AUDIO REVIEW: THE EXXILONS (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: NICK BRIGGS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LOUISE JAMESON, JOHN LEESON, DAISY DUNLOP, JACQUELINE KING, HUGH ROSS, TIM TRELOAR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The Exxilons is the first release in a new season of eight monthly, single disc stories from Big Finish. These are Fourth Doctor (Baker) stories, with companions Leela (Jameson) and K9 (Leeson) newly reunited in character.
The plot has echoes of Face of Evil, Leela’s first adventure, and tells the story of a race of primitive Neanderthals, the Tarl, who are being aided with technology provided by a race known as the Locoyuns. When the TARDIS arrives, tensions are mounting and it is up to the Doctor and his friends to broker a peace deal and resolve all the conflicts. Not much to ask for in a single CD of adventure.
The Tarls are represented by their leader Ergu (Treloar), who is an educated savage (think Native Americans), whereas the Locuyons are explored through the captain of their ship Calura (King), architect Gethal (Ross) and Trexa (Dunlpo), a junior member of crew. Of course, there is conflict – Tarl versus Locoyuns, Trexa versus Gethal, Gethal versus everybody else (or so it seems), and the Doctor trying to make sense of a situation with hidden depths.
Here is where the piece falls down slightly; the title is The Exxilons, the race featured in the Third Doctor story Death to the Daleks, and in some ways this story echoes elements of that. “Aware” fans will inevitably spend time looking out for Exxilons, and this can distract from the enjoyment of an engrossing tale. The story also reflects Nick Briggs’s ever-growing maturity as a writer: gone is the tendency to tidy up every last detail and leave no thread un-severed or unexplored. The story takes its time (as far as it can in two parts) before uncovering dark secrets, and even if fans might decry the way the story links back to the Exxilons, it is worth considering that this may only be the first time they are recreated in audio. In years to come, we might well place this as one of a series of tales telling a larger story.
The story buzzes with energy and Tom seems to have found new wind as he hits his 80th year. There are no weak performances and yet more credit to Nick Briggs for his direction. The title aside, this is a well-paced, entertaining opener to a series rife with potential, and fingers crossed not the first time Big Finish visits the story of the Exxilons.
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