Doctor Who – ‘The Haunting Of Villa Diodati’

Series Twelve, Episode Eight

CONTAINS SPOILERS

On a stormy night in 1816 in the mansion Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva, Mary Shelley was inspired to write her masterpiece Frankenstein. So the Doctor and her friends think it might to be fun to drop in for a visit to witness this. But they aren’t the only uninvited guests…

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Lili Miller), her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (Lewis Rainer), her stepsister Claire Clairmount (Nadia Parks), Dr. John Polidori (Maxim Baldry) and Lord George Byron (Jacob Collins-Levy) are staying at the Villa Diodati mansion, when they get a knock at the door – it’s the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz.

The Doctor warns her group not to disrupt anything, but she begins to suspect things have been disrupted from before they arrived. The group don’t appear to be doing much writing, and Percy Shelley has gone missing.

Many peculiar events lead to many thinking the house is haunted. There are flashes of what appear to be ghosts, a spider-like thing crawling around and people try walking out of rooms, only to end up right back in the same room, or go downstairs and end up back at the top of the staircase!

The “spider” grabs Ryan’s throat, until the butler Fletcher (Stefan Bednarczyk) hits the spider, crumbling it into dust. It was in fact a skeleton hand!

Dr. Poloidori falls asleep, then wakes up in a trance. He appears to walk through walls, but as the Doctor examines him she says he is still alive. She guesses that there is some sort of perception filter on the house, and if they close their eyes they might be able to find doors to get out of the loop they are in.

Mary goes to the crib of her baby son, William, but he isn’t in the crib. Instead, it’s the rest of the skeleton!

Eventually, the group see what appears to be a ghost at first, but turns out to be a Cyberman! This one isn’t fully converted either, he is still partially human. Not that it makes him any less of a danger. He kills Fletcher, and finds the maid Elise (Sarah Perles) who has been hiding trying to protect Will from the Cyberman. The Cyberman kills Elise, but decides not to kill the baby, as he will be “like us”.

After the Doctor explains what the Cybermen are, Graham, Ryan and Yaz remind her of the message they got from Captain Jack in ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ to “beware the lone Cyberman”, but the Doctor wants to go and fight it alone, not wanting her companions anywhere near Cybermen after what happened to Bill Potts in ‘World Enough and Time’. She wants them to focus on protecting the historical figures so as not to mess up time anymore than is neccessary.

The Doctor goes to the Cyberman, who unusually has a name – Ashad (Patrick O’Kane). He has been sent to search for the Cyberium, a large amount of important data to the Cybermen, which takes the form of a floating liquid metal.

The Doctor and the others make their way to the cellar, where Percy Shelley is! He picked up the Cyberium, not knowing what it was, and it is all through his body now.

Ashad comes in, and says that Percy needs to die for the Cyberium to be extracted. Mary says she still “sees a soul” in Ashad, and basically tries to appeal to the human side of him, but it doesn’t work.

The Doctor gets the Cyberium to leave Percy’s body and use her as a host instead. Ashad tells the Doctor he will summon Cyberfleets to come and destroy Earth if he doesn’t get the Cyberium, so the Doctor decides to give it to him! She reasons that she can go and find them in the future and stop them then, and thinks that there are better odds of succeeding than trying to stop them now.

The Doctor mentions to Lord Byron that she’s his daughter, Ada – that is, Ada Lovelace, who the Doctor met in this series in ‘Spyfall part two’. Although technically, as the Doctor herself notes, it’s more of a “will meet her”, as from Ada’s timeline she won’t meet the Doctor for another 18 years yet.

Fletcher and Elise being cannon fodder for Ashad has an unfortunate “servants don’t matter as much as upper class poets and their babies” thing to it, but I think it was mostly the fact that all the other guest characters were all historical figures who really existed, and their lives are on record. When you write historical figures into a text, it’s a bit like artifacts on loan from a museum – you can display them for marquee value and use them to make any point you wish, but you can’t damage or “break” them – after all, they aren’t yours!

Ashad reminded me of Adam from Buffy The Vampire Slayer than Frankenstein’s Monster. Granted, Adam was based on Frankenstein’s Monster, but I guess Adam/Ashad were more your average zombie-robots and, honestly, they had much, much less depth of character to what Frankenstein’s Monster had.

‘The Haunting Of Villa Diodati’ was… OK, I suppose. It started out as one of the “haunted house” style episodes you sometimes get, and ended up as an introduction to the finale.

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