Doctor Who: Initial Reaction to Sleep No More
A Guest Blog by Hevy782
Strange, isn’t it? There have been episodes this series that have been almost universally praised which I am not all that keen on and then along comes an episode which I positively adore and it seems that not many share my enthusiasm. Now I can kind of see why as it is quite experimental in more ways that one and quite a few people will probably not take very well to that element of the episode. That and the fact that the ending can be quite confusing. Admittedly I was quite shaken by it all the first time but after a second viewing during which I understood much better what was going on I enjoyed it much more. Now let’s begin with the elephant in the room, the found footage itself. Admittedly when I first heard about this I was quite concerned and thought it would be a rehash of Love and Monsters but with poor quality phone cameras. But as we got closer to the story and I realised it was set in space my hopes rose by quite a bit. Now that I’ve seen the actual episode I’m very happy with how the found footage element turned out and I’m particularly happy that it had an actual reason for being there, and an experimental one at that. Now in other shows found footage can feel superfluous to the story being told but the way that it tied into the narrative made me feel that the episode wouldn’t have been as good without it.
Now Mark Gatiss himself seems to be a bit of a mainstay when it comes to Doctor Who having been writing for the show since it came back, so it’s rather surprising that this is his first futuristic story. In fact all of his previous works apart from Night Terrors have been set in the past. And he can do horror very well (you only have to watch The Unquiet Dead to see that) but he instead seems to focus on comedy’s instead which are sometimes less than successful. Here though he does unleash his inner horror and the Sandmen are quite wonderful creations and quite a scary idea also. Now I’ve head some critics of the episode say the idea of living dust is more fantasy than science but I mean we’ve had stranger things before, haven’t we? I mean we had the moon turn out to be an egg for crying out loud. So having the Morpheus machine turn the dust from sleep sentient didn’t jump out at me as absurd whatsoever. In fact it more or less made sense to me. It was also quite a scary idea and the Sandmen themselves (especially when kept to the shadows) turned out to be quite scary as monsters. The song was also strangely unsettling. And then there’s ending which was marvellously done and was probably the scariest thing about it. The way he rubbed out his eye was particularly good although they may have got a bit carried away after that.
Before we finish off by talking about the characters I would like to bring up the interesting concept of the titles which I was quite worried about at first but they actually worked quite well and helped make the experience more immersive. Shame they couldn’t do something similar at the end though as the sudden appearance of the credits kind of threw right out of it and almost ruined that spectacular ending. But anyway, now for the characters and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Clara although I think Jenna Coleman is a fantastic actress. This episode however I feel that Mark Gatiss wrote her in a way in which she felt like a real, likeable person. The scene where they talk about space stuff is great and just highlights my point. We might not have long left with her but I still want more of this please. The Doctor was also wonderful during these scenes and while he didn’t get any material like last week he was still used well here. When it comes to supporting characters I find that Mark Gatiss always does a good job and this is no exception. Admitedly the only standout of the crew is Chopra but the others are still good. The main masterpiece here though is Reece Shearsmith’s Rassmussen who has quite a few layers to his character, and no I’m not talking about layers of sand. Good performances all around too which really helped this episode.
Overall, Under the Lake may be my favourite individual episode from this series but Sleep No More is definitely my favourite story as a whole due to it not having a second part like Before the Flood to let it down. Having said that though, Mark Gatiss will apparently be writing a sequel but I’m not sure this needs one as the ending is as perfect as it is ambiguous in my view. But anyway, while I won’t be giving this one full marks I will be giving it a nine-out-of-ten and will look back on it as an underrated gem, even if you probably won’t. Now we look forward to next week’s episode Face the Raven which appears to have an awful lot going on in it. So until we see it next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.