I’ve always been interested in the Excelis stories, a trilogy of audio dramas across the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors (plus one Bernice Summerfield story) all set on the same world with the same immortal but many years apart created to appease classic fans who may not take to the debuting Eighth Doctor, but I’ve always been put off by the Seventh Doctor entry being CD only. Well a couple of weeks ago it finally appeared for Download and the whole four story set was bundled in an offer, so off we finally go! Excelis Dawns also features the audio debut of Iris Wildthyme, which is sometimes fun, often overbearing. Is that still true here?! Let’s find out!
That terrible old reprobate and transdimensional adventuress Iris Wildthyme has gone and locked herself up in a nunnery on the savage world of Artaris.
Here she is discovered by the Doctor and the reasonably brutal warlord Grayvorn. Together — with a peculiar nun they pick up en route — they must travel the forests and swamps of this ghastly world in Iris’s double decker bus in order to tussle — to the death — with a horde of flesh-eating zombies for a mysterious and holy relic of unfathomable value and questionable pedigree.
But what is the Mother Superior’s part in all this?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s rare for such an early Big Finish story to have a guest star on the front cover! Looks good though.
As you’d expect with a Paul Magrs story, Excelis Dawns leans heavily on the comedy. Iris (played brilliantly by Katy “Jo Grant” Manning) is suddenly part of a nunnery with no real memory of how she got there, but her … active personality is still very much alive, leading the Mother Superior (Patricia Leventon) to send her away on a dangerous quest just to get rid of her. The quest involves joining up with the rather simple-minded warlord Grayvorn (Anthony Head) and find a holy relic simply known as “The Relic” that was last seen in the hands of a horde of zombies at the bottom of the large mountain Excelis sits atop. On their way to start the journey they run into The Doctor, who has just left his TARDIS with Tegan still in it after a bit of a row, and before you know it the trio, along with another Nun named Sister Jolene (Posy Miller) are off on Iris’ Double Decker Bus TARDIS, but as an actual vehicle because the dematerialisation circuit it broken.
The road trip is long and has plenty of funny arguments, particularly between Iris and Grayvorn, but they do eventually make it to the swampy lands at the foot of the mountain and reach the Zombie City and its King (Billy Miller). The Relic turns out to be a handbag Iris left behind (because of course it did…) but it does turn out to have some very powerful properties, and while Jolene is killed The Doctor, Iris and Grayvorn escape with the Relic, eventually returning to the Nunnery. Here the warlord and the Mother Superior both try to take the Relic but end up opening it and tumbling off a mountain with it together. The Doctor and Iris go their separate ways and we’re treated to a scene where Grayvorn has survived and thanks to the power of the Relic now has the Mother Superior in his head and an immortal body…
I have to say it, as much as I like Katy Manning’s “that fun drunk Auntie” Iris it got old by about half way through the story, and by the end it was getting properly annoying. It didn’t help that the whole story felt like Iris Wildthyme featuring The Doctor, she was very much front and centre and that meant her amusing charm wore off quicker than it does in future stories. I love Margs’ writing but there’s a reason I’ll never dip into the Wildthyme spin-off series…
…. Pretty much sums everything up, yeah…
As I mentioned this is a part of a trilogy that continues with “Excelis Rising” and ends with “Excelis Decays”, with the Bernice Summerfield spin-off “The Plague Herds of Excelis” wrapping up the Iris part of the story.
The story is set in between when The Doctor and Tegan are taking The Gravis back to its home planet and back in the TV story “Frontios”. Iris and The Doctor often swap stories with Iris believing she was part of them, including The Doctor’s defeat of the Sontarans in Fourth Doctor TV story “The Invasion of Time” and events of Third Doctor story “The Three Doctors”. She also apparently had a very similar experience to the Doctors in “The Five Doctors” only is was six Irises and they only faced crap villains…
Excelis Dawns was a good laugh for most of its runtime, with the quartet of Iris, Greyvorn, The Doctor and Sister Jolene working well in a “comedic road trip” setting. That being said by the end Iris had worn out my goodwill and stepped over the line into annoying, but hey-ho. Your mileage may vary, as they say, and it was certainly worth the price!