Doctor Who: Sleep No More Review (Spoiler Free)

Doctor Who's first found footage, written by Mark Gatiss, is ambitious, tight, and another real departure from the rest of series 9...

Wisely, following the terrific Zygon two-parter that we’ve just had, Doctor Who series 9 has now veered off once more in a completely different direction. As such, Sleep No More plays with structure, story and format. It’s a found footage episode, anchored by guest star Reece Shearsmith, from the pen of Mark Gatiss.

The basic setup sees the Doctor and Clara land on the Le Verrier Space Station. It would be fair to say that said Space Station has seen much better times, and the mystery here is for the Doctor to uncover just what’s happened.

In doing so, Doctor Who presents its first ever found footage episode. In fact, writer Mark Gatiss argues that television hasn’t really done found footage before. He clearly has fun with it, too, playing with perspectives of the characters and gradually dropping more and more clues as to just what’s gone on before we arrive at Le Verrier.

It’s a very disciplined episode, this, with Gatiss careful to tell the story from individual characters’ point of view, and not cheating his way out of corners. Director Justin Molotnikov too keeps a tight, claustrophobic tone to what’s before his camera. The trade off is it’s sometimes quite tricky to work out just what’s happening, and going on. But conversely, there’s also something really quite magnetic about Peter Capaldi and Reece Shearsmith looking straight down the camera at you, and delivering their lines.

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Sleep No More is a little scary, and very much in keeping with the horror undertones that have been found in many of the episodes this series. That said, for me, this one didn’t really gel. Appreciating that found footage is novelty on the small screen, it isn’t on the big one, and I wonder if I’ve sat through too many movies that deploy similar tactics for Sleep No More to really work for me.

I very much warmed to the boldness, and the commitment to what Gatiss and Molotnikov have tried to do here, and Reece Shearsmith is a very welcome guest star. Furthermore, Gatiss’ wit shines through to punctuate the horror. But come the end credits, the final result didn’t feel that satisfying to me I’m afraid. There are positives, certainly, and much to talk about when we get to the spoiler-review.

Sleep No More, though, takes an ambitious shot, but doesn’t quite hit the target. That’s a far better state of affairs than taking the safe route, mind…