Doctor Who: Series 12 (or 37 depending on how you count): Episode 8: The Haunting Of Villa Diodati by Maxine Alderton.

As revealed in the end of last week’s episode, the Doctor and friends are going to gatecrash the Byron/Shelley party in June 1816 at Villa Diodati, Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley wrote ‘The Modern Prometheus’. Will it be re-written or will they contribute to the plot?

Tales Of The Dead is Lord Byron’s contribution to spook the occasion of a dark and stormy night. Then, the Doctor and friends join the party and get acquainted with the gossip. Percy Shelley is missing. The place is obviously spooked, more so when the lights go out. Graham gets lost looking for a lavatory, which must be a first in bodily function needs in ‘Doctor Who’.

Ryan is explained from coming from the colonies but no one questions where Yasmin comes from, although they all admit to that although the Doctor is just plain strange. They also discover Shelley might be down at the chalet by the lake to write. Yasmin and Ryan join Mary Shelley to go and see if he’s all right. Alas the house is spooked and won’t let anyone leave, just arrive where they are. They spot another time traveller moving by the lake outside which turns out to be a damaged cyberman, who is looking for the guardian. It discovers William Shelley, Mary’s baby son but it’s not him.

The Doctor tells them to stay put while she goes after the cyberman, although they disregard her orders. Byron is possessed by something that is somewhat silver, future cyber-tech. The dilemma, whatever the Doctor does, is going to change history. Should she allow Shelley to die or allow the creation of the cybermen? From there, it’s all spoiler, to be resolved in the next episode.This is also the first episode this season that Chris Chibnall doesn’t get a co-writer credit.

Oddly, the story is quite satisfying as far as it goes. It doesn’t have the problems the other stories have had lately. That’s not to say it’s perfect. Keeping track of who is who is a little problematic. The key people like Byron and the Shelleys, yes, the others tend to blend a little. A problem in a big cast and in the dark.

Lili Miller as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Maxim Baldry as Dr John Polidori, Jacob Collins-Levy as Lord Byron, Nadia Parkes as Claire Clairmont – Doctor Who _ Season 12, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America

The damaged cyberman does resemble a Borg oddly. Must be the exposed black eye. Would the rebuilding include giving them metallic teeth? Since when do cybermen eat? Presumably, their digestive system is one of the earliest things to be changed. It goes without saying that Mary Shelley draws some connections from it.

The real question is whether or not the succeeding episode is on par with this one before passing judgement on the whole story. Stay tuned and don’t accept silver.

The Doctor’s wearing appropriate Victorian clothes under her long coat.

GF Willmetts

16 February 2020

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