Sunday, 29 November 2015

TV Review: Doctor Who - Heaven Sent

The penultimate episode of Doctor Who this week wasn’t so much a television programme as a barn-storming showcase of BBC talent. Picking up where last week’s episode left off, after the tragic death of companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), Heaven Sent saw Peter Capaldi’s Doctor tele-ported to a mysterious prison castle.

Pursued by a terrifying yet slow-moving cloaked monster, known as The Veil, The Doctor’s only escape is to confess truths to the beast just before it kills him, although this only really serves to buy him more time to try to solve the mystery of his surroundings. Heartbreakingly, in between run-ins with the creature and the discovery of clues, he imagines himself back in the TARDIS, telling Clara about his adventures whilst she kept her back to him, writing questions on the blackboard, in a fitting tribute to what had been her day job. Despite the fact that this was a solo Capaldi episode, Heaven Sent was as much about Clara as it was about The Doctor. 

As a companion, her character came across as quite two dimensional at the start, but her final series with the show has been no less than a tour de force. Coleman and Capaldi created something very special together, in a welcome move from the slightly-almost-romantic-but-not-quite relationship of previous Doctors and travelling partners. This episode allowed us to see The Doctor grieve – something we’re not always privy to as an audience, as companions have often departed in the final episode, with The Doctor returning a series later damaged, but very much on the mend. Heaven Sent showed us the anguish and mental torment usually glossed over.

Steven Moffat always writes his best work in single setting, claustrophobic environments, and this fantastically imaginative personalised hell allowed him to fully explore The Doctor’s emotional instability, as well as being one of the most inventive plotlines I think we’ve seen a while. As it slowly dawned on us as an audience that The Doctor has been stuck in this loop for a very long time, and the skulls at the bottom of the sea took on an eerie new significance, watching the Time Lord forced to take ‘the long way round’ to such an extreme gave the show a scale and emotional depth beyond compare.

If Peter Capaldi doesn’t win some sort of award for his performance in this episode, let alone this series as a whole, we’ll eat our collective hat. Equal parts angry, resigned, guilt-ridden and defiant, Capaldi’s performance here was an intense emotional journey, carried off with trademark ease. Between his extraordinary talent, Rachel Talalay’s able direction and Moffat’s stunning concept, all supported by a gorgeous score and fantastic set design, this episode could happily have been feature length.

Series 9 of Doctor Who has been one of the best in a while, with Capaldi settled into the role, and his companionship with Clara going from strength to strength. The two-parter structure has really helped, and I for one hope that it continues into the next series.

Although past follies remain unforgotten, the show seems to be on a role at the moment.
And frankly, te fact that television of this calibre is available as regular Saturday night entertainment serves as an excellent two fingers up to recent criticism of the BBC licence fee, and is reason enough to keep the Beeb going for many years to come. 

This is me signing off on Series 9, as Becky will be here with you next week for Hell Bent – it looks like it’s going to be a cracker.


Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter

Or like our Facebook page

Thursday, 26 November 2015

FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Hush

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow has been practicing magic more and more after her break-up with Oz. Buffy and Riley have been moving towards a relationship, neither of them suspecting their respective alternate identities as the Slayer and a Commando boy for the Initiative. Anya and Xander are now in a relationship, to the surprise of everyone and Spike is still residing at Giles' house, also to the surprise of everyone.

Buffy falls asleep in her Psych 101 class and dreams that she is kissing Riley, but this is interrupted by a girl with a mysterious box singing a nursery about a group called the Gentlemen. As Sunnydale goes to sleep that night, the group Buffy saw arrives in town, taking the voices of all of the residents. The town does it's usual head-in-the-sand routine and pretends to have a town-wide laryngitis epidemic, but our Scooby Gang knows different, setting about to solve the mystery of why none of them can talk. As they set about their business, they are also forced to confront things they can't say out loud, but everything takes on a new urgency when they realise the Gentlemen are stealing the hearts of Sunnydale residents.

Cor, this episode. There are certain moments in this rewatch that I've been so excited to get to that I couldn't possibly get it all down in one article just how good some of them are. One such example is Hush. It's an episode of a show that's operating at the height of its powers and confidence. One of the qualities Buffy has been known for since its first season is the quality of the dialogue, the snappy repartee of its characters marking it out from the crowd of usual teen fare. To take that all away and produce an episode of near silence is such a ballsy move before you even consider the quality of the episode. So, it's a good job it's a cracker then?

Even in the build-up to the Gentlemen's arrival, everything is about communication, even Professor Walsh's class that Buffy falls asleep in for her prophetic dream; Xander can't confess his true feelings for Anya, hiding behind jokes and witticisms; Willow can't express her frustration to her new Wicca group or speak to the shy girl they mock, Tara; Buffy and Riley get all babbly whenever they see each other, neither one able to make the first move. They also happen to have two pretty big secrets that they can't share with each other. Hush strips all of that away. Suddenly, gestures, touch, facial expressions, everything carries a new meaning and the Scoobies are able to say more than they've ever been able to say with words.

Over the course of the episode, all of this is resolved in various ways, but probably the biggest development is the meeting of Tara and Willow, a relationship that goes on to be hugely important for the remaining seasons. Of course, me being all innocent and little when this was first airing meant I didn't quite get the allegory of Willow and Tara performing "magic" together, but it's an excellent way of broaching what was, at the time, a difficult thing to broach. It's also a great little character moment for Willow in an episode full of them.

An episode like Hush couldn't have been pulled off in the first, or even second, season of the show, because we didn't know the characters well enough yet for Whedon to craft something as meaningful as the episode would become. A lot of that is in the themes of the episode, particularly communication, which is an overriding theme of the season as a whole. Much of the episode's drama and silent comedy is mined from the fact we know these characters so well. Giles' stern expressions during his projector-based exposition gives away to the extraordinarily gory pictures he produces. Buffy's "staking" gesture and Xander's "boobies?" are two things I'm still surprised the show got away with on a network, but they're all in keeping within the fabric of Buffy and its cast.

The other success that Hush manages to pull of is that it is one of the few Buffy episodes that can make the claim of being genuinely scary. Nothing else tends to operate above an unsettling level, but the Gentlemen are flat-out terrifying. The sequence that always haunts me in this episode is the one in which we see one of the students attacked in his room. He's surrounded by people who could come in and help, but no matter how hard he screams, no one can hear him. It also helps that the Gentlemen's make-up and their genteel gestures contrast so sharply to the horror they cause. There's no real gore (apart from Giles' drawings), but the idea of not being able to call for help operates at such a visceral level that there doesn't need to be.

Finally, one cannot talk about Hush without extolling the virtues of Christophe Beck. The music maestro's scores have always been a strong feature of the early season of Buffy, but it's in Hush that he really gets to let loose. With no dialogue, the use of the music becomes increasingly important throughout the episode to keep up the oppressive atmosphere that the silence creates. Even the use of Camille Saint-Saens' 'Danse Macabre' is perfect.

The initial nursery rhyme announcing the onslaught of the Gentlemen informs the score throughout. It's almost ballet-like in its elegance, as delicate as the Gentlemen's movements, but capable of turning into something thunderously dramatic as the episode requires. The 'Suite from Hush' is probably his finest musical achievement, outside of The Gift and 'Close Your Eyes', the Buffy and Angel theme, and it's one of the few Buffy scores I return to repeatedly.

When it comes to the fourth season, it's episodes like Hush that prevent me from dismissing it entirely. It's such a layered piece of work that I'm sure I haven't got down everything I think about when I watch this episode (though looking back, this is one of my more essay-length pieces). Whedon and his writing team's dialogue will always be Buffy's main calling card, but Hush makes you realise that they understand the absolute necessity of silence too.

Quote of the Week:

Olivia: So everything you told me was true?
Giles: Well, no. I wasn't actually one of the original members of Pink Floyd... [Ripper, you stud]

Inventive Kill: Buffy makes the Gentlemen's heads explode and all gooey when she screams.

Let's Get Trivial: The actors delivered their lines out loud as normal, but the dialogue is muted. This was so audiences would still be able to lip-read quite clearly.

Demonology 101: The Gentlemen are probably the most famous of all of Buffy's foes, regularly cited as the scariest demons the series ever produced.

Sunnydale Who's Who: The lead Gentleman is played by Doug Jones, famous for playing a variety of make-upped beasties throughout cinema, but his biggest role is probably in Pan's Labyrinth as the Faun and the Pale Man. Camden Toy also plays one of the Gentleman roles, previously appearing in Buffy as Gnarl, a demon that later attacks Willow and the first Ubervamp of the seventh season.

- Becky

You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Something Blue, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

TV REVIEW: London Spy - Blue

After the slower pace of the first two episodes, the violent opening to London Spy's third instalment comes as a bit of a shock to the system as Danny is dragged out of his bed by the police. It turns out the crime scene of Alex's death was littered with various bits of paraphernalia from Danny's earlier life when he was much more carefree and also careless. As the net closes in on him, he turns to Scottie for help, who willingly obliges to take up his friend's cause when he's in dire need. Danny is forced to confront elements of his past in order to start getting answers about a future that is no longer in his control.

Some thrillers make themselves about the mystery at the heart of the narrative and forget the characters operating at the heart of it. One of the best things about London Spy has been that focus on character first with the drama arising out of Danny's experiences, his relationships and the slow erosion of his life by unseen forces. Cleverly though, Tom Rob Smith also knows when to expand that story into one of institutions, prejudice and the establishment. As Danny's search continues, it gets wider in scope and in turn, feels more hopeless than ever. There's no establishment quite like the British one for closing down anyone wayward. As Scottie says towards the end of the episode, they're "quite alone."

The episode reinforces on nearly every level by becoming quite the assault on the senses at times. During Danny's interview with the police, the score punches its way into the scene at uncomfortable levels, mirroring his own desperation. After the emotional fallout of his HIV test, the music that has provided a pulse-like presence throughout is conspicuously absent, allowing his overspill of anxiety to become the only sound we hear. It's a deft combination of sound and silence that constantly unsettles throughout the episode. Moments of relative calm are just that, a brief pause before Danny dives further into the conspiracy around him.

It helps that the series has its heart one of the best actors working today. Ben Whishaw has been a captivating presence since the start, but it's Blue that pushes him further than any of the previous episodes have done. The Danny we met in the first episode - carefree, charming and laidback - has all but disappeared, replaced with a frightened, paranoid man unsure of anything. The scene in which he was told of his HIV infection, forced upon him by those that seek to discredit him, is a performance of heartrending brilliance, remarkable in its restraint and still completely devastating.

In that plot development, the episode also produces a searing criticism of social prejudices still manifesting within our society about sexuality and lifestyle choices. Tom Rob Smith utilises these prejudices to feel every bit as frustrating as the forces currently circling Danny and sealing him off from the truth behind Alex's death. Like the idea of the establishment (not only ours, but our allies now too), the prejudice that Danny will face as a result of his diagnosis feels overwhelming in its scale. One only has to look at the reaction Charlie Sheen's HIV revelation to realise how close to the truth this aspect of Danny's story is.

Elsewhere in the episode, London Spy's impressive supporting cast continue to make their presence felt in the series. Jim Broadbent is ever reliable; please forgive the wild speculation that I'm about to indulge in, but something doesn't feel quite right about Scottie. He's just a little too good to be true and if anyone knows about all the dark secrets of Danny's past that could be used against him, it's Scottie. Following on from Charlotte Rampling's turn, Mark Gatiss gleefully ups the sinister feel of this episode with ease. He used to play the kind of skincrawlingly indecent people every now and again, but this is the first drama I've seen in a while to truly capture the man's extraordinary range as a possible villain.

Having spent the first two episodes building this world, Blue feels like an uncontrollable slide into darkness as Danny's quest continues. Not content with simply functioning as a thriller, the episode's underlying social criticism enhances the plight of its central character and fully exploits the emotional responses of its audience without ever feeling cynical. Superb.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of previous episode, Strangers, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - Face the Raven

After one of their seemingly never-ending in-between-episode adventures, Clara and the Doctor receive a call on the emergency phone from Rigsy. He's had his memory wiped and there appears to be a tattoo on his neck counting down to something. Naturally, the Doctor and Clara arrive to investigate, finding themselves in an alien refugee camp in the middle of London (part Diagon Alley, part London Below). It's led by the returning Me, now styling herself as Mayor, and she's responsible for Rigsy's tattoo; it's a countdown to his execution for a murder he's not at all sure he committed. 

The idea of consequences has been threaded throughout the series, focused mainly on the Doctor. It's been a neat bit of misdirection because we all knew we should be worried about Clara (knowing Coleman was to leave the series), but we sort of forgot in the grand scheme of things. She's been increasingly reckless since the first episode, something that's been commented on by a lot of people she's met on the way. That she is entirely the engineer of her own downfall feels right for the character; one thing Clara has always been is in control, even when the Zygons tried to take her out. 

Clara's always been quite a divisive companion, even amongst myself and Jen. I've been on board with Coleman's performance from the start, her forthrightness and lack of mooning refreshing after the marital combination of the Ponds. She's also exerted an increasing amount of influence over the Doctor's life from weaving back through his timeline to her role in the Time War itself. I like that her final moments are spent doing exactly the same thing; keeping the Doctor on the right path and making sure he continues caring. Her final moments of accepting responsibility and commanding the Doctor to continue caring rather than avenging her was dignified to the last and beautifully performed by both Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi.

The structure of the episode is not as assured as it has been in the leading episodes, perhaps suffering slightly from acting as the build-up to Clara's departure (not helped by Peter Capaldi telling everyone it was going to happen either). The revelation that Me is preparing to send the Doctor somewhere in order to protect the refugee camp gets a little lost amidst those final moments and, given it's the impetus for the episode's events, feels a little clumsy. I did enjoy Capaldi's imposing dress-down of Me though. He's really quite terrifying when he wants to be.

Elsewhere in the episode, there's a lot of nice ideas floating around. After the pertinent Zygon two-parter, having a nod to alien refugees residing in London and not causing any harm was a neat touch. I always like the idea of worlds residing in worlds and trap streets are cool, the kind of places you see without seeing them. The timelessness of the trap street on which most of the action took place also added to the more universal themes of the episode. With its Tudor buildings, apparent gas lighting and assortment of individuals, the Doctor and Clara could really have been anywhere, allowing the focus to remain solely on the characters' actions throughout the episode.

There's an unevenness to Face The Raven that stems from its aim of getting rid of Clara and an event like that was always going to overshadow the proceedings somewhat. But, it was a fitting ending to one of the more influential companions in recent years and I don't know about you lot, but that last shot of the TARDIS painted by Rigsy as a tribute just about finished me off.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of previous episode, Sleep No More, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

FEATURE: Angel - Hero

Previously on Angel: Buffy had been in town to confront Angel about Thanksgiving and leaves after about five minutes, but in this timeline, only Angel knows of an alternative path in which he became human and gave it all up to continue his battle with the forces of evil. Doyle has fancied Cordelia from the start, but is afraid that if she learns he's half demon, she'd reject him.

So after last week's episode full of pain and sacrifice and loss, we get Hero. An episode full of pain and sacrifice and loss. Doyle is finally nearing the courage to tell Cordelia that he is half demon when he has a vision of several half-human/half-demon refugees cowering in a dank basement. They're on the run from the Scourge, a gang of pure-blood demons who loathe "half-breeds" and seek their extermination. It's not the first time Doyle has had a run in with them and they prove to be his biggest test as he seeks his own brand of atonement.

When we have news stories of American states shutting down their borders to refugees forced to give up their homes and money for safe passage to another country and openly discriminatory people advocating ID cards are running for Presidential candidacy, Hero is one of those episodes whose poignancy has only grown with time. It's no coincidence that the Scourge run around in uniforms that wouldn't look out of place in the Third Reich; they're pure blood demons who have a real loathing of anyone with mixed human heritage. Prejudice is confronted on several levels; Doyle has to confront his own self-loathing for his demon half whilst Cordy has to break down her own misconceptions about demons built from her experiences in Sunnydale.

In 2002, Glenn Quinn died after an accidental heroin overdose, adding another layer of tragedy to any watches of this episode. During his short tenure on Angel, he crafted a character that fans fell in love with, creating a legacy in just nine episodes that fans still talk about to this day. Quinn had an easy charm that he brought to deal and a clear, droll sense of humour that fit well within the realms of the Whedonverse comedy stylings. That Doyle gets Whedoned early in the season was part of the plan early on which means that all of Doyle's loose narrative threads are wrapped up in this one episode. Cordelia learns of his half-demon blood and reacts with characteristic candour, admonishing him for not telling her and then asking him if he's ever going to ask her out for dinner. He never gets chance, instead kissing her before he dies and passing on his visions.

Earlier in the series, he told Angel that everyone has something to atone for and here, we learn what Doyle's particular event was. He was approached by a fellow Brachen demon seeking refuge from the Scourge and Doyle refused to help, knowing that he would be getting involved in something far bigger than he is. When he receives a vision of them all dead shortly after, he goes to their hiding place to find out if what he was shown was the truth. He finds them massacred. When the Scourge returns, he confesses all to Angel, but only realises what his test will be when the beacon is about to go off and will kill anyone in close range with human blood. Doyle jumps and succeeds, sacrificing his life in the process.

If I Will Remember You was the episode in which Angel finally and literally cast off Buffy, then Hero is the one that reinforces its darker and perhaps loftier ambitions. In my look at I Will Remember You, I talked about Angel's sacrifice and need for redemption, which has been the show's driving force from the start. To immediately follow the episode with the same themes could seem repetitive, but the show gets around that by having it as the story of Doyle's redemption. It's also an episode about the cost of fighting the good fight. Like Jesse back in Buffy's first episode or Jenny Calendar (at the hands of Angel himself, lest we forget) in the second season, the audience needs reminding of the high stakes involved in such a quest. Angel may get a happy ending, but there will be casualties along the way.

I'm of the opinion that Hero gets harder and harder to watch each time, but the coincidental relevance to ongoing news events gives it that extra layer of tragedy. It may have functioned as a simple Holocaust allegory back when it first aired, but now it's taken on whole new levels of meaning. I don't know anyone who can get through this episode without shedding a tear and if you can, well, you're more in control of your emotions than I am. It's certainly not an episode I enjoy revisiting, despite its brilliance.

Quote of the Week:

Doyle [in the Angel Investigations ad]: Come on over to our offices and you'll see that there's still heroes in this world... Is that it? Am I done?

LA Who's Who: Sean Gunn! Sean Gunn plays Lucas. And who is Sean Gunn? Brother of Guardians of the Galaxy director James and the real hero of Gilmore Girls, Kirk. He'll re-appear sans blue pin cushion face in the episode, She. There's also Lee Arenberg who goes on to play Pintel in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl alongside Mackenzie Crook's Ragetti.

- Becky

You can read Becky's look at previous episode, I Will Remember You, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

Thursday, 19 November 2015

FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Something Blue

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike has been neutered by the Initiative and can no longer bite people. He's taken up residence with Giles in a begrudged arrangement for information. Willow is still left hurting from Oz's departure and is also becoming more confident in practicing her magic. Buffy is tentatively moving towards a relationship with Riley.

When Willow goes over to Oz's room, she finds his stuff is all gone and that it's been collected and sent to wherever he is now. When the rest of the gang don't notice her pain thanks to their various other problems, she casts a spell that goes awry and starts to send everyone a bit loopy. Giles starts to go blind, Buffy and Spike decide to get married and Xander starts attracting every demon known to man. It's an apple cart upset of the highest order, especially with Buffy and Riley, who is understandably quite bemused when his would-be girlfriend announces her intentions to get married to someone else.

I love this episode. Like Pangs, it's one of the high points of the fourth season, a hilarious examination of the Scooby Gang's relationships, new alliances and the fractures that will later be exposed completely by Spike in The Yoko Factor. Much of the season so far has been setting these in place as the new college setting affects each of the characters very differently. Episodes that mess with established relationships and characters is always a fun move in Buffy because the characters are so well-drawn that comedy is mined from the twists on what we're used to. It also functions as one whole big whammy of foreshadowing.

Willow's spells have already got the habit of going awry, but this is the first time she really uses her powers on a big scale, specifically to harm her friends without that being her intention. In fact, Willow's magic solely comes from her good intentions, but we all know which destination they tend to pave the way to and her magic is selfish. It's always designed to make her life easier; here, it's to heal her pain, something that comes up again once she goes all Dark Willow. It's a big flashing warning sign, but not one that she heeds too greatly. After all, it'll become a pattern she'll fall into and one which always has negative consequences. You've got to love Willow's "Speak No Evil" t-shirt she wears in the final Scooby scene though, as she doles out guilt-based cookies. 

The other example of that foreshadowing this is the relationship between Buffy and Spike. Even when they're antagonistic in the beginning of the episode, there's an element of flirting in their fighting. By the time they're supposedly in love and getting married, that chemistry is dialled up to eleven as the reactions to Giles increase in their desperation. Here, it's played for comedy but even Buffy admits that it wasn't a particularly nice experience, despite being in love with him. Their relationship is unhealthy right from the start, even under magical influence. It's something that will only continue as the series goes on. It also does kind of flag up the more chemistry with Spike than Riley thing...

Although I loved Something Blue when I first saw it, because it's hilarious, it's an episode that grows stronger on repeated viewings, especially after completing the series. Foreshadowing is something that Buffy has done a lot, particularly in the third and fourth seasons and it enriches the repeated viewing experience. We see these characters fall into oh-so-human patterns of behaviour and watching episodes like Something Blue back once we know that makes everything seem that more realistic behind the magic and the vampires. Willow's on a slippery slope already, as she has been from the moment she started using magic for her own gain. Buffy's behavioural patterns don't really come to the fore until later, but it's already easy to see the warning signs with Riley.

A much more intelligent episode than I think it is given credit for, Something Blue functions as the best kind of standalone, one which adds to the ongoing character development, enriched on repeat viewings, as well as being really quite amusing.

Quote of the Week:

Buffy: Spike and I getting married!
Xander: How?! What?! How?!
Giles: Three excellent questions...

Inventive Kill: Xander and Anya drown one of his attacking demons in a sink.

Let's Get Trivial: You can actually buy 'Kiss the Librarian' mugs now like the one that Spike drinks out of in this episode. I want one.

The Angel Connection: This directly follows on from I Will Remember You; Buffy refers to seeing Angel for five minutes which was all it was from her perspective. Sob.

- Becky

You can read what Becky thought of previous episode, Pangs, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - Sleep No More

The Doctor and Clara find themselves on the abandoned Le Verrier Space Station, a research lab orbiting Neptune and run by the scientist Rassmussen. They meet up with a rescue crew that has been sent to the station to find out what happened and soon find themselves 

The current series of Doctor Who has been so good that the first slight misstep registers a bit more than it would in a run of mediocre episodes. Coming after the amazing Zygon two-parter was always going to be tricky so relying on the usually excellent Mark Gatiss should've been a wise move. Sleep No More is another episode that relies on something creepy stalking an abandoned location and picking off crew one by one. Had we not already had Under The Lake, this episode might have been given more of a break. Alas, Sleep No More is a hodge-podge of ideas that never quite come together to form one big sandman of an episode, but should be admired in its ambition to try something different. 

Gatiss is a man extremely well-versed in its genre history and it shows here. The found footage format is one of horror's most prolific sub-genres in recent years, stemming back The Blair With Project. Likewise, these episodes always call to mind films like Alien with its dark corridors and stalking menaces; we even get an Ash style character in Rassmussen (played by Reece Shearsmith, who is easily the best thing in this episode), attempting to preserve the Sandmen. 

We get just glimpses of the creatures, flashes down corridors in night vision or lurking out of the shadows. It's probably the most satisfying element of the episode, one which allows our imaginations to take over, filling in blanks that we know are there. The revelation that the footage is coming from the dust in the air, rather than any cameras, is a neat one, but also feels like a bit of a get out clause so that the episode never fully commits to the found footage idea.

The episode is framed by Rassmussen, functioning as both a narrator and creepy space station overlord, but it also strips away some of the tension of the episode. We realise Rassmussen makes it to at least string together the footage from various cameras across the station and that he's the bad guy doesn't really come as a shock. We also know Clara and the Doctor aren't going to die, at least not yet in Clara's case. The rest of the rescue crew aren't drawn well enough for the audience to care as they fight for their life. Again, going back to Under the Lake, each crew member was recognisably individual and their personalities came across. Aside from Chopra, the others barely get a look at any kind of development over the episode, and his is only brief.

The Zygon Invasion and Inversion took on the War on Terror as its central allegory, using its narrative to comment on events that have shaped our reality, sadly proving ultimately quite timely in its broadcast. At its heart, Sleep No More is attempting to do something similar, but with a criticism of capitalism and exploitation at its heart. The grunts, bred to do the dirty work without the brain capacity for any selfish realisation are pure Brave New World, a creation of humanity at its most basic working level to preserve higher human intelligence. The Morpheus machine is designed to monetise sleep and thus allow employees to now work through the night instead of wasting their time on sleep. The episode pays mere lip service to this rather than really flying with it. 

It's the first single episode story we've had so far and it shows. Too much is thrown together in the shorter episode runtime and the breathing space that other episodes benefitted from is lost. The most frustrating part of this episode though is that its cleverest idea appears right at the very end as a coda to the rushed ending. Rassmussen revealing that he has been a Sandman all along and that he is using the video to transmit signals and turn any viewer into a Sandman should have been a story in itself. A found footage horror movie that transforms you into the horror monster? A much cooler idea than anything presented in the preceding runtime.

I suppose we were due a bit of a duff episode given the quality of the rest of the season, but that doesn't stop Sleep No More being such a disappointment. It's ambitious in a shift of form as well as the amount of ideas that it tries to pack in, but it never allows any of them to take centre stage and leaves the whole episode feeling like a patchwork of references and loose narrative threads. Look, it's even made me mix metaphors.

- Becky

You can read Jen's review of previous episode, The Zygon Inversion, here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page