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Customer Review

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eldrad lives again on DVD!, 14 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
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.
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Location: Scotland

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