on 20 March 2007
Back in the mid 1970's when I was just a nipper, I would skip gaily home from the newsagents in my little shorts with some penny chews and a lurid red string of liquorice packed with E numbers to watch Saturday's instalment of Doctor Who. I count myself lucky to have experienced the Baker/Sladen partnership first time round. It is the best ensemble acting the show has ever produced. Week in week out, I would be enthralled by the brave, kind and just a little bit unsettling Doctor and the pretty, spunky Sarah-Jane as they battled Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen and Zygons in a crazed-out monsterfest which was compulsory viewing for any child in Great Britain who grew up in that magical era. Then it all came to an end with the Hand of Fear and I wrote a rude letter to the BBC (which my Mum helped me to write), which they never replied to.
The story is not outstanding, but contains a popular template still retained by the series, namely setting the initial story on Earth in recognisable surroundings (yes, it's THAT quarry again), before shifting the action to outer space. One interesting fact is that Sarah is given a chance to be mean as she is possessed by the power of Eldrad's ring. The highlight is of course her leaving scene, made all the more poignant by being underplayed by both actors.
Elisabeth Sladen is the best actor or actress ever to have played the Doctor's companion, and struck just the right degree of balance between vulnerability and independence, while all the while creating a likeable and entirely believable character. There has not been a companion like her since (although I have to say I was very impressed with Billie Piper). This was her swansong.
on 14 August 2006
The first thing that strikes me on viewing this story again is Lennie Mayne's impressive directorial flourishes. Doctor Who often suffers from it's studio-bound nature and an inability of many directors to be able to do anything interesting with the camera rather than just point and shoot. But with The Hand of Fear, Mayne nicely utilizes the location shooting in particular, with the opening scenes of the quarry and the later nuclear plant being very well shot and the high and low angles help to add an extra dimension to the proceedings. As for the story itself, hand is well realised and helped by some strong performances from the central cast. Elizabeth Sladen is brilliant, very eerie when possessed by Eldrad and both her and Tom are particularly excellent in the stories famous closing scenes, they really underplay it to perfection. Judith Paris and Glyn Houston also turn in great performances for two characters that could have been quite uninteresting in the hands of less skilled actors. The Hand itself, although a simple effect is nicely achieved, the female Eldrad's costume looks great and there is some good model work too. Overall the story is always entertaining, but falls apart a little towards the end and just seems to come to a juddering halt rather than a satisfactory conclusion and this is a shame considering the absorbing and atmospheric first three episodes. But this is made up for with Sarah's superb leaving scene ( one of the best any companion has received on the show) and all in all this is an immensely satisfying adventure that comes highly recommended.
Sadly the extra features don't quite live up to their potential and prove something of a disappointment.
There is precious little to get through here, the bulk of the extras being a 50 minute documentary supposedly focusing on the Doctor and Sarah's "special relationship". But despite some amusing anecdotes and interesting titbits, on the whole it falls flat and suffers terribly from a general lack of focus, at first concerning actors careers then the story then something else, it's all done in a bit of a muddle. Despite the long running time, it feels like there is much left uncovered and you find out precious little if anything of this story's history and Bob Baker in particular should have had much more to contribute. Even the relationship between Sarah and the Doctor is not satisfactorily explored and the last straw is some bizarre attempt to liven up proceedings by having interviewees occasionally appear in the background shuffling around whilst the person in the foreground is talking and then suddenly zooming in on the other persons face. The technique is pointless and disorientating and they seem to give up on it quite quickly anyway making it all the more infuriating as to why they bothered in the first place. I strongly feel that it would have been much wiser to present two separate documentaries here, maybe a twenty minute feature purely concerning the story itself and a thirty minute one on The Doctor and Sarah. Overall it`s not up to scratch,, there is so much left unsaid and for a companion as popular as Sarah's last story, there seems to be a remarkable lack of material on Liz or the character. As for the other "extra" the Swap Shop feature is short and mildly interesting if forgettable. Tom Baker does his best with an incredibly irritating Noel Edmonds, whilst Liz Sladen gets very little to do except look stunningly beautiful. Nice to have it on the disc but nothing more. Beyond that your left with the commentary which is thankfully far superior to the other features on display. It benefits greatly from Tom Baker's presence, who is of course hilarious and a joy to listen to, in fact this is one of the best commentaries yet and let's hope Tom makes many more appearances on future releases. Lastly I'd again like to praise the RT for the amazing restoration work done on the sound and picture quality, which is so good it almost makes up for this disc's generally lacklustre features. Almost but not quite. Despite the superb commentary, one feels severe displeasure with the extra's here, which pale in comparison to recent releases such as Inferno or The Beginning. There just isn't enough to peruse through and this disc could have benefited greatly from even a few more brief easter egg type segments. I sincerely hope this isn't a sign of what we can expect from future pared down releases. As a full package The Hand of Fear is still worth owning for the fantastic story and commentary alone, but overall one cannot help feeling deeply let-down, this could have been so much more.
on 23 May 2006
It is not surprising that this classic four-parter is coming out on DVD soon, what with the recently aired 'School Reunion' episode. It gives the BBC a chance to cash in on the younger fans who want to know more about Sarah's departure.
This is written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin who also penned the excellent 'The Sontaran Experiment'. It is set on modern day Earth, where the Tardis lands in a quarry where a controlled explosion is just about to take place. The Doctor and Sarah get caught in it, but it is Sarah who gets trapped underneath the rubble, where she comes across a fossilised hand. Sarah then gets pulled out by the Doctor and taken to the local hospital for observation where she becomes more and more hypnotised by the hand. Sarah, clutching the hand, travels to the nuclear research and development complex where the hand soaks up the radiation from the reactor core to then evolve into a female Alien lifeforce etc.
The extras on this DVD include: a commentary featuring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Judith Paris (Eldrad), Bob Baker (co-writer) and Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer), plus a 50 minute documentary about the changing relationship of the Doctor and Sarah.
This is good solid entertainment that is gripping and full of tension. Thoroughly recommended.
on 31 March 2015
It's Tom Baker's Doctor so hey automatically worth watching, but not one of the best. The commentary extra by the actors involved is fun. The story itself makes little sense. The earth bound part of the story is quite well done, if a little drab to look at, mainly because it's set in Britain at the time of filming and largely set in and around a nuclear power station. In that sense it has the look of a 3rd doctor story. The woman Eldrad costume is quite cool, but once Eldrad becomes an over acting man, it's pretty silly and once we leave Earth, things generally become more generic seventies tv sci-fi. Not that that's necessarily all a bad thing in my book. It's by no means not entertaining and if you like the fourth doctor and Sarah Jane, you will enjoy it. It's just not the best of the fourth doctor. Definitely of its time, though this probably adds to its appeal now as something to look back on. Not sure that i wouldn't have been thinking this looks cheapo nonsense at the time though!
on 15 February 2008
For a long time this stood to be Sarah Jane Smith's last stand, but thankfully she has been back many times since.
Caught in a quarry explosion Sarah clutches a fossilized hand which then takes her over as an alien influence grows. An alien regenerates its form and then the real problems start.
A fun story that could have served as Sarah's last hurrah since she gets a bit more to do here as Sarah plays both companion and alien monster while she is possessed. It's her story more than Tom's and she carries it well right up to a reluctant farewell scene.
Uncle Tom is in charge as ever even though a little sidelined in Sarah's favour. Here he is playing Earth's defender against the agressive tendencies of Eldrad. It's good that until he is certain it's evil, he is ready to help Eldrad.
Eldrad in an interesting alien who (bar a small prologue) we 1st experience through Sarah Jane. Next we have Eldrad's interpretation of a female form as played by Judith Paris and then finally the proper male form as lovely shouty Dr Who Repetory actor Stephen Thorne takes over.The costume in both main forms, is a good one with joins not too obvious.
The supporting cast are also good and a very fine moment allows Glynn Houston who beleives a nuclear accident is imminent, a moment to ring his family.
Effects are of the time but there not being too many they do not distract.
There is a documentary "Changing Time" about both the story and Sarah's journey in The Police Box Show. It's highly enjoyable with Liz, Tom and various others. Tom has a few tall stories especialy 1 about Mr. Pertwee and Liz highlights some of the differences between the 2. The only sour note is the need to tell us how supporting cast members Rex Robinson & Glynn Houston broke into acting!
There is a Tommentary with both Tom and Liz on great form although Liz gets a little lost as Tom effects to fancy Judith Paris, you almost think he's plucking up the courage to ask her out!
We also get a vintage interview with Liz and Tom on the 1st edition of Swap Shop chatting with viewers and Noel Edmonds.
With a package of this quality, if you're happy with the price the question you must ask is "Deal or No Deal"?
Sorry I couldn't resist.
on 12 April 2011
The Hand of Fear is a classic slice of Doctor Who from the show's so-called 'Golden era'. Tom Baker is at his best; alternately whimsical and filled with supressed rage at the injustice he sees. The story is also particularly noteworthy for being the swansong of Elisabeth Sladen as feisty journo Sarah-Jane Smith.
The Doctor and Sarah find themselves in a quarry in timeless 'Who' tradition; Sarah is subsequently buried as an explosion rips through the rocks. When he unearths her, The Doctor finds she is clutching a fossilised hand; this leads the time-travellers to the planet Kastria where they encounter the reborn Eldrad, a monstrous dictator put to death by his own people...
What makes this serial so special is the chemistry between The Doctor and his 'best friend'. There is real pathos in their parting and her hideous Andy-Pandy outfit aside, Sarah is fantastic. The other plus is the set design, particularly the planet Kastria and the manipulative Eldrad, all booming voice and figure-hugging shimmery lycra.
If you only ever watch one 'classic' Doctor Who story then make it this one!
on 19 January 2012
The Hand of Fear was one of the classic Dr Who adventures. It was a changing time for the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. It is the last greatest adventure with the legendary companion Sarah Jane Smith. All the main cast and supporting from Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Glyn Houston (Professor Watson), Rex Robinson (Dr Carter), and the good/evil Eldrad (Judith Paris/Stephen Thorne) deserve all acting glories in the outstanding adventure.
I enjoyed the story, and the departure of Sarah Jane Smith is one of most touching and emotional scenes in the Doctor Who, and the look in the Fourth Doctor eyes are very moving when he says his final farewell to Sarah Jane (so far). I am looking forward in getting the next story the 1976 adventure `The Deadly Assassin'.
on 9 August 2012
One of the most iconic episodes of Doctor Who, this episode still holds its head high. Using the time-honoured horror trope of dismembered hand that possesses others, this movie deals with the dealings of a dastardly villain: Eldrad. But it was when we had Eldrad as a woman that the persona was most terrifying with its poise, dignity, and utterly terrifying abilities. Eldrad as man was just another villain wearing props, in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, this episode became so special for all fans of Doctor Who because it saw the departure of Sarah Jane, and how painful that was, can still be understood by the general enthusiasm about "School Reunion" episode of the Tenth Doctor. Overall, a very high quality episode that just can't be missed. Highly recommended.
on 28 February 2007
See Sarah-Jane go psycho in an Andy Pandy outfit! See Judith Paris look stunning in blue!! See the Hand of Fear in a tupperware tub!!!
Best exchange: "Where are we?" "In a quarry."
Biggest disappointment: Eldrad's gender reassignment.
Most tasteful TARDIS interior,
A touching, but unsentimental, farewell scene.
I enjoyed seeing this again very much, and the commentary and accompanying documentary, "Changing Time", added to the enjoyment.
It would be far from the worst place to start if you haven't seen the old Doctor Who.
on 17 September 2013
Between the two operatic stories Masque and Assassin, Hand is apt to get a little overlooked; back on C20 Earth, practically prosaic, and the quarry just before they blast verges on the comic, the equivalent of the American fan in the 1980s that proposed along the lines of 'Huh huh, say he lands on a planet with like humungous gravity, so like he gets squished'. It's a good job they play it so straight.
But it's atypical of the Bristolians that the usual superfluity of ideas is absent - hand wants to live, hand takes over Sarah, Sarah puts hand in nuclear reactor, Eldrad lives, take Eldrad back to Kastria, drop Eldrad down hole - which is the only thing about this story that's particularly deep.
Admittedly, it takes a while for this to show; this is very much a horror movie (The Beast with Five Fingers to be specific) and as such it works very well indeed. The stuff with Sarah in her Andy Pandy outfit stalking through a nuclear power station zapping guards as she goes is particularly chilling, and then she sits down in the reactor and the hand starts moving.
And then, after more radiation, the hand grows itself a new body, and it's Judith Paris, nothing to complain about there, and off we go to Kastria, and here's the rub, up until now we've been on Earth, which is full of humans, and we care that they shouldn't get blown up by a nuclear reactor, but Kastria is full of nobody except Eldrad, who we frankly don't much care about, and after he's reverted to his true horrid self it's probably better that he gets tripped up with the Dr's scarf and dropped down a chasm. It's a bit Scooby Doo, and has no human interest whatsoever, certainly compared to Glyn Houston phoning home in the few minutes left to him before the power station blows up. Glyn Houston's very good in this, as are Rex Robinson and Roy Boyd, even though Mr Boyd only gets a cough and a spit. Renu Setna too - but if you'd seen him in I, Claudius, you'd not allow him in a hospital.
And Judith Paris looks stunning and delivers a lovely performance, but it only lasts one episode before she gets replaced by Stephen Thorne wearing (as he described it) 'a gorse bush' - and they weren't even able to meet to compare notes about how they were each playing the same person. It would have been far more sensible to keep Judith Paris; not only is she nicer to look at, she was giving the better performance.
Sarah's leaving scene? I'm sure I've seen more truthful things on television. I don't really believe that either of them would behave so craply both at the same time, and then not go, 'Oh, that was crap', I don't believe the Dr would allow the Time Lords to make him give Sarah up, and I don't believe Sarah would be going on about her 'goodies' - what is she talking about? It's not well done.
Thank goodness for School Reunion and the Sarah Jane Adventures.