Doctor Who – The Haunting of Villa Diodati Review (or “The Doctor Finally Takes The Lead”)

Another episode of Doctor Who is in the history books and thus we are another week closer to Tosin Cole leaving the show. Hurrah!

I know that’s a bit of a negative thing to start off with but I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Ryan is the worst companion in Doctor Who history. If he does get turned into a Cyberman, he’d be their first ever conversion to benefit from the personality upgrade.

Just awful.

What isn’t awful though is the most recent episode of the show, The Haunting of Villa Diodati.

Doctor Who – The Haunting of Villa Diodati Review: What’s This One About?

It was on course to be a standard cookie-cutter historical figure episode until a Cyberman turned up.

Thoughts – Saved From Mediocrity

If The Haunting of Villa Diodati had not included the Cyberman, then I don’t think it would have been anything more than a ‘meh’ episode. It was alright up to that point but it would just have felt like any other

The statue in the background is more emotive than Tosin Cole

‘Insert Historical Figure Here’ episode that has been done to death many a time.

But rather than being about Mary Shelley finding her inspiration for Frankenstein’s monster, it was about The Lone Cyberman. That she found her inspiration for her book in the Lone Cyberman, and yet it was presented as a clever – almost unsaid – addition to the plot, I thought was a neat touch.

And I think it’s important that the monster in the episode was a Cyberman, because otherwise that wouldn’t have worked. Can anyone really remember the alien from the Tesla episode, a mere few weeks later? I can’t, because they had no aura about them.

In some ways, The Haunting of Villa Diodati is like Utopia. Had Utopia not included those last few minutes where it turned out Yana was the Master, which set up the finale, it would have been an inoffensive, yet barely memorable episode alongside the likes of…well…I can’t remember off hand, but you get the point.

And the Lone Cyberman itself was very good. I loved the design, I enjoyed the personality (the precedent is there with Christopher Robbie and David Banks), the backstory and I thought the guy acting the part – Patrick O’Kane – did a good job.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the finale.

The Doctor Takes The Lead

I think it’s fair to say that Jodie Whittaker – and the character she plays – is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people will never be won over because she’s a woman, but I’ve enjoyed her portrayal of the Doctor more in this season than last.

The main issue – and I mentioned this in some of my Season 11 reviews – is that she doesn’t always stand out from her co-stars as the lead, and that’s in part down to her own acting ability, but also because she’s not always written to. This whole ‘Flat team structure’ has worked to prevent it.

But when you are supposed to be the star of the show and you can’t stand out ahead of a plank of wood or ‘Television’s Bradley Walsh barely trying to act’ then you have a problem.

So I was pleased with the way that flat structure was thrown to the side and at last the Doctor said “I’m in charge here”. That’s what we want!

There are a lot of issues with the show right now, but Jodie Whittaker isn’t one of them.

What’s In A Name?

Do episode titles matter? Probably not that much; people tuned in on Sunday to watch ‘Doctor Who’, not ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati’.

The Doctor has a cheeky fag while trying to sort out the Lone Cyberman

But it wouldn’t hurt to have episode titles that are memorable and hopefully a bit snappy.

In this era, there have been some utterly honking titles, including The Tsuranga Conundrum, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, It Takes You Away and the finale from the last season that is so bad that I can’t remember it without looking it up and thus refuse to look up out of spite.

This one isn’t great either.

I appreciate that there is a haunting and that it takes place at a venue called ‘Villa Diodati’ and therefore there shouldn’t be a problem with the name. It’s no worse than The Horns of Nimon or Image of the Fendahl but it’s just that people are never going to remember it.

Maybe I’m being too harsh?

Random Observations

  • To be critical, I thought the stuff with being unable to get out of the rooms went on a little long.
  • A common complaint I’ve read about this episode is that it’s too heavy on exposition, but I personally thought it was fine. If you want an example of bad exposition, go watch Orphan 55.
  • Graham was written with a lot more cockney dialogue than usual in this one. It was a little jarring,
  • I did like that the ghost stuff Graham personally came across was never explained.
  • Three cheers for the reference to Bill being converted. For a moment there I thought all mention of Doctor Who’s past was being excised.
  • The final scene with the poem, culminating with ‘She Was The Universe’ was a good way to end it.
  • Seemingly the writer of the episode, Maxine Alderton, has been invited back for the next season. I’m happy with that.
  • As always, I keep up with the reviews others do of the show, and I am baffled by the reviewer from The Independent, who loved Orphan 55 but found plenty to criticise in this. People are allowed opinions of course, but he needs to give himself a shake.
  • There was no moral message this week. Yay.

Doctor Who – The Haunting of Villa Diodati Review: Final Thoughts

What could have been an inoffensive yet instantly forgettable episode turned into one that has set up the finale well and was also pretty exciting.

It won’t be remembered as a classic, but in an era of largely below average episodes overcome by preachiness, The Haunting of Villa Diodati stands out as one of the better ones.

Even if it does have a shit name.


Note: I appreciate this review is a week late; if you’re expecting a review of Ascension of the Cybermen, I’m avoiding it until the conclusion next week.

3 Responses to Doctor Who – The Haunting of Villa Diodati Review (or “The Doctor Finally Takes The Lead”)

  1. Carealoo744 says:

    But what about The Silver Turk?! Gah!

    (I feel kind of embarrassed for thinking Ryan was a cool character up until recently… )

  2. Slavin Ivanov says:

    I liked this one very much and the appearance of the Lone Cybermen was honestly not expected by me. Anyway, the series is almost over and I can say it was a good one.

  3. Anon says:

    I don’t think the problem is with Tosin Cole, I think he’s fine. It’s more that the writers don’t know how to handle multiple companion characters at once. Having “the fam” meet Jack earlier in the season demonstrated all too well how generic they are alongside his well-defined character. Bradley Walsh is the best one but that’s because he’s got the experience the other two don’t and knows how to make himself stand out from an ensemble.

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