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.


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