A figure clothed in animal hides casts a dark shadow over the TARDIS.

A caveman clan has gathered around one of their members, Za. Za is the son of the tribe’s former chief, who never taught his son how to make fire. As Za futilely attempts to produce fire, a female tribe elder dismisses Za’s ability, claiming that Kal, a foreigner from another tribe, would be a far better leader. This irritates Za. Hur, a young cavewoman, attempts to calm him down but reminds him that if he loses his position as a tribe leader, he will lose her; her father wants her to produce offspring for the leader.

Ian and Barbara awaken to find the Doctor and Susan perplexed by the TARDIS’ central console readings. The Doctor informs them that they have traveled back in time. This irritates Ian, who wants specific proof. The Doctor unlocks the door, showing the desolate desert, and the four of them exit. The Doctor is perplexed as to why the TARDIS has preserved its shape of a police box. Ian apologizes to Susan and Barbara for his steadfast refusal to believe the Doctor’s story. Susan is also taken aback by the fact that the TARDIS is still in the shape of a police box. When the caveman monitoring the TARDIS sneaks up on him and attacks him, the Doctor is elsewhere, hunting for samples of rocks and plants to estimate the current date. His three companions hear him yell and rush to his aid. All they find is the Doctor’s luggage, cap, and damaged Geiger counter when they arrive. Susan bursts out laughing and dashes out to find him. Ian and Barbara arrive soon after, but not before Ian discovers the sand is chilly.

Hur’s father, Horg, informs Za that Kal claims he knew how to produce fire in his previous clan. Za reacts fiercely, claiming that Kal’s tribe is extinct. Kal would have died as well if this tribe had not intervened.

Hur cautions him once more: Kal brings in meat and gains favor among the clan. Za says he will kill a few individuals to assert his authority. Kal, who attacked the Doctor, enters with the older man’s unconscious body at this point. Kal informs the tribe that he saw the Doctor make fire and that he should be the tribe’s leader now because the Doctor possessed incredible power and fighting prowess. Za scorns and mocks Kal, but Horg claims that Kal does far more for the tribe than Za and that if his captive can generate fire, Kal should be appointed leader. Za believes that the Doctor should be transported to the Cave of Skulls and sacrificed for Orb to return.

The Doctor awakens at this point. He claims he can make fire for the entire tribe without murdering but quickly realizes he has run out of matches. When he informs the tribe that he would need to return to the TARDIS before obtaining fire, Za mocks Kal, claiming that his promise of “an old man who can manufacture fire” was a lie. Kal’s tribe turns against him. In his rage, he draws a knife on the Doctor. Kal is about to kill him when Susan, Barbara, and Ian storm the tribe and knock Kal off the Doctor. The comrades are quickly overwhelmed. Kal approaches Barbara. Before he can kill her, Za intervenes, stating that the four must be taken to the Cave of Skulls and killed as a gift to Orb. The Doctor and his companions are being escorted away. Horg tries to take Hur away from Za, but Za believes that Orb and fire will both return with the Doctor’s sacrifice. The tribe will keep Za as their leader. Horg seemed to accept it.

The four travelers are imprisoned in the tribe’s Cave of Skulls, which contains the bones of numerous prisoners, and Ian discovers that the skulls have all been split open.

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