The Acheron Pulse is the middle story of this multi-Doctor series. Now being the middle story of a series is not an enviable position because it has an awkward job to do. It has to tell a good story itself but compliment the previous story and give an good set up for the final story. It’s an almost thankless task and sometimes the writer pulls it off and sometimes they just miss the mark by an inch and in the case of this story it’s the latter. Rick Briggs has written Witch from the Well which I rather liked and so along with my enjoyment of the Burning Prince I had high hopes for this story. It takes place some 30 years after the Fifth Doctor’s adventure.
The story picks up in the middle when the Prince makes a surprising return. I say surprising because at the end of the previous story, he was pushed out of the ship and presumably to his death. Of course this isn’t the case and it leads to a cracking start to the third episode. Unfortunately the problem that I have with this story is that it didn’t grab me in the way that Witch from the Well or The Burning Prince had. The opening episode seems to set the tone and pace of the story which is that nothing really dramatic seems to happen and I notice that the first episode ran at 33 minutes and 28 seconds and that is the shortest episode. I think had five minutes from each episode being cut then it would have made for a snappier story.
Colin Baker is perfectly good but it’s not his best story. He has some good moments which show why his Doctor is so good in a Big Finish play. Having this Doctor without a companion is just as unusual for number six than five. In fact this is only the third time and the first since I.D back in April 2007.
James Wilby is an effective baddie in The Acheron Pulse as Tenebris. I thought he was a highlight in a story where characters weren’t as strong and they normally would be. The rest of the supporting cast did as good a job as they could and the one thing that you can never accuse a Big Finish play of is having a cast where they don’t give 100%. Jane Slavin (Teesha) and Carol Noakes had some good lines but were overshadowed by Wilby.
The problem that I have with this story is that I tried at least three times to try and get a handle on this story but I just couldn’t and usually if it takes more than three attempts to start from the beginning then I can tell that I’m not going to enjoy this as much as other stories. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that compared to Witch from the Well and The Burning Prince I just found it average.