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Audio Drama Review
Planet E9874 supports a developing civilisation known as the Tarl. The peaceful, technologically advanced Locoyuns are helping the Tarl develop rudimentary technology. What could be more innocent than that? When the Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive, they find the delicate balance in the relationship between the two cultures reaching an unexpected crisis point. The spears are flying and the threat of all-out war is in the air. The Doctor must use all his guile to tread a careful path with Tarl leader Ergu, while Leela and K9 discover an ancient power of unimaginable strength which threatens to tear the minds out of its victims...
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
A spoiler alert, you may be asking, is that really necessary here? Surely it’s obvious from the title and the front cover design that this story involves a return to the planet Exxilon, home of the spear-chucking Exxilons from Death to the Daleks? You might well think that, but writer / director Nicholas Briggs plays very effectively with such expectations.
Even if you had guessed that the spear chuckers are not the Exxilons, and that Planet E9874 is not their home world, there are still some surprises in store. I was fully expecting the first episode to conclude with a traditional realisation by the Doctor (Tom Baker) along the lines of, “It’s the Exxilons! I should have guessed,” but in fact the cliffhanger is more inventive than that. For a while, the listener knows more than the Doctor does, thanks to the story title and the distinctive tolling of the Exxilons’ beacon, which plays a major role in the episode ending. We learn that the beacon has a hypnotic quality – which ties in rather neatly with Sarah’s fascination by it in Death to the Daleks.
Meanwhile, the musical element of Alistair Lock’s soundscape starts off sounding like Dudley Simpson (thus forming a bridge to previous Fourth Doctor releases) but is soon mimicking the style of Death to the Daleks composer Carey Blyton.
Among the guest cast, Hugh Ross increasingly chews the scenery as the architect Gethal (or at least I’m sure he would do if audio dramas had scenery), but it’s easy to imagine how his kind of over-zealous behaviour might develop into the city worship practised by the surface-dwelling Exxilons in their television appearance. Jacqueline King’s use of an American accent in her portrayal of hypership captain Calura is a curious choice (it was her decision, as we learn in the 16 minutes of interviews at the end of the disc), but then why should all aliens have British accents?
This is interesting stuff, all in all, a prequel exploring the Exxilons’ space-faring days. It does beg the Exxilent question of how the ancient Peruvians (mentioned in Death of the Daleks and again here) managed to resist the power of the beacon, but perhaps that is a story yet to be told…
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