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"The Cave of Skulls"
Written by Anthony Coburn

Broadcast 30 November 1963
Duration: 24 minutes 35 seconds


(Outside, a new element has entered the rocky wastes - the odd image of the police box, it's lantern still flashing, standing ungainly on the uneven ground. Part of the wasteland is suddenly obscured by a shadow - what looks like the shadow of a humanoid. It is in fact the shadow of a bearded caveman dressed in the furs. He stares at the TARDIS uncomprehendingly.)


(The interior of a large cavern, A whole group of cavemen and women are gathered around what looks like an unlit campfire. A caveman, ZA, is hunched over the wooden pile is flinging some dust on the sticks, and waving a bone over them. He rubs the bone between his hands furiously. A young caveboy walks out of the cavern; an old woman sat some distance away regards them all coldly.)

OLD MOTHER: Where is the fire Za makes?
HUR: (By Za.) In his hands! (To Za quietly.) It will not go into the wood.
ZA: (Determined.) My father made fire....
OLD MOTHER: They killed him for it. It is better that we live as we have always done.
ZA: (Still rubbing) He showed me how to sharpen the stones…and trap the bear and the tiger. He should have shown me this too!
OLD MOTHER: So that everyone would bow to you, as they did to him?

(Infuriated, ZA picks up the pace of bone rubbing, snarling with growing frustration. Finally, he gives up and leaps to his feet, shouting into the OLD MOTHERS face.)

ZA: Tell me what my father did to make fire!
OLD MOTHER: I never saw him make it. That is all I know.

(ZA brings his arm back to strike her - and stops with a growl.)

ZA: Out of my sight, old woman! You should have died with him!

(ZA walks back to the wood pile. The OLD MOTHER shakes her head ruefully.)

OLD MOTHER: Za will never make fire.

(ZA seizes the sticks in his hands, raises them up, screaming in rage. He flings them back down.)

ZA: (To HUR.) Put on more of the dead fire.

(HUR flings more ash onto the pile. He starts rubbing the bone again.)

HUR: (Quietly to ZA as he rubs the bone.) The old men are talking against you, Za. They say it would be better for the stranger, Kal, to lead us.
ZA: Kal?
HUR: They say you sit all day rubbing your hands together while he brings us meat.
ZA: Without meat, we go hungry. Without fire...we die.
HUR: Old men see no further than tomorrow's meat. They will make Kal the leader. My father will give me to him....
ZA: (Angrily.) Kal is no leader....
HUR: The leader is the one who makes fire!

(ZA almost burns his hands, trying to draw sparks from the bone. He screams a yell of frustration into the sky. He drops the bone, flings the sticks away, and lays his head on the would-be fire, at the point of weeping. He picks a stick up, snapping it in two.)

ZA: Where has the fire gone...? Where? Where?


(The lone caveman - KAL - continues to stare at the TARDIS.)


(BARBARA, still on the chair is finally coming to. She kneels down to rouse IAN, who also still lays on the floor.)

BARBARA: (Shaking him gently.) Ian? Ian?
IAN: (He rises to a sitting position, holding his head.) I’m alright. Oh...I must have hit my head. (He looks around.) The movement's stopped.

(Before them, the DOCTOR and SUSAN stare at the monitor from the control console. The cylindrical column has stopped moving. They check the console's controls.)

SUSAN: The base is steady.
DOCTOR: Well, sand, rock, good.
SUSAN: We've left 1963.
DOCTOR: Oh yes, undoubtedly. I'll be able to tell you where presently. (he blinks at a console readout) Zero? That's not right. I'm afraid this yearometer is not calculating properly....hmm. Well, anyway, the journey's finished. (He looks down at IAN, still sitting on the floor.) What are you doing down there?
BARBARA: What have you done?
IAN: Barbara, you don't believe all this nonsense?
SUSAN: Well, look at the scanner screen.
DOCTOR: (Points at the screen.) Yes, look up there. (IAN and BARBARA get to their feet.) They don't understand, and I suspect they don't want to. (He waves at the screen.) Well, there you are. A new world for you.

(The scanner shows the desert outside. An icy mountain range is visible in the distance.)

IAN: (Contemptuously.) Sand and rock?
DOCTOR: Yes, that's the immediate view outside the ship.
BARBARA: But where are we?
IAN: You mean that's what we'll see when we go outside?
SUSAN: Yes! You'll see it for yourself.
IAN: I don't believe it!
DOCTOR: You really are a stubborn young man, aren't you?
IAN: All right, show me some proof! Give me some concrete evidence! (To SUSAN.) I'm sorry Susan, I don't want to hurt you, but…it's time you were brought back to reality.
SUSAN: But you're wrong, Mr. Chesterton…
DOCTOR: (Walking past SUSAN.) They're saying I'm a charlatan. (To IAN.) What 'concrete evidence' would satisfy you, hmm?
IAN: Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman.
DOCTOR: (To himself.) Eh? Doctor who? What's he talking about...?
BARBARA: They're so sure, Ian....
IAN: Yes, I know…
BARBARA: And remember the difference between the outside of the police box and the inside…
IAN: Yes, I know, but… (To the Doctor.) Are you going to open the doors or aren't you?
IAN: You see?
DOCTOR: Not until I'm quite sure it's safe to do so. (He consults the console.) Well, the air's good, yes it is, it’s good, excellent, excellent... (To SUSAN.) You've got the radiation counter over there. What’s it read?
SUSAN: (Checks the counter on the console.) It's reading normal, Grandfather.
DOCTOR: Splendid, splendid. Well, I think I'll take my Geiger counter with me in any case. (He smugly clutches his Edwardian lapels and turns to IAN.) So you, er, still challenge me, young man?
IAN: Well, just open the doors and prove your point.
DOCTOR: You're so narrow-minded, aren't you? Don't be so insular.
SUSAN: Grandfather, do you know where we are?
DOCTOR: Yes. We've gone back in time, all right. One or two samples and I shall be able to make an estimate. Rock pieces and a few plants... (He regards the console.) But I do wish this wouldn't keep letting me down. However, we can go out now.
IAN: Just a minute. You say we've gone back in time....
DOCTOR: Yes, quite so.
IAN: So that when we go out of that door, we won't be in a junkyard, in London, in England, in the year 1963....
DOCTOR: That is quite correct. But your tone suggests ridicule.
IAN: But it is ridiculous! Time doesn't go 'round and 'round in circles! You can't get on and off whenever you like in the past or the future!
DOCTOR: Really? Where does time go, then?
IAN: It doesn’t go anywhere. It just happens, and then it's finished.
DOCTOR: (With an amused smile.) Oh... (He laughs and looks at BARBARA.) You're not as doubtful as your friend, I hope.
IAN: Barbara, you can't…
BARBARA: I can't help it! I just believe them, that's all!
DOCTOR: If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds -- and watch them wheel in another sky…would that satisfy you?
IAN: Yes

(The DOCTOR twists the controls and the doors open with a hum. Outside is the desert.)

DOCTOR: Now, see for yourself.
IAN: (Shocked whisper.) It’s not true! It can't be...
SUSAN: (In triumph.) That's not on the screen!
DOCTOR: Well, I've no more time to argue with you. I must get some samples, Susan.

(He moves to a small table near the doors, gathering up a small electronic instrument and shoulder bag.)

SUSAN: Be careful, Grandfather.

(The DOCTOR confidently strides out the door, muttering to himself. After a last look at IAN, BARBARA follows him.)

BARBARA: Ian, come out and look!

(IAN follows, dazed. He staggers, putting a hand to his forehead again )

SUSAN: Oh, lean on me.
IAN: Thank you. I'm all right. Thanks.

(She leads him out of the TARDIS, and the double doors close behind them....)


(…slamming shut outside the police box exterior. IAN and BARBARA stare at the unfamiliar landscape around them. IAN stumbles and steadies himself against SUSAN who looks up to him for a response. The cry of a bird interrupts the noise of the wind.)

SUSAN: Well?
IAN: But, th-th-there must be some explanation....

(A short distance away, The DOCTOR, meanwhile, has noticed something else....)

DOCTOR: (To himself.) It's still a police box. Why hasn't it changed? Dear dear, how very disturbing.

(He wanders off, a troubled look on his face as the other three huddle near the TARDIS.)


(The DOCTOR scans the landscape around him with a scientist's eye, noting various formations. He stops at one, kneels down, and starts pulling his belongings from his shoulder bag. Behind him, KAL crouches, stone axe ready.)


(BARBARA picks up a half-buried skull of a creature from the ground. She shows it to SUSAN.)

BARBARA: What do you think it could be? Ian, look at this!

(IAN comes and has a look at it.)

IAN: I don’t know. Hasn’t got any horns or could be a horse (He gets up and walks away slightly from the two women.) It could be anything. (He looks around again.) Incredible - a police box in the midst just doesn't make sense....

(SUSAN looks at the TARDIS, and is surprised herself to see that it's still a police box.)

SUSAN: It should have changed. Wonder why it hasn't happened this time....
BARBARA: The ship, you mean?
SUSAN: Yes. It's been an Ionic Column and a Sedan Chair....
BARBARA: (Realising.) Disguising itself wherever it goes.
SUSAN: Yes, that's right....but it hasn't happened this time. I wonder why not? (She shrugs it off and picks up the skull.) Wonder if this old head'll help Grandfather? Where is he?

(She walks off to find him. BARBARA smiles at the stupefied IAN.)

BARBARA: You're very quiet.
IAN: I was wrong, wasn't I?
BARBARA: Oh, look, I don't understand it any more than you do. The inside of the ship, suddenly finding ourselves here...even some of the things Doctor Foreman says…
IAN: That's not his name. Who is he? Doctor who? Perhaps if we knew his name, we might have a clue as to all of this.
BARBARA: Look, Ian…the point is, it's happened!
IAN: Yes, it has. But it's impossible to accept. I know I'm…

(SUSAN runs back up to them).

SUSAN: (Worried.) I can’t see him anywhere.
BARBARA: (Reassuringly.) Oh, he can't be far away.
SUSAN: I had a feeling just now as if we were being watched. (She calls.) Grandfather....


(The DOCTOR lights up a pipe as he looks over the samples he's taken. The sight rivets the caveman, and finally forces him out of hiding. He leaps upon the DOCTOR with a roar...the DOCTOR yells in panic and pain…)


(The yell is overheard by the group.)

SUSAN: Grandfather!

(She drops the skull and starts toward the noise, the others right behind her.)

IAN: Come on!


(They arrive only to find the bag, the samples, and the smashed instrument.)

IAN: Look!
SUSAN: What is it?
BARBARA: There’s some of his things!
SUSAN: (Hysterical.) Grandfather, where are you?
IAN: Susan, don’t panic…
SUSAN: I must find him…I must see…

(IAN tries to grab her and calm her down, but she twists out of his grip and runs out of sight.)

IAN: Well, be careful, then!
BARBARA: Ian, look!

(She points at the remains of the Geiger counter. IAN picks it up.)

IAN: It's not much good anymore.
BARBARA: Well, maybe he saw something and went off to investigate.
IAN: (Picking up the DOCTOR'S hat.) Leaving this?
BARBARA: Well, what do you think happened?
IAN: I don't know. Perhaps he was excited and went off to investigate something as you suggest, but...he may have been taken.

(SUSAN returns, sobbing.)

SUSAN: I can't see him, I can’t find him anywhere...There’s not a sign of him....
IAN: Calm down, Susan.
BARBARA: Susan, don’t worry.

(SUSAN stoops down and picks up a small book from the pile of belongings.)

BARBARA: What’s the matter?
SUSAN: It's his notes! He'd never leave his notebook, it's too important to him…it's got the key codes of all the machines on the ship, it's got notes of everywhere we've been to...oh, something terrible has happened to him, I know it has! We must find him!

(She starts to run off again. BARBARA goes after her, grabs her as she sags against a rock, distraught.)

BARBARA: Susan! Susan, we'll find him, I promise you! He can't be far away!
IAN: (Picking up the DOCTOR’S things.) What's on the other side of those rocks?
SUSAN: (A little calmer.) There's a line of trees, and there's a gap in them…there might be a path on the other side…
IAN: (Picks up the bag.) All right, we'll try there first. Come on.

(As he starts to get up, he pauses...putting his hands against the sand.)

IAN: Strange...
IAN: This's cold. It's nearly freezing!


(Inside, the cave a group of the tribes children are having a mock hunt, pounding one of their companions dressed in a leopard skin with sticks yelling “kill”! The OLD MOTHER sits quietly off to the side, not even looking at them.)


(In this part of cave, a small group of tribes-people - including ZA and HUR - are eating some food. A bearded, semi-elderly caveman, HORG, sits down next to ZA.)

HORG: Kal says...where he comes from, he's often seen men make fire.
ZA: Kal is a liar.
HORG: He says Orb will soon show him how it is done.
ZA: His tribe died in the last cold. If he had not found us, he would have died too.
HUR: (Intrigued.) What else did he say?
HORG: He says...Orb only shows the secret to the leader.
ZA: I am leader. Orb will show me. I am the son of the great firemaker. .(Quietly, more to himself.) But he does not show me how to put flames into the sticks. Kal comes. I do not kill him...I let him eat with us, and sleep in our caves. I will have to spill some blood, and make people bow to me.

(The noise of a commotion reaches them from the main cave. ZA hears it, gets up with the others, and walks out to investigate.)


(KAL has arrived and he has the knocked-out DOCTOR slung over his shoulder. The tribes-people are all astir at this strange sight. He places the DOCTOR on a large rock. ZA looks him over.)

ZA: This is a strange creature....
KAL: (Sarcastic.) Is Za, son of the firemaker…afraid of an old man? When will Za make fire come from his hands?
ZA: When Orb decides it!
KAL: Orb is for strong men! Orb has sent me this creature…to make fire come from his fingers! I have seen it! Inside, he is full of fire! Smoke comes from his mouth!
ZA: As lies come out of yours!

(ZA starts to kneel down to take a closer look at the DOCTOR. KAL lays his arms protectively over the old man's body.)

ZA: He wears strange skins....
KAL: Za is afraid. There was a strange tree. The creature was in it. Za would have run away, had he seen it.

(He jumps back in time as ZA'S punch hits only the air.)

KAL: (Loudly to the tribe.) When I saw fire come from his fingers, I remembered Za, son of the firemaker! And when the cold comes, we will all die if you wait for Za to make fire for you! I, Kal, am a true leader! We fought, like the tiger and the bear. My strength was too much for him! He laid down to sleep, and I, Kal, carried him here to make fire for you!

(The tribe looks convinced.)

ZA: (Shouting.) Why do you listen to Kal?
HORG: Za has many good skins. He has forgotten what the cold is like.
ZA: Tomorrow, I kill many bears. You will all have warm skins…
HORG: I say tomorrow, you will rub your hands together and hold them to the dry sticks, and ask Orb to send you fire. And the bears will stay warm in their own skins.
ZA: (Seething.) What I say I will do, I will do!
KAL: Bah! (He waves in dismissal.) The firemaker is dead! You all carry dry sticks with you! But tonight, I make them burn! I am leader!

(HUR has been kneeling over the DOCTOR during these proceedings, and now…)

HUR: The creature has opened its eyes!

(A collective gasp from the crowd. The DOCTOR stirs to consciousness.)

DOCTOR: ugnn.....where's my.....wh.....
KAL: (To the tribe.) Do you want fire? Or do you want to die in the cold??
CROWD: Fire! fire!
KAL: (Nods.) It is cold.....the tiger comes to our caves again at night.....Za will give you to the tiger!! Za will give you to the cold! Za rubs his hands and waits for Orb to remember him! (A long look at the stirring DOCTOR.) My creature....can make fire come from his fingers!! I have seen it. But I, Kal, brought him here. The creature is mine!
ZA: He is just an old man in strange skins!

(He moves into combat stance, hefting his axe. KAL does the same.)

ZA: Kal has been with us too long. It is time he died!

(KAL starts to divest himself of his furs, ready to do combat. HORG puts himself between the two…)

HORG: I say there is truth in both of you! Za speaks truth that fire cannot live in men, and Kal speaks the truth that we die without fire.
HUR: Will my father listen to a woman? If this old man can make fire come out of his fingers, let us see it now!

(ZA pushes her aside.)

ZA: I say what is to be done here, not old men and women!
KAL: Za tries to talk like his father, the firemaker! Za does not want to see fire made! But I, Kal, am not afraid of fire! I will make my creature make fire!

(The DOCTOR is fully awake by now and listening to the conversation.)

ZA: I will take him to the Cave of Skulls, and he will tell me the secret!
DOCTOR: (Getting off the rock.) I can make fire for you! Let me go, and I will make all the fire you want! (He starts toward the tribes-people, who step back from him in fear.) You don't have to be afraid of me. I'm an old man. How can an old man like me harm any of you…Huh?
ZA: What does he say...?
HORG: Fire! He says he can make fire for us!

(The DOCTOR starts checking his pockets, frowning.)

KAL: Huhnn? He makes it for me, and I give you fire! I am firemaker!

(The DOCTOR’S search grows more frantic.)

ZA: He will make it for me…
DOCTOR: (To himself.) My matches! Where are they? (He mutters inaudibly.) Must get back to the ship.
ZA: Do now!

(The DOCTOR mutters to himself as he continues to search his pockets.)

KAL: He is Kals’ creature. He makes fire only for Kal.

(The DOCTOR makes a decision, and addresses the tribes-people).

DOCTOR: Take me back to my ship, and I will make fire for you! All the fire you want!
ZA: This is more of your lies...the old man cannot make fire!
KAL: There was a tree...the creature came from in it...and the came out of his fingers....

(The tribe are less than convinced - they can see no fire. KAL grows more desperate.)

ZA: You ought to be strong like Za, son of the great firemaker! (He jumps atop the rock and shouts at the tribe.) You all heard him say that there would be fire. There is no fire! Za does not lie! He does not say, "I will do this thing," and then not do it! He does not say, "I will make you warm," and then leave you to the dark! He does not say, "I will frighten away the tiger with fire," and then let him come to you in the dark! Do you want a liar for your chief?

(The crowd grumbles in the negative. KAL looks at the crowd, and then seizes the DOCTOR and thrusts his face into his.)

KAL: Make fire! Make fire!
HUR: (She laughs.) You are trapped in your own lies, Kal!
ZA: (Mocking from the rock) Oh, great Kal, who is afraid of nothing! O great Kal! Save us from the cold! Save us from the tiger!

(The cave is roaring with laughter. KAL desperately grabs the DOCTOR'S hands, trying to slap them together.)

KAL: Make fire...make fire come from your fingers, as I saw…
DOCTOR: I have no matches! I cannot make fire!
KAL: Make…
DOCTOR: (Shouting.) I cannot make fire!

(ZA gets between them.)

ZA: (Mocking.) Let the old man die, and we'll watch "The Great Kal" as he kills his strong enemy!

(Enraged, KAL spins the DOCTOR around, his back facing him. His knife is suddenly just touching the DOCTOR'S neck.)

KAL: Make fire, make fire, or I kill you now!
ZA: (Still mocking.) Or we'll keep them to take hunt with us! It's good to have someone to laugh at!

(KAL raises his knife. Suddenly SUSAN runs into the cave through the crowd and onto KAL’S back)

SUSAN: Grandfather!

(Screaming furiously, SUSAN beats on KAL from behind. IAN and BARBARA join the fracas although BARBARA is quickly grabbed from behind. One of the cavemen gets the better of IAN, and ZA raises his axe to cleave his skull…)

DOCTOR: If he dies, there will be no fire!

(The fight halts suddenly. ZA snarls and hoists IAN up, handing his axe to another caveman. During the silence that follows, KAL looks over each of the newcomers. He stares open-jawed at BARBARA. He staggers up to her, his hand about to touch her made-up, 20th century face.)

OLD MOTHER: Kill her! Kill her!

(KAL'S hands move to his furs, ZA grabs him and BARBARA screams.)

ZA: Wait!

(KAL makes a guttural reply.)

ZA: When Orb gives fire back to the sky, let him look down on them. Then that is when they die! And Orb will bring us fire!

(KAL looks in anger at ZA. After a moment, and a look at the crowd, he replaces his stone knife in his furs.)

ZA: Take them to the Cave of Skulls.

(The tribe carry the four out, SUSAN screaming all the way.)

SUSAN: No! Ah, ah, Grandfather! No, No…

(ZA and KAL look at each other coldly. Then KAL walks away. ZA smiles at HUR. HORG starts to pull her away, but ZA pulls her back to him.)

ZA: The woman is mine.
HORG: My daughter is for the leader of the tribe.
ZA: Yes! The woman is mine!
HORG: I do not like what has happened.
ZA: Old men never like new things to happen.
HORG: (Bristling.) I was a great leader of many men.
ZA: Many men, yes. They all died when Orb left the sky and the great cold was on the ground. But Orb will give me fire again. To me, not to you. Just as you will give me her.
HUR: Za will be a strong leader of many men. If you give me to him, he will remember, and always give you meat.
HORG: (He nods his head.) Hmm…hmm...

(HORG walks off. ZA and HUR walk in the other direction. The OLD MOTHER mutters to herself.)

OLD MOTHER: There were leaders before there was will kill us all in the end. (To ZA.) You should have killed the four strangers. Killed them....

(ZA walks up to her side.)

ZA: I have said we will wait until Orb shines again. Then they die.


(A group of tribes-men complete the task of tying up the four inside a cave filled with bones of all types. IAN stumbles to the ground with the others as their captors leave. He looks down at a prone BARBARA.)

BARBARA: (Coughs.) Ian...
IAN: Are you all right? Did they hurt you?
BARBARA: No....Ian, I'm frightened....
IAN: Try to hang on.
BARBARA: But how are we going to get out of this?

(The DOCTOR is sitting, and muttering furiously as he works at his bonds.)

DOCTOR: We must use our cunning. I hope you can get yourself free, Chesterton. I can't. Eeuuch! The stench in here. The stench… I'm sorry. It's all my fault. I…I’m desperately sorry.
SUSAN: Don't blame yourself, Grandfather.
DOCTOR: (Noticing something.) Look....look at that! Look!

(A pair of skulls lie next to them. One cracked and missing its four front teeth. The other with a hole at the top. )

IAN: They're all the same. They've been split open…

Next Episode

Dr. Who

Ian Chesterton

Barbara Wright

Susan Foreman



Old Mother



Special Effects by the
Visual Effects Department
of the BBC

Title music by
with the BBC
Radiophonic Workshop

Incidental music by

Story Editor


Associate Producer


Directed by

(c) BBC tv

Transcribed by
Christopher G. "Nightowl" McElroy

Updates / Corrections by


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