Our round table panelists were definitely not feeling this episode. How about you?
Did you miss the Doctor Who theme? Was the use of the "found footage" format fun or annoying as hell? And where did Mark Gatiss come up with the idea for eye-booger monsters? Was the prolific writer's latest effort clever or just plain snooze-worthy?
TV Fanatic writers Kathleen Wiedel, and Hank Otero plus our pals Tom Gardiner of threeifbyspace.net and Zach Wilson, host of AfterBuzzTV's Doctor Who after show, answer all this and more in our Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 9 Round Table discussion...
Did you enjoy the "found footage" gimmick? Share your thoughts on the missing Doctor Who theme/intro.
Kathleen: While it's nice to switch things up now and then, I've never been a huge fan of "found footage" style. Here, I just found it confusing and distracting, particularly since the perspective kept changing. Interestingly, it did work for me in "The Last Day," the 3-minute minisode shown from the first-person perspective of a Gallifreyan soldier at the Fall of Arcadia.
Zach: Didn't like it. I'm very tired of the found footage style unless it finds a unique way to reinvent it. This episode tried to do that by making it video that Rassmussen had made, but the twist that there were no cameras and that it was all from the dust was confusing at best. As for the theme, I actually didn't even notice that it wasn't there. It's become somewhat of a regular thing for shows to do when they have an extra-long run time, so I guess I'm used to it.
Tom: I've hated "found footage" ever since I tried sitting through Paranormal Activity and just couldn't do it. (Think washing a cat with ice water. That's pretty much how I reacted to watching that film.) This episode did nothing to change my mind. It didn't help that the entire episode seemed disjointed and incomplete with a thoroughly unsatisfying ending. I thought the lack of the traditional opening meant something special was in store for us, but I found this episode to be one of the most disappointing ever. It really needs to be revisited to tie up loose ends, and the entire episode was a bundle of them, but since I disliked it so much I don't really care if they go back. They should just bury this one and forget about it. Sometimes dead is better.
Hank: That's great Tom, "Sometimes dead is better." I didn't hate it that much, but as I mentioned in my Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 9 review it was a tad too ambitious. I thought the backstory Gatiss developed for the characters was more interesting than the events taking place. For me, the "found footage" thing was different for Who, but it has been overused lately. Honestly, the format didn't contribute much other than to shake things up and confuse the hell out of us. The twist that the dust was delivering the video feed was bizarre. Yeah, this was a strange one and I missed the Who theme tremendously.
Rassmussen was clearly off his rocker. Was it too obvious from the start he was our villain?
Kathleen: For me, it painfully obvious Rassmussen was a villain. Of course, I've been watching cop shows almost as long as I've been watching Doctor Who, so perhaps my perspective is a little... skewed.
Zach: Yes. Literally the instant we see him on screen, I knew he wasn't a good guy. If the "last man standing" is anyone but the Doctor or a companion during a base-under-siege episode, there's very little chance they're a good character.
Tom: The well-intentioned scientist who's gone mad from too many years spent lost in his own research is as tired a trope as found footage, and said scientist is almost always villainous in some way. So, yes, it couldn't have been more obvious if he had "BAD GUY" tattooed on his forehead. And that was a real shame because Reece Shearsmith is brilliant and he deserved much better. He also needs eyewear that doesn't look like it came straight out of an 80s music video. I still can't get all those damned A Flock of Seagulls songs out of my head. Thanks, stupid glasses.
Hank: Same here guys, I knew pretty early on that Rassmussen was our villain which took away from the big reveal. As Zach mentioned, if he's the "last man standing" chances are the guy killed everyone else off. The found footage format ruined its own twists and turns if you ask me.
What did you think of the sand-men and the fact they were made from "sleep dust"? Did they scare you?
Kathleen: Doctor Who has a long history of turning everyday objects, concepts, and even phrases into nightmare-inducing monsters ("Hey, who turned out the lights?"). Unfortunately, it just didn't work here. I felt myself yawning, ironically.
Zach: Yeah, Kathleen is pretty spot on here. This was an interesting idea and could have been something scary if it had been executed better or perhaps if I understood and feared these creatures even slightly more. As it was, I didn't even quite understand how they killed people. Did they beat them? Suck out their souls? Asphyxiate them with sand?
Tom: You'd think these guys would be scary as hell. Just look at them! But somehow they just weren't all that menacing. Oh, and can someone please explain to me why they seemed almost indestructible, but when the localized gravity increased by what appeared to be only a few percent they just fell apart? Hell, simple momentum from swinging their arms would've created stronger forces than that, but did they crumble then? Noooo! Also, there seemed to be an obvious lack of shooting considering most of the characters were armed rescuers. At one point, one of them attacked those snot-gobs using the gun as a CLUB! Methinks someone didn't read the directions on the gun box. Even in the 38th century I'm pretty sure guns are still point-and-click, not grab-the-barrel-and-swing-for-the-fences.
In the spirit of full disclosure, the snotmonsters did gross me out a lot. I mean, I have an aversion to anything made from boogers, no matter the orifice from which they emerged. If you want to stop me, show me anything made from a booger and I'm done. Place a line of boogers in the driveway and it's as good as an invisible fence to me. I won't cross it or even go near it. The only booger I've ever loved was in "Revenge of the Nerds". Make an army of Curtis Armstrongs and I'll hug those boogers until boogers come out of them.
Hank: Tom that answer was probably better than this entire episode hahaha! Thanks for the laugh man. Look, the things were cool visually and the idea was interesting as Zach mentioned, but snot-monsters? Talk about scraping the bottom of the cool creature barrel. If we get a poop beast next, I'm out you guys! Eye-booger monsters probably looked really good on paper. By the way, they didn't scare me for a second.
Mark Gatiss has penned some wonderful Doctor Who episodes. How does "Sleep No More" measure up?
Kathleen: Found footage + yawn-inducing monster + The Ring = ...wait, hang on. Given the (extremely) unreliable narrator nature of the story, did this episode even happen? Where's Mycroft Holmes, maybe he can tell me...
Zach: This ranks among the bottom episodes of modern Who as a whole for me, let alone just for Mark Gatiss. "Cold War" is a truly great base-under-siege episode that blends the classic structure with a strong geo-political element built in. "Robot of Sherwood" was a well constructed bit of fun, and say what you will about the iDaleks, but I genuinely enjoy "Victory of the Daleks" every time I watch it. I don't have any plans to revisit this episode.
Tom: Gatiss is a great storyteller and his Who episodes set in Earth's past are always delightful, but I'm afraid he doesn't have a penchant for telling tales set in the future, at least judging by this effort. As Zach said, and as I mentioned in my first answer, this is one of the worst episodes of Doctor Who I can remember. Bear in mind I have trouble remembering last Tuesday. After watching "Sleep No More" I'm kind of glad my memory's not very good. I need to forget this one, pronto.
Hank: Wowza, there's no doubt you guys seriously hated this puppy. I have to agree though, all the episodes that Zach mentioned were phenomenal. We're only human, so Gatiss is allowed to screw up from time to time. Perhaps he was drunk or stoned out of his mind writing this particular adventure. Like Zach, I don't think I'll be revisiting "Sleep No More" in the near future. Watching it twice to write my review was more than enough, thanks.
Clara's life was once again threatened via the Morpheus pod. Are you now prepared for Jenna Coleman's exit?
Kathleen: Mr. Moffat's messing with us again. I can just see imagine writers' meeting before the season began: "Welcome to Doctor Who! Now, I know you all have different ideas for episodes this season, but you are all required to put Clara Oswald in mortal peril at least once per episode, so I can do a massive fake-out and have her go off on her own adventures at the end of the season!"
Zach: I've said it before and I'll say it again, it seems highly unlikely that Class is NOT a Jenna Coleman vehicle. Otherwise, why have we seen ZERO info on characters? Rule #1: Moffat lies. It also seems almost ridiculous at this point how close Clara keeps coming to death. And we need to assume there's a reason for this. I've been prepared for her exit since last Xmas when she was supposed to leave. I'm ready to just get to it already and get some new companions in here. #WeWantStormageddon
Tom: Kathleen took the words right out of my mouth, which, incidentally, is pretty gross since they have spit all over them. She and Zach are thinking what I've been wishing since I heard about "Class" - that it'll be a starring vehicle for Jenna Coleman and something to carry on in the spirit of "The Sarah Jane Adventures." Coleman would be absolutely perfect for the role.
That said, why in the heck is Coleman getting so little to do this year? And when she's given something to do it's not always very meaty. She was missing from a lot of this episode. Last season, Clara experienced major, MAJOR character building. Now, it's as if Moffat is content to sit back and let her character bobble around in the background until she exits. I'm not liking the way she's being handled this season.
I guess I can't be too upset about this episode, since I think it's the first real misstep of the season.
Hank: I've mentioned before I don't understand why Coleman has been given so little to do this year. Tom, I don't get it either. Why keep her around for one last run if you're going to waste her in the background like this. Even Maisie Williams' character has had more to do and we've only seen her twice. As far as being prepared for Jenna Coleman's exit, yep I totally am. I feel like, "Put the poor woman out of her misery already." Not that I won't miss Jenna Coleman terribly because I will, but I'm also ready to meet the next companion. Get on with it Moffat!
NOTE: Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 10 is titled "Face The Raven" and airs on Saturday, November 21.