Episode 002 – “The Cave of Skulls”

When last we saw the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers, Ian and Barbara, they’d left in the TARDIS, heading off into distant space and time. The story ended with an incredibly evocative shot of what appears to be an ordinary police box standing in a prehisoric landscape.

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I can only imagine how interesting that must have been to people in England back in 1963. Imagine seeing the most mundane modern artifact you can imagine showing up in a strange and alien place. So neat!

For the sake of clarity, when I say, “An Unearthly Child”, I refer only to the previous episode. For this, and the following to, I shall call it, “100,000 BC”, which was occasionally the title it was marketed under. It’s not a bad story, really. It has some good dialogue and wonderful little moments, but it suffers greatly from two problems: the story before it, which gave us the whole concept of the show, and the story after, which introduced the Daleks.

This first episode of this story is a bit weak. We have the long stretches of dialogue that are nothing but infighting among various cavemen that we have no reason to care about storywise. It doesn’t help that they’re sometimes hard to tell apart, and similar-sounding names make that problem even worse.

But I do like some things here. There’s a wonderful quote from the Doctor describing birds in an alien sky, and I like that we get an explanation for why the TARDIS looks like it does, and confusion from the Doctor as to why it still looks like it does, rather than turning into a tree or something. And the final shot of the skull with the man-made hole in it is rather evocative.

I can’t bring myself to really like this story, and especially not this particular episode, but it isn’t bad, and holds up reasonably ok, I guess. Damning with faint praise, to be sure, but there you are.

Next time: “The Forest of Fear”

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