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The Haunting of Villa Diodati
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Jodie Whittaker
The Haunting of Villa Diodati
Thirteenth Doctor Logo


The Loan Cyberman
The Loan Cyberman
 ‘Nobody mention Frankenstein. Nobody interfere. Nobody snog Byron’. Should be easy, right?

 The Doctor and her gang arrive at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva in 1816 on the night that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

 The plan is to spend the evening soaking up the atmosphere in the presence of some literary greats, but the ghosts are all too real, and The Doctor is forced into a decision of Earth-shattering proportions.

Source: BBC Website

General Information

Season: Thirty Eight (New Series 12)
Production Code: 12-8
Story Number: 293 (New Series: 137)
Episode Number:859 (New Series: 163)
Number of Episodes: 1
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Production Dates:
Broadcast Date: 16 February 2020
Colour Status: HD Colour
Studio: BBC Wales (Roath Lock Studios, Cardiff)
Writer:Maxine Alderton
Director:Emma Sullivan
Producer:Alex Mercer
Series Producer:Nikki Wilson
Executive Producers:Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens
Executive Producer (for the BBC):Ben Irving
Assistant Directors:Christian Jeffcoat and Jennifer Day
Script Supervisor:Alana Marmion-Warr
Script Editors:Fiona McAllister and Caroline Buckley (Assistant)
Series Script Editor:Sheena Bucktowonsing
Editors:Agnieszka Liggett, Joel Skinner, David S J Davies (Assistant), Hayley Williams (Assistant), Alastair Gray (Assistant VFX), Rebecca Trotman (Series) and Georgina Careless (VFX)
Colourist:Jateen Patel
Head of Production:Jacquie Glanville and Radford Neville
Production Executive:Tracie Simpson
Production Manager:Delmi Thomas
Production Assistant:Ariana Scott
Post Production Supervisor:Ceres Doyle
Supervising Location Manager:Iwan Roberts
Location Manager:Gareth Roberts
Production Designer:Dafydd Shurmer
Director of Photography:Ed Moore
Casting Director:Andy Pryor CDG
Line Producer:Steffan Morris
Costume Designer:Ray Holman
Make-Up Designer:Claire Pritchard-Jones
Cameramen:Dan Patounas (Assistant), Evangeline Davies (Assistant), Gwilym Jenner (Assistant), Scott Waller (Assistant) and Mark McQuoid (Operator)
Incidental Music:Segun Akinola
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Harry Barnes
Sound Recordist:Deian Llyr Humphreys
Dubbing Mixers:Howard Bargroff and Natasha Haycocks
Visual Effects:DNEG
Special Effects:Real SFX
Special Creature Effects:Robert Allsopp & Associates
Stunt Co-ordinator:Crispin Layfield
Stunt Performer:Rob Jarman
Title Sequence:Ben Pickles
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Segun Akinola
Additional VFX: BBC Wales Graphics
Additional VFX: Ben Pickles
Creature Designer: Ray Holman
Creature Movement: Paul Kasey
Cybermen Created By: Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Music Recorded By: Olga Fitzroy
Music Mixed By: Goetz Botzenhardt
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker (The Thirteenth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 3The Companions: Bradley Walsh (Graham O'Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair) and Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan) Additional Cast: Lili Miller (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Nadia Parkes (Claire Clairmont), Maxim Baldry (Dr John Polidori), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Lewis Rainer (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Stefan Bednarczyk (Fletcher), Sarah Perles (Elise)Setting: Villa Diodati, Lake Geneva, Switzerland (June 1816) Villain: Loan Cyberman

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
Duration Viewers
In Archive
859The Haunting of Villa Diodati16 February 202049'48"4.9Yes

Total Duration 50 Minutes

Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 4.9


 This story exists and is held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.

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"The Haunting of Villa Diodati" is the seventh story of Season Thirty Eight (New Series 12) and was written by Maxine Alderton and directed by Emma Sullivan.

Executive Producer Chris Chibnall called writer Maxine Alderton ‘an absolute Mary Shelley and Byron... not a buff, she’s an expert in that’.

Emma Sullivan directed the fourth recording block containing this story and the previous story, "Can You Hear Me?".

The story takes place at the Villa Diodati, near Lake Geneva, Switzerland in June 1816, and features the return of the Cybermen in their first television appearance since the 2017 story "World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls" and their first encounter with the Thirteenth Doctor.

This story follows on from the warning, that Captain Jack Harkness gave Graham, Ryan, and Yasmin, about ‘The Lone Cyberman’ in the "Fugitive of the Judoon" where he insisted that The Doctor must not give the Loan Cyberman what it wants.

The ‘lake apparition’ turns out to be the Lone Cyberman looking for ‘a Guardian’.

The Cyberman reveals that it is looking for the Cyberium - an Artificial Intelligence containing all the knowledge and complete history of all the Cybermen. It is discovered that it has fused itself to Percy Shelley's cerebral cortex when he discovered it, a few days earlier, in the lake.

The Lone Cyberman's real name was Ashad. While trying to reason with the Cyberman, Mary gets him to confirm that he once had children. But she is then horrified when he reveals that he murdered them when they joined the resistance.

It is revealed that The Doctor has a natural ‘Time Lord Magnetism’ that makes the Cyberium choose her as host.

The Cyberman's incomplete Cyber-suit is a unique patchwork design consisting of a new Cyber-helmet atop a body mostly matching the design introduced in the 2013 Eleventh Doctor story "Nightmare in Silver", and a left arm resembling the recreated Mondasian Cybermen introduced in the 2017 story "World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls". Although uncredited, the Cyberman's helmet design appears to be based on Matthew Savage's 2006 design.

Curiously Nicholas Briggs went uncredited for his voicing of the Lone Cyberman.

The Doctor announces that she refuses to lose anyone else to Cyber-conversion. She tries to warn her companions away from the Cyberman, referencing Bill Potts, the former companion of the Twelfth Doctor, who was cyber-converted during the events of the 2017 story "World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls".

The Doctor understands that even a single Cyberman can lead to thousands (see the Torchwood episode "Cyberwoman" and the 2011 Eleventh Doctor story "Closing Time").

This story offered an alternate account of the conception of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to that when she encountered the Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish Productions audio story "Mary's Story". Though with the story acknowledging that what it was depicting was the result of history becoming unusually flexible around that night.

There have been Four Big Finish Productions audio stories involving the Eighth Doctor meeting Mary Shelley around 1816, upon which she then joins him briefly as a companion (see "Mary’s Story", "The Silver Turk", "The Witch From the Well" and "Army of Death").

The 2011 story, "The Silver Turk", involves the Eighth Doctor and Mary Shelley encountering a damaged Lone Cyberman, in 1873 Vienna, which became a similar inspiration for Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.

In a second encounter the Tenth Doctor saved Mary Shelly from a bandaged alien during her stay in Switzerland, at least partly inspiring her to write Frankenstein, and certainly leading to the book's ultimate title (see the comic strip "The Creative Spark" published in Doctor Who: Battles in Time in 2008).

In this story Mary Shelley wonders if the Lone Cyberman is a composite of multiple men (like the creature in her novel), and refers to his creation as a ‘Modern Prometheus’ (Her novel's full title is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus). In this story she watches the Cyberman recharge via a lightning strike; in the novel, it is implied the monster is brought to life via electricity.

The Doctor has instructed her friends not to mention Frankenstein, or otherwise affect its inception.

Although taking on Shelley's name, Mary and Percy are not yet officially married (see "Mary's Story").

The Doctor mentions that she knows Lord Byron's daughter, Ada (see "Spyfall" and the Big Finish Productions audio story "The Enchantress of Numbers").

Much of the setup of this story is true to known fact for Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Mary’s sister Claire Clairmont and physician John Polidori, including that the summer during their stay at the villa was unusually stormy due to the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora that led to the ‘Year Without a Summer’.

In the real world, the competition to create the best ghost story took place over the course of three days, not one single night.

The Doctor attempts to use her psychic paper to pass herself off as someone else, but finds that the paper is blank and might need a blow dry.

The Doctor realises the villa has a perception filter all around it.

Graham becomes lost in the villa while searching for the lavatory. When Fletcher points out to Graham a chamber pot, he realises that they are too early in history to enjoy the invention of flushing toilets.

The Doctor is heard to say 'Save the poet, save the universe'. This is very similar to the quote ‘Save the cheerleader, save the world’ from the television show Heroes.

The Doctor is heard quoting Lord Byron's poem She Walks in Beauty.

The poem read aloud by Lord Byron at the end of this story is called Darkness.

The Lone Cyberman recites Percy Shelley's poem Queen Mab.

Lord Byron believes that The Doctor is after the third canto of his work Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

Like the previous story "Can You Hear Me?" this story has a pre-title sequence - the first stories, in this season, to have a pre-title sequence since the two-part opening story "Spyfall".

Unusual to a normal set up, this story features a cliffhanger but it did not occur at the end of this story - instead it occurs just before The Doctor and her travelling companions head back to the TARDIS, in the final scenes in the villa.

First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first Doctor Who story to be written by Maxine Alderton.

 The Thirteenth Doctor's first encounter with the Cybermen.

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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
A Knock at the Door
A Knock at the Door

The Doctor takes her three travelling companions; Graham O'Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan to witness Mary Shelley gain the inspiration to write Frankenstein.

At the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816, Lord Byron has gathered with Mary Godwin, her infant son William and her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary’s sister Claire Clairmont and physician John Polidori. With stormy weather outside, the group challenge each other to come up with the scariest story they can imagine. Just as they start there is a knock on the door and they find The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yasmin asking to come inside.

After they are welcomed, The Doctor takes her travelling companions aside, reminding them that when Mary gets her idea for the story Frankenstein during this night, they must not mention any of this to her or her friends as they witness the moment of its creation.

Arrival at the Villa
Arrival at the Villa

However, soon after they arrive Percy goes missing and when they check his room, they find the walls covered in gibberish. As everyone in the villa searches for him, strange events start to occur in the villa, including seemingly-shifting portions of the villa's structure and Graham even sees a ghostly woman and a child.

Lord Byron suggests it is a ghost that haunts the villa but The Doctor suspects something more is amiss, and attributes the shifting structure of the villa to a security system that is either trying to keep them in the villa or is trying to prevent them from finding something in the villa.

Mary Godwin
Mary Godwin

The group then sees an apparition outside which The Doctor recognises as a being that has been moving through time. The apparition soon resolves into an incomplete, badly damaged Cyberman.

On witnessing the arrival of the Cyberman, Graham, Ryan and Yasmin remind The Doctor of Captain Jack Harkness's warning of the ‘Lone Cyberman’ and not to give it what it wants. But she angrily orders them not to follow her, and insists that they stay and protect Lord Byron, Mary and the others, before heading off to confront the Cyberman.

She discovers that the Cyberman, as well as being damaged, is low on power. The Doctor learns the Cyberman had been called Ashad, and it had been sent back in time to look for the Cyberium, a liquid metal with the collective knowledge of the Cybermen.


The Cyberman has time travelled to 1816 and eventually traced the Cyberium to the villa, but the Cyberman’s power has been drained and so is having difficulty locating the precise location of the Cyberium. The lack of power also means that the Cyberman can not kill anyone in the villa. As The Doctor tries to lure the Cyberman away from the villa, he is struck by lightning, recharging his power core. Rejuvenated the Cyberman prepares to attack the villa again.

The Doctor races to warn the others but instead discovers Percy has been hiding in the cellar, and appears crazed. However, she soon discovers that he has been possessed by the Cyberium, having found it a few days before in the lake, and it has now coursed throughout his body, causing him to write the gibberish - which is actually a future Cybermen language and calculations. The Cyberium was also responsible for creating the supernatural events in the villa so as to prevent its discovery.

The Cyberman then arrives and threatens to kill Percy, to get the Cyberium. The Doctor however, tricks the Cyberium to leave Percy by convincing it that Percy has died. The Doctor then allows the Cyberium to enter her body before the Cyberman can get it. Annoyed at The Doctor's actions the Cyberman then threatens to kill Mary. Realising the impact that this will mean on history The Doctor reluctantly turns the Cyberium over to the Cyberman - despite Captain Jack Harkness's warning. Having got what he wanted the Cyberman then leaves.

The Doctor and her companions depart, making plans to follow the Cyberman to the future using coordinates from Percy's Cyberman-based writings. After they leave, Mary reveals to the others she was inspired by the Cyberman's appearance, ‘This modern Prometheus’, and plans to write a story based on their experience.

Lord Byron
Lord Byron
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Loan Cyberman
The Loan Cyberman
Mary Confronts the Cyberman
Mary Confronts the Cyberman
Giving The Cyberman What It Wants
Giving The Cyberman What It Wants

Quote of the Story

 'One Cyberman but then thousands. Humans like all of you changed into empty, soulless shells. No feeling, no control, no way back. I will not lose anyone else to that!'

The Doctor

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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
The Complete Twelfth Series Box SetApril 2020Photo-montageDVD boxed set containing 9 stories
The Complete Twelfth Series Box SetApril 2020Photo-montageBlu-Ray boxed set containing 9 stories
The Complete Twelfth Series Box Set (Amazon Limited Edition Steelbook)April 2020Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook boxed set containing 8 stories
Original Television Soundtrack - Series 12April 2020Photo-montageMusic by Segun Akinola

In Print

No Book Release
Doctor Who Magazine - PreviewIssue 548 (Released: March 2020)
Doctor Who Magazine - After ImageIssue 550 (Released: May 2020)

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Photo Gallery

The Doctor and Companions

Jodie Whittaker
The Thirteenth Doctor


Bradley Walsh
Graham O'Brien
Tosin Cole
Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill
Yasmin Khan

On Release

Complete Series DVD Box Set
Complete Series DVD Box Set

Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set

Complete Series Blu-Ray Amazon Limited Edition Steelbook
Complete Series Blu-Ray Amazon Limited Edition Steelbook

Original Television Soundtrack Cover
Original Television Soundtrack Cover



Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 548
Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 548

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - After Image: Issue 550
Doctor Who Magazine - After Image: Issue 550

Marvel Comics

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