Teeth and Curls: An immediate, engaging rapport between Tom Baker and Louise Jameson bourne out of two previous seasons in the studio together. There is a generally uplifting feel to their scenes together that is the actors' chemistry bleeding into the recording booth. The Doctor suggests that interfering with the development of indigenous species is highly unethical but Leela points out that he does that every other week. One rule for one and one rule for the other, he knows what he is doing apparently. I always like it when Tom Baker plays against type and the fourth Doctor is gentle an understanding rather than simply wisecracking his way through a story. It worked wonderfully in The Creature from the Pit when he had to try and communicate with the creature (regardless of the difficulties in the realisation of the creature) and it also works rather charmingly in this story when he tries to have a conversation with the less developed natives. He isn't patronising but brings his idiom down to their level so they can converse.
Noble Savage: Louise Jameson gets to play the screaming heroine in a way that Leela rarely is...but only because Leela is tortured to an extreme level by the city. Beyond that there is nothing to justify her involvement. Any companion could have slipped into this role.
Standout Performance: It is far from her most impressive performance in a Big Finish production (simply because she isn't even given surface characterisation, Calura is constructed out of pure cardboard) but I have to say I found her unrecognisable with an American accent. Hugh Ross scowls and growls his way through the story, again not an in inspired role as written, but certainly a passionate one.
Great Ideas: The first point where I was properly surprised by The Exxilons was at the cliffhanger. I genuinely believed that the story was leading in the direction of the reveal of the city as the work of the grunting savages and not the humanoids that the Doctor and Leela have teamed up with. That was the last time it surprised me too.
Audio Landscape: I have wonder with this range if the creators sit back and think which Doctor Who stories offer up the best opportunity for a gripping audio landscape first and whether the story actually needs telling second. Death to the Daleks is rife with wonderful sounds that can be nabbed for The Exxilons and Nick Briggs adds some exotic and alien additions of his own. Switching off the critical part of my brain that looks at the construction of the story and merely focussing on the aural atmosphere, this story is first rate. Running footsteps, an arrow screaming through the air, TARDIS bleeps and blurts, K.9's nose laser, a ship landing, the atmosphere of the planet, grunting, beating chests, chanting crowds, banging drums, unsheathing Leela's knife, the city beacon reaching out and screaming, crackling fire.
Musical Cues: Alistair Lock, let me count the ways I love thee. The Exxilons has a gorgeous musical score, a hybrid of the faux Dudley Simpson music that the range excels at mixed with the more controversial saxaphone and glockenspiel madness that Carey Blyton favoured in his infamous Death to the Daleks score. The result is a fusion of the two eras, which is exactly what this story is aiming for.
Isn't it Odd: Whilst the marketing boys go to town with the promise of a sequel to Death to the Daleks (or at least elements of it) I think it would have been quite a nice shock had this been billed as a standalone story with no familiar elements and the Exillons introduced as a surprise. I would still complain that this range is using too many elements of the past but it would at least be doing something engaging with the re-use of old ideas. Instead we are in the know and are waiting for the Doctor and Leela to catch up. With dialogue like 'This your metal thing everywhere man?' from a grunting native you can imagine how demanding this story gets. Wouldn't this have been a good excuse to explore the city some more and get under its skin? It is described as a living creature in Death to the Daleks so surely there is a fascinating psychological to be explored rather than simply focussing on the construction of another city on a primitive planet?