CRRRaSh! 370 Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-02-01, at 23:00:00--23:34:36, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

After being harangued by YouTube's content matching, I said I'd do away with clips, then backtracked and included them again, as I have throughout the rewatch. I'm sure a minute of audio is fair use, but try arguing that in court without a fantastically expensive copyright lawyer. The audio is even heavily edited to the point where I can't see how I may have infringed copyright, but why risk it at all? So, sadly, no more audio clips. Copyright law stinks.

Also I am terribly sorry for the scheduling SNAFU lately. To compensate you, there will be an extra Doctor Who episode of CRRRaSh! this week, so you haven't missed out.

As a solo podcaster, if I'm sick there's no show, and, after a week since the last migraine, I had another and that put paid to doing much of anything. I'm better now, but the moment I start pushing myself, I risk a spell. At least I wasn't taken out for a month, as I was not so long ago, and can once again be all gothic romance, bohemian and as cool as Sunglasses After Dark by The Cramps about my swooning.

Apart from that, Hong Kong is imploding, the Uighurs in China are still under duress, the Central African Republic is in turmoil and there's been a coup in Myanmar---the military parroted voter fraud---hmmm, where have we heard that before? Closer to home, the pandemic continues bludgeoning the UK, and my car was sick, but the mechanic says the sudden strange knocking is normal. Put that in my eulogy please.

The great pandemic beard of captaining and wizarding is gone (again) because it made me look more insane than usual, and also not being scratchy makes me feel good. I know, a beardless captain, a beardless wizard... doesn't bear thinking about.

On this Day in the UK

Bugger all happened on this exact day, though ABBA were number one with Dancing Queen, The Wurzels at four with I am a Cider Drinker (something I can relate to after almost going blind from the illegal crap you could/can buy behind the bar in the West Country), and the Sex Pistols were apparently imploding.

In the spirit of the current news, which seems to make this year (2021) seem like a year of coup attempts (Trump), and this DW story (you'll see), earlier in March 1976 Argentine President Isabel Martinez de Peron was deposed by a military coup d'etat.


Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Director: Lennie Mayne
Writer: Bob Baker (Nick Park's co-writer for the Wallace and Gromit animated series and actually lives in Gloucestershire) and Dave Martin (was frequent collaborator of Baker). They both also created K-9 and also crazed Time Lord scientist, Omega, one of my favourite villains.
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe
Locations: Additional on-location filming at Cromhall Quarry and Oldbury nuclear power station in Gloucestershire.
Story 2 of season 14, following The Masque of Mandragora (covered in 367), 4 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 2 to 23 October 1976.

What Happens

On a cold far off world an alien is given instructions to destroy the spaceship of the traitor "Eldrad". The craft appears destroyed.

The TARDIS time travels to a modern quarry, instead of South Croydon, where Sarah lives with her Aunt Lavinia. They have arrived just as some quarrymen are setting off an explosion. The Doctor is unharmed, but Sarah is found buried and clutching a stone hand.

At the hospital, the ring from the hand possesses Sarah with Eldrad's spirit. She escapes with the hand and takes it to a nearby nuclear reactor.

The hand absorbs energy from the reactor and regenerates Eldrad into a beautiful female silicon based humanoid using Sarah as a template acceptable to human culture. She convinces the Doctor to take her back to her planet, Kastria, but not her era as this would interfere with time.

Kastria is deserted, but Eldrad believes her race and planet can be restored until she finds out from an old recording left by her rival, King Rokon, who she once tried to usurp. He has taken the most extreme measures possible to prevent her regaining power. He and the other Kastrians destroyed the race banks holding the genetic material necessary for reseeding their civilisation and set a trap for her.

Mortally wounded, she is placed in a recovery chamber and emerges as a large powerful male. He decides instead to return to Earth, rule and recruit the war-like human race, and restart her plans for interstellar conquest.

The Doctor and Sarah evade Eldrad, hide, and use the Doctor's long scarf to trip him into a deep ravine. The Doctor tosses Eldrad's ring after him and they return to the TARDIS.

The Doctor has been recalled to Gallifrey. Forbidden to take Sarah, he leaves her on Earth at her home in South Croydon. Sarah looks around and realises that the TARDIS has strayed off-course again.

What I Thought

A usurping power-mad nut as the antagonist? Didn't I tell you, at the top of the show, this story would capture the zeitgeist of current events?

They are still using the lovely baroque and homey, wood panelled control room.

The disembodied hand effects were less effective than Thing from the Addams Family (1964--) or the titular appendage from The Hand (1981); a film which Michael Caine disowns, but I love. Bloody actors! What do they know anyway? From seeing the clunkiness of the effect in this story, even I can see how the practical SFX was achieved. I don't even think it would have been impressive back in 1976.

The gender bending villain reminds me of Voyager's Kes possessed by a male warlord in Warlord (1996).

The female form of Eldrad, played by Judith Paris (also from Gloucestershire), is ridiculously sexy. I enjoyed the story, another one I can't remember, which leads me to suspect there are many I missed, or perhaps forgot.

The amusing ending tugged at my heart as I, and the audience, said farewell to Sarah Jane Smith.


Since coups were such a theme this week, I'd like to draw your attention to L.A. punk band The Circle Jerk's excellent song Coup d'etat, featured on the Repo Man (1984) soundtrack.

This was Sarah Jane Smiths's last trip in the TARDIS as a full-time companion, as Elizabeth Sladen left the show to pursue other acting opportunities. If you look at her filmography, you'll she was never out of work again. In any case, she would reappear in the unsuccessful spin-off K-9 and Company (1981), the feature length The Five Doctors (1983), the comedic Children in Need special crossover with British soap opera EastEnders called Dimensions in Time, a direct-to-video spin-off sequel to The Abominable Snowmen (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968) called Downtime (1995), New Who's School Reunion (2006), and in her own brilliant spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures that ran from 2007 until she died in 2011. In a sense then, she really never left the franchise at all. Although her life was sadly cut short by illness, I think Sladen's long tenure as such a well-loved character as Sarah Jane Smith is a fitting geeky epitaph to the Liverpudlian actress Elisabeth Clara Heath-Sladen. Some also say New Who Companion Clara Oswin Oswald was named as a tribute to her.