Monday, November 16, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who's 9x09: "Sleep No More"

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Justin Molotnikov

Rassmussen (to audience): "I did tell you not to watch."

Oh dear. If there were ever an unwise set of words to end an episode of well, anything on, it would be those ones. Mark Gatiss for his efforts genuinely tried to do something out of his usual comfort zone for this show and while that alone is almost admirable, it was a venture that did not pay off.

First of all - found footage isn't exactly a new concept and it's certainly one that can seriously divide audiences too. For me, it's a genre in which I don't particularly have strong feelings for. I neither love it nor hate it and technically that's how I feel about this episode, compared to some of the less favourable reactions to it online.

The Doctor and Clara ended up on the Le Verrier space station, only to find that the crew were dead, a rescue mission had landed and there were a bunch of creepy-ish looking creatures that Clara decided to dub Sandmen for fairly obvious reasons.

I have to admit, the concept of having sleep taken away from people is a pretty nasty one and kind of perfect for this show but it's also the sort of concept that Steven Moffat himself would've went to town with while Gatiss's script struggled with it. The Morpheus Machine allowed people to take a snooze of five minutes, which equated to a month's worth of sleep but the downside was that the mucus you get from sleep would result in Sandmen.

Of course this dilemma didn't particularly bother Morpheus's inventor, Gagen Rassmussen, as played by The League Of Gentlemen actor, Reece Shearsmith. I have to admit that while Shearsmith seemed tailor made for this role, not once in this episode was Rassmussen given a moment to really innovative as a villain though. He invented a machine that disgusted the Doctor, Clara and one member of the rescue crew, caused the Sandmen to come to life and seemed more than okay with humanity being wiped out by the creatures as well.

The Sandmen themselves looked a little reminiscent of the Time creatures from Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS and while they exuded a certain degree of menace, we've had better monsters this series - mainly returning ones if I'm being truthful. The reveal at the end of Rassmussen's true plans and the ambiguity of the ending was a mixed bag for me. Points for it's audacity but it still felt a wholly unsatisfying note to end this episode.

As for the crew - unlike Toby Whithouse's two parter earlier this series, this lot weren't as well fleshed out to be honest. Chopra, pretty as he was (something the episode was pleased with commenting on) came close to showing some characterisation due to his opposition to the Morpheus Machine but the Grunt known as 474 (Bethany Black great but sadly wasted in this role), Geordie group leader Nagata and some bloke named Deep Ando were fairly underused and left little impression as a result. Also none of them survived, except Nagata but that was laid out to us earlier in the episode.

Even the Doctor and Clara weren't at their best in this one either. Clara might have got to name the creature and briefly get caught into one of the sleeping pods but you literally could've done this episode without her and it wouldn't have made a different (similar to Amy/Rory in Night Terrors) and the Doctor's greatest contribution this week was to point out how little the plot made sense. It's metatextual but not in a good way whatsoever.

Also in "Sleep No More"

For the first time, there was no opening credit sequence and very little in the way of music. The latter kind of helped the episode.

Rassmussen (to audiences): "You must not watch this. I'm warning you. You can never unsee it."

Full names of the crew members include Jagganth Dalkl-Nagata, Haruka Deep-Ando, Osamu Alml-Chopra while 474 was revealed to be only five years old and genetically grown.

Clara: "Have your brought me to a restaurant?"
The Doctor: "People never do that."

Clara (re Grunts): "That's disgusting."
The Doctor: "Well, that's how they roll in the 38th century."

It was nice that after 52 years the show cast an openly transgender actress for a role. However as I said earlier in the review, Bethany Black deserved something a little more interesting to play than 474.

Rassmussen (to audiences): "I wanted to get out of there immediately. Of course I did but the Doctor, he wanted explanations first."

Clara (re Morpheus Machine): "That's insane, that's horrible."
Chopra: "Finally, someone who sees it for what it is."

There was some nice references to The Space Pirates, The Silurians and Frontios in this one. There's also the possibility of a potential sequel to this story though.

Nagata: "Our lot? What do you mean?"
The Doctor: "The human race."

The Doctor: "Sleep is essential to every sentient being in the universe."

Standout music: The use of "Mr Sandman" with the hologram singers actually worked for most of this episode.

The Doctor: "You know I can't allow that."
Rassmussen: "You can't stop them. None of us can."
Nagata: "I wouldn't bet on that, pet."

Chronology: 38th century with the ship heading for Neptune, specifically the moon Triton, which the guest characters were from.

Well, this was an episode that had a great idea, some noteworthy diversity in casting but in spite of a potentially cool concept, Sleep No More easily emerges as the weakest episode of the series. I didn't quite dislike it as others have done but at the same time, I didn't love it either. Perhaps the sequel should just be left alone.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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