The Sandman Cometh
I found a lot of good gold for a column in this review of “Sleep No More”.
Want to really freak out a Doctor Who viewer? Find a threat the Doctor is helpless against—a threat he never fully understands, and doesn’t triumph over.
And of course the worst part is that in the end, the enemy is us. What’s scarier than the Doctor’s childhood fear, the monster under the bed? How about the monster behind our eyes? The one wearing our skin?
We are our own worst enemy. 🙂
Whatever the case, the Sandmen are living nightmares—the repressed desires and wounds and sufferings that we generally deal with and assimilate in our sleep. “Every morning, we wipe the sleep from our eyes, and that keeps us safe,” the Doctor says, “safe from the monsters inside.” But without sleep, these expressions of our basest unconscious have come to horrifying life.
Think of “Forbidden Planet”. The monster was born of The ID (sorry if that’s a spoiler) of the scientist who created it without knowing he created it.
The Sandmen may be lumbering around trying to eat people, but they’re not the real monsters here. There may be floating dust that somehow hijacks people and makes them into cameras, but that’s not the real menace either.
It’s the horror movie those dust-cameras are making—that is the actual threat here.
From the episode’s very first moment, Rasmussen (whose first name, Gagan, sounds a lot like the German for “against”) announces to us that we shouldn’t be watching it. A warning we ignore, and so we fall into its trap, revealed at the end: The movie itself is the infection, not the Sandmen or the dust. By watching it, we have supposedly ourselves become carriers of the scourge that will wipe out humanity.
The very fact that you watch the episode and ignored the warning at the beginning is a wonderful narrative device that found very compelling and well done.
And the Doctor can’t quite wrap his head around it, because he’s let himself become part of the movie. He’s inside it, so he can’t see it in its entirety. But we can. Or at least we can try.
We are the next “victims”. The Doctor is not going to save you. Sweet Dreams…
A lot of people will probably find the episode deeply unsatisfying because of this indeterminacy. Personally, I found it compelling—despite the episode not really hitting all of its most ambitious marks—because a couple of interesting thoughts jumped right out at me as I watched Rasmussen’s face blow away.
For example, the fact that the episode ended without closure—not simply the Doctor not winning, but also never quite explaining what the hell was going on—made me think about how over-reliant I have become as a viewer on the Doctor to be my deus ex machina/problem solver/master of exposition. I don’t have to figure out the mystery myself, because I have a trusty Time Lord along.
They subverted the format and “broke the rules” in an exceptionally clever manner.
One of the more “original” idea to come along in quite a awhile.
But Doctor Who has long been invested in the question of whether the Doctor makes his companions weaker or stronger by helping them out of a jam or letting them fend for themselves. What if my approach to the show is making me somehow more naïve in my approach to the world, like the gullible Wide Awakes who think Morpheus is helping them?
We’ll always have Paris… 🙂
And if Doctor Who fills me with the longing to escape this world, to be like its hero and explore all of time and space, isn’t that more than just simple escapism? Doesn’t it reveal a desire to become somehow better than lowly, Earth-bound humans? We only need look to Ashildr/Lady me (was that her voiceover in the “next time” preview for episode 10?) to see where that could lead us.(The Observer)
After all, she has all the time in the world. 🙂
Posted on November 16, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged Ashildr, BBC, BBC America, Blair Witch, Doctor, Doctor Who, doctorwho, don't watch this, enemy, escapism, fandom, Jenna Coleman, Lady Me, Mark Gatiss, monster, Morpheus, nightmares, Paris, Peter Capaldi, rasmussen, rheum, Rips, Sandman, Sandmen, scary, sleep dust, Sleep No More, TARDIS, The Doctor, Time Lord, Twelfth Doctor, unconcious, Wide Awakes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.