Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear
(4 episodes, s14e05-e08, 1976)
It’s time to say goodbye, but first… an adventure!
In the prologue, a traitor named Eldrad is sentenced to death by being launched into space. Eldrad’s crimes include the destruction of the barriers that stopped the solar winds from assaulting the planet Kastria. In an attempt to beat the rush before their impending doom, the planetary leaders decide to destroy the space capsule, despite the possibility of survival, and then they evacuate the area and await their fate as the planet dies around them.
Back in present time, the TARDIS materializes in a quarry where blasting operations are underway. Sarah Jane is upset that they are not in South Croydon, but is soon more upset as the crew detonates the quarry and buries her in the resulting rubble. When she is uncovered, she found clutching a fossilized hand as she is taken to the hospital. The hand is recovered, but clutched tightly in her hand is a ring. Eldrad’s ring.
The fossilized hand is examined by the Doctor and a pathologist named Carter, and it is found the be 150 million years old. The Doctor visits the quarry, then returns to the pathology lab. While he is away, Sarah Jane (now possessed by Eldrad) steals the hand and knocks out Carter with a flash from the ring. The Doctor notes the DNA a crystalline form, which is regenerating due to radiation from the microscope, and sets out after Sarah Jane.
There are some great camera angles in this story.
Sarah Jane takes the hand to a nearby nuclear reactor – Doctor Who loves the nuclear reactor sci-fi tropes – and enters the reactor chamber. The hand begins to regenerate and move. The alarms sound throughout the complex as the Doctor and Carter infiltrate the plant. Professor Watson, the senior operator in the control room (who has a random bug on his forehead in one shot) orders a shutdown to remove Sarah Jane from the reactor room. The core near Sarah Jane (magically) won’t shutdown, and she is absorbing a ton of radiation. When the Doctor talks to her over the intercom, she repeats that, “Eldrad must live,” which prompts the Doctor to go after her. Carter, also possessed by Eldrad, follows and tries to stop the Doctor. In the fight, Carter falls to his death.
The radiation reaches “critical” levels as Sarah Jane tries to open the containment area. The Doctor bursts in through a cooling pipe, knocks out Sarah Jane, and takes her to decontamination. The hand escapes and the ring is left behind. Sarah Jane is revived, not remembering any of the adventure so far, and apparently fine after her significant radiation exposure. The Doctor tells the operations team the story of the hand, which they see on the camera, and they send a technician named Driscoll to retrieve it. He finds the ring, becomes possessed, and takes the hand to the reactor core. The Doctor pursues and narrowly avoids being blasted by the ring. Driscoll takes the hand into the reactor core, which could cause a chain reaction and explosion (huh?), and results in the consoles in the control room to explode (huh?).
At the core itself, all of the radiation has been absorbed by the hand in what the Doctor calls an “unexplosion” reaction. Watson calls the RAF for a missile strike to destroy the site and the threat, but the nuclear missiles are absorbed by Eldrad and complete her regeneration.
Insert that animated GIF of Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds here, because the professor should have connected those dots without any help whatsoever.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane return to the core to confront Eldrad. She explains that she was the architect of the barriers that allowed Kastria to thrive, but they were destroyed in a war and she was betrayed. She asks the Doctor to take her back in time to save her world, but he can only take her to present day Kastria. After she agrees to his terms, Watson tries to kill her with a handgun. Eldrad fights back, but stops as the Doctor adds Watson’s survival as a contingency to their agreement.
Eldrad, Sarah Jane, and the Doctor return to the quarry and use the TARDIS to travel to Kastria. Eldrad tries to take over, but she is powerless inside the TARDIS… for reasons. When they arrive, the planet is desolate and powerless, but Eldrad activates a backup geothermal power supply. As she opens the door to the thermal chambers below to rally her people, she takes an arrow to the chest.
The arrow was a syringe containing an acid that will destroy her crystalline structure. The travelers take her to the regeneration chambers, but are slowed by a series of traps. The chamber regenerates Eldrad into a new, male body, and he reveals that he patterned his previous body off of Sarah Jane. How flattering. He also reveals that he destroyed the barriers in an attempt to take over the throne, and that there was no war. He declares his intention to take over the planet, but is stopped by the revelation that all of his people are long since dead. Eldrad turns his attention to Earth, demanding that the Doctor take him to be their ruler, but the Doctor rejects him. They run and Eldrad pursues, but our heroes trip him over the side a deep abyss, presumably to his doom, but as they say, no body, no death.
The travelers return to the TARDIS, and Sarah Jane laments her life as a companion. Much like in Terror of the Zygons, she’s ready to go home. As she storms off to pack her belongings, the Doctor receives a distress call from Gallifrey and sets a course for South Croydon since he conveniently cannot take her with him. After a touching goodbye, Sarah Jane leaves the TARDIS, only realizing after the Doctor departs that she is nowhere near home.
And here’s where we say goodbye to Sarah Jane. She has been one of my favorite companions because of her energy, wit, and intelligence. I’m going to miss her, but, hey, at least they didn’t kill her off.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.