Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Sunmakers

Tom and Louise on the roof. Looks a bit Englandy to me!
Forgive me for being fooled, please. I thought for sure this would be a story about people making suns. It isn’t. What a great title let down by the fact that it’s misleading. Yes, the company running operations on Pluto did make six suns for the workers there, but that is not an important aspect to the story in any way.
A lot of action occurs in these awful corridors.
However, ‘The Sunmakers’ is a good story, let down by some shocking design decisions and an obvious lack of any budget whatsoever. I mean, half of the sets are no more than black drapes. Which I guess is fine if you’re a fan of the minimalistic movement, but when you combine them with corridors and a rooftop shot on film which don’t match, and most of the rest if the set painted orange and looking cartoonish – not to mention incomplete, it really detracts from the story in a pretty substantial way.
Which is a pity because Robert Holmes delivered a darned good script. A script about paying taxes (or not paying taxes), corporate greed and revolution. The characters are somewhat over the top and colourful, especially the Gatherer played wonderfully by Richard Leech, but I enjoyed that aspect. The workers are somewhat down-trodden, and the company pumps in gas to the Megropolis to keep everyone anxious and thoughts of revolution far from their minds. It’s not in all a situation that is impossible to imagine happening for real.
Leela in the correction centre.

The Doctor takes control.
The Doctor is at his best here. Tom Baker has all the shades of light and dark, humour and seriousness well at play during this story. Leela (Louise Jameson) gets a good deal to do on her own, and this was one aspect that made this Jameson’s favourite story. The rebels however, led by Mandrel  (William Simons) and supported by Goudry (played by Blake’s 7’s Michael Keating) were at times a little to West Side Story for me. Their genuine fear of Leela was a nice touch though. The collector though is the most interesting character, played by the rather short William Woolf. Stuck in his chair, the mannerisms
The wonderful William Woolf
In the rebels' lair.
are wonderful, considering the Collector was on morphed into a semi-human form, and was really a bacteria. Great idea, great performance.
K-9 gets a good run too, the white studio floors were good clearly for his drive units! Some of the corridor stuff was not so well directed, a but stunted and slow, angles that don’t quite work, shots that needed a fraction of a second or two shaved off to work properly. Still, it seems as if it was a very difficult story to put together.


Image of the Fendahl

The series rolls on with this episode, set mostly in a priory where some very stern scientists have found a skull which is far older than the human race and one of them is planning to unleash its powers so he can be a mighty ruler or something. It combines Medusa-like images with paganism, in a sort of mix and MASH of Pyramids of Mars with a slice of Masque of Mandragora and sadly comes nowhere near being as good as either.
The skull and Wanda Ventham.
It’s been quite a while since I used this word – convoluted. But it is the main problem with ‘Image of the Fandahl’ and is why I and I’m sure many other viewers of the tale are left scratching their heads. Chris Boucher is a talented sci-fi writer. This story was done as the hand-over to a new script editor was being done,  so perhaps it’s unfair to criticise it too much, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense, the characters of the Doctor and Leela don’t seem quite right, the other characters are simply not well used or well-written, and the pacing is very poor with three rather slow episodes followed by episode four where the Doctor explains a whole lot of stuff to try and make sense of what is going on and then blows up the priory as his solution.
Perhaps the script is under-developed. There’s definitely some great ideas there, but the narrative needed more work to it, to work on the pacing issues at the very least, flesh the ideas out so they made more sense. In episode three, probably the weakest of the serial, the Doctor and Leela go off looking for the Fendahl planet and find it locked in a time loop by the Time Lords but in no way does it advance the story, or make it more exciting. Episode three for the most part is treading water to get from part two to part four as far as I can see.
Denis Lil (left)
Denis Lil is the main guest actor, playing Doctor Fendahlman, who’s line of ancestry was destined to find the skull in which the Fendahl kept all its power. Why a human skull? Not really explained, although the Doctor hints that it may have effected human evolution, if not start it. Denis Lil is a fine actor, who did some great stuff in ‘Survivors’, but why he felt the need as the crazy scientist to add a crazy European accent I am unsure. Wanda Ventham, last seen in ‘The Faceless Ones’, comes back to Doctor Who as Thea who ends up being the main Fandahl of sorts when at the end of episode three she is painted gold and becomes a
Mother Tyler with Leela and Jack,
sort of Medusa – don’t look into her eyes. Why? No idea, it’s not explained. She does a good job but has little to do and no lines in episode four.
Daphne Heard is Mother Tyler, an older lady who is wise in the Olive Hawthorne guise a little (but older). It’s a nice, well-portrayed character as is her son Jack Tyler, played by Geoffrey Hinsiff. They both play important roles in the plot but the development of friendship with the Doctor and Leela, who only really meet one character, Ted Moss, in the first episode, is rushed and a little hard to believe.
George Spenton-Foster directed this one. His first Doctor Who, it suffers from the same issues of ‘The Invisible Enemy’ – it’s just not snappy
enough. The fourth episode, like the previous episode, is perhaps the worst in this case. There’s a scene in the cellar where the Doctor and Leela have to rescue Colby and everything is still, despite people dying and Fendahline being born. The scene lacks any sense of urgency at all. I think the music is not perfect for part four too, I love Dudley Simpson’s work but the use of slow organ music here helps to only slow the story down. Much of the dialogue has strange gaps between lines which don’t seem right.
A Fendahl
I would question also whether the Doctor should ever give someone a gun to shoot themselves – in episode four the Doctor assists in Stael’s suicide. I was taken aback by that. Also for some reason shots of fire at the old priory after the explosions are run backwards. The significance is not explained.
Finally, the Fendahl themselves don’t work very well, although the smaller ones are rather good. Too much time on screen is partly to blame, we never see them connected to the shots of their slimy tales too which kinda destroys the illusion, the design is ok but the whole thing needed to be slimy.
Wanda Ventham decked in gold atop a pentagram. 
It feels like a rushed job this one, with lots of issues that there wasn’t time to iron or work out. Robert Holmes is credited as script editor but in fact he was in the process of handing over to Anthony Read, which could explain some of the scripting issues. Nevertheless it’s a really hard story to get into.


Friday, 30 August 2013

The Invisible Enemy

Tom Baker and Frederich Jaeger
If only it WAS invisible! Surely this should be renamed ‘The Killer Prawn’ or something? It’s been a long time since we’ve had such a poor story, but Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s ‘The Invisible Enemy’ has some pretty shockingly-bad moments. As with any bad-who though, it’s far from being ALL bad. The ideas behind the story were interesting, but perhaps it was simply asking too much of the production team to deliver everything that was in the script.
Worse than the prawn, the enemy looked like
this inside the Doctor's head!
Let’s remember that Doctor Who was and IS made for kids first, despite its huge adult following, the idea of cloning the Doctor and Leela, shrinking them down to microscopic size and then having them walk around in the Doctor’s head is rather interesting. Of course, it was always going to be very hard to portray convincingly on television, especially in a story which already appeared to have a lot more sets than your normal Doctor Who story. Various rooms, corridors, the hatchery on Titan, the hospital on the asteroid, the Titan space craft and the inside of the TARDIS. PLUS all the different parts of the Doctor’s brain. It was bound to stretch the budget too far. And it did. Parts of the brain interior are fine, others are very tatty.
Inside the Doctor!
And what do you find at the centre of the Doctor’s brain, hiding away? A giant prawn. Words do not exist to describe perfectly how unconvincing this prawn was. This was the nucleus of the swarm, who run around controlling people’s minds saying ‘contact has been made’. Then some grey scaly stuff appears on everyone’s faces.

The swarm leader infects the Doctor, who becomes the key to it all, but he tries to resist. Leela is rejected because she is not smart enough! They land on Titan where they meet Lowe, holding out against the rest of the crew who have been infected. When he become infected he puts on a giant mask to conceal his face. As if anyone would  be fooled by that! Then he takes the Doctor away from Titan when ordered to protect the Doctor at all costs.
Instead he directs the Doctor, via TARDIS, to the hospital in the asteroid belt. The Doctor tells Leela the co-ordinates – she can suddenly operate the TARDIS it appears. Turns out this is the perfect place to determine the infection and find an antidote! Not good thinking by Lowe – played by Michael Sheard, now in his fourth Doctor Who story.
In his third Doctor Who story is Frederick Jaeger playing... you guessed it, another scientist! Professor Marius is a little quirky, with a slightly German accent (naturally) and a robot-dog assistant called K-9, who ends up going off with the Doctor. As the story progresses the Doctor ends up blowing
Leela and K-9
everything up on Titan where the swarm is about to hatch, ably supported by Leela and K-9, who work well together, although Leela does kind of feed K-9 the questions in dutiful companion-like manner.
The fourth episode in particularly feels like it was a struggle to make and act in. ‘The Invisible Enemy’ was directed by Derrick Goodwin, his first Doctor Who story and he seems to have struggled. The effects shots are a mixed bag for instance, some work well, others of the shuttle for example appear to be bouncing around on a string. Shots are held a little too long in places, and especially in the final episode pauses between lines or reaction is very stilted. When the Doctor dematerialises without Leela Leela watches, and waits a number of seconds to stand up and call out after the TARDIS has disappeared. Needed a more honest, faster response.
It's the giant prawn!
Design-wise they did the best they can, and I’m sure we can say the same for Derek Goodwin. I imagine it was a nightmare to direct, one of the most technically demanding. Some of the dialogue is poor and not in keeping with what Tom and Louise Jameson were used to I think. The prawn is sadly laughable and spends far to much time on screen. The script could have done with a bit of refining too.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Horror of Fang Rock

A nicely-cast, simple Terrance Dicks story kicks off the 15th Season of Doctor Who. Robert Holmes was sticking around as script editor as new Producer Graham Williams took the reins. As a four-part Doctor Who story it ticks most boxes. Terrance Dicks knows how to get down to it and churn out a decent story quickly from his time as script editor, and ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’ was a last minute replacement to a different story he had written involving vampires.
Tom Baker and Colin Douglas atop the lighthouse. 
‘Fang Rock’ is set almost entirely inside a light house, where the occupants get locked inside with a killer alien, which turns out to be a Rutan, the aliens locked in war with the Sontarans. The Rutan is presented as a green blob with tails, and looks good at times and at other times the special effects don’t work at all – such as when it is crawling up the outside of the lighthouse.
Most of the cast.
The cast is brilliant – Colin Douglas as Reuban (who becomes the Rutan) leads them outstandingly, with John Abbott as the likeable Vince Hawkins, Alan Rowe as Skinsale and Sean Caffrey as Lord Palmerdale. The only annoying character is Annette Woolette’s Annabelle, who just doesn’t stop screaming and crying. This works well against Leela who is annoyed at her as much as the viewers no doubt are!
The Rutan climbs the stairs
It’s a simple, claustrophobic setting done well save a few shots of the Rutan, an obvious model ship crashing on the rocks and the space ship flying through the sky which is particularly unimaginative as a simple red splot. It’s moves well considering limited space and characters, and was no doubt a money saver for the BBC with its simplicity. It’s typical Paddy Russel direction, strong with the actors, dialogue and character work (which is the basis of the story), but weaker on the special effects.

The Doctor and Leela are fantastic in this one, very strong characters both, taking control of the situation. A little bit of light and dark for the Doctor, mostly serious.  Stylistically, there’s not a lot difference from this to a Hinchcliffe-produced story. But you wouldn’t expect it. Dark and moody, great characters, a story where only the Doctor and Leela survive. Yes, the guest cast has a 100% mortality rate in ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’.
A good start for Williams as Producer, a solid story that doesn’t really hit the brilliance of the previous couple of years, but nevertheless is a great tale.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Tom Baker and Trevor Baxter

What can you say when you watch a story which fulfills all your hopes and expectations and leaves you thinking ‘wow’? Well, that’s my response to ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’, written by Robert Holmes to fill a gap when Robert Stuart Banks was unable to complete work on a different story called ‘The Foe from the Future’. Incidentally, I had an adventure called ‘Future Foe’, I wonder if the ideas were the same. In my first incarnation I met Peter O’Feild, who already knew me, but I was meeting for the first time. If only I had known what a scoundrel and nasty pasty he was!
Chang and Mr Sin.
Victorian England was the perfect setting for a Doctor Who story, the Doctor often comes across as a Sherlock-Holmes type and with references to Jack the Ripper, a wonderful set of costumes to call on and one of the best and tightest Who directors in David Maloney, what could go wrong? Well, only the giant rat which did indeed look too cuddly, as producer Phillip Hinchcliffe remarked on the DVD. But we can forgive them that, otherwise it is a seamless piece of vibrant, exciting, at times dark, at times funny, television.
Before singing its praises any more though, one piece of conjecture marks this story, the casting of John Bennet as Li’sen Chang, a Chinese performer  of magic and key to the story. The make-up was very well done to make him look Chinese, but today you simply couldn’t get away with casting a white man in a different part. I’d like to say it’s all a part of acting, but is it? I mean an actor is ACTING, stretching their range to play a different race or culture, is it wrong? I can see arguments on both sides, and Doctor Who is littered with examples – Kevin Stoney in ‘The Dalek’s Masterplan’, Various characters in ‘The Crusade’, Patrick Troughton as Mexican Salamander in ‘The Enemy of the World’. All had a bit of cosmetics to make them look different.
The Doctor, Jago and Leela in Weng Chiang's lair.

Around the time of this series, ‘Gangsters’, a progressive and different series penned by Philip Martin, was also going to air in the UK. It featured a swagger of Indian and Asian actors who struggled with the parts they had save a couple of standout performances. They were the basis of the series, they had been searched for. David Maloney needed actors for six episodes at short notice, and at the time it could be argued that there simply wasn’t the depth of non-white actors that there is today in the UK. Nevertheless it’s not a great look for the programme, despite John Bennet giving a great performance.
Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter
John Bennet in the Opium den as Chang
Along with the Doctor and Leela – and in no story has the Eliza Doolittle/Professor Higgins relationship been stronger and more apparent – Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter step into the fray as Jago and Litefoot. The former runs a theatre, the other is a pathologist. Both are somewhat timeless characters, with their own range of Audio Adventures out there produced by Big Finish. A wonderful double act, and both great characters in their own right. Michael Spice, who provided the voice of Morbius, dons a mask and prosthestiques to portray the mastermind behind it all, Weng Chiang – properly known as Magnus Greel. The use of Deep Roy as Mr Sin, a creature from the far future created from the cerebral cortex of a pig, is also chilling and well done.
Shot in part in a theatre, in part at night of the streets of London, and of course in the studio, this story moves well, with parts five and six a little separate from the first four. Lovely touches of the period throughout, costuming is excellent, it’s a thing of beauty really. Interactions between Litefoot and Leela also very very amusing at times as she ducks into a roast with her hands! All in all, about as good as it gets.


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Robots of Death

It's the robots in control!
Not since Ian Stuart Black’s ‘The Savages’ was followed by Ian Stuart Black’s ‘The War Machines’, I THINK I am right on saying, has a writer delivered back-to-back stories in a season. Chris Boucher though does here, with ‘Robots of Death’ closely following on from ‘Face of Evil’. It’s a character-based whodunit in space, and a great murder-mystery it turns out to be. This might also be the first all-out murder-mystery style story that Doctor Who has done.

The Doctor and Leela look out the sandminder
And it’s pretty creepy, clever and for the most part well designed. The Sandminer is not a space ship perse, but it is a futuristic machine for mining planets, and it is where the entirety of the story, bar a TARDIS scene at the start, is set. Inside it is decked out in Art Dec o designs, and looks like a luxury liner of some description. It’s a great idea, considering a sleek space ship is hard to do on a budget and they really stretched this budget well.
On top of the murder-mystery elements, the other influence is Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’, with some of the directives being used, in  particular that robots can’t harm humans. Of course that also appeared in Tom Baker’s first story, ‘Robot’. Holmes and Hinchliffe spent the previous season using tried-and true horror stories to underpin the stories. Season 14 has seen them use other famous stories, some science fiction and others, like ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ for ‘The Deadly Assassin’, falling under a wider net of genres.
D84 sneaks up on Leela
At least they know they have a solid basis for the story, and here the story is about characters mostly. The robots themselves have a great ‘art-deco’  head, although the rest of the body is basically a costume and I’m not sure how believable that was. The idea was to make the robots look as human as possible. The humans on the sandminer are really living in the lap of luxury, hoping for the ‘big one’ – to find enough minerals to make them rich.

Superbly cast by Michael E. Briant, now one of my favourite ‘Who’ directors, the guest cast is led by Russel Hunter as Commander Uvanov. There are many sub-plots going on and he is at the centre
Uvanov and Toos in action.
of most of them, including the one involving Zilda’s (played by Gangster’s Tania Roberts) brother. It’s a classic case of someone looking guilty as hell, and then it turns out he had nothing to do with. The part works perfectly for that.

Dask goes a little crazy.
On top of Uvanov, David Collings returns to the Who-fold and Poul, a great performance as he has robophobia, and also some sort of agent. Interesting he is one of three human characters to survive the story. Yes it was another one with lots of death. Well, they were the robots of death! Pamela Salem plays Toos, the only other character to make it through, and the villain of the piece is Dask, played by David Bailie. It’s all a bit strange, his motivations, and the part isn’t very big – needed more exposition in my humble opinion. The rest of the cast are smaller characters, but strong characters and well played characters, the real strength of this story.
Leela (Louise Jameson) is showing a real aptitude for the space/time travelling, enthusiastic and willing to learn. Her character worked well again, and Tom Baker was solid as always. A good, solid, interesting story well told.


Friday, 23 August 2013

The Face of Evil

I know that face.... of evil!
On an unnamed planet, sometime in the future, the Doctor arrives. But – has he been there before? What did he do when he was there? His face is carved into a cliff-face Mount Rushmore style. It’s a great premise for a nice little story written by first-time Who writer, Chris Boucher, who wrote a lot of Blake’s 7 episodes.
Louise Jameson as Leela in her first story.
It’s very much an idea story, with a group of savages and a group of very arrogant technicians – ‘The Tesh’, who now worship the technology inside the space ship hidden by the cliff. The idea that the Doctor came along a long time ago and ‘fixed’ the computer – now calling himself a god, Xoanon, and that he got it wrong to turn the computer crazy is the strong basis for the story. Fans have to look past the fact that we don’t when it occurred, but as the face is Tom Baker’s, it’s supposed to have occurred before this story and after ‘Robot’. Strange then that the Doctor takes so long to actually remember what happened.
The Doctor helps the Sevateem.
It’s a little embarrassing seeing grown actors running around being savages. Not to the same point as in ‘An Unearthly Child’, but still the actors no doubt weren’t over the moon at the prospect of wearing so little. Louise Jameson is introduced as Leela, from the Sevateem (the savages) and as a choice it’s a brilliant way to go from producer Philip Hinchecliff. Leela is an original companion, and his idea that she would be like an Eliza Doolittle to the Doctor’s Professor Higgins was a masterstroke. Pure coincidence that Louise Jameson was a very attractive woman who most weeks will wear very little. Right....
But it’s great that there’s a logic and purpose to the relationship with the companion and the Doctor. The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, David Garfield was the standout for me as Neeva, a sort of priest/witch doctor who has his faith in Xoanon destroyed through the course of the story.  Pennant Roberts did a great job of directing this with a lot asked of the director. Visually it’s a good story, a good use of filming for the jungle – different from Zeta-Minor in the previous season, but shot and realised in a similar way. The only issue I have was the use of cycloramas as the sky, with different lighting used to denote day and night. It may have been all that was possible, but when a good portion of sky appears in a shot, the illusion is somewhat shattered.
The Tesh.
The soundscape in the first episode though with the use of film and the eerie jungle is VERY other-worldly, and well done. However, the strength of this story is its ideas. It is what I would call an ideas story – the Doctor arrives and has to figure what’s happened. Not only in his own past, but where have the Tesh and the Sevateem comes from? (They are descendents of the ship which houses Xoanon. Tesh were the technicians as mentioned, the Sevateem were the survey team). Once that is unravelled the Doctor is left with the task to remove his print from Xoanon, who is a very confused computer – confused about his own identity. Computer stories have become very popular it seems by this time, the unique part was the Doctor’s influence on this one.
The Doctor savaged by Xoanon.
And so there you have it. New companion rushes into the TARDIS at the very end with no invitation. In fact, the Doctor appears to want to travel alone. But that decision is out of his hands – as it was out of Tom Baker’s hands at the time. Apparently he didn’t want a companion, he wanted to talk a lot to himself. Curious directorial choice to have him do just that when he arrives in episode one, and to direct some of the dialogue down the camera. A nice little story.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Deadly Assassin

It’s hard to judge this story, set on my own home planet. People ask me – is that what Gallifrey is really like? Where are all the women? Why is everyone so old? Why does it seem so much like Earth? How come Keanu Reaves doesn’t appear in the Matrix?
The Master's facelift went horribly wrong.
Whilst all are interesting questions to a certain degree, the only one I care to address is the idea that Gallifrey is too much like Earth. Look, this story was made by humans, Earthlings. Naturally this is going to colour the way Gallifrey is represented. Humans see and imagine through human eyes. There are women on Gallifrey too, even if not one single woman appears on screen throughout the four episodes.
Tom looks spiffing in Time Lord attire.
The story begins with a little introduction read by Tom Baker as the words scroll over the screen. Already we know we are in for something different. The first time a story on the Doctor’s home planet has been attempted. No companion to speak of. Most characters are old men. Episode three seems to very separate from the rest of the story, set in the matrix and shot on film by the director David Maloney. Quite a violent, and criticised for it, episode indeed. This and ‘The Brain of Morbius’ have to be the most violent Doctor Who stories so far. They actual hold on a shot of the Doctor being drowned as the cliff hanger for episode three. This viewer, in light of it being a children’s show, thinks that was going too far.
Three cheers for Bernard!

The matrix is full of clowns, samurais, old planes, trains and Doctors. The thing is though, these are Goth’s (the Time Lord working for the Master) creations, not the Doctor’s, so why are they so Earthy? They make a gripping episode with very little dialogue, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t make a lot of sense.
The return of the Master is an inetersting choice. Fair enough that they had left the character for a few years after Delgado’s sad death, here the Master is a living but rotting corpse, brilliantly relised by design and very very scary. Peter Pratt ‘s voice is wonderful too, but the Master faces a somewhat convoluted plot. Using Goth to become President so he could get the sash to allow him to open the Eye of Harmony, his plan changes when Goth fails. He fakes his own death to be put with the bodies in a room adjoining the Panopticon (where sits the Eye of Harmony), he is able to take the sash off the dead President’s body and enact his plan to open the eye and destroy Gallifrey. Except, he’s sneaking in and out of the Panopticon at will throughout the first two episodes! Why didn’t he just do that in the first place?
The controversial shot at the end of episode three.
The Doctor is set up for the murder of the President. A clever idea nicked from ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, in Robert Holmes’ script, with the assassination and trial taking up episodes one and two. Episode three is in the matrix as the Doctor and Goth fight it out, and episode four is the aftermath as the Master tricks everyone and almost destroys Gallifrey. As with ‘The Hand of Fear’, four distinct chapters. More clearly so this time. THAT works well, as does the casting.
Bernard Horsfall, veteran now of four Who tales, finally gets to play a villain and is perfect as the desperate Goth. The other principle aside from Horsfall and Pratt are Angus Mackay as the hard to like Borusa, George Pravda (returning after appearing in ‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The Mutants’, and Eric Chitty (who appeared in ‘The Massacre’) as Engin. All were perfectly cast, a very very strong cast list. Tom Baker is stoic as always, with not a lot of humour for the Doctor in this story.
It all comes together very nicely for an exciting story, not nearly as much fun though, very apocalyptic and grand.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Hand of Fear

Starting with bang. 
It’s always a bit sad when a companion leaves, but this is the story where Sarah Jane leaves is just that little bit sadder. Bob Baker and Dave Martin deliver a script to Elizabeth Sladen that does good service to a character that had spent over three years in the role, seen a regeneration, Daleks, Cybermen, Harry Sullivan come and go, the withdrawal of UNIT as series regulars, a change in production team and move to more ‘alien’ settings with weird and wonderful planets shown such as Zeta Minor and indeed, in this story, Kastria.
Sarah is possessed!
It’s hard to know what to make of the ending, it’s a little bit ‘oh you’ve got to go now’, and thusly out of the blue. The scene itself is very well
written, touching, and movingly played by Tom Baker and Liz Sladen, but it must be heartbreaking for the character Sarah Jane to be told she can’t stick around because the Doctor has to go to Gallifrey. Then there is the presumption and indeed inference that the Doctor aint coming back for her.
A blurry Houston
Of course, in the previous season and one story  Sarah has been blinded, hypnotised (left right and centre!), tied up a LOT, thought the Doctor was dead who knows how many times, knocked out, trapped in an air lock, attacked by two fake Harrys, the list goes on. She chucks a wobbly and says she wants to go home, whilst the Doctor is too engrossed in the issues of the TARDIS to listen to her. It might just have been the perfect time for her to leave.
Indeed it really was. Three and a half years is a long time for a companion, and she’s racked up the longest stint thus far for a companion if not the most episodes – that goes to Frazer Hines as Jamie. Personally I don’t travel with companions as often as the Doctor does. I’ve had many, but sometimes solo travel allows a bit of freedom. I feel like it’s okay to be more obnoxious which is always nice when I am on my own.
It's a handy hand!
Back to the story, watching the extra features I see that a deliberate choice was made to views the story as four separate chapters, and that comes
across when you watch the four episodes. It’s thusly different and interesting narratively. Characters come and go, with no actor apart from the two leads being around for more than two episodes. There are not a lot of principal characters, meaning that the Doctor and particularly Sarah really carry a good bulk of the plot – even more than normal. We don’t see a lot of scenes featuring other characters having conversations.

Eldrad mark one.
Rex Robinson is back for his third Doctor Who adventure, after ‘The Three Doctors’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’. It’s no surprise to see him as Lennie Mayne, director of the previous mentioned stories, is also director on ‘The Hand of Fear’. Rex gets episodes one and two, Glyn Houston is the principal support for episode two and features in episode three as the man in charge of a nuclear power station. The protagonist, Eldrad, appears as a character in episode three played by the striking and powerful Judith Paris. When Eldrad is returned to Kastria in episode four, he regenerates into Stephen Thorne, known for Omega and Azal in the Pertwee years. And his voice still hasn’t softened!

Stephen Thorne as Eldrad.
‘The Hand of Fear’ was inspired by an old B-grade horror film where a hand came to life. It certainly is very creepy and a great place to start writing, and the script is possibly Baker and Martin’s best. It’s got a different feel to it, and is very pacey. With characters dying or the story moving past them quickly, the external characters other than Eldrad don’t quite have the chance to develop, however Glyn Houston’s Professor Watson has some lovely moments, especially when he calls his wife to say he won’t be home on time from work.

Also, they actually shot this thing IN a NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. This, today, would be unthinkable. Apparently the company was more than happy for them to use it and there’s even a fall from great heights and an exploding cabinet, all done at the plant. It really adds to the authenticity of this story. The final episode on Kastria is a pretty decent warp-up of events, although Eldrad’s death as he plummets into a chasm is sadly handled rather poorly – possibly a rushed job.
'Hey you, he blew it!'
All in all though, ‘The Hand of Fear’ maintains the excellent standard of ‘Who’ under Hinchcliffe.