Series 9, Episode 9 (Overall Series Story #262) | Previous - Next | Index
I thought this was a two-parter going in. Problem is, as it ended, I still thought it was going to be a two-parter, even after I started looking around online and realized I was mistaken. Clara's not sorted! She's got that Morpheus sleep dust in her eyes still, right? Or was the last shot of the sandmen as the TARDIS dematerialising being from inside the doors, but staying after the TARDIS was gone meant to signify it had been filtered out somehow? Maybe that's supposed to signal that Clara will be fine with no further action? (At least until she dies next week, presumably.)
The episode left me cold as a result of an accumulation of scenes that had me making the screwface. Deep-Ando, a throwaway character, being taunted by the door lock programming dragged on far too long. Clara celebrating knowing that Morpheus was the god of dreams? Emm. She's an English teacher, if she didn't, it'd be shameful. At the risk of coming across snooty, I don't think there's any reason anyone over 12-years-old shouldn't know that, if only by knowing something of Neil Gaiman. (And with all the mentions of sandmen and Morpheus, did it feel like Gatiss was throwing a little tribute his way?)
The twist that the story we were seeing was Rasmussen/the original sandman's plot to deliver the signal that converts people to sandmen wasn't that clever, it was never not clear that Rasmussen was the bad guy, obviously he was manipulating the situation through what he was doing. And we've already seen this season a precedent for minds being changed by a message; more than once actually, but this felt very close to the writing on the wall in the Fisher King's hearse.
Speaking of themes resurfacing, Rasmussen is a Danish name, and stands out in this episode due to the prevalence of Indian and Japanese names. There's our viking reference in. And, if the Japanese-Indian culture were enough of a hybridization, there's Rasmussen himself being the first human to be come sandman. But what's lacking is the sense that it's anything more than repetition. If only a motif, that's fine as far as it goes, but after last week's episode I want more brilliance, more meaning.
There's still time for it all to come together. We may see some carryover into next week that will clarify what the effect of the Morpheus pod on Clara is. Rasmussen won this week, right? I mean, he got his message out as planned. The Doctor and Clara failed to save anyone but Nagata. If we're just supposed to assume they're dropping her at Triton (is that a little shout out to Chip Delaney?) and destroying all the Morpeus pods and somehow curing Clara and everyone else and stopping the Rasmussen broadcast, then that's a massive cop out.
- This 38th century cataclysm that put Japan and India together sounds ... pretty cataclysmic.
- The found footage style worked for me, but I don't watch the Paranormal Activity movies. Are others finding it a bit stale at this point?
- Just me or was it weird how the gun toting soldiers didn't shoot until ... I think it was when Nagata finally opened up on the original sandman and Rasmussen? Several times I thought 474, Chopra, Deep-Ando, and Nagata herself would have fired on the sandmen, but didn't. 474 charging the advancing sandmen to save Chopra holding her weapon like a club was odd. (Upon re-watch, some shots were fired the first time they saw the sandmen and fled. In all the noise and shaky-cam usage, I missed that. Still, it wasn't until the end until someone did again.)
- And Clara scolding Nagata when she did fire her weapon felt forced, considering how much restraint they'd all shown up until that point. It was pretty clear Rasmussen wasn't going to die anyways, already having come back from the dead and making it clear he wasn't what he seemed moments earlier.
- The scenes from the POV of Chopra's weapon felt like cheats. I thought after first watch that they messed up and used his POV when they weren't supposed to have, but went back to check and noticed the POV was more like from his wrist. They used color for those shots though where other dust mote shots were grayscale. Odd.
- Bethany Black was the only member of this week's running-through-corridors-with-targets-on-their-backs crew that stood out, and if I'm honest I suspect I was somewhat inclined to cheer for her on account of her enthusiasm on twitter as a long time fan geeking out about being cast in DW. She at least got to do some action hero stuff and had a love interest. The others, even Reece Shearsmith as Rasmussen, about whom I've heard great things, underwhelmed.
- Best thing this week: the genuine horror of capitalism colonizing our sleep. And maybe that's the most frustrating thing about this week: an ace premise, a commitment to take risks (format, losing the titles, casting a trans actor to play cis), and coming off such a strong, moving episode, this one just killed the momentum.
Tardis Wikia Entry
Information is conveyed through the subtle shifts of the narrative rules, so that the found footage approach moves gradually and cleverly from being a gimmick to being the entire point of the episode. This is handled smartly on multiple levels, including Gatiss’s script, Justin Molotnikov’s direction, and Reece Shearsmith’s performance, which is a beautifully clever blend of familiar forms of Doctor Who acting that shifts cleverly with each twist. The final scene is particularly beautiful, with just the right amount of ecstatic thrill in his evil plan and clear relish in his transformation into dust. What a finish.
On top of that, many of the ideas here are genuinely great. I imagine Jack and Jane will both be over the moon with aspects of this. The leisure time destroyed by unchecked capitalist growth rises up and consumes us, our dreams taking revenge on us for our failure to attend to them. The dust is watching us, and the story it tells about us will kill us. I mean, these are just the sorts of sentences you live to write as an anarcho-Marxist occultist television critic, you know?
Charlie Jane Anders for io9
AV Club review
TV Tropes page