Big Finish Folly, Part 80 – The Acheron Pulse, by Rick Briggs
Thirty years ago the great war between the royal houses of Gadarel and Sorsha ended in tragedy, and the infant Cheni was raised to the throne of the Drashani Empire. But dark forces gather on the horizon, threatening the life of the Empire itself: the warlord Tenebris seeks revenge, justice and destruction, alongside the terrible armies of the Wrath, and the have a weapon that warps the very fabric of reality itself – the Acheron Pulse. This time the Doctor will have to descend into hell to save the Drashani…
The second part of a multi-Doctor trilogy first issued in 2012 (featuring Five, Six and Seven in successive stories), the Acheron Pulse has a lot to live up to – the first tale, The Burning Prince, was one of Big Finish’s stand-out releases of that year and hammered away with a relentless energy.
The Acheron Pulse is a little less concentrated, flitting between the surface of the planet Cawdor, an orbiting space station, and some nether region of a dimension known as the Undervoid, as well as splitting the story more evenly between the Doctor and some of the supporting cast. That said, it is still just as bloodthirsty as its predecessor, as the first couple of episodes makes clear – cast members die horribly with alarming regularity. Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is far more sturdy than Davison’s leg-spinner however and the tempo and violence reflect a Doctor who isn’t afraid to use his elbows and fists if need be. On his own, with nobody to soften his edges, this is the Doctor practising medicine in the field, so to speak.
Just as in The Burning Prince, few of the characters are without flaws of their own, and some of those flaws are fatal. Cheni is fixated on the fairy-tale doomed romance of Kylo and Aliona, while her diplomatic staff are dismissive of the “barbarians” of Cawdor. At points you can see the chopper coming from a mile off.
Where The Acheron Pulse falls down is the resolution. Without spoiling it, suffice to say that Tenebris really ought to count himself lucky. Fancy such a place being available just when you need it! I suppose the real problem is that Rick Briggs has had to leave matters set up nicely for the concluding part of the trilogy, and that means not tieing up some of the loose ends.
Now you’ll just have to wait for another 12 months until I get around to The Shadow Heart (or, if you’re reading this in the indeterminate future, just click this handy link that wiill have been activated by then!)