Doctor Who: Season 14, Episode 8

The Hand of Fear: Part Four (23 Oct. 1976)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Family
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 149 users  
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The Doctor and Sarah attempt to get Eldrad to the regeneration chamber but Rokon has left traps in their path.

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Roy Skelton ...
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The Doctor and Sarah attempt to get Eldrad to the regeneration chamber but Rokon has left traps in their path.

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23 October 1976 (UK)  »

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Sarah Jane, after being released from Eldrad's influence, says "ELDRAD MUST LIVE - just kidding!" This was a prank by Elisabeth Sladen on Tom Baker, but it seemed so in-character that the director kept it in. See more »

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Referenced in Doctor Who: School Reunion (2006) See more »

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Farewell Sarah Jane. A lot of wonderful highlights in this adventure and the sad departure of The Doctor's best ever companion.
4 December 2014 | by (South Wales, UK) – See all my reviews

Review of all 4 episodes:

Sarah Jane Smith is thought by many, myself included, to be the greatest ever companion for The Doctor. It is incredibly sad to see her leave at the end of this story but overall this is a good send off for her. It is a great pity that the 4th and final episode is a bit of a letdown after the terrific opening three parts but the final scene between The Doctor and Sarah Jane is a good, subtle and poignant farewell.

The start of episode 1 shows an alien world where a being that has been judged as a criminal is being supposedly destroyed. The Doctor and Sarah are then seen arriving in a quarry where rock blasting causes them to be buried by rubble. This opening couple of scenes does not indicate any greatness for this story, it is all pretty uninspiring. That is until Sarah reaches from under the rubble to take a hand she believes to be a rescuer only to find it is a hand not attached to a body. That moment is unnerving and quite intriguing. From that point on the opening episode gets better and better as it builds the suspense about the hand and its dangerous nature. It is, of course, the hand of the supposedly destroyed 'criminal' Eldrad. It has been in the ground for 150 million years but it now takes telepathic control of Sarah and makes her into a temporary (and convincing) villain. She takes the hand to a nuclear power station pursued by The Doctor. There are a couple of believable, very well acted characters interacting brilliantly with our heroes and the story is now extremely interesting. The cliffhanger of episode 1 when the hand absorbs radiation and begins to move is brilliantly done and exciting. The second and third episodes are absolutely marvellous and have Eldrad restored to a full female body. This alien being is a fabulous creation in every respect - visually superb, full of interesting character, brilliantly acted and showing friendly and likable traits as well as threatening ones. The script is expertly advancing an intelligent plot up until the final episode with action and excitement side by side with clever and thoughtful ideas.

The final episode disappointingly throws away a lot of the fantastic build up and turns into a pretty unexceptional 'monster trying to destroy the universe' conclusion. Eldrad changes into a male that neither looks anywhere near as good or has any of the fascinating character depth of the female version. Male Eldrad is also acted far less well, with a scenery-chewing performance that is rather a let down. It is a shame this less impressive part of the story is Sarah Jane's last episode (until returning in 1983's The Five Doctors, 2006's School Reunion and spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures). However while the episode would fall from a 10/10 down to a 7 or 8/10 it is actually saved by the scenes where Sarah leaves. This is done with such class and poignancy and so wonderfully acted that it lifts the episode back up to a 9/10.

It a pity they could not have thought up a better finale to the Eldrad story but at least Sarah's finale is done well and if any character deserved a good farewell it is the delightful Sarah Jane Smith. Rest in peace Elisabeth Sladen, you played the best companion with sheer quality at all times.


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