The title of this post is a little misleading, as it references Utopia for the second time in a month, but it is a deliberate choice. After a Series which, while pleasant enough, seemed to be a little lacking, Chris Chibnall clearly took those overall sentiments, along with his own, and decided to shape Series 12 along the lines of a beloved antecedent, namely Series 3.
Long a Tour favorite, the Martha Season had a relatively light-touch story arc involving Mr. Saxon / The Master, that is right up until it needed to come to the fore in Utopia. The Lone Cyberman is the Saxon of Series 12, and his surprise appearance halfway through The Haunting of Villa Diodati not only raised the narrative stakes in the story itself, but set the stakes for the remainder of Series 12.
If you as a fan had a moment or two of doubt about the ‘celebrity historical’ aspect of The Haunting of Villa Diodati seeing how Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is hardly a distant memory, they were merely the lever to get to the Lone Cyberman, which in turn tied back in very well to the Frankenstein mythos–a remarkably well-chosen insight by the production team. This is a Cyberman in emotional and physical distress–a stark contrast to their historical profile, and certainly an interesting departure.
Although we graded out The Haunting of Villa Diodati number 2 in our Dynamic Ratings to date, just like Utopia it’s something of an incomplete feeling to put it so high in the rankings, the next two weeks should clarify whether it’s a really good standalone episode or the teaser for a three-part finale with more mixed results overall (The Sound of Drums and especially Last of the Time Lords are not as highly regarded).