Big Finish Folly, Part 72 – Excelis Rising, by David A McIntee
Excelis has entered the Age of Reason. Airships, scientists and seances – the Empire is enlightened and civilised, and commands much of the planet of Artaris. The Doctor arrives almost accidentally in Excelis’s great Museum, only to find himself embroiled in a murder case – and in an attempt to seize control of The Relic, Iris Wildthyme’s battered old handbag of doooom. And the Reeve supervising the case is rather familiar, to say the least…
The first instalment of the Excelis trilogy was not a raging success in my book. A slight story wedged into a theoretical gap in the Fifth Doctor’s continuity and ruined by the over-written presence of Iris Wildthyme, not helped by a generous dose of under-explained zombies. Only Anthony Head emerged from the mess with any kind of positive credit. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t really looking forward to the second part of the trilogy.
So, surprisingly, Excelis Rising is pretty good. With Iris out of the picture the scene is set for a good old-fashioned Doctor vs Villain encounter. The remainder of the cast are bystanders for the most part, hapless cannon fodder for the Reeve’s plotting, but the story is better balanced for that. The main plot “pull” is actually not the handbag but the Reeve’s recognition of the Doctor and his need to swap out his own body.
The interplay between the Reeve and the Doctor is more understated this time around, and the story as a whole doesn’t flail about wildly. It’s easy to see the marble-clad halls of the Imperial Museum, and I’m quite glad that the play restricts itself to one main location, as its length (70 minutes or so) doesn’t really suit the kind of massive chase that Excelis Dawns wanted to be.
Now I’m actually looking forward to the last part of the trilogy again, even though I won’t reach it until some point deep in 2014 or so.