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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Acheron Pulse


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 020 6
Available 31 October 2012

The planet Cawdor, deep in the heart of the Drashani Empire. The Doctor lands thirty years after the Succession of Blood brought Empress Cheni to the throne. For most of her reign there has been peace and prosperity. Then five years ago, the War came, and nothing was ever the same again. Now the Drashani are at war with the mysterious alien race known as the Wrath, led by the Warlord Tenebris. As more and more planets fall to their advance, events are rushing to a head. What exactly does Tenebris want? What is the secret of the Wrath’s weapon, the terrifying Acheron Pulse? As the Doctor races to save an Empire, he may not like the answers he finds...

It was not evident in The Burning Prince, the first adventure in this multi-Doctor trilogy, but there is something of a Star Wars vibe going on in the final two parts of the Drashani saga. We have James Wilby in full Darth Vader mode as the villainous Tenebris in The Acheron Pulse; another masked character (I shall say no more than that - spoilers) in the next story, The Shadow Heart; and in common with first Star Wars trilogy (I mean first in terms of release dates), the middle segment is the darkest and moodiest one of the lot.

However, whereas The Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as being the strongest episode in its series, the same cannot be said of The Acheron Pulse. Following the frenetic excitement of John Dorney’s opening segment, which is described most accurately in the sleeve notes of his successor Rick Briggs as “The Androids of Tara on the set of Aliens”, this tale of resentment and revenge is served at a much lower temperature. I suppose a change of pace was called for, but I found it quite hard to engage with this story.

The vicious Igris liven things up, though, as does the Wrath’s devastating weapon, and there are some lighter moments involving the rowdy tribal locals, including Jane Slavin as Teesha - so Pulse does have its pluses. The menace of the Igris provides one of several points of continuity with The Burning Prince, though they give way to the more ethereal might of the Wrath, who in turn are developed further in The Shadow Heart... There’s a spot of role reversal for Kirsty Besterman, who portrayed the evil Princess Aliona last time, but here plays the woman’s cousin, Empress Cheni, who is on the side of good.

In common with the Excelis saga a decade ago, each story in this trilogy features a different Doctor. This time it is the turn of “Old Sixie”, Colin Baker. Unlike Excelis, which commenced with a two-disc release but continued with single-disc episodes, these are all double-disc stories - which does seem fairer to me!

As with the Excelis saga, my interest unfortunately waned after the first story. Fortunately, it perked back up again with The Shadow Heart...


Richard McGinlay

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