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24 September 2014

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The Hand of Fear

Production Code: 4N

First Transmitted

1 - 02/10/1976 18:10

2 - 09/10/1976 17:50

3 - 16/10/1976 18:05

4 - 23/10/1976 18:00


The TARDIS arrives on contemporary Earth, where Sarah comes into contact with what appears to be a fossilised human hand. This is in fact the last surviving fragment of a Kastrian called Eldrad, who was blown up in space as a punishment for attempting to wipe out his own people.

Eldrad's essence lives on in a blue-stoned ring, which the possessed Sarah removes from the hand and places on her own. She then takes the hand to the nearby Nunton nuclear research and development complex where it soaks up the radiation from the reactor core and regenerates into a complete being.

Eldrad - who, having patterned his new body on Sarah's, appears to all intents and purposes female - persuades the Doctor to take him back to Kastria where he might reclaim his heritage. There he discovers only a dead planet: the Kastrians are extinct and their race banks were destroyed by their last King, Rokon, in case Eldrad should ever return.

Furious, Eldrad, whose body has now been reconfigured into its proper form, tries to get the Doctor to return him to Earth so that he might rule there instead. The two time travellers use the Doctor's scarf to trip him into a deep crevasse.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor receives a summons to return to Gallifrey and, as he cannot take Sarah there, endeavours to drop her off at her home.

Episode Endings

Sarah places a box containing the fossilised hand on the floor of a lead-lined room in the Nunton complex. She watches as it first regenerates a missing finger and then starts to move.

A technician named Driscoll takes the hand to the reactor core. The complex is evacuated as he pulls open the door and enters. In the control room, Nunton's director Professor Watson is thrown to the floor as the computers start exploding.

The Doctor and Sarah take Eldrad back to Kastria. Eldrad uses his ring to summon a lift to take them to the thermal chambers on the lower levels, but when the lift doors open a spear-like syringe thuds into his chest.

The Doctor receives a summons from Gallifrey and, realising that he cannot take Sarah there, redirects the TARDIS to Hillview Road, South Croydon, so as to return her home. Sarah reluctantly disembarks with the assertion that travel does broaden the mind. After the TARDIS has gone, she realises that she is not in Hillview Road and may not even be in South Croydon. Whistling a tune, she picks up her things and walks off, pausing only to glance up at the sky.


The Beast with Five Fingers.

The Mummy's Hand.

Carry on Screaming.

Dr Terror's House of Horrors.

Blood From The Mummy's Tomb.

The obliteration module echoes the Martians' craft in George Pal's version of War of the Worlds.

Sarah whistles 'Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow' at the end.

Dialogue Triumphs

Eldrad : "Can this be the form of the creatures who have found me and who now seek to destroy me? No matter. They shall fail as the obliteration has failed. Strange form or not... Eldrad lives and shall again rule Kastria!"

King Rokon : "So now you are king, as was your wish. I salute you from the dead. Hail Eldrad. King... of nothing."

Sarah Jane Smith : "I must be mad. I'm sick of being cold and wet and hypnotised left, right and centre. I'm sick of being shot at, savaged by bug eyed monsters, never knowing if I'm coming or going... or been... I want a bath, I want my hair washed, I just want to feel human again... and, boy, am I sick of that sonic screwdriver. I'm going to pack my goodies and I'm going home..."

Sarah Jane Smith : "Don't forget me."

The Doctor : "Oh, Sarah... don't you forget me."

Dialogue Disasters

"You reckon this fella just copped it in a crash, like?"

Sarah Jane Smith : [Has a line in bad hand puns, including] "That's not as 'armless as it looks."


Kastria was a cold and inhospitable planet, ravaged by the solar winds. Eldrad says he built barriers to keep out the winds, machines to replenish the soil and atmosphere and devised a crystalline, silicon based form for the Kastrians.

It is indicated that silicon based life forms rarely occur naturally (cf. The Stones of Blood). [The origin of the proto-Kastrians is not expanded upon. Despite the fact that their culture predates the Earth, they use Latin terminology: either a translation convention, or they too had an influence on Earth history. See The Image of the Fendahl.]

When the Kastrians refused to follow Eldrad into war across the galaxy, Eldrad destroyed the protective barriers. King Rokon sentenced Eldrad to death in an Obliteration Module. The idea was to explode the module beyond the edge of the galaxy, but it was triggered early before control was lost.

On Kastria the north barrier had already ceased functioning; the south soon followed. Faced with eking out an existence in the thermal caves deep underground the Kastrians chose death and, fearing Eldrad's return, destroyed the race banks. There was a one in three million chance of Eldrad surviving.

Eldrad has heard of the Time Lords, saying that they are pledged to uphold the laws of time and to prevent alien aggression. The Doctor clarifies the latter point by saying that this only applies in cases where the indigenous population is threatened. [Rather a rose-tinted view of Time Lord activity.]

The Doctor carries an expanding cane in his pocket. The Doctor is called back to Gallifrey at the end of the story, and says he has to leave Sarah behind. Sarah seems to live in Hillview Road, South Croydon.


The Doctor's Doctorate

Temporal Grace


Outer Dome Six on the planet Kastria.

A quarry.

A hospital.

the Nunton experimental nuclear complex.

Somewhere that isn't Croydon, [a schoolday in early 1974].



For once, the TARDIS arrives in a quarry that is exactly what it appears to be: a quarry.

There is a highly effective freeze frame ending to the final episode as Sarah glances up into the sky.


If the coordinates for Kastria are mis-set the Doctor says that symbolic resonance will occur in the trachoid time crystal, and that no further landings will be possible. The extreme cold of Kastria might have affected the TARDIS' thermo couplings, which the Doctor tries to repair with an astro rectifier, a multi quantiscope and a Ganymede driver. He decides that he doesn't need the mergin nut or the Zeus plugs.


The Doctor and Sarah seem unable to comprehend clear signs of danger in the first episode (sirens, man waving, etc.)

The fly that Elisabeth Sladen swallowed in an out take can be seen walking across Glyn Houston's brow.

There's lots of bad nuclear physics on show, including the air strike against the complex and hiding behind a jeep from an exploding reactor.

Fashion Victim

Sarah's clothes make her look 'just like Andy Pandy'.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Abbott - David Purcell

Dr. Carter - Rex Robinson

Driscoll - Roy Boyd Also in Part Three, in the reprise from part two, but uncredited

Eldrad - Judith Paris

Elgin - John Cannon

Guard - Robin Hargrave

Intern - Renu Setna

Kastrian Eldrad - Stephen Thorne

King Rokon - Roy Skelton

Miss Jackson - Frances Pidgeon Also in Part Three, in the reprise from part two, but uncredited

Professor Watson - Glyn Houston

Zazzka - Roy Pattison


Director - Lennie Mayne

Assistant Floor Manager - Terry Winders

Costumes - Barbara Lane

Designer - Christine Ruscoe

Fight Arranger - Max Faulkner

Film Cameraman - Max Samett

Film Editor - Christopher Rowlands

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Judy Neame

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Marion McDougall

Production Unit Manager - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Derek Slee

Studio Sound - Brian Hiles

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Writer - Bob Baker

Writer - Dave Martin

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Don't you forget me... Till we meet again, Sarah.' Underrated by sad people who think that even Philip Hinchcliffe must have produced one duff story per season, The Hand of Fear is engaging and well acted. Lis Sladen puts in her best performance (she makes a great villain), but Judith Paris steals the show as the (female) Eldrad. It all goes a bit pear shaped in the final episode, with Stephen Thorne doing his best Brian Blessed impersonation and Eldrad eventually tripping over the Doctor's scarf.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Once again, Bob Baker and Dave Martin come up trumps with a story that combines all the best features of Doctor Who in this era. 'The Hand of Fear made a refreshing and welcome comeback for two of the [series'] veteran writers,' enthused Steven Evans in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society Yearbook 1977/78, 'continuing their grand tradition of original plots, excellent dialogue and believable aliens. It also marked, [for the first time in] six years, [a] contemporary Earth story not to feature UNIT.'

The first episode revolves around the titular hand. What is it? Whose is it? And why is Sarah acting so strangely? The scenes of the possessed Sarah escaping from the hospital and making her way to the Nunton complex are all the more effective for the use of a fish-eye lens to distort the picture and make her seem uncharacteristically threatening. Elisabeth Sladen does a superb job here, causing the viewer to regret all the more that this is to be her final story as a regular. The brash and aggressive Sarah of season eleven has by this point given way to a far more trusting and likeable character. Her relationship with the Doctor has become wonderfully relaxed - mellow, even - and the interplay between them ever more naturalistic. In this story, her quips as she tries to persuade him to let her accompany him into the complex are particularly nice, as is her playful baiting of him by proclaiming 'Eldrad must live' after he has freed her of the Kastrian's influence.

If the depiction of Sarah is one of the high points of The Hand of Fear, then that of the female Eldrad is the other. From her husky voice to her remarkable costume, she presents the classic dilemma of a physically attractive woman who is also deadly and ruthless. As Keith Williams wrote in TARDIS Volume 1 Number 12, dated December 1976: 'The female Eldrad's first appearance was impressive enough - a magnificent creature, all crystalline; purple skin; glowing eyes darting sideways suspiciously.' Judith Paris is excellent in the role, and it is a considerable let-down when Stephen Thorne takes over after Eldrad's transformation in the final episode. Although Thorne makes good use of his voice - the costume allows him little scope to convey things by way of facial expression - he unfortunately sounds and acts almost exactly like Omega, the villain he portrayed in the same writers' season ten story The Three Doctors. Even some of the lines he is given are practically the same. This negative development is a shame, as Eldrad is essentially an interesting and in many ways tragic character. Misguided and egocentric, but also quite sympathetic. As Sarah says: 'I quite liked her, but I couldn't stand him.'

Tim Dollin, also writing in TARDIS Volume 1 Number 12, found the story's resolution disappointing as a whole: 'I thought we were in for a story where Eldrad would try and save her people beneath the surface. Instead we go downstairs in a particularly false lift and try and drag Eldrad across those terrible sets. They looked like something out of pantomime. Then all is forgotten about Eldrad's plight and she becomes a he... Now all that happens is that the Doctor trips Eldrad up and he falls down a hole.'

It is the last five minutes that really distinguish The Hand of Fear. As Keith Miller put it in Doctor Who Digest Number 4, dated January 1977: 'The farewell scene between the Doctor and Sarah was well acted out... Sarah's sudden flare up at the Doctor, deciding to leave [and] then saying that the "Time Lord story" was just a ruse to get her to stay [were] perfectly executed by Lis Sladen and... a fitting tribute to one of the most popular of Doctor Who's assistants.' Martin Wiggins must have echoed the thoughts of many when he wrote, again in TARDIS Volume 1 Number 12: 'I felt a little lost when Sarah left. She was the only person I could really identify with in Doctor Who, and now she's gone.'

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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