The Haunting of Villa Diodati
16 February 2020
Lili Miller (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Nadia Parkes (Claire Clairmont), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Maxim Baldry (Dr John Polidori), Percy Shelley (Lewis Rainer), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Stefan Bednarczyk (Fletcher), Sarah Perles (Elise)
|Written by||Maxine Alderton|
|Directed by||Emma Sullivan|
|Produced by||Nikki Wilson, Adam Friedlander & Alex Mercer|
‘Nobody mention Frankenstein. Nobody interfere. Nobody snog Byron.’ Should be easy, right?
The Doctor and her gang arrive at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva in 1816 on the night that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The plan is to spend the evening soaking up the atmos in the presence of some literary greats, but the ghosts are all too real, and The Doctor is forced into a decision of earth-shattering proportions.
The Doctor takes Graham, Ryan, and Yaz to Lake Geneva in 1816 to witness Mary Shelley gain the inspiration to write Frankenstein, though warns them about revealing this to her. The group meet Mary along with her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley and her infant William, along with John Polidori, Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati. Because of the inclement weather, Byron suggests each write a ghost story to scare the others.
Percy soon goes missing, having left strange gibberish on the walls of his room, and strange events occur in the villa, such as the rearrangement of its layout. Byron suggests it is a ghost that haunts the villa but The Doctor suspects something else is occurring, the events part of a security system to prevent finding something. The group sees an apparition which The Doctor recognises as a being moving through time; the apparition resolves into a half-converted Cyberman.
Graham, Ryan and Yaz remind The Doctor of Jack Harkness’s warning of the “lone Cyberman” and giving it what it wants, but she angrily orders them not to follow her, and tells them to protect Mary and the others, before heading off to confront the Cyberman. The Cyberman, named Ashad, was sent back in time to look for the “Cyberium”, a liquid metal with the collective knowledge of the Cybermen. Ashad had tracked it to the villa but since his power has been sapped. As The Doctor tries to lure Ashad away from the villa, he is struck by lightning, recharging his power core, and he prepares to attack the villa again.
The Doctor races to warn the others but instead finds Percy hiding in the cellar with a crazed look. She discovers he is possessed by the Cyberium, having found it a few days prior, and the Cyberium had created the supernatural events to prevent discovery. She brings Percy to Ashad, and to stop Ashad from killing him, tricks the Cyberium to leave Percy’s body and enter hers. Ashad threatens to destroy the planet, forcing The Doctor to turn it back over to him, despite Harkness’s warning.
The Doctor and her companions depart, making plans to follow Ashad to the future using coordinates from Percy’s Cyberman-based writings. After they leave, Mary reveals to the others she was inspired by Ashad’s appearance, “this modern Prometheus”, and plans to write a story based on their experience.
Villa Diodati is near Lake Geneva.
Graham searches for the lavatory, but finds that they’re too early in history to enjoy the invention of toilets.
Graham begins” It is a truth universally acknowledged…”, but The Doctor interjects”wrong writer”.
The Doctor has instructed her friends not to mention Frankenstein, or otherwise affect its inception. Mary Shelley wonders if Ashad is a composite of multiple men (like the creature in her novel), and refers to his creators as a”Modern Prometheus” (the novel’s full title is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus). She watches him recharge via a lightning strike; in the novel, it is implied the monster is brought to life via electricity.
Ryan plays “Chopsticks” on the piano.
The Doctor quotes Lord Byron’s poem “She Walks in Beauty”.
Lord Byron believes that The Doctor is after the third canto of his work Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
The Lone Cyberman recites Percy Shelley’s poem “Queen Mab”.
The poem read aloud by Byron at the end of the episode is”Darkness”.
- The episode had a”cold opening”.
- Unusual to a normal set up, this particular episode did feature a cliffhanger but it wasn’t set at the end of the episode, instead appearing before Team TARDIS head back to the TARDIS, in the final scenes in Villa Diodati.
- In the real world, the competition to create the best ghost story took place over the course of three days, not one single night.
- Although uncredited, the Cyberman’s helmet design visibly appears to beb based on Matthew Savage’s 2016 design
– In another account, the Eighth Doctor was involved in this night’s events. (Mary’s Story)
– Mary also travelled with the Eighth Doctor for a time, as his companion. (The Silver Turk, The Witch from the Well, Army of Death)
- In one of their adventures, Mary encountered another lone Cyberman, popularly known as the Silver Turk, in 1873 Vienna. (The Silver Turk)
– In a second account, the Tenth Doctor saved Mary from a bandaged alien during her stay in Switzerland, at least partly inspiring her to write Frankenstein, and certainly leading to the book’s ultimate title. (The Creative Spark)
- The Shelley Cabal’s encounters with the Mal’akh are detailed in The Book of the War.
- Although taking on Shelley’s name, Mary and Percy are not yet officially married. (Mary’s Story)
- The Doctor mentions that she knows Byron’s daughter, Ada. (The Enchantress of Numbers, Spyfall)
- Team TARDIS recall Jack’s warning about the Lone Cyberman. (Fugitive of the Judoon)
- The Doctor refuses to lose anyone else to Cyber-conversion. (World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls)
- Mary calls the Cyberman a”modern Prometheus”; this would form part of her title for Frankenstein. (The Creative Spark)