"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.
The first Doctor Who story to be written by Maxine Alderton.
The Thirteenth Doctor's first encounter with the Cybermen.