Excelis Dawns
Excelis Decays
Big Finish Productions
Excelis Rising

Written by David A. McIntee Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity Between Trial of a Time Lord
and Time and ther Rani.

Starring Colin Baker and Anthony Stewart Head
Also featuring Charles Kay, James Lailey, Nicky Goldie, Patricia Leventon, Rupert Laight, Toby Walton

Synopsis: A thousand years after his first visit to the planet Artaris, the Sixth Doctor returns. As the city of Excelis spreads her Empire throughout the globe, death follows a mysterious Relic through the halls of the Imperial Museum. As the Doctor helps the Curator and the local authorities with this mystery, he finds himself crossing paths with a familiar face from Excelis' history - but no-one lives for a thousand years, do they?


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 22/5/02

The second part of the Excelis Series was eagerly awaited. The first part, with the 5th Doctor, was excellent - a very funny and entertaining quest story by Paul Magrs, full of vibrant characters and a rollicking good story all round. Excelis Rising is by David McIntee, a writer very famous for his DW Books, but new to the field of Audio. It's natural to compare Rising to Dawns, and later to Decays - but knowing the authors as I do, they are alike as chalk and cheese - and thus is the case here. The series will form a continuous story, but has very separate parts. I wonder whether Rising will suffer the middle child syndrome over time. Middle children (of which I am not, I'm the oldest, but I have a reliable source in quite a few brothers and sisters) often complain of a lack of attention. All the attention is focused on the eldest and the youngest, by virtue of them being first and the last opportunity respectively. It's a general statement, but one that could be valid for Excelis Rising. Will it get lost amongst the beginning and end of the series?

On the plus side it's got the best Audio Doctor - Colin Baker - in the title role, and there is no companion to take away the spotlight here either. Whilst this is not up to the excellence of many of his audio performances - the script not being as alive, Baker still is impressive. His scenes with Reeve Maupassant (the Grayvorn character from the previous Excelis) are particularly good. Anthony Stewart Head gives us a much more restrained performance than before. A 1000 years have passed, and he is less impulsive, and more thoughtful, thanks to his immortality.

The story, this time, is more serious - not with as many belly laughs as before. It's a good Doctor Who story, just quite different from the Excelis we knew of before. In the 1000 years that have passed Artaris has changed from a medieval society to one that is similar to our own time. The majority of the action centres in and around a museum, where the Relic is being held. I prefer more wide reaching stories, and like Whispers of Terror, it is limiting because of the drab setting - a museum.

Claustrophobic settings can work supremely well on audio, Chimes of Midnight makes full use of the House - and the Character of such a place shines through. Unfortunately this Imperial Museum doesn't quite come alive as well as it might have done - but maybe my imagination is at fault for this. The supporting characters don't quite stand out like many Big Finish productions either. You cannot have a more bombastic performance than that of Katy Manning in the previous Excelis, but I didn't expect the exact opposite on offer here. Only the curator (Charles Kay) is reasonably memorable apart from the Doctor and Grayvorn.

The story is okay. The Relic is at the centre of the story, but this is more about Grayvorn's motives after 1000 years, and how he has changed with the Mother Superior's influence joining his - how it has affected him. The 6th Doctor doesn't meet him until quite a way in, and there's some rather predictable conversations about change of bodies (from Grayvorn to the Doctor) and who could live for 1000 years (from Doctor to Grayvorn). Bearing in mind that a lot of the most important dialogue was in the trailor, it does strike me that a little bit too much was given away before I'd heard the story. Thankfully Excelis Decays will be totally new, there's no trailer at the end of Rising for it. There's a reasonable murder investigation in there, but my interest was focused on the characters of Grayvorn and the Doctor - not the wrangling between Ministers and Inquisitors.

These Excelis stories are presented as one continuous story. This lasts 70 minutes, the last for 90 minutes. I think there could have been a more episodic approach to them. The music only appears at the beginning and end, and we are not used to that kind of DW. Far better then that they would have split it 2 or 3 ways, with some juicy cliffhangers thrown in.

Overall Excelis Rising is one of the simpler Big Finish releases. There is not much call for that much Sound Wizardry due to the Bland Museum setting. The Musical Score is the same as for Excelis Dawns. Having 2 Immortals appear in Big Finish Productions within a couple of weeks is also a bit samey. The production just isn't as original as I have come to expect from Big Finish. It is an enjoyable piece of Doctor Who, but just not as excellent as we are used to. 6/10

He's back and it's about time... by Joe Ford 24/6/02

Yes folks… the return of Colin Baker to audio after a month or two and by jove it’s good to have him back. The audio’s recently have risen to an outstanding level of quality and Excelis Rising continues the tradition. I was almost tempted to give my favourite audio Doctor to Paul McGann thanks to his sterling work recently but this disc proved me wrong. McGann has had three consequetive stories of brilliance with some intriguing plotlines running through them all… it was no wonder I was wowed by his performance but Colin Baker proves with one story at half the length his voice is perfectly suited to the series.

At seventy minutes this has a lot to achieve. It has to set up a story, continue the plot threads from Excelis Dawns, provide the Doctor with a decent role and wrap things up satisfyingly and leave threads to follow up on. To David A McIntee’s credit he achieves this with ease by confining the story to a single setting, the museum which holds the relic (which we last saw at the end of Dawns). There is some good tension milked from the situation as we know Maupassant (thanks to Anthony Stewart Heads recognizable voice) from the last story and with the museum on lock down the enemy is trapped very much inside… The dialogue is top notch throughout and McIntee proves a fine character writer by making the inhabitants of Excelis memorable through their short appearance and some quality dialogue.

This is a subtle story, intelligently written and creates a moody atmosphere throughout. I very much enjoyed Anthony Stewert Head’s turn in Excelis Dawns as the boisterous warlord Gravorn but his turn as Maupassant is miles better. His soft, silky voice is perfect for scheming villainy and his scenes with Colin Baker have a great sense of urgency and subtext (and considering they never met they spark off each other superbly!). The fact that his motives which seem obvious throughout are subverted at the climax as the Doctor realizes just what he’s planning makes him far more effective and three dimensional.

Considering the limited disc time they get the actors certainly make an impression. Colin Baker is fine as usual, entering into the spirit of the mystery with that Doctor-ish wit and intelligence he needs in these situations and Head is wonderful, creating a role which is vastly different from Grayvorn and Giles (from Buffy). Charles Kay creates a great role with The Curator and it certainly helps deepen events to have an older, sophisticated actor on board.

Things are finished off quite abruptly but as with Excelis Dawns there is an intriguing coda on hand to tempt us with the last in the series. This is a superior adventure however and well worth listening to and not the ‘middle part’ boredom I was expecting.

This is the Rising of the Age of Excelis by Jamas Enright 23/10/02

I don't, on the whole, find the genre of steam-punk to be particularly riveting. In fact, the parts of the story which directly mention steam-punk aspects I found to be boring. Fortunately, despite the steam-punk influence and background to Excelis Rising, this is only a minor part of it.

The story instead seems to revolve around the theft of the Relic, a mysterious object from the past of Excelis, but of course there are larger forces at work. That a gold-lam?handbag could have such an influence on a culture is an interesting idea, although in this case this aspect of the story is less pronounced but still there in how the spiritual nature of the culture has developed in a way in that leads spiritualism to being a major science. That last part always takes me by surprise, as indeed it does the Doctor. Although necessary to further the plot, it works well in context, and could be taken even further in the follow up story.

But it's not the theft, or the nature of spiritualism that the audience is hanging out for. Let's face it, we want more Anthony Stewart Head. His performance of Reeve Maupassant is rather understated compared with his rather over-the-top Grayvorn, but he does bring a very strong presence to the character. I have some trouble with believing that he has had to wait this long before getting a chance to get the Relic again, in many ways this story would have worked better as a starting point in that this is almost a completely different character that is after the Relic, but there is an undeniable history in this series from one part to the next, and Excelis Rising is placed definitely in the middle. Anthony Stewart Head plays off what has happened and what will come to give a very nice performance.

The Doctor has little to do but realise that the events are related to Excelis Dawns and to place the final motivations in their places. Here being the middle story hinders, as the Doctor can't resolve matters thus the Doctor's ability is undermined. Colin Baker gives no hint of this in his performance, and plays it well as if everything ultimately revolved around him.

Charles Kay performs wonderfully as the Curator, giving a great feeling to all the scenes he is in. Nicky Goldie does a great Inspector Danby, giving a great command performance, and it's a pity we'll never have the character return again (Hey Big Finish, hint hint!). As for Minister Pryce, it isn't that the actor, James Lailey, did a bad job (rather he gives a very energetic performance), it's just that I don't see the Minister being as young as he comes across.

Ultimately, a lot of plot points become obvious given the wider context of the story, but I still got caught up in the play as it unfolded. The characters are great and good performances make this a good middle portion of the Excelis trilogy.

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 29/3/04

Excelis Rising, despite taking place several years after the events of Excelis Dawns feels somewhat inconsequential. This is largely because nothing seems to happen, the story`s main aim being to develop both Grayvorn and the people of Excelis. The plot is simplistic; the Doctor arrives in the midst of a robbery, the target being the relic and the robbery being investigated by Reeve Maupassant. Unsurprisingly Maupassant turns out to be Grayvorn, thus eliminating any element of suspense in the story.

This aside the cast are excellent, Colin Baker is on form and Tony Head makes Grayvorn that bit more sinister without really doing too much. The most underrated performance is that of Nicky Goldie as Inquisitor Danby, a good foil for both the Doctor and indeed Charles Kay`s Curator. There isn`t really much more to say about Excelis Rising, except that it passes the time; enjoyable but not essential.

A Review by John Seavey 25/6/04

This audio more or less completes my reappraisal of David McIntee. When I re-read his novels, I was struck by the fact that he's actually a good writer, but one who's very dry and difficult to read; here, he's got two fine actors in Anthony Stewart Head and Colin Baker to read his lines out, and they shine. Great confrontational scenes -- Head does an excellent job of bringing out the cold, ruthless, but strangely charismatic Maupassant -- and interesting world-building sequences bring Excelis in its Imperial Age to life without ever leaving its museum. The plot's a bit light, but with only one CD to develop it, there's only so many twists and turns you can pack in, especially with both the Doctor and the listener immediately certain as to whodunnit; plus, of course, Maupassant's plan is actually interesting. This is probably the best of the Excelis series, and stands well on its own.

A Review by Ron Mallett 5/6/05

This is an awkward audio to review as in the broader sense it is one act of a broader play. I will try to assess it on its individual merits as a complete production. Excelis Rising is one of those odd little pieces of Big Finish lore that grows on you the more you listen to it. Anthony Stewart Head is terrific as the antagonist. His voice is truly hypnotic at times and although it is obviously part of the production magic, I find it difficult to believe that it is not at least in part due to the actor's fine delivery of his lines and intuitive understanding of his own character.

The premise of setting a story around a museum is a novel one to begin with. The Doctor's assertion that he loves dinosaurs (!) is lovely. Colin Baker goes from strength to strength with his portrayal of the Doctor and there is a boundless confidence about him now that is reminiscent of Tom Baker around season 14. The interplay between the two principal characters is also diverting, wherein we for once have the Doctor surprised by encountering someone who he has met before on a visit to Artaris a thousand years ago in the linear sense.

Although the plot revolves around a few concepts that require one to suspend their disbelief such as the relic itself and the seance and so forth, it is an enjoyable adventure. The waking nightmares are particularly disturbing and overall the production is good enough for general sci-fi fans to want to listen to and enjoy. Not a classic but better than average!

A Review by Charles Berman 1/8/13

The first and previous story in this cycle of linked stories from Big Finish, Excelis Dawns, stood very well on its own while also laying down a solid path for the story to come. This is not so much true of Excelis Rising, which is caught in the middle and bound by having to balance the revelation of some mystery and the conjuring of more. On its own merits, though, it's a good listen and quite atmospheric, if not unforgettable.

Excelis Rising is shorter than releases from Big Finish's regular range at this time -- a little over an hour -- but with no episode breaks. This format presages some of what Doctor Who would see in the future both on television and on audio CD, and here it serves the production well. The format allows writer Dave McIntee to write in a couple of longer, tense, two-handed scenes between the Doctor and Reeve Maupassant, which are nicely played and are among this story's greatest advantages.

Anthony Stewart Head, the Famous Guest Star, gives a very good and convincing performance. He seemed to display no traces whatsoever of the characterization he had given to Grayvorn in Excelis Decays, though, and I had a little trouble believing that this was meant to be the same person, despite the passage of a thousand years and the mental influence of the Mother Superior in his head. Maybe this was intentional -- to make the character behave like a completely different person with the same voice -- but it falls a little short.

The story itself relies on placing a few characters in the claustrophobic setting of a locked museum, and this does make for quite a tense and atmospheric play, although the nature of the plot doesn't quite match up to the developments a that such a mystery story normally provides.

There are some self-conscious attempts to give the setting a steampunk feel, but they mainly amount to saying things like "It's powered by steam!" It's a difficult aesthetic to make felt very strongly in the audio medium.

A seance feels a bit out of place, as the Doctor is initially skeptical and then acquiesces in a way that doesn't quite come across, the and the way (or reason) the ending works isn't really explained enough to make sense either.

In all, a tense and atmospheric but not unforgettable story, which picks up arc story threads very nicely from an antecedent that was played in a very different style.