“The Haunting of the Villa Diodati” is one of my favourite episodes of the Thirteenth Doctor’s era. I did find on my Doctor Who re/watch last year that the historical episodes tended to make up my favourites of the series list more than the big futuristic ones. I think it’s because I often had at least some sort of basic knowledge about the historical figures or events that the Doctor and their companions were getting involved in so it was fun to see how the sci-fi elements changed things.
“The Haunting of the Villa Diodati” worked for me because it’s actually a pretty creepy haunted house story and then a Cyberman is dropped into it. Even before the Cyberman arrived it’s a dark and stormy night and the occupants of the house are all telling scary stories. I really liked how the house was used to its full effect, with people getting stuck in rooms or in a continuous loop on the stairs, or inexplicable things being seen in the corner of the frame. It’s a really good ghost story even before the reveal that the ghost is in fact a Cyberman.
The Cybermen have always been a pretty scary villain and the fact that this one is a different and not quite what we’re as the viewer are used to seeing, makes it even more unsettling. The first time I watched “The Haunting of the Villa Diodati”, I hadn’t seen the Twelfth Doctor’s run so there’s certain lines that I didn’t really notice but having finally seen Twelve’s episodes and what Bill Potts’ fate was, they just hit different.
When Thirteen is explaining how dangerous the Cybermen are to her companions, “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.” it’s a clear call back to Bill and it was like a sucker punch to me as I really think what happened to Bill is one of the most awful things I’ve seen happen to a companion.