Released October 2012
Deep in the Drashani Empire thirty years after the Succession of Blood brought Empress Cheni to the throne, the Doctor once more finds himself entwined with events that threaten the very existence of the empire. With the mysterious alien Wrath led by the warlord Tenebris making staggering advances as planet after planet falls to their will and their horrific weapon, the Acheron Pulse, the Doctor once more finds himself in a race against time to find answers that could change everything.
As the second part of this interlinked Drashani trilogy, writer Rick Briggs is tasked with the difficult chore of picking up lingering strands from the preceding story while simultaneously telling his own satisfying story that sets the scene for the concluding act to come. To that effect, it seems as though only the Doctor knows the truth behind the deaths of Kylo and Aliona as portrayed in ‘The Burning Prince,’ his absence resulting in the creation of a myth that has resulted in decades of peace. Knowing full well that careless talk is a dangerous proposition, the Doctor still willingly shatters the illusion of the myth to let the truth be known, using his oratory eloquence to good effect from beginning to end as he must deal with the guilt he still feels from his previous incarnation’s actions.
The planet of Codor undergoing centuries of development in just a few months after giving up the mining rights to a mineral to a more advanced society is an intriguing backdrop, and Cheni seems to be a much more capable and mature ruler than the two royals showcased in the previous tale, keeping her father Tuvold’s legacy intact. The many deaths in that tale take on a more important role since nobody is left to contradict the myths, but the Wrath quickly prove themselves to be a powerful foe as they ravage the Empire and set their sights on Codor. Just as the Igriss in ‘The Burning Prince’ were a slave race borne out of capture and experimentation at the hands of Drashini scientists, the Wrath are the natural evolution of the Igriss’s violent tendencies in organized and armed form. With Kylo taking on the mantle of Tenebris after being reborn out of the deaths of so many, he spent twenty-five years crafting a fleet from the derelict ships upon Sharnax, arming himself with the Acheron Pulse that is fashioned from a wasteland of the mind where Igriss souls end up to return to his Empire and shatter everything that it has become.
The tease at the end of ‘The Burning Prince’ does make Kylo’s reveal as Tenebris quite predictable, but ‘The Acheron Pulse’ does at least go into satisfying detail to explain what happened to Kylo in between the two stories to take him down his current path. And though it seems a bit out of character for the Doctor to offer a chance for redemption to a man who has performed such heinous deeds, it is touching to see this more bombastic incarnation try to redeem a man he feels he has wronged in the past. Although Tenebris’s repentance doesn’t quite ring true, the Doctor certainly does choose and use his words well to get to the enemy’s heart. That said, it speaks to the naivety of the Empire as a whole that Cheni would propose marriage to Tenebris in order to further strengthen their Empire, instead quickly finding herself transformed into an Igriss like so many before her at his hand.
Although the pacing is quite uneven and the tone seems to wander between action and melodramatic romance, the use of the events from ‘The Burning Prince’ to directly influence the events of ‘The Acheron Pulse’ is a definite highlight. The end result of the production as a whole may be a little less than its interesting component parts, and it feels odd having the Doctor so brashly proclaim victory in a prolonged coda while the audience knows a third story further exploring these threads is imminent. Still, as a middle instalment, it keeps the intrigue high while certainly doing nothing to take away from what has come before it or lessening the anticipation for what is to come.