Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review (or “Find Out If I Liked It In Real Time”)

Sunday, Nov 15 2015 – 16:29

So it’s 16:29 on Sunday and I still haven’t seen the newest episode of Doctor Who, Sleep No More.

“How is that even possible?”, I hear you ask.

Well it was my brother’s birthday meal last night and so I had to miss it. It means this is the first episode of Doctor Who I’ve missed on transmission day since my dad forgot to record episode four of Paradise Towers while I was at Beavers (a sort of Scouts for younger kids) back in October 1987.

And the strange thing is, my brother is more intensely interested in Doctor Who than I am, so I had to ask him why he had arranged a meal for that time.

The conversation went like this…

“You realise if we go out for a meal at that time, we’ll miss Doctor Who?”
“Yeah, but it’s the Mark Gatiss episode that night”.
“Oh, well fair enough then”.

Yes, that’s right, because this episode is penned by Mark Gatiss, I really couldn’t have given less of a toss about missing it.

Because – as long time readers of this blog will know – I think Mark Gatiss is crap.

Generally, his episodes – with the notable exception of Night Terrors – are average to poor, and are often comfortably the worst episode of each season. In the case of The Crimson Horror meanwhile, he was

Hey, it's a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

Hey, it’s a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

responsible for the worst Doctor Who story since the show came back, and in my opinion the third worst of all time. It was horrendous.

So it annoys me that this man continues to get to write for the show when I’m sure there are so many more talented writers out there who aren’t mates with the Producer or in with the bricks at Television Centre. No other writer gets to have interviews with the press to promote his stuff before it’s broadcast, no other writer – as far as I can tell – gets to cast his unsuitable mates in lead roles within the episode and no other writer would get chance after chance to come back again in spite of producing sub-standard writing. So why does Mark Gatiss?

Incidentally, you might get a chuckle to know that I recently found out that the man himself has blocked me on Twitter. Why? Well I’ve never tweeted him, so he must have either searched for his own name and found a tweet from me saying he was crap, or he’s read one of my reviews where I’ve said he’s crap. Either way, he must not have liked being called crap.

It’s my opinion though, and I think I’m fair in my criticisms.

But look, I haven’t even watched the episode yet, so for all I know it could be great and I’m putting the cart before the horse.

Then again, I did see a few tweets today from people saying “Well that was the worst in the series so far” and my dad – under the assumption I’d already seen it – asked me if it was a two-parter because it didn’t seem very clear.

So the warning signs are there.

Like I say though, I think I’m a fair-minded bloke, so I’ll watch the episode without prejudice and report back in an hour or so with my findings…

Sunday Nov 15 2015 17:47

What The Hell Was That?

Ok, I’m back…

For the first ten minutes of Sleep No More, I was busy trying to recite the recipe of Humble Pie in my head, because it seemed like it might actually be a good episode.

What the hell was that?!

What the hell was that?!

The story was set up well enough, even if it was a bit too expository for my tastes, but it was at least on the right track.

Then it all just went to shit.

Maybe I’m tired, but I lost the thread of it completely. The crew were devoured by sleep dust monsters, the ‘found footage’ wasn’t really found footage, the guy played by Mark Gatiss’s mate was actually the villain who was narrating it while events were going on and there was some kind of evil plan involving a guy who hadn’t been to sleep in five years?

It was not easy to follow or enjoy and it was summed up by the resolution being The Doctor running away shouting “It doesn’t make sense; none of this makes any sense”.

I think I’ve said before that Gatiss comes across as an ideas man rather than someone with the ability to make those ideas come to life reasonably on the page. Victory of the Daleks was just “Let’s redo Power of the Daleks” while the episode with Robin Hood was reasonable in theory. Here, he had a selection of ideas that aren’t bad, but he didn’t have the ability to string them together and make them work. Ideas were built up and then thrown out (such as devoting time to the Grunt which went nowhere) and others failed to click at all.

Really, it was just rubbish.

But are you surprised?

Let’s Give Credit To The Guys Who Make Peep Show

The main take home from Sleep No More though, as far as I’m concerned, is that I have a new-found appreciation for the actors in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show.

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

The style of Peep Show – in case you didn’t know – is that everything is filmed from a first person perspective, and the actors never look anything less than natural.

I don’t think you could say the same of the cast of Sleep No More.

You know I think Peter Capaldi is brilliant, but I thought he really struggled  to find his acting form when he was addressing the camera directly, and the rest of the cast were no better.

I would say it looked awkward, but I think the most appropriate thing to say about it is that it looked like the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the monitors in the queue for a theme park ride. It felt very ‘Hey kids, I’m The Doctor, and with your help, I can defeat these nasty sand monsters’.

Poor stuff.

Random Observations

  • I’m not just saying this because he’s Gatiss’s mate, but Reece Shearsmith was honking. Just an awful performance.
  • To go back to the problems with the writing, I thought that The Doctor managed to work a lot of things out without any explanation. Every time the plot needed advancing, he suddenly had all the solutions. It was like being at school and cheating on your maths homework by giving the answer but not showing your working.
  • This week’s fanwankery comes in the form of a ‘The Silurians Were Named Wrong’ reference. Yay.
  • How did Clara end up in that pod so quickly?
  • I wonder how much they had to pay for the use of the Mr. Sandman theme?
  • To go back to the direction, it was all over the place. For me, you either go all in or you don’t bother. There weren’t scenes in Cloverfield filmed ‘normally’; it was all about the lost footage. By switching back and forth in styles, it felt awkward.
  • At the end of the episode, I just sat there, opened mouthed, in awe of just how bad it was. The last scene in particular felt like he was trying to channel the last scene from Blink, and failing miserably.
  • The only thing I can say in a positive light is that I welcomed the return of the single part story.
  • My brother just told me that Dr Who fandom just let out a collective groan at the news that – against all sensible odds – Mark Gatiss will return to write another episode in Season 10. For fuck’s sake!!!!

Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review: Final Thoughts

I wanted to be proved wrong, but I wasn’t.

Once again Mark Gatiss has written the worst episode of the season.

Is anyone shocked?

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

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One Response to Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review (or “Find Out If I Liked It In Real Time”)

  1. Slavin says:

    Spot on. Possibly one of the most mind-screwy episodes of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. I was half expecting for the Doctor and Clara to suddenly wake up in the TARDIS and say: “Well, at least Santa didn’t bother to show up!”
    At least the ending was surprising due to there being no ending and no resolution.
    BTW, was I the only person who expected to see the familiar intro?
    I was like: “This teaser is getting longer and longer and that’s not a good thing”.
    All in all, a poorly written episode that doesn’t really feel fresh at all.
    Maybe it’s for the best that there’s not going to be a second part (I hope).
    🙂

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