Doctor Who 12.8 – The Haunting of Villa Diodati

Victoria Walker gets dressed up for her lakeside reflections on this episode of Doctor Who

Once again I’m back with very little inventive to say as to the objective quality of an episode, so I shall use it as a jumping-off point to talk about something tangentially related: historical costuming and accuracy. 

As many will know or may have guessed, I have a particular interest in historicals as I do enjoy seeing what has been done in clothing the ladies. Many will recall my complaints about Ada Lovelace’s gown’s sleeves in Spyfall part two. I have similar thoughts about the costuming in The Haunting of Villa Diodati, the waists and busts of the regency gowns not nearly being high enough, the fabric of Yaz’s dress being rather inappropriate for her age, and the hair not being nearly curly enough about the faces. 

However, this episode did make me reconsider the need for historical accuracy in episodes of Doctor Who. I disagree with people who tell me that it is entirely unimportant, as someone on the costume department staff does care too. The errors in costuming can quite easily be written down as crimes of convenience. I admonish myself for subconsciously conflating this with the manipulation of historical fashion to modern views on attractiveness. 

When deciding how to costume an episode of Doctor Who, one must imagine it a balancing act between historical reality and convenience for the actors. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror. It is a simple, unobtrusive and otherwise unnotable detail, but Yaz’s wonderful costume has a split skirt. It is a possible complaint, but it is a nice touch that fits her practical nature perfectly. Similarly, I find myself now able to excuse the lack of the leg-of-mutton sleeve on Lovelace’s dress in Spyfall part two. The choice of a dress that is still authentically 1830s, but from a little later in the decade, is not an ignorant one. 

To extend the point slightly here, one must wonder if we now are expecting too much of the media we consume. It seems that the newfound knowledge the internet provides may get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of an episode of anything, much less Doctor Who. There is not necessarily anything wrong with picking apart a show for whatever reason, but do we, in turn, make it harder for ourselves to enjoy? Is the rise of armchair analysts a symptom or cause of rising cynicism? 

I do feel, however, that those questions go rather beyond the remit of this review, as The Haunting of Villa Diodati was well received, as far as I could tell. The Lone Cyberman is interesting, but I rather think I’ll hold back on talking about them until after the next episode!

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