Before I begin this review, it is very important to note that I absolutely loathe anything that is ‘found footage’, which unfortunately means that I am already slightly biased against this Mark Gatiss written episode.
Although, I must applaud how different this episode was from the rest of the series. Whilst Sleep No More was, in my opinion, far from perfect, it pleased me to see that Doctor Who isn’t afraid to take risks, and bring a style of direction that we have never seen on TV before.
The entire episode is shot in first-person, with the audience seeing things from different character’s point-of-views. As I mentioned above; I am not a fan of this style, but at times I genuinely liked it. Seeing just in front of the characters, with only a flashlight illuminating their path was hugely immersive, and made this lacklustre episode have a bit of a scary bite to it. However, having the whole episode this way almost neutralised the impact of it. After about 20 minutes of it I was feeling a tad motion sick, but I’m guessing that might just be my opinion because of my strong disliking of this creative choice.
On a more positive note, Peter Capaldi was fantastic again, and it was especially captivating to have him talking directly into the camera. Jenna Coleman didn’t get as much screen time as I would’ve liked because I think the banter between The Doctor and Clara is one of the best aspects of Capaldi’s reign as the Timelord.
The final words The Doctor says before the credits roll is “It doesn’t make any sense!”, and I have to agree with him here. This episode felt as though it was running entirely on the first-person camerawork gimmick. The post-modern direction of the narrative, with Reece Shearsmith’s confusing character regularly interjecting with a muddled monologue just didn’t interest me, and I felt like it had the opposite effect the director, Justin Molotnikov may have intended. I imagine he had hoped these monologues straight into the camera, into the audience’s eyes, would plunge us deeper into the story. But that just didn’t happen to me, I just found that these took me out of the flow of the narrative just as it was getting good.
Sleep No More is high-reaching but unfortunately doesn’t manage to reach the highs of previous weeks episodes. This doesn’t mean the episode wasn’t a pleasure to watch, it was okay, but the story just isn’t compelling enough and I couldn’t get past my hatred of the ‘found footage’ model of filming.
Unfortunately, for me, the best part of the episode was when they showed us a preview of next week’s episode.