Sleep No More

Oh bloody hell, sorry it’s been so long. Incredibly busy times at work before and after the festive break have lead to the biggest hold-up this project has ever suffered, and it’s so frustrating when I’m so close to the end. Unfortunately, things are going to be quite sporadic for the foreseeable – I will take this blog up to the end of the Moffat era, but it’s going to take me a while.

I promise that the delay had absolutely nothing to do with the episode that was waiting for me, although it was hardly a great incentive to get back at it. This stands out as the one truly duff moment in what is otherwise possibly my favourite series to date. I felt like I owed it a re-evaluation – after all, it’s always good to see Reece Shearsmith being an absolute shit, and the amount of twists and rug-pulls make it feel like Doctor Who‘s answer to Inside No 9.

Unfortunately, it’s not a very good answer. The found footage conceit is certainly interesting, but the execution is not quite good enough to justify how distracting it is. It seems like they stick to the rules in some scenes more than others, which comes across as slapdash. In retrospect, the little cheats and inconsistencies are clues that not all is as it seems, but on first watching it just looked like they were doing it really badly.

The reveal that there are no cameras helps a little bit, justifying the use of Clara’s POV that at first seemed baffling, but then moments after explaining that there’s no footage from Chopra’s POV because he didn’t use a sleep pod… they cut to Chopra’s POV. There’s a lack of clarity, and while I’m aware that a lot of it is deliberate in light of the twists, I’m not confident that all of it is.

The ridiculousness of monsters made out of eye gunk doesn’t help. As soon as we’re told what we’re dealing with, it’s instantly impossible to take seriously. It’s hard to know what to make of the ultimate reveal that this has all been a load of bollocks – Shearsmith was deliberately making a cheesy found footage horror film and he’d made the whole thing up. It seems like a slightly convenient excuse.

It is clever, granted, but as with a lot else in this episode, not quite good enough to compensate for its self-imposed limitations. It’s not quite as bad as I remembered on the whole, it’s just not particularly enthralling, and not as clever as it thinks it is. And the Doctor just shrugging and walking off is not a satisfying conclusion. A definite mis-step.


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