Mark Gatiss’s latest contribution to the Doctor Who canon is a ‘found footage’ episode. When effectively used in the genre, found footage and horror are a marriage made in heaven. Gagan Rasmussen’s nervous explanation, sans the opening credits and set to the menacing, far-off cries of monsters, set the tone and pace for the story perfectly. While Sleep No More didn’t quite deliver the horror high-notes it promised (although there may have been some children hiding behind couches), there were a lot of interesting, discomfiting and creepy elements explored.
Don’t Get Too Attached
Morpheus, Morpheus, Morpheus… Sleep’s the one thing left to us. The one thing they couldn’t get their filthy mitts on. Now, they’re even grabbing that! Colonising it.
This brief sequence introduced many significant aspects of the story by way of introducing us to the crew. Chopra begins with a diatribe against the still-mysterious Morpheus. We are introduced the commander, Nagata, to Deep-Ando, the ‘joker’ of the group, and the ‘Grunt’ 474. Chopra’s choice of the word ‘colonising’ is the key, yet he makes no secret of his xenophobic disdain for 474. 474’s origins provide one of the nastier elements of 38th century life.
They never put the word “space” in front of something just because everything’s all sort of hi-tech and future-y. It’s never “space restaurant” or “space champagne” or “space”…you know…”hat”. It’s just “restaurant”, “champagne” or “hat”. Even if this was a restaurant…
There were few comic moments to be had, but it is difficult to choose betwwen ‘space hats’ and “Engineering stress assessors”.
While Sleep No More embodies classic horror and siege themes, some of the underlying commentary on progress and industrialisation are even darker. ‘Grunts’ are cloned muscles, ‘grown’ in hatcheries to provide the government with instant armies – creatures created to attack and kill. Clara’s dread and disgust at the thought of this practise echo the feelings of a 21st century person (for the main part), yet Chopra’s behaviour towards Grunt, despite his anti-government rantings, shows he is hardened towards it. He expresses annoyance at Grunts not being perfect copies of humans, and 474’s pleas for Chopra not to be ‘anger’ were rather sad. Nagata makes fun of 474’s lack of intellect but values her physical strength, it is clear that Grunts, despite showing very human feelings, are treated like garbage by humanity.
The Morpheus machine concentrates the whole nocturnal experience into one five-minute burst. Now, you can go a whole month without sleep!…All the chemical benefits of rest, but freeing up the nights to continue working, working, working! To get the edge on your competitor. To turn that extra profit.
Sleep No More‘s other dig at humanity is the Morpheus machine. A delightfully Orwellian video explains the joys of the Morpheus machine, and human beings are probably the only race in the universe gullible enough to fall for it. It’s very clear the company is gearing the machine towards corporations so they can work their employees into an early grave, but a machine like Morpheus appeals directly to the human ego. Humanity is so wrapped up in being ‘busy’ that something as unnatural as depriving themselves of sleep for a whole month is actually enticing.
He had a theory
When we sleep, the mucus crust builds up in our eyes. Blood cells. Skin cells. That’s what dust largely is. Human skin. But your meddling has evolved it. Hot-housed it. What used to be sleep in your eye has turned into a carnivorous life form!
The idea that we shed bits of skin that can manifest into carnivorous life forms is disturbing. The Doctor’s reference to ‘meddling’ also alludes to industrialism again; we could also consider that the dust is formed from human cells, and mirrors the worst humanity has to offer.
The monsters inside
Shakespeare. He really knew his stuff. They all did. The Ancients. The poets. All those sad songs. All those lullabies. Sleep is essential to every sentient being in the universe. But to humans – greedy, filthy, stupid humans… it’s an inconvenience to be bartered away! Well, now we know the truth. Sleep isn’t just a function. It’s blessed. Every night we dive deep into that inky pool. Deep into the arms of Morpheus. Every morning, we wake up and wipe the sleep from our eyes. And that keeps us safe. Safe from the monsters inside.
474 die soon
The scene allowed Chopra to redeem himself by realising Grunt’s have human qualities and feelings, it also served as a reminder of humanity’s tendency to marginalise creatures they think are beneath them. 474’s unrestrained affection for Chopra, even at the end, was as tragic as her sacrifice to save him.
The dust has been watching us
The surveillance dust may have another Orwellian feel, but it has become a reality in modern society. The Doctor discovers that using the Morpheus machine turns you into a receptacle for dust. It’s not just governments colonising humanity in the 38th century, but corporations.
There’s nothing left of Rassmussen any more
The Doctor, Clara and Nagata escaped on the TARDIS. The Doctor promised to cure everyone on Triton of the dust and destroy Morpheus forever. But did he? Or is there still a space station full of Sandmen somewhere in the universe?
I do hope you’ve enjoyed the show. I did try to make it exciting. All those scary bits. All those death-defying scrapes, monsters, and a proper climax with a really big one at the end! Compulsive viewing. I did tell you not to watch…There’s nothing left of Rassmussen any more. Only us. Only us. You will show this film to your family, won’t you? And your friends. And everyone, really. Then we can all be together, dust to dust. Excuse me, you’ve got something… there… just in the corner of your eye.