Excelis Dawns, by Paul Magrs
The planet Artaris is a savage. backward-sliding world, long past its civilised height. Now the population is ruled over by brutal warlords who dream of discovering the long-lost Relic that will give them immortal life. One such warlord is Grayvorn, who is trekking towards the nunnery atop the mountain of Excelis when he encounters an intriguing man who has a vegetable pinned to his lapel…
Having already listened to Plague Herds of Excelis (which finishes off this mini-series) in my Bernice Summerfield run, I didn’t have high hopes going back to the start of the story. Why? Iris Wildthyme, chuck. Not my most favourite character ever, chuck. Apologies to Katy Manning, who clearly had instructions to be as annoying as possible in that part, but oh! the oscilating voice! Chuck!
Unsurprisingly, I was gritting my teeth through much of the play. There isn’t really too much to the plot – on his way back to Frontios (yes, this is actually set within a TV episode; technically it can be done) the Doctor leaves Tegan in the Tardis and goes for a stroll with Grayvorn to the aforementioned nunnery, only to find Iris Wildthyme taking holy orders for a reason that has entirely escaped her. The abbess gets them all to go and find the Relic, which is hidden in the thick forests below, and guarded by… um… zombies. Fortunately, they have a map. Unfortunately, they are travelling by double-decker bus. The Relic, of course, turns out to be something Iris left behind centuries ago.
The Doctor is relegated to a supporting part in his own story, or so it feels, while Katy Manning and Anthony Head both ham it up to the max. Grayvorn’s editorialising monologues, frequently interrupted by one or other of the Timelords, are pretty much the best thing in the play, and showcase the comedy of Doctor Who at its best. On the other hand, Excelis Dawns doesn’t have enough breathing room for the massive egos of three characters, let alone one, and by the end of the tale I really felt shortchanged. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
Another sticking point was the somewhat extraneous character of the nun Jolene – she disappeared from the story without trace as far as I could tell. The decidedly wet zombies meanwhile failed to provide any element of menace. I can only breathe a sigh of relief at discovering that I won’t have to review the next part of the Excelis saga until some point next year.