To Sleep, Perchance to Dream of Michelin Man Monsters?

SPOILER ALERT!

Creativity is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it just doesn’t come together.

What does come together Nov. 14 in the “Sleep No More” Doctor Who episode was the “sleep dust” you find in the corner of your eyes each morning. The dust conglomerates into misshapen, murderous Michelin Man monsters feeding on humans and plotting to spread throughout the universe.

Whaaaat? Well, the episode does open with mad scientist Gagan Rassmussen telling viewers not to watch. That turned out to be good, ignored advice.

Rassmussen hosts “found footage” of events aboard Le Verrier, a space station orbiting Neptune. The station has gone radio silent, and a rescue crew arrives just after the Doctor and Clara.

What ensues involves the blind, eye-booger monsters chasing everyone around the ship, consuming all but one of the crew and eventually being destroyed by Neptune’s gravity. All is being presented through shaky, static-afflicted footage from cameras which don’t exist, alternating between color and black and white. Commentary provided by Rassmussen doesn’t add much clarity to events.

“None of this makes any sense,” the Doctor declares near the end of the episode.

He might have told us sooner.

Rassmussen is the man behind the Morpheus Machine, which turns out to be the cause of the monsters. The machines are semi-sentient pods which enable users to get the equivalent of hours of sleep in minutes.

Using the machines begins the transformation process. Continued use results in the humans being “digested” by the sleep dust, which is what happened to the station crew.

Each Morpheus session begins with a holographic rendition of “Mister Sandman” by the Chordettes. Funny once.

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Hello, Rassmussen.

The saving grace of this episode comes with satirical social commentary focused on the Morpheus process. The Doctor wants information from Rassmussen, who is found hiding from the monsters in one of the pods. Rassmussen obliges by providing a holographic commercial for Morpheus worthy of repeating in its entirety.

“May the Gods look favorably upon us all,” a woman’s gigantic holographic head begins.

“Friends, we live in a time of unparalleled prosperity, a golden age of peace, harmony and industry. But every shift must come to an end. Every working day must stop.

“Of course, we can take stimulants to make that deadline, to keep us propped up through that important meeting. But always, always, sleep claims us in the end. Until now.

“Welcome, Morpheus. The Morpheus Machine concentrates the whole nocturnal experience into one, five-minute burst. Now, you can go a whole month without sleep. A month!

“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.

“Leave the Rip Van Winkles behind. Become one of the new generation of wide-awakes. The future is here. The future is now. Let yourself slip into the arms of Morpheus.

“Terms and conditions apply.”

Holy exploitation! If such an invention ever becomes reality, I hope like hell my employer never hears of it. I see a whole wing of Morpheus Machines and employees being “encouraged” to take their breaks in them.

“Sleep No More” also contains some humorous moments, such as when the Doctor licks his finger and holds in the air, as one might to do to determine wind direction. The information he gets: “38th century, Tuesday.”

The Doctor schools Clara on the finer points of companion etiquette. One does not simply put the word “space” in  front of other words, like “restaurant,” she is informed; and only the Doctor has the right to name things, like “Sandmen.”

Throughout this episode, I was fully expecting Graham Chapman’s “The Colonel” to abruptly appear and put and end to all the silliness. I didn’t think Chapman’s 1989 death would be an obstacle in such a dire situation.

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