Sleep No More: The Acceptance of State Sponsored Terrorism

PRESENTER: May the Gods look favourably upon us all. 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 The Morpheus machine concentrates the whole nocturnal experience into one five-minute burst. Now, you can go a whole month without sleep. 

PRESENTER: 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.
CLARA: That’s insane. That’s horrible!
CHOPRA: Finally, someone who sees it for what it is.
PRESENTER: Leave the Rip Van Winkles behind and become one of a new generation of Wide-Awakes! The future is here. The future is now. Let yourself slip into the arms of Morpheus! 

Advances in technology often go hand in hand with government oppression and exploitation. No, I am not one of those people that condemns every new technological advance as evil and it is important to note that many technological advances and breakthroughs, especially in medicine, have had a positive impact on numerous people. (Though for those that that market and sell such technology, it is often in their best interest to narrow who can receive it based on income.) Other advances, such as social media, encryption, etc has helped those in authoritarian countries find way to bypass government censorship. Yet at the same time advances in technology has provided governments with the ability to spy and monitor millions of people within their own country, but also outside of it. Most technology, with the exception of military weapons, are morally neutral. What determines whether they are “good” or “bad” is the motivation behind their creation and the consequences of their use.

In Sleep No More, the Morpheus pod has two purposes: the first purpose, which is tied with how it is marketed, is to reduce the need for sleep and enable workers to use their extra hours to gain a completive edge over their co-workers or increase their profits. In this case, capitalism and greed are the motivating force for why many people and companies buy and use it. Of course, the pod is marketed as helping to continue the current, “golden age of peace, harmony and industry,” which in any modern, industrialized country is tied to the god of capitalism. May the gods of free market capitalism look favorably upon us indeed.

The other more sinister motive is tied to patient zero and thee creation of what Clara calls. “the Sandmen.”

RASSMUSSEN: I’ve been working on Morpheus for a very long time, Doctor.  I had to start somewhere. Morpheus’s first client. Patient Zero. The ultimate Wide-Awake. Inside there is a man who hasn’t slept in five years. 
DOCTOR: Or what’s left of him. 

It becomes clear as the episode progresses that this second, even more sinister motive lies at the heart of the creation of the Morpheus pod. Of course the Morpheus pod, during its use could have achieved some good. I imagine the tired surgeon performing lifesaving surgery, for example. But the episode doesn’t even hint at such noble motives. As the viewer, even before we know that the sandmen are definitively connected to the Morpheus machine, we have a deep understanding that such a machine is wrong and is ripe for exploitation. Any good is vastly overshadowed by the evil the machine fosters. But that’s because this is a new, freakish machine that we can scarcely imagine. For the rescue team and others in the 38th century it is standard practice. Just like their cloning of grunts who are breed to fight, kill, and die.


The people in the 38th century see such advances as improvements. And it is easy to imagine that most technological advances didn’t occur overnight. The population had years maybe centuries to get used to the idea of growing humans for war or forgoing sleep. Before the cloning of humans, there was probably mass successful cloning of animals. Before forgoing sleep entirely for a month, there were probably smaller advances that enabled people to forgo sleep for a few days. It is this small incremental change in what a society deems normal that can provide governments with the ability to harness to technology for exploitation and destruction. Of course there are good societal changes and uses of technology that should be celebrated, but it is the devious, sinister uses of technology that often go unnoticed.

For instance, the militarization of the American law enforcement has been  steadily increasing while the majority of Americans remained oblivious. Its seeds can be traced to the protests of the 1960s,  it gained traction during the “war on drugs” in the 80s and 90s, and received renewed power after the attacks on 9/11. The protests in Ferguson, in which the police used tanks, pointed assault rifles at protestors, and dressed up as an occupying force which lead the larger American public to wonder, “how the hell did this happen?”



This happened because the government, state, local, and federal police departments  harnessed fear and the majority’s desire for peace and security in order to convince the population and themselves that these tanks, assault rifles, etc were needed. In the 60s, protests rocked America, with some agencies, such as the FBI and local police department feeling as if a time of lawlessness had arrived. The very foundation of American stability and democracy was at stake or so they said. The FBI used this reasoning to justify their illegal use of the latest technology: advances in wiretapping, and recording, as well as infiltrating and entrapping activists. In the 80s and 90s, it was the war on drugs and the wave of crime that threatened to undermine America. We needed harsh sentences and punishment for those using and dealing drugs. Local law enforcement needed to protect themselves from evil, ruthless, drug dealers (and don’t get me wrong, there are some vicious drug dealers. Look at the cartels in Mexico, whose progress and spread can be traced in part, to the US governments, “war on drugs”). America was facing an evil, ruthless enemy and federal, state, and local police needed the latest military gear to protect themselves.

After 9/11 the separation between law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and the military became even more blurred. The NYPD’s war on terror is known for its attempts at gleaning intelligence from Muslims through surveillance and the use of informants, regardless of whether such actions are legal or not.  And of course the San Bernardino shooting, in which the shooters had thin ties to any official terrorist group, as lead to police departments, union leaders, etc defending increased militarization.  Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000

Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000 Americans have been killed by police in 2015 alone. . But the police expect us to fear one set of terrorists, mainly those perpetrated by those who claim to be Muslim, yet we are to ignore state sponsored terrorism in the form of police shootings.

Police militarization didn’t happen overnight. The State worked to ensure that citizens were not fully aware of what was going on in police departments and the state exploited Americans fear of drugs, crime, and terrorism. In a similar way, Rassmussen and patient zero exploited humanity’s greed and desire for more profits. By the 38th century, society had progressed to the point where sleep was viewed as a commodity to be reduced to short five minute spurts once a month and some people were grown for the use of becoming cannon fodder. We find such a thought abhorrent because that hasn’t been our lived experience. Yet many Americans seem to have no problem with American law enforcement turning into an occupying force.



Under the Lake: To Protect and Serve?

DOCTOR: They’re not ghosts have been trying to kill you, why haven’t you abandoned the base? 
PRITCHARD: That was my call. We’ve got about a trillion dollars’ worth of mining equipment here. We’re not just going to abandon it What? If it all goes pear-shaped, it’s not them that lose a bonus. 
DOCTOR: It’s okay. I understand. You’re an idiot.

Pritchard, representing Vector Petroleum is the embodiment of human greed. Of course he would make the decision that he and the crew had to stay on the base. As he points out, the equipment is worth trillions of dollars plus he would forfeit any potential bonuses if things were to go wrong. Maybe it is just me, but I have to admit, I really did want him to die. His character was extremely one dimensional and he had no qualms about putting his life or the lives of others in danger for money. When the Doctor is shown the ship and he explains that it is missing some equipment, the look on Pritchard’s face is telling. You can see the gears in his head turning as he imagines the potential worth of said equipment.

PRITCHARD: I imagine they’re pretty valuable. 
DOCTOR: What? 
PRITCHARD: I mean powerful. Those power cells. I imagine they’re pretty powerful. 
DOCTOR: Well, they can zap a vessel from one side of the galaxy to the other, so, you know, take a wild stab in the dark. 
PRITCHARD: And the missing one must still be out there. 
DOCTOR: Yes, well, otherwise.

Pritchard’s greed ends up killing him as he ventures outside the submarine in a vein attempt to find the equipment. When he re-enters the submarine he discovers that for some reason the submarine’s settings have gone from morning to evening and he is confronted with Moran’s ghost, who then drowns him.

Despite the one dimensional portrayal of Pritchard, it is important not to dismiss the importance that greed can play when it comes to encouraging people to risk their own lives or the lives of others.

Cass and the other crew members, wisely value each other’s lives over the equipment and loss of money. Equipment can be replaced and money is useless when one is dead. As a result Cass makes the decision to abandon base.

CLARA: But we’re coming back, aren’t we? 
DOCTOR: Yes, we’re coming back.

The Doctor of course wants to stay. He wants to figure out what exactly is going on. He isn’t motivated by greed but by curiosity, yet he is notorious for allowing his desire to get answers to imperial the lives of others. Cass isn’t having it. She needs to protect her crew. Unfortunately her plan is foiled when they discover that the ghost had called in the rescue team before the crew has the chance to do so themselves. While at this point the Doctor and the crew do not know why the ghosts did that, the Doctor knows that the ghosts have a nefarious reason for doing so. As a result he calls off the rescue team and places the submarine in a quarantine.

Cass’ impulse to abandon the base is understandable. She has a crew to protect, people she has grown to care about and love, and their lives are in danger. If she can protect them, she will. In a similar fashion, law enforcement have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and the lives of others on their force. Many talk about their colleagues as part of their family. Most people, even those not in law enforcement, recognize that police should be able to protect themselves and their colleagues-even if it means the use of deadly force.  And of course family and friends want their loved ones to come home safe after every shift. Yet, is protecting their own lives at the heart of law enforcement? Is that why the institution of policing exists? That is the impression that one gets when one hears the details of shooting after shooting, especially when the victims are unarmed or are armed with a knife, a cane, etc. The officers involved invoke the “I feared for my life” defense. And when the person is unarmed, the officers response is, “I thought he/she was pulling out a gun” and as law enforcement is quick to point out, if an individual officer waits too long to see if the person does have a weapon it might be too late and the officer might not have time to “neutralize the threat.” The officer could be killed. Yet, as those committed to protect and serve the people, (not the State, though in practice, that is often what occurs) shouldn’t we expect them to confirm that the person indeed has a weapon, even if it is at great risk to their own lives?

Later in Under the Lake,  the Doctor begins to out why the ghosts were created.

CASS via LUNN: But why are they beaming out the coordinates? Is it a distress call? 
DOCTOR: It could be. 

Doctor: Or a warning. Might even be a call to arms. It could mean, come here, they’re vulnerable, help yourself. Wait a minute, though. Wait a minuet. Do you know what this means? It means that they’re not a natural phenomenon. It means that someone is deliberately getting people killed, hijacking their souls and turning them into transmitters. 

Eventually the Doctor figures out that for some reason the coordinates are leading back to the church in the underwater and abandoned town:

DOCTOR: Whatever the coordinates are for, it’s in that church. Find that and you’re a hop, skip and a jump to stopping them.

But Bennett points out that they are safe. They could leave the base since the ghosts are trapped. In other words, stopping the ghosts really isn’t their responsibility.

The Doctor acknowledges they have the right to leave, but he also asks them to consider what lies at the heart of their various occupations:

The Doctor points out that Cass, Lunn, and O’ Donnell have chosen careers whose stated mission is to protect and serve. As a result, it is their responsibility to stop the ghosts. Right now the ghosts are trapped, but they know nothing about the strength and capabilities of whoever is creating them. Their first duty is not to get to safety, but to protect others, to find out what is going on and stop it. Their lives matter, but their job description means that they cannot view their own safety as the end all be all.

As of October 18, 2015 The Guardian has recorded 920 people killed since the beginning of the year. To put the numbers in a bit of perspective, on 9/11, 2,977 people were killed. That was 14 years ago. The United States got myriad in two official wars, expanded its surveillance capabilities, and spent billions of dollars trying to track down those who killed 2,997 people through a horrific act of terrorism. If the numbers of shootings the guardian is recording is about normal for police shootings (of course we don’t know because there hasn’t been a comprehensive attempt to tally officer involved shootings) then the amount of people killed by police vastly out number those killed on 9/11, yet change in law enforcement is routinely resisted. Some might argue, “well the people were armed.” But what exactly does that mean? Armed has such a large and wide meaning that it can mean someone pointing a gun and firing at police officers but it can also mean a 17 year old mentally ill girl, with a knife. Or a 70 year old man with a cane (who survives being shot in the chest)

Even disregarding the serious questions that arise by the justice system’s willingness to blindly accept the police officer’s words, especially in cases where no video is present,  one has to wonder what the motivating force in law enforcement is. While many police officers no doubt are good people who desire to help others, with many performing heroic feats, the institution as a whole is based on fear and compliance. Officers are taught to fear each potential citizen and that their lives are always at stake, though it is important to note that police deaths have actually decreased. They are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. This isn’t to say that most police officers want to kill anyone. In fact, killing another person can emotionally devastate a person. But the training that officers undergo, leave serious questions about how law enforcement are trained to view their jobs and the ones they are called to protect.

The Doctor’s speech, manages to convince the crew to stay.

LUNN: Cass says we should go, but everything that happens here is her responsibility now, so she’s going to stay. So I, er, guess I should too. 
O’DONNELL: Well, count me in. Who wants to live forever, anyway? 
BENNETT: Sorry, er, have you gone insane? We can go home. 
(O’Donnell does a one shoulder shrug and grins.)
BENNETT: They’re ghosts, though. How can they be ghosts? Well, at least if I die, you know I really will come back and haunt you all.

If only nice speeches were enough to bring large systematic change. In Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, he extensively quotes former Maryland Cop Neill Franklin who discusses what he believes today’s police force have forgotten about the nature of their jobs:

“I think there are two critical components to policing that cops today have forgotten. Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. But I don’t know how you get police officers today to value those principles again. The ‘us and everybody else’ sentiment is strong today. It’s very, very difficult to change a culture.” (325)

I reject the notion that most police officers are evil or bad. Rather, they are human like the rest of us. With their own fears, dreams, biases, strengths and weaknesses. However, how they are trained impacts how they view their jobs and how they view the citizens they swore to protect.