Previously on Doctor Who, ‘The Zygon Inversion’
A found-footage episode, “Sleep No More” was penned by Mark Gatiss, better known as Mycroft from Sherlock to some. Urging us to pay attention, a scientist named Rassmussen narrates from Le Verrier Space Station orbiting Neptune, introducing a crew sent to rescue him—Nagata (yet another female commander); Chopra, bit of a whiner; Haruku Deep-Ando, more gung-ho; and the simpleton 474, a bred hybrid “grunt.” He advises not to get attached to them as they board the empty station and overhear the Doctor and Clara. Assessing the situation, the Doctor jokingly sing-songs “paranoia” at Clara. The spying camera angle and crew adds creepiness to their familiar banter.
Thanks to the psychic paper, the Doctor and Clara are dubbed “Engineering Stress Assessors.” Joining the crew, he pulls out an old trick—holding up a wet finger to determine they’re in the 38th century on a Tuesday, on an Indo-Japanese station resulting from “the Great Catastrophe” in which “India and Japan… sort of merged.” Drama erupts when 474 accidentally overreacts and nearly hurts Chopra, revealing this century’s propensity for growing ambiguously-gendered cannon fodder. Charming. Moaning interrupts.
Doctor: “Hold my hand.”
Clara: “I’m ok.”
Doctor: “But I’m not.”
A monstrous sand creature like The Thing barrels down the hallway, splitting the group from Deep-Ando and driving them into a lab where the creature’s arm dissolves into sand as they shut the door, leaving only dust motes. Deep-Ando calls for help, wishing, “May the gods look favorably upon you.” But the two parties can’t connect.
When Clara and Chopra locate Morpheus sleep pods, the Doctor swaggers by, mouthing “Wow” at her with the too-hot hands as she leans against them. Perhaps a little 11th Doctor peeking out? Wires from the Morpheus machine suddenly drag her in and holographic singers pop up singing “Mr Sandman.” The Doctor opens it to find her covered in monitor cords, asleep, explaining the pods are semi-sentient and sensed her need to sleep. Opening the final pod, they find Rassmussen.
A holographic advertisement explains that Morpheus concentrates “the sleep experience” of one month chemically into 5 minutes so you can keep “working, working, working.” Are you sure this isn’t the 21st century?
“Leave the Rip Van Winkles behind and become one of a new generation of Wide Awakes.”
The Doctor peers into Clara’s eyes as Rassmussen claims Morpheus as his own invention, changing the brain chemistry forever. Naturally, not all look as favorably upon this as Nagata and everyone on Triton; Chopra protests the practice as colonizing sleep. And yet you have soldier slaves. Ok.
Unimpressed, the Doctor quotes Macbeth:
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds,
Chief nourisher in life’s great feast.
He congratulates Rassmussen on his abomination, theorizing that that the process creates monsters of concentrated, carnivorous sleep dust which digested the space station crew and refuses to leave until the dust and the machines are destroyed.
Elsewhere in a literal nightmare scenario, Deep-Ando tries to swipe into an empty room, but the computer, reprogrammed by the delirious crew to request the “station song,” calls him silly and won’t open. Finally, as the sleep dust monsters close in, he sings enough bars of “Mr Sandman” to unlock the door. But it’s not enough, and he’s killed.
Meanwhile the gravity shields begin to go down, so the Doctor puts himself in charge as usual.
Nagata: You have no authority!
Doctor: No, but… I’m in charge.
As the station drifts dangerously toward Neptune, a dust creature breaks in and consumes Rassmussen, scattering the group into two halves—Chopra and 474 into the hallway and the rest into cold storage.
Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more.
Macbeth shall sleep no more.
The Doctor lectures the camera that sleep is essential, blessed, and keeps us “safe from the monsters inside,” wondering why it attacked Rasmussen personally. He begrudgingly accepts Clara’s nickname “Sandmen,” then lets the creatures into the freezer while they hide in meat bags. Realizing the Sandmen can’t see, they rush out as he theorizes that the “cameras” are actually the dust motes in the air and in the altered Morpheus users including Clara.
While Chopra and 474 are cornered and killed by the Sandmen, the Doctor, Clara, and Nagata return to the rescue ship to find Rassmussen narrating the video, his alibi. He monologues that the Sandmen are superior life forms, his children, deserving of human food; he claims they spared him in exchange for helping them spread to the surface via patient zero. He releases the pod lock and shuts the door while he finishes the video. Of course it’s the Doctor and Clara Oswald, so they escape and Nagata shoots Rassmussen seemingly before he’s able to send the message.
Running to the TARDIS, the Doctor continues puzzling over why all of this seems too scripted. He destroys the gravity fields so his party can make it past the Sandmen surrounding the TARDIS; they dissolve into sand, moaning, while he screams, “None of this makes any sense!!!” I’ll say.
Plot twist! Rassmussen finishes the video saying the Morpheus signal has evolved to the point of being contained in the video itself—there is no patient zero nor is there any Rassmussen anymore. Transmitting the video into the universe, he rubs a hole in his sandy eye, urging us to show the video to everyone as he dissolves, so “we can all be togetharrrrrr.”
“Excuse me… you’ve got something… there… just in the corner of your eye. MWAHAHAHA.”
Literally, he villain laughs. Now, as much as I have loved this season, this episode was not my favorite. While I enjoyed the dust-as-perspective and the video being a The Ring source of infection, congealed sleep boogers don’t exactly inspire fear. Further, anyone who distills sleep into 5 minutes is clearly a monster. Sleep is the best! The Doctor’s statement about sleep keeping our inner monsters contained was more poignant than Fatal Conjunctivitis, especially since we never quite understand how it works. Unlike the horrifyingly illustrated Cyberman conversion among the many Whovian monsters, we’re left wondering if the sentient sleep booger congeals inside the person and overtakes them or inside the machine, lurching out to consume humans when it’s large enough. Either way, it doesn’t seem to conform to any logic, along with the rest of the episode.
If it’s made of dust and mucus, why does it dissolve into sand?
If the video signal went out, does this mean The Boogers are coming for all of us?
Will more Boogers appear in other stories?
If the Daleks and a Sleep Booger had a baby, would it be a Hate Booger?
It’s all a bit silly. Even more disappointingly, it doesn’t seem to play into the season arc, unless the 30 seconds Clara spent in the Morpheus chamber somehow permanently alters her brain chemistry, making her incompatible with TARDIS travel or something. Wouldn’t that be the greatest injustice of all, to end your tenure as companion due to being turned into a Space Booger? But seriously, that won’t happen. Which means… NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE! Pretty sad for the first stand-alone episode this season. There are a few vague doom-and-gloom questions of humanity looming in the background. For one, in a society seemingly so religious with its Hunger Games-like exhortation, “May the gods look favorably upon you,” one wonders where they lost the morality clause on creating human beasts of burden. It’s also somewhat chilling to imagine a catastrophe geographically slamming Japan and India together. But, since the episode doesn’t seem to care about that, why should we?
* This was the first episode not to play the credits and theme song.
* The Great Catastrophe was first referred to in the 1984 episode Frontios
* “It’s like the Silurians again.” Regarding the naming of the creatures, the Doctor complains of a Classic Who problem in which Silurians and Homo reptilian were mis-labeled as the same species as humans.
* 474 is portrayed by Bethany Black, the first openly trans actor to appear on Doctor Who.
* Reece Shearsmith, Rassmussen, previously portrayed Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor, on An Adventure in Space and Time
* Sleep No More is taken from Act II of Macbeth
* Add two more swears of “bloody” to the TARDIS Swear Jar.
Next time: Riggsy and Diagon Alley
Doctor Who S9E9
While I enjoyed the non-verbal signals vibing between the Doctor and Clara and the utterly cool looseness of Capaldi’s portrayal, unfortunately, the Women in Power thematic elements and familiarly-blended crew along with inventive perspective were not enough to push this episode to the top. There was precious little character development for anyone, even Clara and the Doctor. While clearly attempting to join the Whovian pantheon of vilified everyday actions like blinking, breathing, etc., Sleep No More falls short in making sleeping, working too late, and sleep boogers terrifying. However, I am now fairly creeped out by 50s music. Congratulations?