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Doctor Who Sleep No More Series 9 Episode 9 Review

 

E09-SleepNoMore

From the scuttlebutt I saw on Twitter tonight’s episode wasn’t very well received.  Personally I didn’t think it was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t one of the good episodes.  It could have been.  It had a lot of potential and seemed like it was trying to hit all the right notes that had worked in past episodes.  An abandoned space station, monsters roaming the corridors, soldiers, a scientist, a morally dodgy experiment.  Yeah it all seems to be there, so why did  people fall asleep during Sleep No More?


First, this was a “found footage” style episode, and while I applaud them for trying something different with the storytelling, the reason and the way we were shown the story just didn’t work.  The Doctor and Clara, are wandering around a space station that orbits Neptune.  Actually before that a rescue party of soldiers board the space station trying to discover what has happened to the crew as the station had gone silent.  We’re introduced to the team through the narration of Rassmussen (Reece Shearsmith), the scientist who runs the station and has developed the Morpheus device (or box or chamber or pod, I really can’t recall what it was called) that removes the need for sleep in human beings because time is money, and we waste a third of our lives sleeping.  Clearly this is a bad idea, and of course something has gone wrong as large sand-like creatures are chasing the lone survivor and his would-be rescuers around the station.  These “sandmen” are actually made up of the sand/dust we normally find in the corners of our eyes when we wake up in the morning, but through the Morpheus process they’ve grown?  Multiplied?  Somehow there are billions of them and they group together to form blind monsters that shamble down the corridors, trying to kill or feed on human beings.  They’re what destroyed the original crew of the station.  So now the Doctor has to find a way to stop them, and save everyone.  By the time the episode resolves itself, the audience has mostly given up caring.


The Good:

  • The monsters or the “sandmen” were pretty inventive, and looked effectively scary enough.  Their creation sounded a little dubious and the way they were defeated was even worse, but at least they looked like they had potential.
  • I was told to always look for the good in things and to keep an open mind….tonight I’m struggling to find more “good” about Sleep No More…ah, the Doctor quoted Macbeth, and that’s my favourite Shakespeare play.

The Bad:

  • Other than a quick little bit of banter with the Doctor at the beginning of the episode, was Clara even in this one?  She really did nothing.  She ran when the Doctor said run, and she reassured us (and the Doctor) that he’d save the day, but other than that, she really seemed absent from the episode.  I’m not sure I understand what’s going on here.  We know Jenna Coleman is leaving at the end of this year, I don’t believe it’s been announced if it is will be in the series finale or in the Christmas episode.  I know that a lot of fans were upset with the “Super Clara” character that developed the last few years who overshadowed the Doctor.  It seems like they’ve written her completely opposite to that this year, and now she’s almost “Invisible Clara”.  There still are many fans of Clara, are the writers trying to soften the blow by showing those fans that the show will go on without her?  If I were a die hard Clara fan, I’d be more upset at the way character has been underutilized in her final year than the fact that it is her final year.  At least next week’s episode seems to allow the Doctor and Clara to share the stage.
  • The rescue team had potential to be interesting characters.  I liked the idea behind the Grunt 474 character (Bethany Black, the first openly transgender actress cast by the show), and I liked Commander Nagata (Elaine Tan), but they really didn’t get any development. 
  • The soldiers are running from the sandmen all episode long, guns drawn, and I don’t think any of them even tried to shoot one.  I may be mistaken, but it seemed the only reason they had their guns out (all episode long) was because they had flashlights on them, and we had to see what was down each poorly lit corridor.
  • After last week’s Zygon Inversion and “that speech” which was possibly the highest point of Capaldi’s run as the Doctor, this episode felt like it was just a filler.

The Ugly:

      • Was there a set of opening credits for this episode?  I may have missed them but I don’t think there were any.  If there were, let me know below!
      • The “found footage” angle was popular fifteen years ago and it’s popularity died out probably ten years ago.  Plus, having a grain of sand in everyone’s eye that had ever used a Morpheus device acting as a camera inside everyone’s head (and also being the reason why the creatures were blind) to give the story multiple camera angles makes the whole “found footage” effect fall flat and fail.  Hacked helmet cameras would have been better.
      • What exactly happened here?  Were the sandmen defeated by gravity?  Did they burn up as the space station entered Neptune’s atmosphere?  What exactly does a “gravity shield” have to do with keeping the station in orbit?  I don’t know if the Doctor actually defeated them.  The ending was left horribly ambiguous but really, I don’t think anyone cared.
      • Who’s call is it to do the episode this way?  Is it the director (Justin Molotnikov) or the writer (Mark Gatiss)?  Will this episode tie in to next week’s Face the Raven?  I hope not…


Next week we Face the Raven, in an episode written by Sarah Dollard but also directed by tonight’s Justin Molotnikov.  It will see the return of Rigsy (Joivan Wade) from last season’s Flatline, and the Doctor doesn’t seem to be wearing a t-shirt and hoodie (hooray!)

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