Major spoilers for the episode.
They get recaptured and sent back to the cave of skulls but not before the Doctor manages to manipulate the tribe into driving Cal out so Za is in charge. Which turns out not to be much of a better option.
The first doctor is still using violence to get what he wants. At least this time it’s only getting the tribe to drive Cal from the tribe and not actually killing someone like he tried to do in the forest of fear.
I like the Doctor talking like the cavemen to get them to understand who killed the old woman. That it’s something as basic as who’s got blood on their knife and why that makes them the murderer is funny to me. It’s a long way from complex sci-fi technical talk that the new doctor spouts to save the day.
It’s all a bit useless though because Za decides to imprison them in the cave of skulls anyway until they produce fire for him. Then when they do make fire with him watching he refuses to let them go anyway. He wants their tribes to join together.
Ian says that the whole tribe should learn to make fire but Za thinks that knowledge is only for the leader. They point out that it’s the least important person in their tribe that makes the fire but Za won’t listen.
I suppose that’s the message of this episode that it takes more than knowledge to be the leader because this scene is where Ian denies being the leader of their tribe and says the Doctor is.
If they were going on a who knows the most basis then it would be the Doctor without question but knowledge on its own doesn’t make a good leader. The Doctor had to prove himself to Ian before he’d acknowledge him as the leader.
It’s also only Ian’s opinion that seems to matter because no one asks Barbara or Susan during this exchange. It’s funny when you’re trying to show how advanced you are compared to the cavemen and yet you’re sexist views are still the same. You’d think they’d be more aware of that.
And Susan gets to have an idea that gets them out of the cave. The fact that skulls and fire outsmart the cavemen doesn’t really make it much of a victory but at least she’s not there to solely be melodramatic.
The writers haven’t figured out the TARDIS yet. It’s obviously not as secure as it is in the later series because they are worried until the TARDIS dematerializes as if the spears will damage it. Like it really is made of wood.
This episode moves slowly but I suppose that’s what TV was like back then. There’s a very slow fight scene and while it was no where near up to modern standards there was a more interesting aspect to it.
The violence is depicted as awful instead of glorifying it. There’s no fancy moves and it’s pretty much just frantic wrestling.
You see the doctor and his companions react to the violence. It horrifies them. You don’t realise how desensitised to violence you are until you realise this is the appropriate response to violence and not an old fashioned response.
The problem is the way the camera cuts from the fight to a close up of each individual face. It’s jarring and kind of funny.
The only other problem with the fight scene is that I couldn’t tell which caveman I was meant to be rooting for. They’re both wearing furs and there aren’t any other ways to tell them apart that I could see.
The end chase scene through the forest to the TARDIS is funny. They probably didn’t have a big enough forest set to have the actors run around it so the camera takes close up shots of their faces as they pretend to run inter cut with the cavemen getting angry and using fire to “make night day” so they can pursue them.
Every time they show a close up of their faces with branches getting in the way all I can think about is that there’s someone off camera that’s getting to hit them in the face with branches.
By the end of the episode the doctor and his companions are still at odds and the only progress made is that they know they can work together. And Ian and Barbara now believe the TARDIS can move in time.
There’s still a lot of conflict between the characters. This combined with an unknown planet outside and the radiation meter flashing danger is a great way to end the episode. It makes you want to watch more.
Although you do wonder when they sleep because the doctor only suggests they get cleaned up before exploring the planet.