Ten Late Thoughts About Doctor Who: Sleep No More

A week late…

1. Don't Watch That, Watch This


You must not watch this. If only "Fear Her" had this opening warning. Don't Watch This. I was at Thought Bubble last week rapping with Run DMC when this was on. So I didn't, not till later. The episode does appear to have been heavily criticised, so you had fair warning if you didn't like it. But I did.

The last episode began with "once upon a time" but this episode of Doctor Who is even more of a fairytale. Remember that. And Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss' collegue in League Of Gentlemen is a real star in this.

2. The Future's Bright, The Future's Indo-Japanese


But this is the future. And the cast of the rescue mission are have Indian, Japanese or mixed backgrounds thanks to, as the Doctor explains, a catastrophe that saw the two land masses merge. And the names of the characters join then. But even given that kind of cultural and geographic change that seems to have spurred the resulting nation to great heights of empire and space building, at least one has a strong attempt at a Newcastle accent, pet. This is a peon to cultural and ethnic diversity, absorption, and change far more than the recent Zygon two-parter was. It's simply never mentioned because, why would it be?

3. Grunt Is The New Ood


The Ood were easy to dehumanise, thanks to their lack of human faces. Grunts are harder, red as cannon fodder and treated as part of the furniture. Even the crew member who has a problem with the concept of Morpheus is content to keep their grunt as a slave. When it's all you know, it's all you know. That even 474's femininity has been pushed back is a telling sign, even if only Clara registers it. If its problematic casting a trans female actor as a character whose femininity is suppressed, the show races past it.

4. Peep Show


Everything is filmed from the perspective of characters and we are totally misdirected to think that its the helmet cams. All that's missing is Robert Webb and David Mitchell's internal justification of their thoughts and actions. But it does give us another excuse for Peter Capaldi to stare at us and furrow his brow… and then some infinite recurring images. When even the characters are complaining about the story….

5. Clara In The Sarcophogus


Another sign of death here. And as the Doctor quotes liberally from Shakespeare about sleep, I mean the title itself is from Macbeth, leading nicely into "Macbeth hath murdered sleep" but he deliberately misses out the big one from Hamlet's "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy,

To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,

More grist from the Clara's dead, the Doctor is having a mid life crisis (including the sonic shades) revisiting her through her last days, and this is his final confession theory…

6. May The Gods Look Favourably Upon You


Is this religion? Co-opted by corporation as way to justify getting the most work out of people? The "Protestant work ethic", Morpheus, the god of dreams, is a satirical exaggeration of the demands of the modern lifestyle as we all sleep a lot less than our forebears. But I've got to say, Sandmen aside, I'd be first in line to sign up. I even quite like the jingle.

7. Enter, Night


The mucus in the corner of your eye transformed into a carnivorous life form? Ridiculous of course, but this is a Doctor Who that has the Vashta Nerada hiding in the shadows, Prisoner Zero in the (other) corner of your eye, The Silence constantly forgot and whatever that was under the blanket in Listen, this fits in nicely with the fairytale aspect of Doctor Who, even if the hard core sci-fi fans will pooh pooh this. But it goes to the origins of sci-fi, to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a future Prometheus, where the pursuit technology creates unexpected, horrendous side-effects, and the modern disease of not enough sleep is literally turned from subtext to text with these sleep monsters.

Note how they all look like they are yawning.

8. The Great References

Gatiss is an old-school Doctor Who fan. The Great Catastophe caused people to flee the Earth in Frontios. And "it's the Silurians all over again" when it comes to bad naming of monsters is a reference to the race not coming from the Silurian period.

9. The Great Reveal


He was a Sandman all along. Or partially along. The great traitor, the man who not only creates the monsters, defends the monsters and turns out he is the monster. And while the Doctor may have saves one of the rescue mission, he has only added to the story, to making it more appealing to an audience and has aided the spread of the infection. Is this the first time the Doctor has actually lost – indeed made the whole thing much, much worse? At least one is saved, because that's what this Doctor does.

You're my wife now, Dave.

10. Do The Song


"It doesn't make sense. None of this makes any sense."

This episode has the greatest defence of all. If you find it silly, stretched, with plot holes, contrivance and fake conflict, that's only a symptom of the idea, something fake created to entice an audience. There are tropes, there are expectations, everyone has to do the song.

So the show itself is the infection. Sending out the same electrical signals to viewers as Morpheus creates in the sleep pods. And you thought they were just the bursts of static common in found footage – why would they be there if these were actually footage from motes of dust?

Though if it actually were an episode that appealed more to other people it might have more of a chance.

Okay, the next episode, the end of Clara's story, is a few hours away. Let's go see what happens.


About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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