Anthropologist Stanley Shephard (Timothy Hutton) is brought to an arctic base when explorers discover the body of a prehistoric man (John Lone) who has been frozen in a block of ice for 40,000 years. After thawing the body to perform an autopsy, scientists discover to their amazement a real possibility to revive him and their attempt to resuscitate the “iceman” proves successful.
While being revived, the dazed caveman is alarmed by the surgical-masked figures; only Shephard has the presence of mind to remove his mask and reveal his humanity and somewhat familiar face to the terrified caveman, permitting the caveman to settle back into a more peaceful sleep and make a full recovery.
The scientists place the caveman in an artificial, simulated environment for study. The caveman quickly discovers the modern apparatus and environmental controls, and understands he is still far from home. Shephard believes that the caveman’s culture may provide clues to learning about the human body’s adaptability, citing ceremonies such as firewalking and the Sun Dance. Several other scientists in the research base see the potential in studying the caveman’s DNA and his survival in the ice, as they see it mainly as a case to advance medical science by “freezing” the sick or injured in order to suspend their bodies until treatment.
Shephard’s affinity with the caveman grows to the degree that he begins to defend the caveman’s right to be considered a human being and not a scientific specimen. Despite opposition from the rest of the staff, Shephard initiates an encounter with the caveman. Shephard names him “Charlie” after the iceman introduces himself as “Char-u”. Shephard and Charlie bond, but it becomes obvious to the anthropologist that Charlie misses his world; he is terrified and confused by the unknown world in which he awakens.
Also what other plans do the scientists have?