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The found footage format has been used in many films since its success with the Blair Witch Project. Some have been successful but most tend to disappoint. It was inevitable that one day Doctor Who would attempt it.
It works incredibly well with Doctor Who too. One of my favourite things about my love for the show is how effortless it is at creating a world around wherever the TARDIS happens to land. This is no more evident than here. The found footage style allows you to feel like you're actually on a space station that feels like a real space station; the environment has its own rules and behaviour that allows it to feel convincing, such as an onboard computer that was reprogammed during a party by the space station crew so that you have to sing Mr Sandman to progress through the door. That is something that you can imagine real people doing in real life, especially if they were extremely drunk at the time.
Another thing Sleep No More cleverly does with the found footage style is explain why the camera is still rolling whilst all the bad stuff is happening. The explanation? Because there are no cameras; instead the sleep dust that make up this episode's monsters act as visual receptors that have been hacked by Doctor Rassmussen (more on him later). Everything we see, therefore, is more or less from the corner of the eyes of a character's point of view. It's a very intelligent way to bypass 'Why don't they just stop recording?'; a problem that many often have with found footage.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I haven't even explained the story yet. Well, basically a rescue crew have been sent to space station Le Verrier to save Doctor Rassmussen (Reece Shearsmith), where not only do they find the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) but also the revelation that he's the only crew member there. Rassmussen invented the sleep deprivation machines Morpheus, which due to getting rid of our need to sleep and wipe the sleep dust from our eyes has allowed the sleep dust to gather and create a monster - the Sandmen. Sleep No More is a classic style of Doctor Who known as the Base-Under-Siege story. There's something about the Base-Under-Seige that really works as a format for the show. Maybe it's the fact that the characters feel trapped, therefore conveying a feeling of claustrophobia? Or maybe it's because of it's simplicity - monster takes over base, monster chases Doctor and companion down a corridor, characters try to stop it getting in...? Whatever the reason, it clearly makes for an appealing format for the show and it was a wise choice to use it for a found footage episode. It emphasises that claustrophobic feeling well and feels unique to the show's other base-under-seige stories.
Whilst the Sandmen are unlikely to become iconic Doctor Who monsters, the villain of the story Doctor Rassmussen is fantastic and brilliantly played by Reece Shearsmith. He is definitely the most convincing 'human' villain the new series has seen as of current; it's brilliant how at first he seems somewhat vulnerable but hidden underneath is a cunning and devious side. There's a great twist at the end that you definitely don't see coming concerning the Sandmen and Rassmussen's real species; it's also a great idea that Rassmussen was compiling all the footage together to keep us watching and transmit a signal that will turn us all into Sandmen.
Which leads me onto another thing I love about Sleep No More: the Doctor doesn't win. Isn't it great when the Doctor doesn't win? I like to see the Doctor lose because it shows he isn't the hero who always saves the day. Of course, I wouldn't want to see the Doctor lose in every episode but it is always refreshing to see it happen so long as it stays to a minimum. It's also nice set-up for a proposed Sleep No More sequel, as the Doctor clearly has unfinished business here.
Of course, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are both brilliant as always here. The rescue crew are kind of average and nothing very special but Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman really shine as usual, especially during their exchange about putting 'Space' in front of everything. As Clara points out when the Doctor says placing the word 'space' in front of things doesn't happen, spacesuits are called 'spacesuits' and not something else suits. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman had so much chemistry together; I think they will always be one of the best Doctor-companion partnerships. It would take a lot for the Doctor and Bill to be as good as them.
Overall, Sleep No More is a brilliant episode that fantastically utilises the found-footage style to its advantage and even improves on it by explaining why they don't just stop filming. Doctor Rassmussen is the best human villain the new series has seen and it's great to see the Doctor lose. Here's hoping the proposed sequel to Sleep No More happens in series 10.