Released January 2015
The fourth run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures again teams Tom Baker with Louise Jameson’s Leela and John Leeson’s K9, beginning with ‘The Exxilons’ as heroic trio lands on the planet E9874 where the technologically advanced Locoyuns are helping the native Tarl develop. Yet as tensions unexpectedly rise between the two groups and the threat of war becomes increasingly imminent, diplomacy is tested and an unimaginably ancient and immense power is discovered.
At this point Baker and Jameson have developed a wonderfully easy rapport that sparkles in each scene they share together, and this powerful camaraderie is easily the best selling point of this release as it recaptures and expands upon the dynamic of one of the most unique relationships in the classic series. Even when Leela points out the flaw in the Doctor’s argument that there should be no interference in the development of primitive cultures, something he does regularly, the Doctor proves how adept at diplomatically communicating he is as he adapts his usual style to fit the native culture’s frame of reference. Although ‘The Exxilons’ does not necessarily make the most of the unique aspects of Leela herself as a companion, Louise Jameson does fantastic work in portraying excruciating anguish that tests the limits of her character.
Unfortunately, ‘The Exxilons’ does nothing to shed this range’s reputation of mostly playing it safe to fully recapture the essence of the original televised era. This seeming mantra is perfectly understandable, and the releases are all perfectly enjoyable, but this is another script that is quite straightforward with little in the way of surprises. Indeed, while ‘Death to the Daleks’ may not be the story most needing of a sequel, it provides another opportunity for nostalgia to come to the forefront. However, by naming the story ‘The Exxilons,’ it means that once more the audience is in the know long before the heroes are, creating an odd sense of unbalance. Given the original tale’s intimation of the city being sentient, ‘The Exxilons’ sadly does little to delve into the psychological aspects of what this means or how the culture centred about it truly functions, a missed opportunity to add what could have been a satisfying layer of depth to proceedings.
‘The Exxilons’ is extremely confident in what it sets out to do, moving at a quick pace and bolstered by solid performances and a truly engrossing sound design and score that bring the alien environment to life stunningly. As a season opener for The Fourth Doctor Adventures, it succeeds ably and continues the range’s looks to the past to recapture the magic of the original era and will undoubtedly satisfy those simply looking for a solid- if ultimately predictable- piece of entertainment. However, for those looking for something more unique and challenging as Big Finish’s other ranges and even the novel adaptations featuring the Fourth Doctor have provided, ‘The Exxilons’ may ultimately feel somewhat lacklustre. This may not be a story that will be remembered long after the closing credits roll, but there are certainly worse ways to revisit ‘Death to the Daleks’ and all that it entails.