Classic Who: The Cave of Skulls–The Firemaker


Importance: The first adventure of the Doctor and his companions.

First mention that the cloaking device on the Tardis is defective.

The first time someone asks “Doctor Who?”

Synopsis: The Doctor and his companions land in the past and come across a tribe of cavemen. The tribe is divided after the death of their leader, and two men are fighting for the position. After one of them sees the Doctor light a match, he kidnaps the Doctor and insists that he show them how to make fire. The Doctor refuses and eventually all of them are taken as prisoners. They later manage to escape with the help of one of the women, but are later found again after they go back to help one of the men vying for power of the tribe after he is attacked by a beast. Captives again, they are forced to show the leader how to make fire. They eventually escape again, and this time make it back to the Tardis and take off. However, he find out that the Doctor hasn’t really figured out how to work the Tardis properly, so they land on a new planet. Thinking that it is safe to go outside, they leave the Tardis not knowing that the radiation dial has moved to the danger zone when they turned around. Dun, dun, dun.

Thoughts: There are some firsts in the this episode, but I think the most important part is that you start to get a glimpse at the personalities of the characters. The Doctor still seems a little cold. He hesitates when Ian, Barbara, and Susan want to go back to save the man chasing them. This is not necessarily the Doctor that we know, but there have also been times when the Doctor has shown this side of him, even in modern Who. It’s generally his companions who allow him to become more compassionate as time goes on. Also, this Doctor is one who hasn’t had the adventures yet. He has recently left Gallifrey and is just starting out. He still has some growth to go.

Ian, Barbara, and Susan are all caring individuals who don’t necessarily share the Doctor’s view of life and often butt heads with him. Despite their differences, they are still able to put their heads together to find a way out of their predicament. The Doctor has had to adjust to not being the sole decision maker anymore and often finds himself chasing after them when they ignore his suggestions. (Mainly because these suggestions seem a little cold-hearted, and they are good people.) It’s a learning experience for them all, and it’s really interesting to watch these episodes knowing how the Doctor turns out later. He goes from a man who only enjoys the company of his granddaughter to one who is always happy to find a new companion, and even needs them.

So, if you’re interested in watching the growth of the Doctor’s character, this is an interesting episode to watch. We get to see the kind of person the Doctor was before all of his adventures, and the difference is pretty stark.

Also, at some point while Ian is starting the fire, the sticks are not touching and it’s rather humorous. Go 1960’s filming!

Watch it? I would, but I suppose it’s not highly important.


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