The final part in this Excelis “Saga” (with one Bernice Summerfield spin-off still to come!) isn’t quite up to the same level as the previous two that came before it. Decays isn’t bad, it’s just not up to the same standard and is a lot more straight forward, and less funny to boot. Oh well! What’s it like overall? Let’s find out!
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 a vicious totalitarian regime at war with the rest of Artaris, living off the efforts of a drugged and broken underclass.
Who is the mysterious Lord Sutton, and what hold does he have over the ruling classes? What are the Meat Puppets, and what role do they play in the eternal war? And why is the Doctor’s arrival the final piece in a plan that has been centuries in the making?
Throughout his lives, the Doctor has fought many legends. But some legends refuse to die.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Excelis Decays starts off interesting enough, The Doctor has apparently just remodelled his TARDIS interior to presumably that of the TV Movie. The majority of the rest of the audio is pretty standard dystopia stuff, with a mix of British Empire references, but the ending is good.
Greyvorn had managed to possess and even change the body of a local resident to look and sound like his old self (which is how he’s still voiced by Anthony Head!) then proceeded to gain control of Excelis and set it in a state of perpetual war all under the new name of Vaughan Sutton. What I liked as well is that he used his power to rewrite history so that his Greyvorn self was looked at as a hero and his old Maupassant identity as an ahead-of-his-time thinker. He also began finding people who were against the war and using the power of The Relic to turn them into “meat puppets”, mindless killers deployed on the battlefields. The Doctor confronts him and finds out that way back at the start of this whole thing part of his “soul” was captured in the Relic and not only is that why he keeps getting drawn back to the planet but also how Vaughan now has the knowledge to pilot the TARDIS.
After a bit of back and forth The Doctor allows his whole self to enter the Relic and there he talks to Mother Superior again (Patricia Leventon) who reveals how The Doctor can drain the Relic of all the “souls” it had absorbed, which he does. This robs the former Greyvorn of his power so in a fit of rage he triggers a nuclear bombardment across the whole planet, and much to the Doctor’s distress he can only run and save his own life, made worse when the previously immortal Vaughan holds an innocent young man hostage right in front of the TARDIS, but due to his knowledge of how to pilot the craft, The Doctor couldn’t risk taking him on board. This means the desolate wasteland Greyvorn saw briefly in “Excelis Dawns” turns out to be a true future of the planet…
Always nice to see the TV Movie version of the Seventh Doctor… not that his TV run was particularly memorable!
As good and dramatic as that ending was, the build up to it just wasn’t very exciting. Excelis was now attacking the other countries of Artaris and trying to create an empire, even going as far to use the phrase “The sun never sets on the Excelis Empire”, just to make any subtly about the comparison to the British Empire go right out the window. As for Excelis itself, it’s under a 1984-style dystopia horror show, complete with drugs keeping the lower classes compliant and a brutal police force. It’s all so similar to many other things that I struggled to care, then combine that with the complete lack of subtle writing about the British Empire and it was just… not good. It’s a real shame because it started off well and ended brilliantly, but the 50 odd minutes in the middle were just… not up to much.
Beyond being a sequel to both “Excelis Dawns” and “Excelis Rising” there isn’t much. As mentioned The Doctor reportedly changes the TARDIS interior to the “TV Movie” version, and in the great Seventh Doctor audio “Master” he uses the name “Vaughan Sutton” as an alias. That’s it though!
Excelis Decays is sadly where the trilogy of Greyvorn / Doctor stories hits its lowest point, though at least the immortal man himself gets a great send-off. Still, most of the play is either entirely predictable or really patronisingly on-the-nose with its references, so I can’t say I’ll be in a rust to listen to it again…