This is The Blair Witch Project meets Alien but with no goriness, witches, face-hugging crabs or ginger cats. So not really like either film. Um.
This does have similarities to the first film in that was broadcast as if pieced together by found footage of the events. And it is similar to the second film in that it involves being chased around in space. But that is where the similarities stop.
Sleep No More (or as the Doctor would say, “Sleep Nae More“) is an oddity. When it ended, I was surprised. Not by the twist but by the fact that the show had finished. It felt like it had only been on for twenty or so minutes. Never had that with Doctor Who before. I suppose it proves how engrossing Mark Gatiss’ story was.
The first person we see is Gagan Rassmussen (Reece Shearsmith) whose name my spellchecker rather amusingly thinks should be spelt ‘Pagan Reassessment’. Anyhow, Rassmussen is or was the lead researcher aboard Le Verrier space station. If you know your science, then you will know where this station is located.
No? Not a clue? Really? The station is named after Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, a French mathematician during the Victorian age, who predicted both the existence and position of Neptune. Just by using mathematics. See how exciting mathematics is, kids?
Suitably bored? Good, at least you know where the space station is now.
This Rassmussen guy is talking to camera and warning us not to watch it. Gagan clearly does not understand human psychology because if someone tells us not to look at something, we always look just to see what the fuss is all about. Maybe he does know and is using reverse psychology on us…
He explains how the footage has been collected from many different sources over the space of a few hours. I am guessing security cameras, computers and phones which have been hacked by Rassmussen’s contacts from the tabloid press of the 38th century etc. Throughout this adventure, he tells the story of what happened on the Le Verrier.
Due to Le Verrier going silent, a rescue ship has been sent out from Neptune’s largest moon, Triton. Triton has sent soldiers to investigate…which is odd. What kind of trouble must a station be in for a squad of soldiers to be sent in to investigate? What if the communications had been broken by a kitten randomly peeing on the circuitry? Boy, everyone would be embarrassed. Imagine Rassmussen explaining, “Ah, sorry. It was the kitten again. I don’t really know why we keep his litter tray on top of the comlink.”
These four soldiers are the Oriental Geordie-accented Nagata, wet blanket Chopra, and unmemorable Deep-Ando. Oh, plus a clone, referred to as a ‘grunt’, with the name 474. Out of all the soldiers, you would want built-like-a-rugby-player 474 to protect you. The others are a little weedy by comparison.
The soldiers arrive and explore the station trying to find life. Not a sausage. They go up and down the dark corridors and find nothing. Until they suddenly do find something: the Doctor and Clara.
It is at this point where I should point something out. We are seeing footage which is apparently being filmed by the soldiers somehow. Cameras on their helmets? It is this footage which shows us the moment where the Doctor whips out the psychic paper he uses to bamboozle folks with. Note his expression, a look of hope which turns to authority. Subtle, lovely, wonderful. Loved that small scene.
It is at this point where the monster appear and our heroes plus their new soldiery friends leg it as fast as they can. If you can, imagine the elephant man if he was made out of sand. No. Imagine it again. Yes, that is it exactly.
Clara later names the creature as being a ‘Sandman’ to which the Doctor responds by saying, “Crivens! It’s like the Silurians all over again!” This refers to the fact of an alien creature being wrongly named.
Being unmemorable, Deep-Ando is the one that runs down the wrong corridor leaving the others to find sanctuary in a room. In every horror movie ever made, the ummemorable characters get snaffled by the Sandmen first. I suspected, while watching, that he would be the one to be nobbled.
The room everyone else finds themselves in is full of upright pods, one of which drags Clara into it. These pods are called Morpheus, and are for compressing a month’s worth of sleep into a five minute session.
If you find this idea familiar, it might be because a similar machine features in the Judge Dredd comic strip as well.
The machine, detecting that Clara needed a nap, just whipped her in without her permission. I hope that technology isn’t all like this. You wouldn’t be able to walk past a toilet without being dragged in to have the piss taken out of you.
While Clara is in the pod, a hologrammatic display shows four women singing Mr. Sandman, a song I know well from the the Chordettes’ version. Why does this display outside the pod? Is it to show people that it is in use? If so, surely there are better ways of suggesting occupancy, a flashing light maybe? The real reason, of course, is to put the viewers in mind of the sand monsters. It if for this reason also that the song seems to attract these creatures.
In another pod they find Gagan Rassmussen the entirely non-suspicious head researcher. He pops out of the pod like a surprised librarian.
Gagan explains who he is and all about these machines which he created, the sleep stealers. Morpheus sends an electronic signal to the thinklump of the occupier which somehow allows humans to go a month without sleep.
All this has done for the human race is given them more time to work. Can you imagine the mass unemployment because of this device? If a human can do their job non-stop for a month (with meal breaks every six hours or so), than this means that there is no need for a second person to do the second shift while the first person sleeps. Given the fact that humans breed like rabbits, surely there are so many of us in the 38th century that we don’t need to create machines to help us work longer when we can just employ someone else to pull up the slack when we are resting? Unless, of course, there are more jobs than people but when has that ever been true?
The Doctor says that this process has a side effect. He claims that the Sandmen are made up of the same materials of the dust that collects in our eyes while we sleep. Now, he says, they have evolved into monsters that are set on chomping on the humans stupid enough to use the machines.
Hold on a moment though, the Doctor refers to it as dust but what exactly is it? It is called rheum and is made up from mucus (called mucin), oil, skin cells and other stuff that, yes, does include dust. Not technically dust or at least not just dust. We produce this rheum all during the day but because we are asleep, it collects in the corner of our eyes.
If you only sleep for five minutes a month, this rheum doesn’t have opportunity to collect and it sure as hell won’t evolve into lumbering monsters. Whatever these monsters might be, they can’t just be mutated eye boogers. They must be something else but what? The Doctor has clearly scanned them with his sonic sunglasses, so he must see that they are made of the same stuff as the gunk we get in our eyes but that can’t be the whole story.
Remember me saying that Deep-Ando will be the first to be killed? He is killed first. Told you.
Rassmussen and the rest of the soldiers (and our heroes) explore Le Verrier, trying to avoid the Sandmen and the kitten’s litter tray. All is well until Le Verrier‘s gravity shields suddenly fail and the station starts dropping towards Neptune. And wouldn’t you know it, the Sandmen attack at the same time.
Rassmussen gets himself killed as the DOctor fixes the problem with double-backed plastic. The survivors skedaddle.
The Doctor, Clara and Nagata hiding in the kitchen fridge. But what about Chopra and 474 who thinks Chopra is rather dishy?
Chopra and 474 have repeated Deep-Ando’s mistake. But unlike him, they plan to get back to their ship. Good luck with that! 474 sacrifices itself for Chopra but he dies anyway a little later when a Sandman drops an anvil on his head. Poor Chopra and 474, they lived their lives like candles in the wind.
The Doctor is having better luck. He notices that the creatures seem to be blind. Using this blindness, he rescues Clara and Nagata. At least someone on this space station knows what they are doing.
Using his sonic sunglasses, the Doctor hacks into video signals which are weirdly beaming straight from the eyes of Clara and Nagata. But how can this be possible? Do they have CCTV cameras implanted in their eyes? The Doctor theorises that anyone who enters Morpheus is infected by the Sandmen’s cooties. These cooties then eat the victims from the inside out and turn them into shambling rheum monsters. Nice.
If what the Doctor says is true, how come the Sandmen are blind? Does the process of mutation take the eyes away? If so, how come the rheum is signalling visual film to someone else on the station? Why would monsters, who seem unthinkingly stupid, use people to film what they are seeing whilst being blind themselves? This makes no sense. There must be something else happening behind the scenes.
Thankfully for Clara and Nagata, the Doctor can reverse the rheum-possession. Probably. Maybe.
The Doctor, Clara and Nagata travel to the rescue ship to pick up Nagata’s Jimmy Nail music collection. Guess who they find in the ship? Yep, Gagan Rassmussen! This surprised me. Mainly because I was so caught up in the events of the story.
Rassmussen isn’t alone though. He has packed his suitcases and taken a Morpheus pod. The little devil. Inside this pod, he claims, is the first patient of his sleep-sapping process. This patient will be his Typhoid Mary, spreading the rheum to everyone. Today Triton, tomorrow the Solar System.
Old lovable Rassmussen tries to lock our heroes in the ship alongside Typhoid Mary who has now woken up and in need of a snack. But the Doctor throws a bucket of water over the beast and they all escape (except for the monster who dissolves into a puddle, it’s last words being, “I’ll get you and your little dog too!”)
Nagata plugs Rassmussen’s gulliver and deadens him. Such a sharp-shooter! Gagan dies for the second time.
The Doctor gets them back to the TARDIS but, like me, he wonders if everything that happened was part of a bigger plot, an orchestrated manipulation. After all, while some were killed, it didn’t feel like they were in real peril.
The TARDIS leaves and Le Verrier falls towards Neptune. The Sandmen will all be burnt to a crisp and their threat has been ended forever…or has it?
Nope, of course not! Rassmussen is still alive…surprise surprise. Gagan finally tells us the truth, he was a Sandman right from the beginning. He has made a stroy up of all the disparate video footage to form a story that, admittedly, barely works. It didn’t have to be a great stry, all it had to dop was hold the viewer’s attention while the Morpheus rheumy signal infected anyone watching the story. So anyone who watched Sleep No More has now got the Sandman mutation. Way to go, Doctor Who production team, you have just killed the four million who still tune in…
And then it was over and I looked at my clock and though, “Was that the full 45 minutes?” This story really seemed to much shorter than it actually is. This is a good thing because it shows how brilliant the story is. Not many TV shows or films engross me like a good book does. I almost felt like applauding Mark Gatiss for this story.
Unusually this episode did without the title sequence, instead plumping for a title screen. Not sure if I liked that but it isn’t much of a concern.
Peter Capaldi was excellent as normal. That scene with the psychic paper was great, watch i tagian and pay attention to his face. Loved it, loved it, loved it!
Not much I can say about the rest of the cast, not even Jenna Coleman. The way this story was written means that nobody really had a moment to shine or act their socks off. The found footage made for a more muted performance than normal. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoyed the story immensely but it did take a little away from the acting.
This is a great story. Possibly the best story this season. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this story. This is the one story that you can’t afford to miss, well, you can miss it but you will be missing a wonderfully written adventure, so don’t miss it!