The Curator’s Egg

Posted in Website by - July 01, 2018
The Curator’s Egg

Released June 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With The Companion Chronicles switching its release format from monthly releases throughout the year to a single four-story box set annually, there was always the risk that some of the innate creativity and variability the range allows would be sacrificed or lost to offer a more streamlined affair readily available for mass appeal. Fortunately, those hallmarks have been only more solidified if anything, and The Second Doctor Volume Two once more turns to Patrick Troughton’s beloved tenure to explore previously untold adventures, beginning right at the very beginning with only Polly and Ben by his side in ‘The Curator’s Egg’ by Julian Richards.

Making the most of established continuity, ‘The Curator’s Egg’ takes place about a century or so following the devastating events of ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ when animals have gone extinct and humans are struggling to rebuild. Not everyone is quite so destitute, however, and the Doctor, Polly, and Ben soon discover that eccentric billionaire Zoltan Clarkson has bought the empty county of Dorset and set up an operation in Durlston Castle dedicated to fusing animal DNA and cybernetics to repopulate the world with a semblance of normality. In a harrowing aspersion of capitalism and pandering to the rich before the needs of the general populace are addressed, however, research has moved onto the recreation and domestication of dinosaurs because the means are available, there is money to be made, and people will buy them if afforded the opportunity. Aided by a mysterious piece of advanced and quantum-locked technology that evokes the region’s Great Globe and that allows for the most intriguing in situ experimentation, Zoltan’s brother Andrew leads this charge but currently finds himself overwhelmed by the random appearances of rogue dinosaurs outside of the designated areas as his brother lies insensate within the infirmary.

Truly, the first episode sets up the locale and the central mystery to spectacular effect, and as the Doctor and Ben go off to chase a runaway sea dinosaur, the focus squarely shifts to Polly who, alongside Andrew, exhibits an immense amount of cunning and bravery in the most dangerous and peculiar circumstances imaginable. Big Finish has never really dabbled in dinosaurs before, and the sound design must be commended for bringing the many species to life so vividly, but the ultimate villainous scheme is too rushed and far-fetched to fully resonate. Andrew makes it no secret that his brother is eccentric, and while it seems quite clear from the outset that Zoltan’s sudden fits of rage and aggression are linked to the machine’s unique abilities and the missing dinosaur still at large, the megalomaniacal tendencies revealed as Zoltan’s consciousness continues to move and expand further and further are simply too exaggerated to really carry the narrative by themselves. By inhabiting these dinosaurs’ bodies, he has learned that all that is important is to feed and to make more copies of oneself, and in doing so he considers himself to be the zenith of evolution. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough time to explore Zoltan as a true person to explain how he could come to choose to so callously murder innocents and even his brother in his continued expanse. Instead, he comes off as a rather one-note and stereotypical arch villain who has found a unique way of spreading terror for his own benefit, and the physical threat of the dinosaurs is much more effective by itself than when paired with Zoltan’s voice in each.

Yet while the scheme itself may be somewhat dubious, there is simply no denying how magnificent both Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman are together as Polly and Andrew, respectively, as each convincingly portrays the requisite fear while also digging deep to survive and to try to understand what has happened and how to possibly put it right. With salvation coming in the most unexpected form, ‘The Curator’s Egg’ certainly manages to pull on the heartstrings when needed, and these more genuine and touching moments of pure emotion provide a much-needed balance to the lighter and more surreal moments like Polly playing with and riding a Tyrannosaurus rex or a group of dinosaurs all conversing with Zoltan’s voice. Indeed, ‘The Curator’s Egg’ as a whole is a unique and enjoyable story, but the ill-defined arrival of a villain who so eagerly and without remorse accepts the changes he experiences to kill more and more keeps it from becoming a more meaningful and thought-provoking piece about the many nuances of the human condition.

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