Doctor Who: The Haunting of Villa Diodati
February 17, 2020 3:09 AM - Season 12, Episode 8 - Subscribe

In 1816, Lord Byron and the Shelleys prepare for a night of ghost stories.
posted by KTamas (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I liked a lot about this episode. Good atmosphere, the companions felt a necessary part of the plot. Some stuff was a bit unclear (so Polidori was just a grumpy sleepwalker then? Felt like an awkward way to explain the perception filter). Can’t say I thought the characterisation of Byron and Mary Shelley was that great but that feels a relatively small, niche cavil.Emotionally, I’m not convinced by much of this season, but the big scenes here worked well and I liked the callback to Bill.

(Of course, not the first time Mary Shelley has met the Doctor, a lone cyberman and been inspired to write Frankenstein:
posted by Hartster at 3:23 AM on February 17, 2020

The actor playing Ashad is Patrick O'Kane, who had a seconds-long appearance as Jaqen H'Ghar in Game of Thrones.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 AM on February 17, 2020

Yeah, I enjoyed the story, although I was sort of annoyed that the background setting happened during the dance scene, so good luck keeping up with everything! And again, it feels like they're not exactly hitting Deep Cuts for their historical elements. Oh hey here's Mary Shelley, oh hey modern prometheus, yadda yadda. All very superficial.

But the brokedown Cyberman and the Cyberium? Nice. That was good.
posted by Kyol at 6:04 AM on February 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best episode of the season for me so far.
posted by Pendragon at 7:17 AM on February 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

My comment over on Twitter:

DR WHO WRITERS: We're bringing back the Cybermen, with a great body-horror reimagining of their design that admittedly does evoke another tv-sf cyborg race, but hopefully our viewers won't remember them.
PICARD WRITERS: We're bringing back the Borg!

Pleased to see that Dr Who continues to credit Kit Pedler and Gerry Davies at the end of every episode featuring the Cybermen.
posted by Major Clanger at 9:47 AM on February 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Really good episode, which was kind of surprising given that the previews didn't convince me to expect much. I especially liked the lighting throughout, making the episode look like it was shot using the available candlelight. Of course, it wasn't, but it was pretty convincing nonetheless. The production quality, overall, has really been outstanding throughout the season.

This was, I think, the first time we got to see this Doctor really angry/serious (the scenes in the basement, especially), and Jodie played it quite well. It was good to see this Doctor getting more-or-less irate (adult?) for once. She's been played more-or-less bubbly/quirky up to now. It makes me wonder which Doctor shows up for the finale.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:43 AM on February 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

One thing, though. Was this really the first time (in any NuWho series) we’ve heard of the Cyberium? It sure sounded familiar to me when it was first mentioned, but the Doctor seemed not to know what it was at all, until she finally figured it out.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:00 AM on February 17, 2020

Nngh. Somehow managed to mangle my link for previous Doctor/Mary Shelley/Cyber action .
posted by Hartster at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was mostly fun though it was a bit of a drag in the middle before the cybermen shows up (i skipped forward a few minutes). Excited about the final two eps.
posted by KTamas at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2020

Also, no preaching, or at least none that bothered me which was a nice change tbh
posted by KTamas at 12:29 PM on February 17, 2020

Agreeing with prior comments - great episode, I dug it. The incomplete(ly) CyberMan was great, including his momentary flashes of emotion. The rest of the Who Crew were good, too.

And if you want a little of that spooky reading for yourself, here's a post I made on the 200th anniversary of the actual dreary summer and the literary monsters it spawned.

Thorzdad: I especially liked the lighting throughout, making the episode look like it was shot using the available candlelight. Of course, it wasn't, but it was pretty convincing nonetheless.

Fun fact: thanks to modern cameras, you can shoot on candle-light only (link to my FanFare comment/ write-up from Better Call Saul Insider podcast for s03e05 "Chicanery"). In fact, on those high-sensitivity settings, street lights or a full moon can wash out a night shot!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:46 PM on February 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I really, really liked this episode after a couple of weeks of "that was the very definition of okay". I wasn't expecting the lone cyberman to appear in this episode, but it worked with the setting and a great set-up for the two-part finale. I can't believe we're already at the end of the season!

Loved to see this Doctor get angry. And the companions worked the best they have all year. I don't know if they are back next season or not, but if they aren't this episode (and my fond memories of them last year) will be why I miss them.
posted by crossoverman at 1:34 PM on February 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I liked it. A genuinely smart episode with a standout portrayal of Mary Shelley and interesting inclusion of the Lost Cyberman.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:53 AM on February 18, 2020

I thought last week's episode did a good job of having the companions posing questions about what they were losing by travelling with the Doctor. I'm guessing that's a prelude for them moving on after this season. Nu Who has established fairly firm limits of 2 seasons for companions (Clara got more, and wasn't THAT dismal?). It would be a nice change for them to just decide to integrate back into their old lives without a lot of angst and drama: unrequited love, memory-wipes, getting sucked into other dimensions, turned into cyber-people or having their babies kidnapped. One thing the new version of the show has really struggled with is that it's made being a companion so attractive that it doesn't know how to let the companions move on. I feel like Chibnall understands the structure of the show better than the previous two showrunners (it helps to have had the benefit of their experience).

I just love watching Jodie Whittaker work. She's so bright and energetic, but this season has been teasing a darker side (something Jodie can definitely pull off, if you've seen Broadchurch). She's such a COMPETENT Doctor you really get the sense that she collects companions because she's so lonely otherwise, not because she needs them to ground her as the last few Doctors have seemed.
posted by rikschell at 7:17 AM on February 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I really enjoyed the Doctor's short, decisive speech about the team structure not being flat and what amounts to executive veto. The Doctor should be the focus of the show, if I have a criticism of this era it is that there has been a lack of dilemmas. In most cases the choices have been obvious or the heroes are swept up in events with little real option.

Here The Doctor made a choice, possibly even the wrong choice and we get to see the consequences next week. Should be interesting.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Paraphrasing: “Yes, if Percy Shelley dies slightly earlier than he did in history, billions of people won’t be killed. But! Mary probably won’t write her famous novel, which means no ‘Monster Mash’! And! That means somebody else will narrate ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’!

“Is that a world you want to live in, Ryan? A world with no ‘Monster Mash’?”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:12 PM on February 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

This was decent, although with 90% of the season being so lackluster I've kind of lost enthusiasm for Doctor Who at the moment. The episode had a good spooky atmosphere, with the candlelight, lightning, and warped house geometry, although as usual the wrap up of "this is where Shelly was/here's some (evil?) nano-goo from the future/the cyberman wants the goo for reasons(??)" was a little fast and didn't really explain everything very well.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:21 AM on February 19, 2020

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