This review contains spoilers.
The story arcs in the last few seasons of Doctor Who have been weak and lacked direction. So when it became apparent that season 9 was going to be comprised almost entirely of two-part serial episodes, I was somewhat relieved. If we couldn’t have a cohesive storyline across an entire season then we could at least have one across two episodes, right? So far it’s been working fantastically. And then came Sleep No More, the first standalone episode this season. It was underwhelming, to say the least.
For some reason, this episode kept being advertised across various mediums as a ‘spooky treat’. Instead of being remotely scared, I found myself bored for the majority of the episode and just plain confused for about five minutes.
I quite like found footage stories and piecing things together but this episode (even with the explanation at the end) did not work for me. Mostly because the flaws in the episode were not only acknowledged but made even more awkward. Why let people assume that there are cameras when it could instead be creepy sleep dust spores spying on everyone?
There were almost two redeeming features to this episode. The first was the diversity of the cast, which featured two Asian characters, a female commander, and Doctor Who’s first ever transgender actress. The almost redeeming feature was the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. I’m not fully committed to declaring this a redeeming feature on its own because it’s once again toeing the line between a platonic and romantic relationship and I haven’t worked out yet whether this is fan-baiting.
I don’t know what else to say about this episode. I’ve seen a few people saying that if you understand the premise of Sleep No More then you’ll love it. Some of those people are even saying that this episode was genius. I understood it. I just didn’t like it. And I didn’t think the explanation was adequate. In my opinion, it’s the first truly bad episode of this season. It felt rushed, confused and like it was trying too hard to be clever.
The episode ended with a seeming threat to all humanity. There seems to be no follow-up or elaboration on this. There’s no word on whether the Doctor, Clara and Nagata returned to Earth to find it in utter turmoil, making it seem like this whole episode was a practical joke with no consequences.
If this had been the first part of a serial, it might have worked better. A perplexing beginning could have developed into something truly magical and maybe even something that was actually scary rather than walking eye boogers that kept collapsing when it came time for them to commit any villainous acts. In the end, the Doctor summed it up, ‘It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes any sense.’
The preview for next week had me more interested than the entirety of Sleep No More, as it heralds the return of Ashildr and what looks like the beginning of the end for Clara. Here’s hoping that Face the Raven, the only other standalone episode of the season, is a vast improvement on this week’s instalment.