Mark Gatiss’ found footage tale is another of the experimental stories that the series has played with ever since its return to television a decade ago – and not one of those has been without its critics, with some regarding episodes such as Love & Monsters a complete waste of time. I suspect that there will be those who will assign Sleep No More into the same category, since Gatiss plays by a rather different set of rules in this than governs the usual Doctor Who story.
There are surface differences – the lack of a title sequence, the fact that characters appear to directly address the camera (although to an extent we’ve had that this season with the start of episode 4) – but the key area is in what’s explained and what isn’t. We’re not at the levels of Kinda or Warriors’ Gate in that respect – there’s a throughline to the piece, a familiar feel of Aliens and other such militaristic SF, and a degree of logical procession from point A to point B, but you may well reach the end and wonder whether you’ve missed something along the way, as it never quite seems to gel.
Capaldi and Coleman are as strong as they’ve been throughout the season and it’s appropriate to have Reece Shearsmith guest star in episode 9 of series 9 before he heads off to do series 1/3-of-9 of Inside No. 9… but that’s the limit of any in-jokes, or pretty much, jokes of any description. Shearsmith’s character is a very serious one – as are all of them – and you need to watch the footage carefully… (although starting an episode by telling people not to watch, I hope, isn’t the same sort of own goal as “Same old, same old” turned out to be in the trailer!)
Verdict: An unusual experiment that doesn’t quite come off. 6/10