‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Mary Shelley (Again?!) and the Lone Cybermen with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz

(sighs) ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’! Here we go. First things first, I appreciate that there are people out there who really like this episode. Because…yeah. It’s well-directed and decently-paced.

This is a ‘Doctor Who’ episode with a creepy, spooky atmosphere thrown in for good measure. You would expect that. And I’m glad the makers of this episode put the effort into making it pretty scary. 🙂

But…I’m sorry. I have some big issues with this episode. Really big issues! I suppose I expected too much and I hoped this would be a great opportunity to combine both TV and Big Finish audio realms.

This is especially with featuring a character already established in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. I know a lot of people wouldn’t know that but for ‘Doctor Who’ fans like me, it was a very exciting prospect. 🙂

However…that’s not what we got here. Okay, I appreciate this is a different take on the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley for the first time, especially since this is the TV show doing it in this instance.

But my huge problem with this aspect to the story where the Doctor meets Mary Shelley for the first time is that it’s been done already! Yeah! And I’m disappointed the TV series didn’t pick up on that!

This TV episode happens to be the second time I’ve experienced the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva with four friends and where ‘Frankenstien’s inspiration came from.

The first time I’ve experienced this kind of story was a Mary Shelley audio drama in ‘The Company of Friends’ with Paul McGann’s Doctor. Yeah! I’m not likely to forget that amazing Big Finish audio tale!

I’m very disappointed that the ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode with Jodie Whittaker featuring Mary Shelley wasn’t brave enough to make a reference to the Big Finish audios with the historical author here. 😦

Mary Shelley even became a companion to the Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish audio stories of ‘Doctor Who’. How come Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor forgot that when meeting her in the episode?! 😡

It’s like what happened with Warren Brown being cast in ‘Praxeus’. It would’ve been very exciting to have Jodie’s Doctor mentioning to her companions that she had met Mary Shelley once in a past life.

I really hope the Doctor hasn’t had her memory wiped of meeting Mary Shelley beforehand. Could it be something to do with the Time War if the Doctor had her/his memories of Mary Shelley wiped? 😐

Even a mention of saying the Eighth Doctor/Mary Shelley audio stories taking place in an alternative universe would’ve been okay for me as I was watching this episode. Or maybe they didn’t have time.

It would’ve probably got on a lot of fans’ nerves (including mine) if it were the case that the Eighth Doctor/Mary Shelley audios take place in an alternative universe, but it would be some explanation.

I mean, it’s not like this is the third time the Doctor’s met Mary Shelley… (realises) Oh wait, yes it is! It’s not just the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ featuring Mary Shelley with Paul McGann we have.

There’s also ‘The Creative Spark’, a comic story featuring the Tenth Doctor and Mary from the ‘Battles of Time’ magazine. I’ve yet to read that comic story. I wonder if I should check it out soon. 😐

Err…um…okay, maybe it’s not hard to believe that there would be multiple versions of the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. But they can’t all exist in the same universe! 😐

I mean, when has there ever been an occasion where multiple versions of the same story co-existed with each other in the same universe? That’s impossible! I can’t imagine a universe where there are…

OH, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!!!!! ‘Doctor Who’ time travel is weird! There are more examples! ‘At Childhood’s End’ and ‘Farewell, Sarah Jane’ have also complicated ‘Doctor Who’s continuity lately! 😐

(sighs) Okay, okay. Maybe I’m over-thinking this. Maybe there’s a possibility that various versions of the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley can co-exist in the same universe or can be in multiple universes. 😐

Again, as I said, maybe the Time War had something to do with this. That’s something for Big Finish to sort out, I think. They can do wonders with any of the weak points happening in the TV show itself.

With that said, do I think ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’ is a very good episode, ignoring the other versions of the Mary Shelley story that have gone on before it? Err…it was…an ‘okay’ episode for me.

Yeah, I don’t mean sound harsh on this, but there were occasions where I feel the Big Finish audio episode of the Mary Shelley story is superior. That does come from listening to it multiple times. 🙂

Now this isn’t to discredit the writer of this episode – Maxine Alderton. From watching a behind-the-scenes video on YouTube, I could tell Maxine knew her stuff regarding Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, etc.

She seems to be really into the histories of the characters that appear in the Villa Diodati itself when she wrote the TV adventure. This I do admire and I commend her for doing her research here.

But it’s also shame as for me; a lot of the characters at the Villa Diodati got garbled in terms of development. I don’t feel the five characters that lived in the Villa Diodati were fleshed out enough.

The thing I liked about ‘Mary’s Story’ from ‘The Company of Friends’ was that it was focused on Mary Shelley’s character when she met the Eighth Doctor once he came to the villa. Twice in fact! 😀

This TV episode suffers in trying to accommodate for all the characters at the Villa Diodati including Mary Shelley, her husband Percy, Lord Byron, Dr. Polidori and Claire Clairmont as well as our heroes.

It was a struggle for me to get to know and identify the guest characters in a short space of time as the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz visited them. I don’t believe it was an issue in the Big Finish audio.

Lili Miller guest stars as Mary Shelley in the TV episode. Again, I think it would’ve been great if Julie Cox was cast to play Mary Shelley here, even in a voice-over narration, as she had played her for audio.

I know that Julie Cox may be a little older since the last time she played Mary Shelley in Big Finish, but it would be a nice connection to the audio tales. It would also reassure us fans a little bit more. 🙂

I got confused in identifying between Mary Shelley and her stepsister Claire Clairmont when watching the episode, since they had similar hairstyles. It got better watching the tale a second time.

There also weren’t that many scenes between Mary and the Thirteenth Doctor compared to the Big Finish audio adventures featuring Mary and the Eighth Doctor. You’d think there would be in this. 😐

I wasn’t happy that Mary screamed once her baby William (Yes, I did check that she had a son called William. It might have been mentioned in the Big Finish audios too) went missing during the episode.

I remember Julie Cox’s Mary Shelley being stronger when she faced pretty terrifying dangers. In fact, I believe Claire Clairmont was more the squeamish one compared to Mary Shelley in the audio story.

Now to be fair, Lili Miller is okay as Mary Shelley in the episode she’s in. She does have her moments, especially when confronting the Cyberman (Yes, that’s in the episode. More on that later).

She confronts the Cyberman when he’s about to threaten Percy Shelley’s life and she tries to reach out to him. But as I indicated, Mary’s screen-time in the tale gets overshadowed by other characters.

The rest of the cast are fairly decent. There’s Jacob Collins-Levy as Lord Byron, who I found very good in the episode. He had an almost Benedict Cumberbatch-air about him, which I found amusing.

He played off the roguish aspects of Lord Byron pretty well. This is especially when he attempts to woo Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I did wonder how that was going to pan out as I watched this episode.

There’s Nadia Parkes as Claire Clairmont, who has a nice scene with Yaz in the episode. She is a different interpretation of the character compared to what I heard in the Big Finish audio episode. 😀

There’s also Maxim Baldry as Dr. John Polidori. I’ve seen Maxim Baldry before as he was that little boy Stepan in ‘Mr. Bean’s Holiday’. I look forward to him appearing in the upcoming ‘LOTR’ series. 🙂

I did find the Dr. John Polidori character in this ‘Doctor Who’ episode rather odd compared to the Big Finish audio version of him. He did seem cowardly and was rather unpredictable when watching him.

This is especially when he challenged Ryan to a duel at some point. I don’t know why Polidori needed to do that in the episode. Polidori also walked like a zombie in his sleep halfway in the story.

Lewis Rainer guest stars as Percy Shelley in the episode. This is a different version of Percy Shelley compared to the Big Finish audio ‘Mary’s Story’. I recall Percy Shelley being crazier in the audio story.

In the TV episode, Percy Shelley is introduced rather late when he’s gone missing and is being threatened by a Cyberman. It seems that Percy has something that the Lone Cyberman desires most.

Yes! You heard that right! The Lone Cyberman makes an appearance in this ‘Doctor Who’ episode. I wasn’t expecting a Cyberman to actually appear in the episode (although I should have guessed! 😀 ).

It was tense in terms of how the Lone Cybermen was revealed since the Doctor and the others discussed the possibilities of what was occurring in the Villa Diodati. The Cyberman just beamed in!!!

The shock and horror on the Doctor’s face is evident. She was warned about the Lone Cybermen from Graham, Ryan and Yaz when they told her Captain Jack’s message in ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’. 😐

It’s pretty intriguing how this TV episode has a Cyberman give Mary Shelley her inspiration to pen ‘Frankenstein’. It worked out differently in the Big Finish audios compared to how the TV story did it.

I say that because Marc Platt already done that in the Big Finish audio called ‘The Silver Turk’! Yeah, this doesn’t feel like anything new. It’s like the TV series rewrote the already established story.

How come the TV series thinks it can do this kind of Mary Shelley/Cyberman story when Big Finish did it first? Perhaps it’s a wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey thing! That would be hardly surprising mind!

Again, not meaning to rant further, but one of the few things I liked about the Steven Moffat era of ‘Doctor Who’ era is that he did acknowledge the Big Finish audios were a part of the continuity! 🙂

That was in the mini-episode ‘The Night of the Doctor’ where the Eighth Doctor mentioned his audio companions Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin and Molly. How come this doesn’t get followed up here?!

I’m getting the impression that Chris Chibnall isn’t too keen on the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s like he’s disregarding them despite them being so popular with ‘Doctor Who’ fans over the years.

This is a shame as I have enjoyed his era so far and I hope he’s not dismissing the Big Finish audios out of spite for some reason. I’d like there to be a ‘Thirteenth Doctor Chronicles’ box set someday. 🙂

Hopefully some Big Finish audios with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor will be made. I know I’ve been critical about this certain episode. I’ve complained there are three versions of the Mary Shelley tale.

But as indicated in my review, we have multiple versions of ‘Shada’ to reconcile and there are more versions of ‘Human Nature’, one with Sylvester McCoy and one with David Tennant. It’s so complex!

But going back to the Lone Cyberman in this episode! I like the Lone Cybermen. It was quite creepy when seeing it half-faced with one side being his Cyberman face and the other half being human. 😀

The Lone Cyberman is played by Patrick O’Kane and is called Ashad. My Dad was reminded of the Borg from ‘Star Trek’ when he saw the Lone Cyberman. It’s amazing how he was reminded of that. 🙂

And I agree; the Lone Cyberman appearing Borg-like in this episode was pretty effective and quite disturbing. I always like it when more connections to the Borg and the Cybermen are made like that.

It actually makes the Lone Cyberman as something Borg-like from ‘Star Trek’ more convincing than the Cybermen who were Borg-like in ‘Nightmare In Silver’. This is especially inside the dark corridors!

The episode does well with its gothic horror atmosphere and it can be argued the Lone Cybermen is the best thing in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. I look forward to how things turn out in Series 12’s finale! 🙂

Once again, Jodie Whittaker excels as the Doctor in this episode along with Bradley Walsh as Graham, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Mandip Gill as Yaz. I enjoyed watching their journeys in the episode.

These four have been a constant highlight throughout Series 12 of ‘Doctor Who’, despite the mixed feelings I have about some of the episodes of Series 12 so far. I’m glad they’ve kept me happy here.

It was great to see Graham, Ryan and Yaz in period outfits to fit in with the rest of the company at the Villa Diodati. It’s slightly annoying the Doctor was still in her trademark Thirteenth Doctor outfit.

Seeing her in a period costume would’ve been brilliant. At least she did wear a scarf and a new shirt…that sort-of had her blend in. (?!) Seriously, the Doctor needs a change of clothes now and again in the series. 😀

It has been argued there are echoes of the Seventh Doctor era with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in terms of the darker, mysterious tones in the series. That didn’t cross my mind whilst I was watching Series 12.

I’m not sure if former script-editor Andrew Cartmel would agree on that, especially concerning ‘the timeless child’ reveal, but it was interesting to see it in that light compared to what occurred before.

It was disconcerting when things seemed to be out of order in the house as our characters were going around in circles. Oh no! It’s the recursive occlusion from the tale ‘Castrovalva’ again, isn’t it?!!

I did wonder how the Doctor was going to unravel this bizarre mystery and restore the house back to proper working order. It was really tense how the Doctor and friends worked it out during the story.

It was pretty dramatic and tense when the Lone Cyberman wanted something from Percy Shelley which was inside his head/mind. The Doctor was told ‘not’ to give what the Lone Cyberman wanted.

That was what her friends said to her in the message from Captain Jack. But she makes a really hard decision in order to save Percy Shelley’s life. I liked it when the Doctor made the very tough decision.

Despite my issues regarding the continuity of the ‘Doctor Who’ stories featuring Mary Shelley and whether they coexist with each other, I appreciate the morality that the Doctor has in her character.

I appreciate her telling Ryan, Graham and Yaz about the importance of preserving history. This is especially when Percy Shelley’s life is at risk by the Lone Cyberman wanting the Cyberium from him.

In the end, the Doctor takes the Cyberium out from Percy’s head before she gives it to the Lone Cybermen who departs to join his legion, I believe. Could this is be very bad decision by the Doctor?!

The Doctor and her friends say goodbye to Mary Shelley and the others before they head back to the TARDIS. They’re about to go off and stop the Cybermen in the future. Will they succeed in this here?

I’m not sure what to make of Graham seeing the two ghosts – the woman and the little girl – in the episode. It was left unresolved and didn’t seem to go anywhere. What did happen to that plot point?

Maybe it got saved for what was to come in the two-part finale. I was intrigued about how the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz were to tackle the Cybermen menace next time in the two-part finale.

The upcoming Cybermen story in the two-part Series 12 finale should be exciting and worthy to look forward to. Sadly, this Mary Shelley ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode on its own didn’t really do that for me.

There were occasional moments where I did find myself laughing at funny moments and the scary moments in dark-lit rooms and corridors were worth watching in this. I was entertained by the story.

It was also thrilling to see an intriguing version of a Cyberman that appeared Borg-like. Seeing its half-cyber, half-human face was terrifying to look at. But I cannot rate this one highly like others can.

It felt disappointing and a missed opportunity for the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team meeting Mary Shelley and gang. It should have been way better and bolder than what we were given in the output.

If you enjoyed this Mary Shelley ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode and rate it highly, and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of you who do, then I can deny you that enjoyment. You are entitled to what you enjoy.

But for me, if it’s all the same to you, I prefer the Big Finish audio version of ‘Mary’s Story’ in ‘The Company of Friends’ over the TV episode. I gained more from Jonathan Morris’ writing in that audio.

I’ve added ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’ and the comic story ‘The Creative Spark’ to ‘Mary Shelley’s Timeline’ on my blog, identifying them as ‘divergent timelines’ considering the Eighth Doctor stories.

The DVD/Blu-ray special features for this episode are as follows. On Disc 4 of ‘The Complete Series 12’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s a ‘Closer Look’ on ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’.

‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’ rating – 5/10

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2 thoughts on “‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati (TV)

  1. Adam

    I heard a theory that this happened before all Mary’s Adventures in the TARDIS with the Eighth Doctor and that rewrote the history of what happened to Mary Shelley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Adam.

      Interesting theory there and not one I would dismiss. I wonder if the Eighth Doctor exited into another universe after being in the Divergent Universe for some time as well as the Time War being involved with the multiple versions of the Doctor meeting Mary Shelley.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Tim 🙂



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