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Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear (Story 87)

4.5 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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(Nov 07, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Doctor Who: Hand of Fear, The (Episode 87) (DVD)

After a freak accident in the inevitable quarry, Sarah Jane emerges clutching a stone hand which holds a strange power over her.


Doctor Who fans must take the bittersweet with the suspenseful in this four-part story arc from 1976, which pits the Doctor (Tom Baker) and companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) against the fossilized hand of an alien criminal which possesses a hideous will to live again. Discovered by the Doctor and Sarah during a trip to Earth that puts them in the middle of a mining blast, the hand belongs to Eldrad, a fugitive criminal from the planet Kastria who desires to regain his bodily form and return to his home. To do so, he possesses Sarah and the staff of a nearby nuclear reactor in order to use its power to regenerate, which leads to several eerie scenes with the reanimated hand that nicely evoke British horror features from the '60s and '70s. Well-liked by Baker-era fans, The Hand of Fear is best remembered as Sladen's final turn as Sarah (though she has frequently returned to the role on both radio and TV), and her final scenes with Baker (largely written by the two actors) have an endearing sort of wistfulness.

As with all Doctor Who DVD releases, The Hand of Fear features a number of well-produced extras that flesh out the production history of the episodes. The commentary by Baker, Sladen, co-star Judith Paris (who plays the reconfigured Eldrad in an early female form), co-author Bob Baker, and producer Phillip Hinchcliffe is an excellent place to start for first-time viewers and longtime fans; all except Paris are also featured in an informative 50-minute featurette titled "Changing Time," which illuminates the warm working relationship between Baker and Sladen, as well as her reasons for departing the series. An 11-minute videotape clip from the U.K. children's show Swap Shop featuring Baker and Sladen before the broadcast of The Hand of Fear is also included, as well as the now-standard photo gallery, text-only commentary, and PDF of the 1977 Doctor Who Annual and Radio Times. --Paul Gaita

Special Features

  • Commentary by actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, and Judith Park, co-writer Bob Baker, and producer Philip Hinchcliffe
  • "Changing Time" 50-minute making-of featurette
  • "Swap Shop" archival interview with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen
  • Continuity Announcements
  • DVD-ROM features: 1977 "Doctor Who Annual" (PDF) and "Radio Times" billings
  • Production note option
  • Photo gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen
  • Directors: Lennie Mayne
  • Writers: Sydney Newman
  • Producers: Peter Bryant
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 7, 2006
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000GRUQM4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,054 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear (Story 87)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel J. Hamlow HALL OF FAME on February 28, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
In Sarah Jane Smith's last adventure with the Doctor, she goes through a bit in the first two episodes. One, she is buried under a pile of rubble, when she and the Doctor accidentally stray near a quarry that is been dynamited. Two, she is possessed by a strange fossilized hand that is uncovered during said blasting that leads her to say "Eldrad must live." Three, she has lots of fun going around firing a blue light from a ring at anyone who tells her to stop. And four, are you ready for this... she locks herself and the hand in the outer chamber of the radioactive core at the Nunton Power Complex. I've heard of A Boy And His Dog, but A Girl And Her Hand? Hmm... But as Liz Sladen (Sarah) was with the series for three seasons, script-editor Robert Holmes thus made that part of the story central to Sarah.
The Doctor hypothesizes that the hand, originating from a silicon-based lifeform, is alive and is using radiation to regenerate itself. That does explain why Sarah comes out of the radiation chamber alive and well despite being exposed to enough radiation to kill a school of whales. But who or what is Eldrad?
There is a scene when the director of Nunton, Professor Watson, phones his wife and tells her in a calm voice that he may be delayed. He lies that there is nothing wrong and to kiss the children for him. This is when it looks like the facility might undergo meltdown. At the end of the call, his expression is one having resigned to the fact that he might well die before the day is over. This is Glyn Houston's best part in his role as Watson.
The crystalline costume for Eldrad is quite a beaut, which is clearly a blue-gray body suit with crystals and metal pieces attached to resemble a clump of jewels at various points.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With the 10th Doctor's reunion with companion Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 in 2006's "SCHOOL REUNION" Releasing Sarah's final adventure with the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) as 1976's Hand of Fear ends with a touching and surprisingly warm departure as the Doctor and Sarah part company. It's no accident that the new series sought out her return, SJS, the plucky journalist portrayed by Elisabeth Sladen is one of the best-loved companions, leastwise before ROSE TYLER's appearance. First appearing as a women's libber in the 3rd Doctor's Time Warrior, in which she mistakes him for a malevolent traitor. SJS was introduced as a strong character that wasn't going to need the Doctor's rescuing, much like Rose, although invariably evolving into a character that needed the Doctor's rescuing anyway. Sarah's met the first 5 Doctor's in "The 5 Doctors," she's had a X-mas special with K-9 ( a Christmas present from the Doctor, K-9 & Company) and word is that a children's spin-off is now in the works for the pair.

After the Doctor and Sarah Jane mistakenly land in a present-day (70's) quarry (an amusing location considering all the quarry filled alien worlds presented over the years) and the pair are caught up in an explosion. Sarah is rushed to hospital, clutching a stone hand . But when the hand possesses Sarah's mind, a chain reaction begins, resulting in a confrontation on the frozen planet of Kastria.

This story arc is typical of Tom Baker's Doctor, the affection that the Doctor and Sarah have for one another really bring together the episode. Both over the top portrayals of the power-hungry and paranoid Eldrad are very memorable as are the mind-zapped catch-phrase "Eldrad must live!"

FOR more SARAH JANE SMITH action checkout BIG FINISH AUDIO's radio-style further adventures of Sarah Jane Smith, check the UK Amazon.
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Format: VHS Tape
Bob Baker and Dave Martin seemed to have a knack for embedding catchphrases into the minds of their viewers: these are the same guys that gave us "Contact Has Been Made" (The Invisible Enemy), and "The Quest is The Quest" (Underworld). Here the catchphrase is the simple imperative: "Eldrad Must Live." By the end of chapter two, this mantra has been repeated at least once by every principal cast member, building up to the moment when we finally get a look at this Eldrad character -and SHE is not at all what we expected!
The episode kicks off by making fun of the series itself: the TARDIS materializes in what looks like yet another rock quarry --Sarah immediately concludes that they have once again gone astray and landed on some remote alien planet. The joke is, of course, that they have in fact arrived in present-day an actual rock quarry!
The first half of the story plays out in the present day, with the Doctor interacting with ordinary everyday characters in a hospital, a pathology lab, and a nuclear reactor complex --certainly no clue is given as to the long-ago and far-distant goings-on of the planet Kastria and the fate of its people. Eldrad goes from being a fright element that possesses people (in two cases, to their deaths), to an actual multifaceted --even passionate-- character who elicits some audience sympathy, then finally into a stomping, shouting, villain who only dreams of conquest --the sort of shallow character with which Sarah and the Doctor are altogether too familiar, thank you. Perhaps the Kastrians knew something about themselves and their nature that Eldrad was never willing to accept?
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