Dr. Who, Season 9, Sleep No More, Review

drwhoI’m writing this in response to the very disappointing reviews and output I’ve seen out there. It’s for Whovians, of course, but it does contain spoilers.

You’ve been warned.

A lot of people are upset about the writing for the 13th Doctor – and the actor. That, I don’t debate. A lot of people are disappointed in foolish changes like the sun glasses, and that, too, I don’t debate.

Yes, there is some lazy writing. No – I’m not dismissing a lack of creativity or problems with this season (and clearly, that is an issue) – but I’m trying to give the episode its full value. But – the use of a consistent theme is not out of line in this season. This Doctor is specifically trying to keep Clara Oswald occupied mentally – and he’s doing a great job of it. She wants adventure/edge of seat thrills, and he’s giving her those. So – it’s not really out of context or theme to have shows following this pattern. Some folks spent an exorbitant amount of time addressing the video perspective and the constantly sweeping angles … but apparently, those folks missed the fact that 1) people do that in real life, and 2) soldiers exploring a highly volatile area do that as well.

As for the episode itself – it wasn’t really lazy writing, nor was the episode boring. People were immediately turned off by the idea that sand from the eyes could take on life and become some sort of monster … but that’s just it – THAT NEVER HAPPENED. So – disappointment with sand monsters that don’t exist is a meaningless premise. People were turned off by what they thought was a boring episode – but the fact is – if you watch it … really watch it, from the beginning, it’s actually very clever.

We start out with a scientist trying to warn people not to watch the video. But, if you do – you’re going to be screwed so you better pay attention ’cause “then” you’ll need it to save your life.

There’s the rub that people seem to have missed: the broadcast carries a signal from the morpheus project designed to cause a fundamental change in brain. It spreads something … like a life force almost … in a unique way (which has been a theme throughout all of Dr. Who since, the beginning, and explains why the Doctor would be so adamant about destroying the morpheus sleep pods back on Triton). The only people whose lives will be saved, will be those who are infected, because they need to know that … the Doctor is coming!

Now … there’s a twist. At the very end, Rasmussen lets us know that this was all a really big drama, made-up adventure that didn’t exist. It was designed to satisfy a compulsory condition … whether it be gaming (which explains the introduction to the soldiers with a survival rating, ie. 9/10 for 474 and the file directories at the very beginning), or edge of seat television. This really hits home with that first person perspective, looking down the barrel of a gun. So – everything that happened wasn’t real. None of it took place.

Which means that the morpheus project as a “sleep deprivation” / REM state booster machine with self-actuating eye booger aliens … was just to distract us. There were several interesting things that happened:

The computer said that the crew had “reprogrammed” her and now they had to sing the sandman song to open doors and it was amusing. That’s not the sort of “joke playing” one would do with an entire space station of people … and it only happened to one soldier on one door. Everyone kept saying they felt as if they were being watched … which leads us to believe they were and that all of this was happening live … in a way.

They opened the freezer to hide inside and called the meat hanging there, “dead meat.” That was a uniquely unnecessary reference and unless that really is lazy writing – had more meaning. The fact that it was bleeding lead to some additional possibilities about the rest of the crew … which I’ll cover below.

drwhoclaraThe first person perspective was in color through the eyes of the people, but black and white through different perspectives throughout the ship. There were no cameras anywhere. At one point, it was suggested that the sand monsters were seeing only through the ship video – but then it was emphasized that the doctor figured out they were blind … so they couldn’t see – period. What is more plausible, is that Clara Oswald and the Doctor have been “borrowed” and used as part of this game/show or whatever it is and it’s not the sand in the eyes that sees – it’s what they see from their perspective in their minds. The fast paced camera and perspectives were actually very well done. I’ve watched through the episode repeatedly for mistakes – and there are none. What is interesting is that when the morpheus computer female head appeared, she was looking at the crew (it showed HER perspective) – as if this is a Red Queen/Resident Evil AI. But – also notice, that when she’s talking to them, 474 doesn’t, can’t, or won’t look at her … hmmm (funny how he knew one of the pods wasn’t empty, but wasn’t intelligent or tech savvy, and it could be that he was a plant, placed by Morpheus)?

The second weird twist at the end was Rasmussen demonstrating that he was a sand monster. At this point, he told us we could not unsee what we had seen – and frankly, I agree. He said it was too late and that having watched it, the morpheus signal had reached us and *poof* there was a tingle in the corner of our eye and we were infected. He pointed to the corner of the screen (not at “us”), to identify that were seeing, first person and that the screen was our eye. He then used manipulation as part of the morpheus project to tell us to show the video to friends and family, which I did … hmmm…. wonder if the brain washing worked … or I just like Dr. Who?

The most important line from Rsmussen was that he was going to transmit the video to the entire solar system. Now, think about the fact that Japan had some tectonic disturbances … and maybe only Japan moved to Titan, a moon of Saturn? Or. .. since Morpheus was only on Titan, all the Earth moved there (which was hinted at when the Doctor told Clara that there was a catastrophic event on Earth). So, why broadcast the message to the whole solar system..? Ahh…. remember, none of this is happening. If it is a ‘game,’ or a ‘show,’ then the message is being broadcast to Earth, space pirates, and others. And, from that we can possibly draw a conclusion similar to the possibility that Morpheus IS the game and it has become sentient, and/or there is an alien presence interacting with this virtual interface and spreading?

At the end, we hear the Doctor running away confused. But, what confused him wasn’t clear. He understood why gravity drug the sandmen down … hmmm. The pod traveling through the ship while the ship stating that it contained dangerous materials takes us back to the fact that 474 claimed that only one pod had people in it. Clearly … the other pods did have something in them. 474’s preoccupation with Chopra … the only one who did not partake of Morpheus … could also have a lot of potential value to it (unless this is lazy writing).

It’s important when Clara yells at Nagata when she shoots her gun (which is odd that nobody shoots their gun previously to that), and asks, “Is that your answer to everything?” Really? Why would you ask that if this was the one and only time this happened and the woman was desperate? This bridges us back to the missing pieces of video and other odd events like the gravity support system being yanked …

They were not the only ones on the ship. Remember the survival rating, out of 10? 4 soldiers + the Doctor + Clara = 6 (no, the scientist guy doesn’t count … remember … he was never really there, just a character who could die and easily come back). Who were the other 4? Well … the episode almost implies that you’re one of them … or perhaps the other 4 are the crew who were left behind trying to stop the monsters. How did they die? Monsters? Shot by soldiers? Part of the reason for the ‘dead meat’ comment in the freezer?

The Doctor asks Clara and Nagata what’s missing from the video feed he hijacked. And, while it’s true there are no cameras on the ship – something else is missing … it’s the first time that we, the audience, can see that the sand monsters are not actually there, either. He then happens to notice that something was recently unplugged and jumps to the conclusion that something’s been kept alive (which is nonsensical for the Doctor). This could be bad writing – but is far too intentional to just be bad writing and fits in with the rest of the intentionally awkward dialogue this episode.

THOSE are the exciting little tidbits that made this episode AWESOME.

No … this was not the best of Dr. Who. Honestly, it wasn’t the worst, either. But, it was creative and the writers having taken the time to start introducing some background stories to future alien characters is pretty fantastic. Rather than a two-parter that resolves ASAP, we may not see a resolution until the next Doctor or two.

As for some of the rather simplistic ways the characters talked and interacted – this would be easily justified by remembering … none of that happened the way we saw. The scientist added in certain elements and manipulated everyone. Why is that okay? Because, no matter who plays the role of the Doctor, one thing he hates is being manipulated and … well … to see how he will respond to that will be FANTASTIC (we’ve already seen them under the influence of a sleep bug with Santa in tow!!)! I will not be surprised if they are not hooked up to a machine or under the influence of … something. Notice how the people of the “future” were referring to the gods as gods (and both the soldiers and computer saying “May the gods smile upon you”) … or saying things like “all hail morpheus” (which is odd that the guy who sat up from a morpheus bed at the beginning said that right away as if Morpheus is a leader of some sort .. and this is the alien species that the “morpheus” project is about). Those are important lines that remind us that something is intentionally out of context.

Now, having thrown all of this out at you: NOTHING YOU SAW HAPPENED THE WAY YOU THINK YOU DID. When the Doctor gets aboard the rescue ship, the video we saw playing at the beginning was being transmitted already. The Doctor even says that he had to establish his alibi (which, the term ‘alibi’ is never fully explained yet since an alibi is a reasonable excuse for being elsewhere to avoid an accusation, like killing whatever was bleeding in the freezer!). So, was Rasmussen (the real Rasmussen), already gone? How did he put together the video we’re seeing now? Is the whole thing starting to come together for you now?

Is this all just manipulation and not really happening? Is Rasmussen a time traveler … who has been, “working on morpheus for a very, long time?” We know that the Rasmussen aboard the ship is only copying from the doctor when he says they are evolving … which leads us back to the idea that their minds are being manipulated. Wasn’t Clara drug into the morpheus capsule conveniently fast? Because … they aren’t physically there. The whole thing is like, as the Doctor says, a story. A story that has to do with Morpheus.

In fact … paying attention to this episode could save your life …

Especially if you thought it was a bad episode. Why?

Because there’s value in recognizing that everything is out of context, intentionally mundane and/or derivative, and that there is something “wrong.” If the entire adventure comes from the minds of Clara and the Doctor, it would explain it being so similar to other episodes and would explain what otherwise seems like lazy writing. Your love of Dr. Who could very well be saved by recognizing the deeper, background story line …

Oh, and by the way … wasn’t it “obvious” that the whole episode was about sleep, that the monsters were made of sleep sand, and that everything is out of context and in some ways appears contrived or boring?

The whole thing’s a dream … of sorts, and Morpheus – is our new bad guy!

Of course, if I wasn’t annoying enough – I’m going to twist everything around on you one, more time …

We know how the Doctor shows up to certain places because he receives a message. So … it is possible (and this is only a stretch) – that this is the message the Doctor received in the Tardis, that brought him to this space station in the first place, and infected him… and, the Doctor showed the video to Clara because Morpheus has infected him. The whole thing was a trap for the Doctor. What? Seeing himself seems out of context? Really? For a time traveler? Especially for a time traveler who sent himself an anonymous message to break into a bank?

Oh the possibilities.

Reality is an illusion, the Universe is a hologram, buy gold!”

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