Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sleep Through Me

Cards on the table. I can't stand "found footage" styled filming. The technique has been around since the 80's, gaining some small notoriety in Cannibal Holocaust, although was popularised some years later, by the interminably tedious Blair Witch Project. I wasn't overly optimistic when I first read that Doctor Who was planning to use the format, however, the prospect of another "base under siege" story raised my expectations a little...
 
The episode opens with Buggles tribute act / Dastari impersonator, Rassmussen, speaking into a camera. He says nobody should watch this (advice that I wish I had heeded!), and goes on to reveal that he is in a laboratory on-board the Le Verrier Space Station, and is about to explain what is happening as best he can..
 
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Meanwhile, a group of soldiers, and a “Grunt”, grown specifically for fighting, are on a rescue mission, in search of Rassmussen and the absent crew. As a side note, “For the Gods”, an expression uttered by the rescue mission, ad nauseum, seems to be a nod to Battlestar Galactica.
 
Rasmussen advises us, via his video, not to get too attached to the personnel. Fortunately, since they possess the collective personality of a colony of algae, there isn't much danger of becoming attached to any of them!
 
The Doctor and Clara are busy exploring a corridor and are pontificating on the use of the word "space" as a prefix, when they are met, at gunpoint, by the recuse team. A flash of the psychic paper informs them that they are “Engineering and Stress Advisors”, and Nagata places them under her command.
 
The Grunt states that there are “eyes watching, eyes in the sky”, reiterating the ocular theme which has been prevalent through much of series nine. As another side note, one wonders why a vat-grown, cloned “Grunt” has a nose piercing (completely academic, I know, but it bugged me!).
 
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Moving along a corridor, the group, now accompanied by the Doctor and Clara, are confronted by a creature. Finding their way into a room, the creature manages to force an arm in the doorway, which, like my interest in the story, rapidly disintegrates. The Doctor explains that the creatures are formed from "sleep dust which conglomerates, is adaptable and clever". How he arrives at this startling conclusion is anyone's guess, as, along with much of the story, no cogent explanation is proffered.
 
Clara, meanwhile, gets yanked into one of the Morpheus pods which the group are inspecting; Quite why the pod has an awful hologram playing “Mr Sandman” is baffling, as it serves no purpose, other than to irritate. Another hologram makes an appearance, explaining that they live in a time of prosperity, but always need sleep. The Morpheus pods concentrate the sleep process into a five minute process, so productivity can be increased. Essentially, in the Morpheus process, Rassmussen has created microwaveable sleep!
 
What ensues is effectively a game of Unreal Tournament with eye-snot monsters, much fannying around, running up and down corridors, some more fannying around with "gravity shields", and generally being menaced by the aforementioned creatures.
 
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Hacking into the soldier’s helmet-cams, the Doctor displays images of the unfolding events, although he later explains that there are no head-cams, nor are there any cameras aboard the station. Given this is the 38th Century, I find a little hard to credit that a highly advanced space station possesses no cameras; I live in a flat, in the 21st Century, and I have CCTV! Since there are no cameras to hack into, it is rather jarring that no explanation is given as to what the Doctor has hacked into.

Locking the Sandmen in a freezer, the Doctor deduces that they are blind, which is hardly surprising, since they are made of dust; he further hypothesises that the reason they are blind is because their "visual receptors" have been hijacked to watch them. Oddly, however, they do appear to have the ability to hear.
 
Just before reaching the safety of the Tardis, the Doctor proclaims that none of it makes any sense, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur!
 
Ultimately, it is revealed that Rassmussen no longer exists, and is himself a Sandman, and that entire video has been a method of transmitting the Morpheus signal into the brains of anyone who manages to sit through this insufferable shit.
 
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Experimental episodes are no bad thing, in any TV series. Sometimes they pay dividends, and on other occasions, they fall completely flat. Sadly, Sleep No More falls squarely into the latter category. Neither Capaldi or Shearsmith can save this episode from itself. If you thought sentient trees that inexplicably sprout up overnight, or moon-egg-soup-dragons were a lousy concept, a monster made from rheum, or so-called "sleep dust" is utterly laughable. Leaving aside the requisite quantity needed to create one "being", let alone enough to conquer the universe, or whatever their plan is, they also beg numerous other questions, not least how they assemble themselves into something with a vaguely humanoid form.
 
The episode also has the distinction of featuring the most insipid supporting cast in some considerable time. The story is so disjointed, and the characters so one-dimensional, it is impossible to relate to them, or to feel any empathy for them, even when Grunt 474 valiantly sacrifices herself to save Chopra.
 
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The episode isn't entirely without merit, and the set design looks superb. That, sadly, is the only positive comment I can make on the episode. Certainly, it was nice hearing “Space Pirates” and “Silurians” getting a mention, but since they are wholly incidental to the proceedings, they ultimately count for very little.
 
Mark Gatiss is something of a curiosity when it comes to writing for Doctor Who. He turned in a splendid effort with The Unquiet Dead, and personally, I rather enjoyed Cold War. Some of his other work has, however, been questionable, at best. This story, however, is without doubt, his worst contribution to the series. It's a dull, tedious adventure, highly disjointed, with absolutely no resolution. I like ambiguity in a story, if it encourages the viewer to think. This encouraged me to try and do my level best to do the exact opposite, and forget that I had just wasted 45 minutes of my life on this nonsense.
 
Perhaps, had the "sleep dust" been substituted with faeces, it would have made a more apposite metaphor for the plot, such as it was. I do my level best to be fair in all of my reviews, but regrettably, I can find little to praise in this episode. Bottom line? Garbage, that isn't worth wasting any more of my blog on, when I could be writing about the ham sandwich I had for lunch instead. 2/10. And that's being bloody generous.

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