Recap: Doctor Who 12.8, Haunting of Villa Diodati

It sounds like the plot from the movie Gothic: several friends gather one night in a chalet in Switzerland to tell ghost stories which will inspire a great novel.
This time, though, they get some unexpected visitors: none other than the Doctor and her friends.
It leads to a horror story that inspires a classic novel, and includes a real monster that could be a threat to our future. It also shows the Doctor admitting there are battles even she can’t win.

SPOILERS BELOW

The Doctor and his companions had planned to witness the classic meeting in 1816 with Lord Bryon (Jacob Collins-Levy), Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Lili Miller), Dr. Polidori (Maxim Brady) and Miss Clairmont (Nadia Parkes), who’s enarmored with Byron. This created the legend of Mary being inspired to write “Frankenstein”. The Doctor just warns her friends against a few things, like kissing Byron.
Then the Doctor asks, where is Percy Shelley? Graham, meanwhile, is looking for a restroom.
Then other strange things are happening, including someone who’s trying to get into the house. Then a skeleton hand attacks Ryan after it leaves a skeleton Byron had in the house (part of his relics of war collection). Byron also seems to be intrigued with the Doctor, not exactly in a flirtatious way, when she starts quoting his poems.
Then the Doctor and some of his friends suddenly realize they can’t leave the house, and Polidori is sleepwalking and going through a wall. It’s a stranger version of Castrovalva.

The Doctor also is told how Shelley saw a vision of a figure charred in fire, as if it came from Hell. That figure is soon seen by everyone, and it’s him…

It’s a Lone Cyberman called Ashad (Patrick O’Kane), the monster Jack Harkness warned about a few weeks back. The Doctor insists that she confront it alone because she doesn’t want the Cybermen to invade in the 19th Century. She still remembers how she lost Bill Potts.
She’s surprised to learn that part of a human face and teeth are visible in this model. It can even get angry, and be kind to a baby (Mary’s second child, William) although it hopes the kid will be “upgraded”. It’s also looking for the “guardian”, whoever that is.
Meanwhile, the Doctor’s friends along with Mary and Byron look around the house. They find some a room where Shelley was writing weird symbols on the walls, and also find someone in the basement.
Then Ashad starts saying this: “There’s not one atom of your earth, but once was living man.”
Guess who wrote that?

None other than Percy Shelley (Lewis Rainer), who found something shiny at a nearby lake that absorbed him. It’s known as the Cyberium, a liquid AI that contains all of the Cyberman knowledge. It absorbs into him, and causes him to see the Cyberman and the strange symbols. It also caused the house to shift realities. Shelley is the guardian, and the center of a major dilemma for the Doctor. Come to think of it, how did the Cyberium finds its way to 1816? Someone hoped to change the future by hiding it there.

The Cyberman wants the Cyberium that’s inside Shelley, which is what Jack told the Doctor and her friends to prevent. However, if Shelley dies, does that kill the future…which includes Yaz, Graham and Ryan? “Save the poet, save the universe,” she says. “Watch people burn now or tomorrow. Sometimes, even I can’t win.”
It might remind people of “Genesis of the Daleks”, when Four was sent to Skaro to prevent his enemy’s creation. He has the chance literally in his hands, but he wonders if he succeeds, would he be no better than them?

Before the Doctor makes her decision, Mary tries to appeal to what’s left of the Cyberman’s humanity. She points out she let her infant son live, and it seems to respond. However, his Cyber side overtakes him. That’s when the Doctor tricks the Cyberium into thinking Shelley has died, and it goes into her (“Time Lord magnetism”, as she calls it).
The Cyberman then tries to tear a hole in reality and threaten the world. It knows the Doctor can’t let that happen, and she doesn’t. She knows the Cybermen are inevitable, and it wins the Cyberium…for now.
The next step is trying to stop it from causing massive destruction. Those symbols Shelley wrote on his walls might help.
So, the Doctor did what Jack Harkness didn’t want. Despite the warning, the Lone Cyberman got what it wanted. The meeting both might inevitably have should be interesting

The story was an interesting “explanation” of how Frankenstein was written, and some may have suspected a Cyberman would be involved. The Doctor’s speech about having to make hard decisions in impossible situations was also very good. Sometimes the hero can’t win, even if it’s
the Doctor.
The question is, what now? The Doctor has to stop what she started, and there’s no guarantee she can stop their ascension. She and her friends will still try. This sets up the two-part finale starting next week, but is there a chance another familiar face or two will join the Cybermen?

The episode ends with Byron reading his poem Darkness, which talked about the eruption of a volcano that affected weather in 1816. It ends with the words, “She is the universe.” Guess whose face is shown?

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008