Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S09E09 – Sleep No More

In the ninth episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who, WHY MUST THIS SHOW DO THIS TO ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

So now you want to ruin sleep? Thanks, Doctor Who.

I love a good scare fest, and Mark Gatiss’s “Sleep No More” is all about crafting an unnerving and unsettling experience. It’s not heavy on characterization beyond the rejection of Morpheus by the Doctor, Clara, and Chopra. Well, 474 does get a bit of growth, but it’s hard to pull that out of a script that tells us at the beginning that pretty much everyone is going to die.

Still, “Sleep No More” zeroes in on paranoia and terror through the creation of the Sandmen, the products of the Morpheus machine. In the 38th century, time is a commodity, and in order to increase profit and production, the Morpheus machine allows people to compact all their sleep into a tiny burst. Otherwise, they stay awake until their next session. It honestly seemed wrong the second I heard it. SLEEP IS GREAT, WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO HAVE IT. But Gatiss takes that wrongness a step further by positing that the Morpheus creates a living creature out of the dead cells and skin that one finds in the corner of your eye when you wake up. The Sandmen. WHO ARE HUMANOID BUT BASICALLY JUST A GIANT MOUTH FOR A HEAD AND THAT’S IT.

God, the sight of them made my skin crawl. On top of that, “Sleep No More” is filmed entirely in the found footage style, something I believe is a first for Doctor Who. It’s a style that’s so pervasive in horror that it’s hard to do it well and keep the story interesting, but there were at least a few things here that separated the story from everything else I’d seen. (Though now I’m reminded of my favorite found footage movie, Chronicle. SO GOOD.) From the beginning, Rasmussen made it clear that what we were watching wasn’t just found footage; it was his assembly of footage he found, a context that made this a lot stranger than I expected. The camera switches from helmet cams to surveillance cameras and GUESS WHAT THAT’S NOT EVEN TRUE.

More on that in a second. The episode is broken up with Rassmussen’s commentary, which is only made more interesting when we find out that he’s a horribly unreliable narrator. As entertaining as I found “Sleep No More,” it’s also a very strange story since the whole point of it is to manipulate the characters and the audience. Upon learning that Rassmussen orchestrated everything as a distraction, I did feel a little cheated. That was only exacerbated by the eventual conclusion, too, which is abrupt and bizarre. The entire episode is a story, that’s for sure, but it’s a story for the Sandmen, one that’s meant to be addicting, exciting, and thrilling, all so that people will watch it and tell others. They’ll pass it along and the Morpheus signal will continue spreading, guaranteeing the supremacy of the Sandmen.

Sooooo… is this a two-parter? Because while the Doctor, Clara, and Nagata all escape, we don’t get any confirmation that they succeeded in stopping the Sandmen’s plan. Obviously, there’s a meta level to this episode that I appreciate, but I also want the story to feel complete. And it doesn’t. What about the Grunts? Will the Doctor ever do anything about that horrible project? Will Nagata stop using the Morpheus machine? Did the three survivors head to Triton and destroy the machines, or is it futile, now that the video got out?

I sense that Gatiss was going after the real-world creepiness that we got from the Weeping Angels, but it doesn’t stuck without a proper conclusion. It just feels like an experiment for the sake of it.

The video for “Sleep No More” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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