Thursday, March 26, 2009

A2 - The Cave of Skulls

After that iconic first episode (I'd use the term "pilot episode", but given that the first try of recording "An Unearthly Child" has been retconned as a "pilot episode", I won't), the first ever Doctor Who story settles down into a tale of prehistoric cavemen with monosyllabic names huddling around caves wondering if either of their presidential candidates, Za or Kal, can promise them fire and, thus, survival through the impending winter.

I fully expected to feel bored by this episode, in keeping with the general public perception of the last three episodes of Serial A (I refuse to call it 100,000 BC). The first thing I noticed is the pace. Those who have only seen the new series will probably find that things move along at a pace that can kindly be described as a pedestrian. There's fewer than 10 scenes in the entire 24 minute episode. Most of these are used to set up the situation that our travelers now find themselves in, as well as setting up the dynamic that exists between the cavemen.

To be fair...yeah, not a lot happens in the episode, but the cavemen actors do their best to make it look like Act I of a Shakespeare play. The writers manage to cram in not one but two cracks at the "Doctor Who?" gag, both within minutes of each other. The Doctor smokes (!) for a brief second, if only to provide the episode (and, indeed, the story) with it's thrust. Kal witnesses the Doctor striking a match to light his pipe, realizes that the Doctor's apparent powers to create fire from his fingers can light Kal's path to the leadership of the tribe, and kidnaps him. From here on, the Doctor and his companions are pawns in Kal's struggle with Za for leadership, and in the Old Woman's (why didn't she get a name?) desire to keep fire out of the tribe.

Of course, none of the events mentioned above really take off in this episode, but it's building to something.


James said...

Although officially part 2 of the first Doctor Who story Cave of Skulls feels in reality like a first episode. Following the first excellent scenes in the TARDIS with the Doctor explaining to Ian and Barbara what has happened we settle down to a lot of cavemen talking politics. Most of the episode seems to be spent dealing with the debate between Za and Kal which really seems to go nowhere. Each potential leader accuses the other of lying and promises fire and that is really about it until the end when Ian, Barbara and Susan burst in with what has to be one of the worst rescue plans ever. Overall it isnt too bad although I did loose interest a little in the middle section.

Anonymous said...

Is it your opinion that this story takes place on Earth? I decided while watching that it doesn't -- mainly because the Doctor offers to show Ian "birds wheeling in an alien sky," or something to that effect -- and have since learned there's apparently a debate on the point in fandom. I think it "works" better if we presume we are on some unnamed alien world -- and since the "yearometer" is broken, there's nothing to gainsay us! :-)

Stephen said...

A great deal different from the first episode, episode 2 manages to set up a problem,of sorts, for the Doctor and his unwilling companions (not including Susan obviously. The struggle for power doesn't really excite, any more than the Doctor going out to take notes about their surroundings,but where this finally picks up is when the four main leads are trapped in the eponymous 'Cave of Skulls' when they finally realise the terrors of the savage time they have landed in. Too bad that's the cliffhanger, but I suppose it sets up next week nicely.

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