Well, as far as we can tell, this one isn’t part one of a two parter. So I guess I should write about it on its own.
I enjoyed it immensely — well, quite a lot — but I just wish sometimes they would take the trouble to come up with good, rational explanations for the events. Relatively simple steps, only needing a few extra words — or different words — in the script, could make these episodes be so much better.
The critical example of a story like this from last season is “Kill the Moon“. As I wrote at that link, they could relatively easily have included a few words that would have made the idea less preposterous. It wouldn’t necessarily be good science, but it would at least be less-ridiculous science than the explanation that was actually given.
So too here, then, with “Sleep No More.” The atmosphere and style of the episode were great. And the plot was fine. It was just the execution of the plot, including in particular the explanation for the problem, that let it down.
Let me explain what I mean. The plot, in summary, was: In found footage a mad scientist tells us the story of some soldiers investigating a space station that has dropped out of communication. The crew have been turned into dust-zombies by a machine that enables them to function on five minutes sleep a day. The explanation for the dust conversion is stupid.
The Doctor and Clara, of course, have arrived on the station and help to investigate. Clara gets sucked into the sleep machine, which means she will become a dust monster too.
Our heroes and the surviving troops escape in the TARDIS, and the mad scientist reveals he is a dust monster and is spreading the infection via the very recording we’re watching.
As I write that I realise that the whole Clara/infection thing wasn’t resolved, and nor, of course, was the infection via radio business (it reminded me slightly of Snow Crash, incidentally). So maybe they will revisit it, next week or later.
But the ostensible explanation — before we got the radio part from the mad scientist — was that somehow the sleep-compression machine caused the sleep in the corner of your eyes to — what, grow sentient and consume humans, generating more of itself in the process? It’s hard even to explain what they were getting at.
Yet all they had to do was to say it was an alien intelligence that hade got into the mad scientist’s head and convinced him that helping it to spread was the right thing. then even have the sleep-machines infecting people via nanotechnology.
The aliens could even be cousin-species of the Vashta Nerada, as there’s a certain similarity.
Of course, that way we’d lose the radio-transmission-based spread, which was a nice touch too. So maybe nanotech that is quiescent until activated by the code sent in the transmssion.
Either way, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to come up with an idea that doesn’t break the story, but which also doesn’t jerk the viewer out of their suspension of disbelief.
And don’t get me started on the Star Trek-style powered orbit.
In my family we have concluded that what the show needs is, like UNIT, a Scientific Advisor.