Big Finish Productions
|Written by||Craig Hinton|
|Continuity||Prior to The Telemovie.|
|Starring Sylvester McCoy and Anthony Stewart Head|
|Also featuring Ian Collier, Yee Jee Tso, Patricia Leventon, Stuart Piper, Penelope McDonald.|
|Synopsis: When the Doctor last visited the city of Excelis, its citizens were about to enter an age of enlightenment and reason. But some centuries later, he discovers that his arrival is the final piece in a plan that has been centuries in the making.|
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 28/6/02
This extra series of audios from Big Finish, featuring the Excelis civilization, has been a welcome additional story every 2 months. Anthony Stewart Head has been absolutely wonderful as Grayvorn, Maupassant and Sutton - basically the same character who has lived more years than you could ever dream of.
The Grayvorn character is the big star of the Excelis Series. Doctors 5, 6 and 7 have appeared in order - at relevant times during Excelis' History - drawn like a magnet to key points in its History, and the machinations of Grayvorn. There is a reason why this happens, and it's nice to see the 3 authors combining to produce a cohesive whole with references to the past and the future.
Grayvorn's character, whilst being essentially the same person throughout, has changed sufficiently throughout to show the vast passage of time. Anthony Stewart Head shows his acting mettle with the subtle variations through Dawns, Rising to Decays.
The 3rd installment, Excelis Decays, is a fine finish to the trilogy. Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor involved, and he is excellent, as he so often is. This story is set right near the end of the 7th Doctor's life, and there are quite a few references to the upcoming demise of this incarnation. There is also a nice lead in to the Movie for the TARDIS and its new control room. In effect Excelis Decays forms a better link between the end of the TV series and the 1996 Film, than any book has done.
Craig Hinton has proved he's a pretty good writer with his books. He proves himself an even more effective audio writer, and I would like to see this author commissioned again, based on this effort. The Excelis Society has been vastly different in each of these audios, I would wager Hinton's vision is the most effective of all 3. He chooses to make the Future of Excelis a Totalitarian Regime. The working classes are a drug-ridden, depressed people. A ruling elite controls the populace totally, and Lord Sutton (Grayvorn's character) controls this ruling elite.
What Grayvorn has been doing in the time since Rising is explained. What his motives are (and have been throughout), are explained. The Doctor's connection to these events is also nicely sorted out, so good to see this Doctor manipulatED for a change - and the battle between these 2 great characters will be my abiding memory of not only this audio, but the 2 that preceded it.
The other characters are not bad, they just have to step aside for these 2 giants. The audio is at its weakest when the Doctor and Grayvorn are not part of the story, which was too many times for my liking. Grayvorn has survived before against the odds, I suspect we haven't seen the last of him - and that's excellent.
Excelis Decays pulls you in to the drama played out between the Doctor, Grayvorn and Excelis itself. It's clear in its explanations and action. It's a fine story and a fitting conclusion for this very good trilogy. 8/10
This is the Decaying of the Age of Excelis by Jamas Enright 25/10/02
This is it, the third part of the Excelis trilogy! The one in which everything is revealed! Only, it's not. Most of the answers are left for the epilogue, The Plague Herds of Excelis (a trilogy in four parts?). But nevermind...
The game of the day is war, totalitarian states, meat puppets and Anthony Stewart Head cutting up people's souls. Or at least what can be presented in a 70-minute episode. Still, it's all good. As the story unfolds we get an idea of the real scope of events as we see what Lord Sutton (the current incarnation of Grayvorn) is capable of. Finally he has the Relic under his control, and with that on his side complete domination of not only Excelis but even possibly the universe is not only possible but probable.
The lack of answers concerning the Relic aside, we also have brushed over the details of how exactly Grayvorn effected the changes to Excelis to get it into its current state. Craig Hinton (last output being The Quantum Archangel) glosses over several points, as well having a large goof over the date of the Excelis stories (the Relic was not brought to Excelis 1300 years ago, that was Excelis Dawns, during which we found out the Relic had been around for thousands of years). Taken outside of the context of the Excelis trilogy, this is still a good story about how governments keep control.
Anthony Steward Head this time gives as a performance as a mad scientist, a role he obviously enjoyed. Finally the chance to be on the other side of the story after all those years on Buffy defeating them. We get a great performance that doesn't go over the top, with a great deal of madness evident in the portrayal. If only we could now have ASH versus the Eighth Doctor.
Yee Jee Tso rejoins the world of Doctor Who, having previously played Chang Lee in the movie (appearing alongside Sylvester as well as Paul McGann). This time, he adopts a rather blatant Canadian accent as Major Brant, the second fiddle, and provides a cracking performance.
Past Doctor Who actors continue with Ian Collier, who played Omega in Arc of Infinity. This time, he's Commissar Sallis, the Minister of War, a role Craig Hinton wrote with him in mind. Ian Collier gives the role its due bluster and bulldog-ness, whilst remaining a commanding presence.
Sylvester McCoy is, of course, the seventh Doctor. I have to admit that looking at the photos on the inside, its evident that he's definitely getting on, but there's no hint of that in his performance. It's as full and as passionate (and as full of rolling 'r's) as ever.
Penelope McDonald as Jancis and Stuart Piper as Mattias full out the cast, and more than stand up with their somewhat bigger name co-stars. Jancis in particular is a great character, providing a link between the two halves of the Excelis culture.
Excelis Decays wraps up the Grayvorn arc well enough, but if you haven't already, I suggest you get The Plague Herds of Excelis to complete the picture. (Speaking of pictures, Anthony Stewart Head's head looks odd on that figure on the cover!)
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 3/4/04
Of the Excelis trilogy Excelis Decays is perhaps the most successful.In part thanks to a need for something to actually happen (this being the conclusion -- discounting Plague Herds) and also because of the Doctors most suited to solo outings, Sylvester McCoy is the most convincing.
The guest cast are for the most part on fine form,although Yee Jee Tso is too recognisable as Chang Lee. This aside both Mark Gatiss and Ian Collier are great; the latter injecting the right amount of despair into Sallis. With Grayvorn and the Mother Superior inhabiting the same body, Anthony Head finally comes into his own as the insane Grayvorn Superior. Despite a clever twist,that leaves open the possibility of a return perfomance for Grayvorn albeit in another form.
Excelis Decays ultimately feels too talky and as a result the action quota is low. Despite this it remains a worthy entry, if a little dissatisfying.
A Review by John Seavey 28/6/04
Since I'm a nice bloke, I'm going to spare you the cash needed to buy Excelis Decays by providing you with the entire script. Ready?
That's Excelis Decays in a nutshell. Nobody gets much to do -- Tony Head trades in his measured, thoughtful performance from Excelis Rising for Standard Megalomaniac #17, although the script leaves him few options. A short plank of wood could give a better performance than Yee Jee Tso, who's clearly reading his lines fone-et-ik-all-ee. And Sylvester McCoy seems to be stuck on "hysterical outrage" for his every line of dialogue -- although, as with Head, you'll probably give a one-note performance if the piano only has one key. On the whole, this will really leave a bad taste in your mouth about the entire Excelis series, if all it could lead up to was this.
A Review by Charles Berman 21/12/13
Excelis Decays has the burden of pulling together the threads from its two predecessors to conclude the Doctor's part of the four-part Excelis series. Everything is produced fairly competently, but it's a bit short on plot, and in the end it only feels so-so.
Excelis at this point has become a totalitarian state, modeled pretty transparently on the Soviet Union, except that the "Proletarians" are kept at bay through the use of a drug called "treasure." This element doesn't really do much of anything except give the Doctor a chance not to eat some poisoned food and give the listener a chance to feel like Craig Hinton has lightly cribbed from Brave New World.
By and large, there doesn't seem to be much of a point made by this evocation of the Soviet Union, except as an easy model of totalitarianism as a development from the historical point Excelis had reached in Excelis Rising. There is eventually a suggestion that they reason the Grayvorn character is turning people into "meat puppets" is to perpetuate war indefinitely as a way of shoring up power. That's a good political point, but it's blunted by being placed in the context of a cod-USSR Excelis. Yes, that charge applies to the historical Soviet Union, but it also applies very well to countries that still exist today (and which did when this was released in 2002 - razing Afghanistan to the ground for the crimes of a few mainly-Saudi people who had snuck into it). Leveling the charge away from those real powers at an existentially defunct one weakens the point.
There are only a few characters here, and, with as simple a plot as there is, that sometimes leads to good long scenes as character development. But this is no Scherzo. There is more repetition and standard-SF-security talk than character work. Sylvester McCoy is fine here, and, as always, puts a personal, fun, eccentric spin on his lines. But he seems less involved when he's given less to work with, and the Doctor in this story is very much written in the "GeneriDoc" mode. Which is a shame, since the Seventh Doctor can often work especially well without a companion, leaving him free to be buffoonish with strangers or scheming on the sidelines in equal measure.
The solution to what the relic was doing and the hints dropped in the previous two stories makes sense, without being especially interesting. The script also seems to refer to people's "souls" as things that are just assumed to exist and be manipulable. That's theologically weird and more religious than Doctor Who usually gets. Maybe it was supposed to be shorthand for some SF-sounding cypher, but it doesn't sit well.
Anthony Head is very good here, as he was in the previous two segments, although his lines too seems to have a more generic quality. Yee Jee Tso, though, I am sorry to say, is just a terrible actor. He's unbelievably unconvincing and delivers nothing but a series of wooden, indifferent and often apparently uncomprehending line readings. Of course, he's cast here because he was Chang Lee in the TV movie, and Big Finish trade on using actors from television Doctor Who when they can, often in surprising roles. In this case, though, maybe there should have been some thought given to the quality of the acting. The best that can be said is that he's slightly better than he was in Real Time.
In all, this was somewhat disappointing, then, given its position in Big Finish's line - and after the cycle had started with such an entertaining story in Excelis Dawns. I'm still looking forward to hearing the last of it in The Plague Herds of Excelis, with a Stephen Cole script and Iris Wildthyme meeting Benny Summerfield...