Doctor Who: 9.9 Sleep No More Review

Doctor Who/Cloverfield/Mass Effect/Fallout/Space Odyssey/Amnesia the Dark Descent/Jurassic Park.

“Look, I know I’ve done the whole clueless group of scientists/soldiers trapped in cramped corridors with an alien threat chasing them before…” says Doctor Who. “But I want to try something new.”

“Yeah?” I sigh. “Go on then.”

“Great!” Says Doctor Who. “Here, wear this.”

“A helmet with a Go-Pro on? What do I need this for?” I ask as I buckle the strap under my chin.

“This!” Says Doctor Who brightly, and then shoves me out head first into highway traffic.
How can I describe this week’s episode? While I was watching it, it went through various stages. “This is like Doctor Who meets Cloverfield.” I joked to my friend. But as the episode went on, I had to add more things to the list, until we ended up with Doctor Who/Cloverfield/Mass Effect/Fallout/Space Odyssey/Amnesia the Dark Descent/Jurassic Park. But that is in no way a bad thing. In fact, all of these elements pulled together in what was easily one of the best episodes of the entirety of the show. Did I enjoy it as much as last week’s? No, but I’m the kind of person that can really go for highly tense emotional drama, and that doesn’t mean I don’t know a masterpiece when I see one. And really, the brilliance was all in the framework of this episode, rather than in the actual content itself.

The premise of this episode was beautifully set, with the use of classic first person viewpoints that you see a lot in horror. And it was used really well, because rather than being frightened by the great lumbering monsters with holes for faces, I was spooked by them. And for me, being rattled by something to the point where I’m second guessing everything that might be coming next is a much more satisfying and fun way to be scared. The trick to that is the age old lesson of “the less you see it, the scarier it is”, and Doctor Who, surprisingly, actually paid attention to already accepted conventions that work well in television. Admittedly I saw more of the monsters of this episode then I would have really liked to, but the essence was still there and like I say – I ain’t gonna slam the Mona Lisa just because I’m more of a Monet girl. And that ending. Bloody hell. I was leaning away from the screen as though Reese Shearsmith was going to come out and get me.

As for the characters in this episode, they were alright. I mean, they were essentially only the painting set in the most beautiful and golden frame I ever did see in my life. I wasn’t in it for them, really, nor did I feel like I was really rooting for them to trick the monsters and get out of there alive. But do I really mind that that was missing for me? No, not really, because I was far more interested in what this episode was actually trying to tell me. If we’re still talking hypothetical painting viewing at the hypothetical museum, it was as though all the characters were stood in the way of my viewing of the painting we’d all come to see. Look at this character drama! The episode said, and I was out of my seat hissing at them to move so I could watch the camera usage properly. Maybe that should bother me more than it does, but the way the format of this episode was playing with my mind was far too good to ignore. And besides, having watched as much of this show as I have, when I see a group of scientists or soldiers being chased by something the lines blur until they’re wearing red shirts and I lose interest in caring about them.

In short, if you like the way that the format of your show is up there with every other active element in the narrative, you’ll love this one. If you’re more about character, then it’s pretty average. But for me, this was an absolute treat. Play more mind games with me, Doctor Who, and we’ll start getting along again.
“But do not throw me into traffic any more, please.” I manage as Doctor Who pulls off my helmet. “What have you got planned next, anyway?”

“You ever read Harry Potter?”

“I was an English nineties baby. Of course I’ve read Harry Potter.

“Okay. Just checking. Duck, by the way.”

“Duck?” I ask, and the last thing I see is a raven flying full force at my face.

Image courtesy of BBC

Nicola Peard

Nicola is a creative writing student based in London. When she’s not very hard at work on all the writing business, she’s playing video games, reading about video games, writing about video games and making videos about video games with her pals at Clever Girl Gaming. She also procrastinates on an Olympic level, and is sure you’ve got something you should be doing too.