In this week’s episode of Doctor Who, we travel to 1816 Switzerland. A group of young authors and poets are telling one another haunting tales in their lakeside villa. As the eeriness creeps in so appears our Tardis team. However, all is not what it appears in “The Haunting of Villa Diodatti.”
In no time at all strange occurrences begin to descend upon the 19th century household. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her crew are in the presence of Mary Shelley (Lili Miller). We know her as the esteemed author of one of the greatest horror stories ever written, Frankenstein.
Living skeletons, disappearing house staff, ghostly figures, and manoeuvring hallways all point to a stereotypical haunted house. However, Doctor Who is rarely one to explore the supernatural. Thus a science-related explanation is given to us.
The residents and guests of Villa Diodatti are entrapped in a perception filter within the house. This brings back a nice piece of Doctor Who law from the Russell T. Davies era. Staircases and hallways appear to loop back on themselves…only they don’t. Something is trying to prevent the occupants from leaving.
In perhaps a twist, that human-like figure gains entry into the household and reveals itself to be a ghastly Cyberman.
Yes, it appears that this is not a singular standalone episode. Instead, maybe consider it a part one of three of the season finale, a la “Utopia” in Season 3. The Doctor is now coming face-to-face with the aforementioned Lone Cyberman.
This haggard, half-transformed Cyberman still visibly shows part of a face of the man it once was. It even experiences emotions such as irritation. It’s definitely chilling when Mary confronts the cyborg head on. This is certainly an indication as to where she got her Frankenstein inspiration.
However, said Cyberman also has a motive. It is looking for the Cyberium, a liquid-like metal which is a super A.I., with the information needed to rebuild a new Cyber empire.
Only the main issue is that it has somehow fused itself with Percy Shelley (Lewis Rainer), an acclaimed poet and Mary’s husband. Giving the Lone Cyberman what it wants per Captain Jack’s (John Barrowman) warning will be disastrous. But allowing Percy to die to prevent that may have a devastating ripple effect across time. Potentially creating a different version of reality via a butterfly effect.
In a beautifully-acted scene by Whittaker, she makes the choice to hand over the Cyberium. She states that the world doesn’t end in 1816. However, this does now mean that potentially billions could now die as a result of a new Cyber army.
This decision by the Doctor leaves all three of her companions morally torn. Whilst they insist they’ll stick around to help her clean up the mess, it’s clear they feel conflicted about her choice.
This is perhaps most obviously acknowledged when a darker Doctor creeps to the surface. She boldly states that their team structure is not flat but that she’s at the peak. Always left to make the hardest of decisions completely alone.
Now, there’s still the Master (Sacha Dhawan), a potential reappearance of Captain Jack, the Timeless Children and the Ruth Doctor (Jo Martin) to contend with. This gives us plenty of story to explore as we head straight towards the season finale next weekend.