"When the Doctor last visited the city of Excelis, its citizens were about to enter an age of enlightenment and reason. But returning two centuries later, he discovers a vicious totalitarian regime at war with the rest of Artaris, living off the efforts of a drugged and broken underclass.
"Who is the mysterious Lord Sutton, and what hold does he have over the ruling classes? What are the Meat Puppets, and what role do they play in the eternal war? And why is the Doctor's arrival the final piece in a plan that has been centuries in the making?
"Throughout his lives, the Doctor has fought many legends. But some legends refuse to die."
And so the main body of the "Excelis" trilogy concludes with "Excelis Decays", by Craig Hinton, in which the Seventh Doctor returns to the city of Excelis, which has gone from an englightened society on the brink of a new era of science and knowledge, to a rotten, decaying society awash with industrial filth and led by a brutal, totalitarian regime. Lord Grayvorn (Anthony Stewart Head), rendered incorporeal at the end of "Excelis Rising", has found a way to be reborn and now pulls the strings of the society in secret from his hideaway on the surface in the guise of Lord Sutton.
The Doctor has unfinished business, although he doesn't realise it at first. But, in true Seventh Doctor style, he unravels the mystery surrounding Excelis' abrupt descent into a totalitarian labour state and gets straight to its heart. This is, however, exactly what Grayvorn had planned for. The two great minds meet and eventually bring the saga to a conclusion in the most final way possible.
Excelis Decays is probably the best instalment in the Excelis trilogy. Sylvester McCoy, very variable in his audio appearances, is on truly excellent form and leads from the front. Anthony Stewart Head, meanwhile, is more than a match for McCoy, and his performances blend seamlessly with the rest despite being recorded in a separate studio. The high-profile guest cast, including Ian Collier and Yee Jee Tso, are also excellent, with Collier and supporting performer Penelope McDonald fulfilling the companion role effectively.
The story has a bleak atmosphere reinforced by an even bleaker ending, aided by the usual high standard of sound design. The music, meanwhile, is excellent, picking up the beat of the previous two stories and infusing it with an industrial ambience appropriate to the evolution of the troubled society of Excelis.
Fans of the "Excelis" trilogy, if they want more, can proceed to buy the postscript, "The Plague Herds of Excelis" from Big Finish's Professor Bernice Summerfield range. However, for those of us who only collect the Doctor Who range, "Excelis Decays" wraps the trio of adventures up very satisfactorily (albeit in a somewhat downbeat way).