This Week’s Doctor Who Wants Us To “Sleep No More”

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC-

Sometimes it is helpful to remember that for all it’s worldwide, mass appeal Doctor Who is supposed to be, at its heart, a kid’s show. Which is why tonight’s episode probably terrified younger viewers. For the older viewers though it should have sufficiently persuaded us to get a little more shut-eye. In the first proper stand-alone episode of Series 9 the Doctor and Clara face off against some scary Sandmen and learn the true horrors when you “Sleep No More.”

Here be monsters: We start with a warning from Professor Rassmussen, not to watch the following footage. He’s pieced it together for us from various recordings so we can understand what happened. His space station went silent 24 hours ago, and all of the crew save himself is dead. A rescue team lands consisting of outspoken Chopra, Commander Nagata, jokester Deep-Ando, and 474, a grunt grown for brute force and not much else. Pretty quickly they happen upon Clara and the Doctor who pass themselves off as engineers thanks to the psychic paper. Also, pretty quickly they all encounter a group of monsters, which Clara will later name the Sandmen, and make a run for it. Deep-Ando gets separated while the others barricade themselves inside a lab, cutting off one of the creatures’ arms in the process.

All work and no sleep: The Doctor uses the lab to analyze the dust left behind by the Sandman’s arm. It consists of skin and blood cells. Clara accidentally gets dragged into a sleep pod and is immediately rescued by the Doctor, but now we finally learn about Morpheus, a type of artificial sleep. Rassmussen emerges from another pod, having hidden there from the monsters, and explains Morpheus allows you the benefits of 24 hours of sleep with only 5 minutes in the pod. The Doctor and Clara are both disgusted by the creation. It’s decided they need to destroy the monsters and find Deep-Ando, who has actually already been killed.

Dust to dust: So the Doctor’s theory on the Sandmen is this: they’re created from the sleep dust you wipe away from your eyes every morning. The more you use Morpheus, the more dust builds up until it molds itself into a humanoid form. No one looks like they believe this theory, and I can’t blame them, but hey this is Doctor Who. Anyway, they’re in the mess hall when the gravity shields fail and the station starts plummeting towards Neptune. The Sandmen burst in and devour Rassmussen before the Doctor is able to fix the gravity. Chopra and 474 escape in one direction while Nagata, Clara, and the Doctor lock themselves in the freezer. Later, 474 sacrifices her life to save Chopra from an on board fire only for Chopra to die while trying to reach the rescue ship.

Eye in the sky: Realizing the creatures can’t see, the Doctor lets them in and the trio quietly slips out behind them to make for the engine room. He uses the sonic sunglasses to play the footage of their entire adventure but there’s a problem; the crew doesn’t have helmet cameras. In fact there are no cameras on the whole station. So where is all the footage coming from? The dust is recording it. And anyone who has ever used Morpheus, even Clara, is acting as a recorder as well. They’re being slowly changed into something else. And the Doctor knows who is responsible.

Sand gets in your eye: Professor Rassmussen is alive and bonkers on the rescue ship. He’s embraced the Sandmen as a new, better life form and is ready to offer up the human race as a food source. During all the adventuring he transported a Sandman to take to Neptune with him. Nagata has had it, so she shoots him while the three survivors run for the TARDIS. Sandmen surround them, forcing the Doctor to kill the grav shields, which destroys the monsters and helps himself, Clara, and Nagata reach the TARDIS. They fly away, presumably to Neptune to destroy Morpheus for good. But, Rassmussen has had another plan all along. He’s still alive because he’s one of the Sandmen. The recording was prepared in advance and has been added to as a manufactured story to keep us all watching. Morpheus works by sending out an electronic signal to your brain and that signal is contained in the recording. He’s beaming the footage to the entire solar system to turn everyone into a Sandman too. So basically, have fun going to sleep – never.

Who Notes 

  • So this was essentially “Blink” and “Flesh and Stone,” but with Sandmen and sleep right?
  • The Doctor, summing up my thoughts on this episode: “It doesn’t make sense, none of this makes any sense.”
  • Very much of note: Bethany Black as 474, is the first transgender person to appear in Doctor Who.
  • Nagata: “Who the hell do you think you are?”
    The Doctor: “Me? I’m in charge.”
    Nagata: “You have no authority.”
    Doctor: “No, but I’m in charge.”
    #that’s the show
  • The Doctor: “Sandmen?”
    Clara: “Yeah, it’s a good name. It fits, like the song.”
    The Doctor: “No, no, you don’t get to name things. I’m the Doctor. I do the naming.”
    Clara: “Fine, sorry.”
    The Doctor: “This is like the Silurians all over again…”
    Clara: “Ok, well, what would you prefer? The Dust Men?”
    The Doctor: [long pause] “Sandmen.”
  • Shipper corner:
    • The Doctor: “But sleep is vital. Sleep is wonderful. Even I sleep.”
      Clara: “When?”
      Doctor: “Oh, when you’re not looking.”
    • The Doctor: “Hold my hand.”
      Clara: “I’m okay.”
      The Doctor: “I’m not.” [reaches out]
      Clara: [takes his hand]

Warning: next week is going to be rough. This recap will be covered with my tears.

Stephanie Coats
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