"Doctor Who" Series 12 "The Haunting of Villa Diodati": Chris Chibnall Talks Mary Shelley, Lord Byron Ep – Did Cybermen Inspire "Frankenstein"?

Once Doctor Who Series 12 brought the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) back to BBC One and BBC America screens to kick off our new year, it wasted no time throwing our heroes into a grand adventure filled with spies, intrigue, world domination, and… The Master (Sacha Dhawan)!

Chris Chibnall knows how to create a season-long, overarching mystery – because that reveal between the two adversaries over the fate of their home planet was just the tip of the iceberg. You would think the return of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) would be more than enough to elevate the season's status – but why rest there? Not when you can introduce another Doctor in the form of Jo Martin, who appears to predate Whittaker's.

doctor who
BBC America

As we head into seventh episode "Can You Hear Me?", you'd think that would be more than enough for Chibnall to play with for the remainder of the season – but in an interview with the Radio Times, it sounds like he's got a few more tricks stashed away somewhere – and that "somewhere" is eighth episode "The Haunting of Villa Diodati".

As for those "tricks" – here's a look at what we learned:

● As evident by the title, the episode will take place in 1816 at the Villa Diodati in Geneva, during that (in)famous night of ghost story-telling by Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and others that would lead to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.

● Episode co-writer Maxine Alderton pitched the original idea – not a surprise considering her background – which Chibnall felt worked well with the show's sensibilities:

"Maxine Alderton, who's written that episode, is an absolute Mary Shelley and Byron… not a buff, she's an expert. She studied them, she loves them, she knew all about them, she came with a great idea. And it was completely irresistible. I think to spend a night with them, in a haunted house, feels absolutely prime Doctor Who territory."

● The young cast chosen for the episode are age-appropriate for the time period being portrayed (Mary Shelley was 18 when she started writing Frankenstein), including Lili Miller, Nadia Parkes, Jacob Collins-Levy, Maxim Baldry, and Lewis Rainer.

● As for the episode's "big bad", Chibnall pushed back a bit (or was it all smoke-n-mirrors?) on the idea that the Cybermen would appear – and end up being the inspiration for Mary Shelley's literary man-made monster.

"There is a ghost story. I would be looking far more to a ghost story at the Villa Diodati. Because that house looks very haunted to me."

Hmmm… doth Chibnall protest too much?

"Doctor Who" series 12, episode 7 "Can You Hear Me?": From ancient Syria to present day Sheffield, and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and her friends. As Graham, Yaz and Ryan return home to see friends and family, they find themselves haunted by very different experiences. Who is the figure calling from beyond the stars for help, and why? And what are the fearsome Chagaskas terrorising Aleppo in 1380? To find the answers, Team Tardis embark on a mission that forces them to face their darkest fears.

Even as we move past the halfway mark for Series 12, Whittaker is making one thing crystal clear: her Doctor's not going anywhere anytime soon. Speaking with EW, Whittaker confirmed that she is returning for Series 13:

"Yes, I'm doing another season. That might be a massive exclusive that I'm not supposed to say, but it's unhelpful for me to say [I don't know] because it would be a massive lie! [Laughs] I absolutely adore it. At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it's not yet. I'm clinging on tight!"

And to those who've been throwing shade at the show since Whittaker and Team TARDIS forst debuted, please know that Whittaker's proud of the work they've done and are doing… sooo… yeah…

But she loves fan artwork…

"I've seen loads of fan art, which I always love. But it's never been that great for me to immerse myself in noise that you can't control, good or bad. I think both are a rabbit hole that you shouldn't necessarily go down. We know that we work really hard for the show to be the best it can be in this moment. Once it's out in the ether, how people feel, in a way, is kind of irrelevant."

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought on board as staff in 2017.

twitter   instagram   envelope