this one from lindalove. “Gene Hunt is an ideal,” she argues. “The man who claims to be Gene Hunt actually took on the real Gene’s life and reputation, but is not called Gene Hunt. He has become Gene Hunt however – the idealised version.”

She argues, “A young man was present in the late 60s, when a copper was killed in a field in Lancashire. That copper who was killed was called Gene and was the most courageous, loyal and bright copper anyone had seen in those parts for years. But he was killed in secret by local thugs just as he was due to move to Manchester. The young man who watched him die just could not allow him to truly die – as he looked very much like him and had looked up to him – so took his uniform and name and went to Manchester for him, leaving behind his old life and name. This is why he always refers to himself in the third person as he has assumed his ideal identity of his hero.”

Gene Hunt Is Trapped

One thing we can’t get out of our head is the image of Gene Hunt on the monitors at the end of series two. Granted, you could take that that he is talking to Alex Drake in a coma back in 1982, but going back to the argument that he’s in the same predicament as Alex and Sam, what if he himself is trying to get back in time? In fact, what if all the characters of CID are going through the same thing?

Is Gene Hunt actually, for instance, trying to get back to the 1960s? Or is he from the present day? It hurts our head even trying to figure it all out…

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Find more theories for Ashes To Ashes over at the excellent The Railway Arms right here. And a massive thank you to Janet at The Railway Arms and the many contributors we’ve quoted here!