Doctor Who Review: “Sleep No More”

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Airtime: Saturday at 9:00 PM on BBC America

Tweetable Takeaway: Doctor Who meets found footage in this week’s subpar installment of Series 9.  


This week’s had the strong feeling of a filler episode. The previous two episodes (“The Zygon Inversion” and “The Zygon Invasion”) were emotionally powerful, action packed, and overall very entertaining, which may have actually hurt this episode. While the concept was something different (which is nice touch) the story itself felt flat. As I suspect this is a lull before a time storm of epic proportions as we near the end of Series 9.

From forbes.com

Back to “Sleep No More.” This episode was all shown as “found footage”. Basically, The Blair Witch Project meets the BBC. The new way of shooting the episode didn’t seem necessary nor did it impact the story telling. If felt more of a gimmick as opposed to a tool for advancing the story or changing the tempo of the series. Honestly, if the new way of shooting this episode wasn’t so heavily touted, nor constantly brought up by the characters, I don’t think the audience would have really paid any attention to it.

From patheos.com

The story itself in this episode was pretty standard for Doctor Who. Basically, take a common idea or occurrence and then make it . This episode was based around a couple of ideas. The first, what would happen if we found a way to cheat to sleep and could stay up almost indefinitely? And two, what happens if the dust in the corner of you eye came alive? Both ideas are interesting in themselves, especially for Doctor Who, but the execution fell flat.

Over the course of the episode, The Doctor and Clara land on a deserted space station and come into contact with a rescue crew pretty quickly. The newly formed team then finds the sole survivor of whatever is happening on the space station. As the idea of cheating sleep gets discussed, the Sandman creatures begin attacking, and of course split up the team (yawn). As it always plays out those rescue members who get split up from The Doctor and Clara end up dying while trying to fight or escape the Sandman creatures, whereas those that manage to stay with The Doctor survive. As the episode progresses, we find that one of the Sandmen have actually taken the form of a human and are actively trying to crash the space station so they all may have “a fresh food supply”.

From telegraph.co.uk

In one of the more jarring ends to an episode (in recent memory at least), The Doctor deactivated the gravity shields so that the Sandmen would fall apart, and then The Doctor, Clara and remaining survivor head towards the TARDIS. Then the episode ends. Yes, it was that abrupt and that jarring. I felt like a major chunk of story, or at least a half way decent conclusion was missing. This abrupt ending soured a somewhat decent episode. I don’t know if the writers were constrained for time, or whether they actually could not come up with at least a decent conclusion to the episode, but I didn’t see any reason for why the episode ended as it did.

This brings me back to the initial point, this felt like filler. As stated, the last two episode were incredibly strong, and powerful and gave this writer the feeling that the demise of Clara was on the horizon. The teasers for next week seem to indicate that we will pick up with that theme and begin tying in multiple aspects of this season. This episode however, was totally out of place, and was a disappointment. I understand the need to build drama and leave us waiting to get back to the main season long arch, but the writers need to give us a more compelling episode. If the episode were not found footage it would have been just like a handful of previous Doctor Who episodes in the past. A simple change in shooting style does not make an episode. Lets hope the writers get the picture and stay with more story heavy episodes the rest of the season.

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Matt is a writer for SHOWoff and a connoisseur of all things geeky. One day he plans to dethrone Chris Hardwick as The Nerdist. 

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