“Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear” (Story #87)
Original Airdate: October 02 – 23, 1976 (4 part weekly)
Starring: Tom Baker (the Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)
Special Features: Audio commentary by actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, and Judith Paris (Eldrad), co-writer Bob Baker and producer Philip Hinchcliffe; a 50-minute ‘making of’ featurette called Changing Time; an 11-minute interview with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen on the show Multi-coloured Swap Shop, which aired the day that episode 1 of The Hand of Fear was broadcast on October 2, 1976; a photo gallery; continuity announcements; and DVD-ROM extras including 1977 Doctor Who Annual PDFs and Radio Times billings.
For my first DVD review of a classic Doctor Who serial, I’ve chosen The Hand of Fear, which was Elisabeth Sladen’s last appearance as the Doctor’s companion, Sarah Jane Smith (until she was brought back for the 1983 special The Five Doctors). Being her “farewell,” the character of Sarah Jane was featured somewhat prominently in this serial, with the entire first part concentrating on what happens as a result of Sarah being possessed by a fossilized hand discovered at a quarry and being delivered to a local nuclear power plant.
Over 100 million years ago on the planet Kastria, a criminal named Eldrad is sentenced to death. And although the pod in which Eldrad was contained was obliterated, Eldrad’s hand – with a ring on one finger – survived, and is discovered in the present day by the Doctor and Sarah Jane after they get caught in an explosion in a quarry. Sarah is buried alive in the rubble, and is found, still breathing, holding onto Eldrad’s fossilized hand. After lying comatose for some time, Sarah awakens, having been possessed by Eldrad after coming in contact with the hand. Sarah escapes to a nearby nuclear power plant, where the hand feeds on the radiation inside the building – which causes Eldrad to regenerate into fully humanoid form. After rescuing Sarah and freeing her of possession, the Doctor and Sarah help Eldrad return to present-day Kastria in the TARDIS – only to find the entire planet abandoned, the entire race having long since died of. All that’s left is a series of booby traps set by the former king of Kastria, one of which Eldrad falls prey to, but is able to cheat death by regenerating – this time as a psychopathic male – with help from the ring. Eldrad then decides to attempt to take over Earth instead – but the Doctor and Sarah trick Eldrad by separating him from the ring and falling into an abyss to his death – because, without the ring, he cannot regenerate.
Back in the TARDIS, Sarah vents her frustrations over the trials and tribulations of time travel and decides she wants to go back home to South Croydon. As she’s packing the Doctor receives a distress call from his home planet of Gallifrey, where Sarah cannot accompany him anyway. So he takes Sarah home, or so he thinks, as he actually drops her off in Aberdeen, not South Croydon.
I actually have two favorite scenes in this serial. My first favorite is the dialogue between the Doctor and Sarah at the end of Part Four, after they’ve returned to the TARDIS. Sarah’s little temper tantrum as the Doctor is making adjustments to the TARDIS (and isn’t listening to a thing she’s saying) really made me laugh. My second favorite scene is Sarah and the Doctor’s heartwarming final goodbye at the very end.
This particular serial was, for me, full of enjoyable little bits of dialogue, so I have a few that just have to be included in this review!
The first is from the beginning of Part Three, when Sarah and the Doctor are crouched on the floor after the nuclear power plant has just suffered an “un-explosion”:
Sarah: “Are we dead?”
Sarah: “Are you sure?”
And of course, as I mentioned, I adored Sarah’s little temper tantrum toward the end of Part Four:
“I must be mad! I’m sick of being cold, and wet, and hypnotized left right and center…I’m sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters, never knowing if I’m coming or going – or BEEN…Oh, I want a bath! I want my hair washed – I just want to feel HUMAN again! [The Doctor asks her for a Zeus plug, then decides against it and asks for the sonic screwdriver] And boy am I SICK of that sonic screwdriver! I’m going to pack my goodies and I’m going home. [The Doctor fails to respond] I SAID I’m going to pack my goodies and I am GOING HOME!”
But last and not least is the Doctor and Sarah bidding each other goodbye:
Sarah: “Don’t forget me.”
Doctor: “Oh, Sarah…don’t you forget me.”
Other Items Worth Noting…
Sarah Jane’s outfit! The red-and-white candy striped “Andy Pandy” overalls (complete with drawstrings at the ankles!) and socks were something to behold, honestly making her look more like a 5-year-old than the thirty-year-old she actually was. During the audio commentary, Lis herself says, “That outfit deserves a credit all on its own…it shows that Sarah is so far removed from reality now that it was actually time for her to go” and that she “sure had guts to wear [the outfit].”
Why I enjoyed The Hand of Fear:
While the details of the plot were somewhat confusing for me at times, I really loved this story because of the amount of screen time Elisabeth Sladen gets as Sarah Jane. She did a wonderful acting job in this story - It was amusing watching her during the scenes in which she is “possessed” by Eldrad and how she found different ways to repeat the now-famous line, “Eldrad must live!” And once again, as I’ve said, I loved her little temper tantrum at the end, and especially loved her final farewell with the Doctor (which, in the end, would not really be goodbye, since Sarah Jane was reunited with the tenth regeneration of the Doctor in the 2006 episode “School Reunion”).
Check out more about Sarah’s “Andy Pandy” outfit over at The Sarah Jane Wardrobe Appreciation Society at http://sarahjanesmith.cosmic-archer.com/thehandoffear.html