Our last episode (An Unearthly Child) left us, as you may recall, with the image of the TARDIS and a shadow approaching it.
I simply couldn’t stand the suspense, so I went ahead and watched the following 3 episodes to get me some answers. I had instant gratification when the first image of the 2nd episode of this little clump, The Cave of Skulls, is that same TARDIS/shadow deal and the immediate zoom out to see that the shadow is cast by…a caveman!
A very concerned caveman.
Cut to a scene in…a cave! With cavemen! They are speaking in incredibly fluent English, with the exception for a fair bit of grunting and interchanging the odd pronoun (is it really that hard to say “I” instead of “me”??). We discover that there is a serious problem– Za, the supposed leader of the tribe, cannot make fire. Whoever has fire is the leader, and Za’s dad had the fire. But then apparently someone killed his dad for this power…and then they lost the fire…and now we can’t figure out how to make more. Za’s mom is vehemently opposed to making more fire, and wants to sabotage it.
Meanwhile we meet a cavewoman who is totally into Za and wants him to make fire, because otherwise her father will give her away to Kal, the next strongest caveman. Blah blah blah feminism blah.
She is so into him.
Meanwhile in the TARDIS, our favorite teachers wake up, because either the Doctor knocked them out or they are just tired. They hear the Doctor and Susan talking, doing a standard systems check, and note that the “year-o-meter” must be reading wrong, because it says the year “0”. Hmmm. The Doctor asks Susan what the Radiation Detector reads, and she says it’s fine.
Can you spot the plot? Let’s log that away for later.
Also, there seems to be an enormous amount of trouble with the scanners and systems in the TARDIS. This is something that’s all too familiar to modern Whovians, because the Doctor can never seem to fly the TARDIS properly, something which the teachers comment on. At this point, Barbara is starting to actually believe all of this time-and-space-travel business, while Brad remains a skeptic.
Here is our first title-dropper of the series:
Brad/Ian: “Give me some proof, Doctor Foreman!”
Doctor: “Ehh? Doctor Who?”
They then realize that Doctor Foreman isn’t his name, nor is Foreman either of their surnames at all, but rather the name they chose for the sake of it being on the outside of the junkyard they had previously parked the TARDIS at on Earth.
Brad then mentions something to the Doctor that time isn’t a wheel that you can get on and off at any point you wish, to which the Doctor chuckles and says he will never understand how time works.
They decide to venture out of the TARDIS because that could not possibly deliver any undesired consequences, and the following observation by the Doctor just made me futuristically nostalgic:
“It’s still a police box! Why hasn’t it changed? Dear, dear…how very disturbing…”
Things then take a turn for the worse, because leaving the TARDIS is never a good idea. The Doctor gets kidnapped by a the caveman who was watching them (he turns out to be Kal, the rival of Za…the names are so creative I almost can’t take it), and Susan absolutely loses her shit. I’m talking “I just got skewered with a hot poker” kind of screaming. I’m talking Black Friday at a Walmart kind of shit-losing.
The scene cuts back to the cave (thank the Time Lords, I couldn’t listen to her scream anymore) where the tribe is convinced that the Doctor can make fire for them. The Doctor is useless and says he can’t, meanwhile his friends find him (that was fast!), and all three of them get thrown into the “Cave of Skulls”. The episode ends with them observing that all the skulls in this cave have been split open at the top. Fantastic.