Doctor Who – Series 9, Episode 9: “Sleep No More”

  • For a ‘scary’ episode of Doctor Who, this one certainly has a tantalising opening with comments like “You must not watch this” and “Pay close attention; your lives may depend on it.”
  • Giving each crew member a survival rating – they could use that for side characters in more episodes, though I guess they would be generally low.
  • The focus may have been on story rather than character, but the Doctor and Clara still had some great moments, from the Doctor pooh-poohing the idea of putting ‘space’ in front of every kind of space facility, to Clara being proud of knowing what Morpheus is named after, to the Doctor claiming he “does the naming”. (I liked his comment “This is the Silurians all over again” – a shout-out to the fact that they couldn’t actually have existed in the Silurian Period; as he says in The Sea Devils, they should have been called the Eocenes.)
  • Then there are some more telling interactions, like when the Doctor initially seems more afraid of the Sandmen than Clara is. There’s also how Clara reacts when the Doctor assures her that he’ll save her from Morpheus – she’s very ‘business as usual’ and almost relaxed about it.
  • This one has a great atmosphere for an episode centred around horror, with its POV-based camerawork and its low lighting throughout. The fact that there’s no prologue or opening credits also catches you off guard and makes you curious about what Rasmussen’s framing device may mean.
  • The idea of this episode’s danger originating from artificially induced sleep deprivation is a simple and effective idea. Multiple characters talk about how wrong and abominable doing away with sleep is, but the viewer needs to contemplate the matter a bit before realising that they’re right. On the other hand, the idea of the monsters being made of sleep dust didn’t really work for me – I don’t know, it just didn’t seem to fit with the overall atmosphere. Some kind of internal brain mutation might have done better.
  • The scene where a soldier is almost killed (at the time) just because of a computer that was reprogrammed for a laugh is handled very well.
  • When we learn that the Sandmen are blind, the characters’ sneaking around reminded me of handling Clickers in the video game The Last Of Us.
  • The (first) twist about Rasmussen didn’t really work for me either; it’s not like we’ve never seen a crazy, mind-controlled scientist villain before.
  • I wasn’t sure what to make of the final scene at first, other than that it was pretty darn horrifying. Musing on it, however, and particularly remembering Rasmussen’s opening comments – deliberately designed to lure the viewer in – it’s actually quite clever. Though it’s confusing as well – so did the message get out? Does the Doctor destroy the rest of the Morpheus machines?

This episode had a lot of very impressive elements, but much of the running time – just escaping from monsters – felt too simplistic; I didn’t care about the side characters; and while I really liked the atmosphere, I wasn’t truly scared. Average, overall. Rating: 3/5.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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