Excelis Rising

Posted in Audio by - October 21, 2017
Excelis Rising

Released April 2002

Following a fairly average opener to the Excelis saga that placed character over plot but nonetheless introduced a few intriguing concepts, writer David A McIntee is tasked with delivering the second instalment and setting the scene for the upcoming finale. A thousand years after his first visit to Artaris, the Sixth Doctor unknowingly crosses paths with the mysterious Relic once more, traversing the deaths that lay in its wake within the Imperial Museum as the city of Excelis continues to expand its domain across the globe. But as the Doctor helps the curator and local authorities investigate the mystery, a familiar but impossible face from Excelis’s past also makes himself known.

Traveling without a companion and not encountering circumstances that require an incredibly deep exploration of the character, the witty, enthusiastic, and grandiloquent Sixth Doctor is gloriously allowed to take a very active and central role in ‘Excelis Rising’ as he slowly pieces together the growing puzzle around him. Of course, Anthony Stewart Head returns as Grayvorn, this time under the guise of Reeve Maupassant, a civilian taking a lead role in the museum investigation. While it’s clear from the outset that Maupassant is behind the break-in and the ensuing events, it’s nonetheless intriguing to see events play out as he continues to try to get his hands on the relic without raising suspicion. Head has scaled back his performance for this version of the character and believably injects a sense of sinister sombreness to this man who has lived for so long but remains so driven to complete one singular task.

The fact that the consciousnesses of both Grayvorn and the Mother Superior have been sharing the same body for a millennium certainly adds motivation to Maupassant’s desire to reach the Relic, hoping that he can split the two and undo whatever process the Relic originally allowed. While it would have been nice to see more of the mental impact the presence of two voices has on the character, Graylorn’s assumption that the Doctor’s change of appearance over the years is due to possession is an apt one that surprisingly has never really been suggested or explored before. With the Relic described as a gateway to heaven and hell through which all souls must cross but which has been secreted away in the Museum because of the fear the legends create, it’s perhaps not surprising that Excelis itself is now drenched in spiritualism with séances a legitimate source of interrogation. With Grayvorn only able to control one voice at a time during a séance, however, his true intentions eventually come to light, and the consequences tie nicely into the structural phonograph experience introduced earlier in the story.

‘Excelis Rising’ never tries to do anything ground-breaking or monumental, but it’s nonetheless a solid story that makes the most of its running time, helped along by a solid directorial debut from Edward Salt and evocative sound design from David Darlington. This is a much more cohesive package than the opener and capably intermingles elements from that story while leaving plenty more for the conclusion to satisfyingly finish. Though the overlying plot arc still hasn’t become the most gripping or thought-provoking, ‘Excelis Rising’ is certainly an enjoyable middle instalment that hopefully marks a continued upward trajectory in the trilogy.

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