The Hand of Fear

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087 – The Hand of Fear
Doctor Who serial
The reconstituted Eldrad in female form.
Writer Bob Baker
Dave Martin
Director Lennie Mayne
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code 4N
Series Season 14
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 2–23 October 1976
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Masque of Mandragora The Deadly Assassin

The Hand of Fear is the second serial of the 14th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 2 October to 23 October 1976. The serial was the last regular appearance of Elisabeth Sladen in the role of Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who.


Millennia ago on the planet Kastria, a traitor and criminal named Eldrad is sentenced to death for his crimes, including the destruction of the barriers that have kept the solar winds at bay. The pod containing the criminal is obliterated – but his hand survives. In the present day the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith arrive in the TARDIS in a quarry and are caught up in a quarrying explosion. Sarah is rendered unconscious but in that state makes contact with the fossilised hand, its ring placing her under its control. The Doctor takes her to the local hospital, where the mesmeric power of the hand becomes more complete and both Sarah and a pathologist called Dr Carter are brought under its control.

Sarah heads for the nearest nuclear generator, the Nunton Complex, where she causes a crisis by breaking into the reactor with the hand. It seems to thrive on radiation and begins to regenerate, growing back its missing finger and moving around unaided. The head of the complex, Professor Watson remains at his post when the reactor goes critical, and offers the Doctor aid and advice in trying to get to Sarah despite Carter attempting to stop the Doctor before he fell to his death. But by the time the Doctor reaches Sarah and knocks her down, it turned out the radiation has been absorbed by the hand as the Doctor takes his companion to the medical center.

The hand's ring later takes over a nuclear operative called Driscoll, who is manipulated into bringing the hand into the reactor core with everyone fleeing the complex. An RAF bombing raid simply adds to the available radiation and allows Eldrad to regenerate into a fully humanoid form. Finding herself in a female form, using her powers to learn from the Doctor why the humans attempted to destroy her, Eldrad convinces him to take her back to Kastria, explaining that she created the solar barriers that enable her people to thrive while claiming that they were subsequently destroyed when Kastria was caught in the middle of an interstellar war.

The Doctor, Sarah and Eldrad travel to Kastria in the present time in the TARDIS – 150 million years after she left. They find a barren and frozen world, with the few signs of civilization many floors below ground. Eldrad is caught in one of a series of traps left, having the Doctor take her to a regeneration chamber. Though seemingly destroyed, Eldrad emerges in his true masculine form before going in a tirade upon seeing a hologram of King Rokon. Admitting that he destroyed the barriers during his attempt to usurp the Kastrian leadership, Eldrad finds the remains of Rokon while learning from a pre-recorded message that the Kastrian race accepted extinction over living a miserable existence underground and destroyed the race banks in case Eldrad returned. When Eldrad decided to make his new empire on Earth, the Doctor deposes of the would-be tyrant by tripping him into an abyss – keeping the Kastrain's ring to ensure he would not regenerate.

Not long after departure in the TARDIS, the Doctor receives a summons to Gallifrey and declares he cannot take Sarah with him. Upset by that, after everything she went through, Sarah vents out her intention to leave and had packed her things. Though Sarah expressed an interest to see Gallifrey, the Doctor explains he cannot take her with him and takes her back to Earth where she tells the Doctor not to forget her. But after the TARDIS departs, Sarah Jane realises that the Doctor did not leave her on Hillview Road as planned, and probably not even in South Croydon.


When the Doctor prepares to hypnotise Sarah, she says "Oh, no! Not again!", a reference to her earlier hypnosis by the Doctor in Terror of the Zygons.[1] Sarah Jane mentions giving the Doctor's love to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Harry Sullivan at the end. Sarah Jane and the Doctor tell each other not to forget them. When Sarah Jane returns five years later in the pilot for K-9 and Company and is told by K-9 Mark III that the latter is a gift from The Doctor, she remarks, "Oh, Doctor, you didn't forget." The Tenth Doctor reiterates the same admonition to Sarah Jane thirty-three years later when they part at the end of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

Elisabeth Sladen would reprise the role of Sarah Jane Smith in K-9 and Company, and later appear in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors as a companion to the Third Doctor, and the 30th Anniversary charity special Dimensions in Time. While Sladen acted less after the birth of her daughter Sadie in 1985, she continued to appear as Sarah in various Doctor Who-related spin-off media, including a series of Sarah Jane Smith audio plays by Big Finish Productions. In the revived series, she appeared in the Tenth Doctor episode "School Reunion" – in which Sarah's departure point was revealed to be Aberdeen rather than Croydon – and her own spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. She also returned in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". Finally, she made a cameo at the conclusion of the Tenth Doctor's last episode, The End of Time.


When Sladen announced her intention to leave the series, Sarah was originally supposed to be killed off in a pseudo-historical story involving aliens and the French Foreign Legion. However Douglas Camfield, who was supposed to write the scripts, was unable to do so, much to Sladen's relief, as she did not want Sarah to be killed or married off.[2] Sladen also asked that Sarah's departure not be the main focus of the story, as she felt the programme was about the Doctor, not the companion. Baker and Martin intentionally did not write Sarah's departure scene. The script for that scene was rewritten by Sladen and Tom Baker from Robert Holmes' original version.

The original script for the story featured an ageing Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, who had been moved from UNIT to the Extraterrestrial Xenological Intelligence Taskforce to study UFO activities. He was to be killed when he steered his spaceship into an Omegan kamikaze ship to prevent that ship from crashing into Earth. This plan did not go through due to Nicholas Courtney being unavailable for filming. The original script also featured Harry Sullivan.[citation needed] In the original script, Miss Jackson was a nameless male. Director Lennie Mayne built up the part, changed the gender, and cast his wife, Frances Pidgeon. Eldrad's home was originally supposed to be the black hole of Omega 4.6. When Robert Holmes pointed out to Bob Baker and Dave Martin that the name Omega had already appeared in Doctor Who (in The Three Doctors; ironically this story was also written by Baker and Martin), they changed the name to Kastria.[citation needed]

A real-life quarry explosion was filmed for the episode. A rumour persisted for many years that a camera was totally destroyed in the blast. The DVD commentary makes clear that this was a fan myth.[2] The nuclear power station was originally supposed to be the Nuton Power Complex of The Claws of Axos but was renamed the Nunton Experimental Complex instead. The real-life location was the Oldbury nuclear power station in Gloucestershire. Nearby Thornbury was used for the closing scene.[2]

In the final scene, Sarah Jane whistles the tune "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow". Since Sladen was unable to whistle, director Lennie Mayne provided the whistling while Sladen mimed to it.[2]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 2 October 1976 (1976-10-02) 24:50 10.5
"Part Two" 9 October 1976 (1976-10-09) 24:48 10.2
"Part Three" 16 October 1976 (1976-10-16) 24:22 11.1
"Part Four" 23 October 1976 (1976-10-23) 25:00 12.0

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote in The Discontinuity Guide (1995) that the serial was "engaging and well-acted", particularly praising Sladen. However, they noted that "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."[6] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised Sladen and Judith Paris as the female Eldrad, but criticised Stephen Thorne as the male Eldrad, who seemed too similar to his previous character Omega from The Three Doctors (1972–3).[7] In 2010, Mark Braxton of Radio Times was positive towards the location filming and the female Eldrad, but criticised Kastria and felt that the last episode was "a protracted preamble" to Sarah Jane's departure.[8] DVD Talk's Stuart Galbraith gave The Hand of Fear three out of five stars, saying that while the female Eldrad was effective, the story was "all over the map" and ran out of steam near the end, with the fourth episode being "largely a disaster".[9]

The episodes were broadcast on BBC Four on 9 and 10 May 2011 as a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen who had died on 19 April.[10]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear
Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Roy Knipe
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
ISBN 0-426-20033-0

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in January 1979.

Home media[edit]

This serial was released on VHS in February 1996. The story was released as a Region 2 DVD on 24 July 2006. It was released in Region 1 on 7 November 2006. It was re-released with new outer packaging on 2 July 2007.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "87 'The Hand of Fear'". Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 198. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Changing Time" documentary on DVD release
  3. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Hand of Fear". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "The Hand of Fear". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "The Hand of Fear". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  6. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Hand of Fear". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  7. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  8. ^ Braxton, Mark (21 August 2010). "Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Galbraith, Stuart (1 December 2006). "Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear". DVD Talk. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Dan Martin (9 May 2011). "Why The Hand of Fear is a fitting tribute to Elisabeth Sladen". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ Outpost Gallifrey: Episode Guide at the Wayback Machine (archived 14 April 2008)
  12. ^ "Doctor Who: Hand Of Fear (DVD)". BBC Shop. Retrieved 25 November 2001. 
  13. ^ "Doctor Who – 2 November Classic Who DVDs, Plus The Invasion's Missing Episodes Get Re-Created!". 2 July 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 


External links[edit]