Thirty years after the tragic betrayal of Prince Kylo by Princess Aliona, the Doctor returns – one regeneration later – to the Drashani Empire, intending to return the crown jewels that survived that horrific event. Since he was the only surviving witness, and has never bothered to tell the true story of Kylo’s betrayal, the Doctor finds that their story has now become a legend of a doomed romance without a hint of the true treachery between them. The late Ambassador Tuvold’s daughter, Cheni, is now the Empress of an empire fending off constant attacks from a masked warlord named Tenebris, leading a horde of faceless warriors called the Wrath. Only by unmasking Tenebris can the Doctor learn where the Wrath come from and how to stop them, but doing so will also reveal that the Doctor himself may bear some blame for how history has unfolded.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), James Wilby (Tenebris), Joseph Kloska (Dukhin), Jane Slavin (Teesha), Chris Porter (Vincol), John Banks (Boritz), Chook Sibtain (Athrid), Carol Noakes (Olerik)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The middle chapter always seems to be where a story sags, and much like the Excelis trilogy before it, the “Kylo trilogy” isn’t immune to “saga sag.” That being said, the heap of exposition that’s required to take place in this story is spooned out between ample scenes of action and jeopardy, and the sixth Doctor has no shortage of ignorance against which to rail. The scene in which he reveals to Empress Cheni, the young cousin of Princess Aliona, what really happened between Aliona and Kylo is impressive for just how uncomfortable the Doctor is telling that tale. The savage warriors of Cawdor fall into a fairly obvious Viking/Klingon mold, but they’re no less entertaining for it.
Where the “saga sag” seeps into The Acheron Pulse is the sheer amount of explanation that has to be delivered by flashback. While much of the rest of the information expected of a storyline’s soft center segment arrives between action scenes, the flashbacks explaining the fate of Prince Kylo drag things out quite a bit, particularly in part two. Perhaps most surprising is that the end of this story seems to leave everything tied off, except for the troubling minor detail that the Doctor has effectively fashioned (or, more precisely, reprogrammed) an entire army in his image. With such a force at large in the universe, doing what the Doctor would do, does the universe still need the Doctor? (The answer is likely to be a matter of scale: one man and a sidekick or two setting the universe right one incident at a time is one thing; an army, however peacefully convened, is quite another.)
James Wilby deserves kudos for stealing the show as Tenebris – that’s quite a menacing voice he’s got there.