“The Haunting of Villa Diodati” is definitely a story that divides opinion in our house. The grownups like it a lot – Marie noted that its scope is small but its perspective is wide, which strikes me as just right – but our son really dislikes it. There’s far too much creeping around in dark corridors for him. Funny, I thought that was the best part. It’s very Sapphire & Steel. The second best part is Lord Byron hitting on the Doctor.
Naturally, details like who Lord Byron and Mary Shelley are will escape a kid who was eight when he saw it and didn’t like it. I reminded him of the beginning of Bride of Frankenstein as we got started; that film also introduced us to this bunch. I like the fact that even though this is set a little more than two hundred years before the present, the historical characters are among the most creative and intelligent people of their day. This is a story that does not need to be bogged down with explanations; Mary Shelley knows what’s going on. There are also some really good callbacks to “Fugitive of the Judoon”, where we learned the Doctor would soon meet a Lone Cyberman and to not give it what it wants. We saw just that very thing last night on SG-1, where a green wire is foreshadowed.
Anyway, while the kid really doesn’t like it, I think it’s easily one of Whittaker’s finest stories. It was written by Maxine Alderton, who also wrote the best chapter of “Flux,” and I certainly hope that Russell T. Davies has her number. I enjoy the Lone Cyberman a lot. His name is Ashad, although I don’t think it matters too much, and he’ll feature in the next two stories. Great villain.