The Haunting of Villa Diodati


The Doctor lands in 1816 on the coast of Lake Geneva and makes the welcome aquaitence of Lord Byron, Mary Godwin [Shelley] and Dr. Polidori—author of The Vampyre.

The story starts out with a lovely play on a ghost story with the surprising appearance of the Doctor, Ryan, Yasmin, and Graham at the door in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm. The gothic horror is increased by the arrival of mysterious apparitions, deepening the mystery. And then, the question begs, where is Percy Shelley, Mary’s husband to be and the muse to her magnum opus, the story of The Modern Prometheus?

The story continues into a wonderful MC Escher like play on architectural configuration that would have made the Logopolins proud. The Doctor and companions deftly solve the confoundment of the ever changing rooms by shutting their eyes and walking through walls. But when they’re all together, quite convenient to the plot, that’s when the mysterious lady of the lake appears and turns out to be a half-built Cyberman!

On the run, we finally find Percy Shelley, sulking in the basement, a mysterious air about him. Here, the plot runs into high gear as we build to Captain Jack Harkness‘s prophecy about the lone Cybermen. It tuns out, Percy has taken upon himself a Quicksilver containing the entire database of Cybermen defeats (shaded of Genesis of the Daleks). After a threat to history by Ryan, the Doctor instead takes the cyber-computer from Percy and into herself only to face down the lone Cyberman. When the Cyberman threatens the Earth and history, though, the Doctor must capitulate and gives the cyber-computer to the lone Cyberman, fulfilling the most disastrous prophecy.

Overall, I think my main nit is that the final act relied too much on deus ex machina elements to bring the story to its logical conclusion. Also, I didn’t like Ryan so easily suggesting the Doctor kill Percy Shelley. And the Doctor could have used the knowledge from the cyber-computer to do more than simply capitulate when the world of the past was threatened, thus threatening the world of the future. Would a fallen Earth before the beginning of the modern era have been an even greater boon to the Cybermen? With no humans to destroy Voga or defeat Mondas, wouldn’t the Cybermen have fared even better?

I guess the Doctor made the right decision after all. But, what will the consequences be?

Next week, Ascension of the Cybermen!

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