No-one in their right mind would ever call ?he Hand of Fear?a DOCTOR WHO classic; it? about as workmanlike and adequate as the series was ever able to get, especially in the middle of the hugely-popular Tom Baker era. The story is routine, the production unexceptional; the main selling point here, of course, is the final performance by Elisabeth Sladen as fan favourite companion Sarah Jane Smith and, if nothing else, ?he Hand of Fear?deserves a digital scrub-up in the light of her tear-jerking reprise of the role in the recent David Tennant episode ?chool Reunion.?n

Penned by reliable 1970s DOCTOR WHO scripters Bob Baker and Dave Martin, this decent enough four-parter drops the Doctor and Sarah back on Earth ?in a quarry, ho! Ho! ?just as a routine blasting operation uncovers a fossilised hand buried deep under the ground. This is the last fragment of a Kastrian war criminal named Eldrad whose body was destroyed by his own people; but this fragment has fallen to Earth, just waiting for the right moment to regenerate itself?n

Nothing really remarkable happens here. Sarah gets possessed by the hand, takes it to a nearby nuclear power station (the glossy location filming at the Oldbury Station is the serial? other main selling point) where it recreates the body of the monstrous Eldrad. The Doctor is persuaded to return Eldrad to the snow-bound surface of his planet Kastria where Eldrad discovers that his people have been wiped out since the days he held dominion over the planet?n

?he Hand of Fear?is decent enough fare. It? never particularly embarrassing (apart from one or two scripting peculiarities; with the nuclear power station about to go into meltdown, the Doctor and Sarah hide behind a nearby land-rover to escape the effects of the blast. Hmmmu but there? nothing exciting or original to get worked up about either. Tom Baker? now settled effortlessly into his role and he? good value again here. But this is Lis Sladen? yarn and she gets some good stuff to work with, particularly in the early episodes where she? under the thrall of Eldrad? malevolent power. The high point of the serial, of course, is the emotional farewell between the Doctor and Sarah when the Doctor receives a telepathic summons from his home planet Gallifrey and has no choice but to return Sarah to her own planet. It? a beautifully-performed, touching sequence and it?l remind newer fans that it? not just the parting of the ways between the Doctor and Rose that can cause the bottom lip to quiver. ?he Hand of Fear?is worth your time for this one scene alone but it? not, in all honesty, a story you?l crave watching again and again.

THE DISC: Another lovely crisp restoration job supported by a decent raft of extras, the centrepiece of which is a 50 minute documentary focussing largely on Sarah Jane and her time on the series as well as the making of ?he Hand of Fear?itself. There? a lengthy extract from the first edition of Noel Edmond? SWAP SHOP where Tom Baker and Lis Sladen awkwardly answer kid? questions over the phone. Thirty years old, this clip shows not only how much kids?TV has changed but also that kids themselves are a different species nowadays. Chummy commentary from the two Bakers and Sladen, with occasional dropped-in observations from producer Philip Hinchcliffe, lengthy photo-gallery and PDF annual stuff for those who can be bothered. Good package, nice disc.


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