Friday, 20 November 2015


Sleep No More appears to be Series 9’s version of In The Forest of The Night. It initially stood out as exemplary for a number of reasons, though it also faltered because of a number of other reasons, often elements needed to create the former. While not a flame war starter, it is still pretty decisive amongst fans. Let’s look at both sides by dissecting the exciting bits, the sleep bits and the goosebumpy parts in-between.

The Good

Sleep No More stands as one of the very (very) rare examples of the antagonist of the story winning. This aspect is something that is severely lacking in Doctor Who. If the hero always wins, it does undercut the tension somewhat. We the audience do like watching our heroes lose every now and again. We’ve had a few bittersweet endings, but almost no downer ones. In my opinion, the found footage gimmick is not what made Sleep No More distinctive, it’s the fact that Doctor Who for once allowed the villain to win.

Let’s also admire the CG sand effects which are some of the trickiest and most expensive effects to portray visually. Rassmussen rubbing his face into sand is quite supernatural when combined with that creepy voice at the end.

The Bad

“This doesn’t make sense!” Peter Capaldi’s reaction after reading the script somehow made it into the actual episode.

People joke that this episode put them to sleep, but this is a literal case for me. I actually fell asleep watching this story around the ten minute mark and had to rewatch the whole thing the next day to appreciate how underwhelming it was.

But first let’s highlight how little Clara Oswald actually does in this story. She really isn’t needed in Sleep No More. Neither is the Doctor for that matter. As with In The Forest of The Night, this story could’ve easily existed without their presence as they just run up and down corridors and do very little else. I mean the Doctor becomes confused near the end of it, but so do we.

Story logic is a funny thing. It can be stretched to ridiculous lengths and still entertain an audience. But when a story fails to make sense within its own constructed story logic, expect suspension of disbelief to shatter. It isn’t the most far-fetched notion in Doctor Who to create sleep dust monsters. We’ve had farting monsters, monsters made of sound, Nobody No-One is literally a living word, but telling us to further stretch over disbelief by introducing video recording dust without some kind of semi-believable explanation is taking things way too far.

The episode also seemed too dark. I don’t mean it was grim or grizzly. I mean the actual lighting of the story. I can’t count the number of times I couldn’t see what was happening.

The lack of interesting characters also lowered this story’s quality for me. It was as though all the effort was put into making this episode feel like it’s genre that the fact that we needed interesting or semi-competent characters to care about was lost. I mean the rescue crew wait like thirty minutes into this story before even firing one bullet. Yeah! They have half a dozen encounters with Sandmen and nobody bothers shooting at them to see how effective projectile weapons are. Three quarters of the story! Did the rescue crew graduate from the UNIT School of Incompetence? Looks like it.

The Nerdy

The lack of opening titles may be new to the TV series, but Big Finish managed this with the acclaimed Live 34 in 2005, which presented its entire story as though it was a news broadcast.

The Doctor adopted the moniker of the Sandman in the audio The Sandman during his Sixth incarnation in order to scare his opponents into obedience. Likewise, the appearance and powers of the monsters in Sleep No More may be close to Marvel’s Sandman, but it’s much closer to the Big Finish Sandmen featured in The Entropy Plague in March this year.

This week’s musical reference was beaten over our heads by Mr Sandman, by the Chordettes, though the Doctor also quotes lyrics from the song Consider Yourself from the musical Oliver!

People have cited a lot of similarities between Sleep No More and the video game Dead Space. You don’t have to look quite that far to find similarities though. Using the found footage format to record the Doctor’s adventure and turn it lethal if played and infect the audience was the plot for the Tenth Doctor story Dead Air so alternatively Sleep No More is a discount Dead Air which is a far grizzlier listen/read than the actual TV episode.

Tomorrow might see the end of Clara Oswald, so you can imagine the giddy thoughts swimming around in my head as I ponder what happens when she comes face to face with the Raven. Will this be one last fake-out departure, or is Clara’s fate set in stone this time?

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