Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Story 87 - The Hand of Fear

In which the TARDIS materialises in a quarry on present day Earth. The Doctor and Sarah get caught up in a rock blasting. When she is found amidst the rubble, Sarah is unconscious and clutching a stone hand...
She is taken to the local hospital where she  remains in a comatose state. Dr Carter takes the hand to his laboratory for examination. The Doctor joins him and they discover that the hand was once living material - a silicon-based life-form. The Doctor returns to the quarry to investigate the level in which the hand was buried - and realises that it is millions of years old. It must have come from space. Whilst he is away, Sarah wakes up. She has retained a blue crystal ring from the hand and it exerts a strange hypnotic power over her. She uses the energy of the ring to render Carter unconscious, then she steals the hand and leaves the hospital. She is compelled to take it to the nearby Nunton nuclear power complex.

Sarah carries the hand into the outer chamber of the main reactor. The Doctor and Carter follow and meet the complex's manager, Professor Watson. On CCTV, they see the hand regrow its missing finger and come to life. It is absorbing radiation to reconstitute itself. The Doctor manages to get Sarah away from the chamber and the hand is locked away in a secure cabinet. A technician named Driscoll finds the ring and is hypnotised by it. He steals the hand and carries it into the heart of the reactor. Carter has also come under the ring's malign influence and he is killed when he attempts to attack the Doctor. Watson evacuates the complex and calls in the RAF to destroy whatever has taken over the reactor. The bombs seem to have no effect. The creature absorbs the radiation to fully reconstitute itself. It appears to be a female crystalline humanoid. The Doctor and Sarah go to meet it, and he tells Sarah that it has patterned its form on her - the first being it came into contact with. The creature identifies itself as Eldrad, a member of the Kastrian race.

Eldrad explains that she was a pioneering scientist, sentenced to death millennia ago by her own people after Kastria was invaded. Her space capsule was blown up above the Earth, and the hand was all that survived. She demands that the Doctor take her home. With Sarah, they travel to the planet as it is today - the protective shields created by Eldrad now destroyed, and the surface made barren by freezing winds. Inside a dome structure, Eldrad is shot with an acid-filled dart - a trap supposedly left by the invaders. She asks to be taken to the lower levels where help can be found. There is a vast underground city, apparently totally abandoned. The Doctor realises that the sand underfoot is all that remains of the Kastrians. They are all dead. Eldrad is regenerated in its original "male" version. A recorded message from King Rokon reveals that there never was any invasion. Eldrad had tried to seize power and had been executed as a traitor. Rather than live a miserable life underground or risk the return of Eldrad, the Kastrians chose to destroy their genetic race banks and die out. The Doctor and Sarah flee back to the TARDIS when Eldrad announces he intends to rule the Earth instead. He plunges into a ravine as he gives chase.

In a bad mood, Sarah announces she wants to leave - fed up with being hypnotised and menaced by aliens. The Doctor receives a telepathic message from his homeworld. He must return home - and Sarah cannot accompany him. After bidding her a fond farewell, he drops her off at her home in South Croydon. After the TARDIS has dematerialised, she realises she is nowhere near home...

This four part adventure was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and was broadcast between the 2nd and 23rd October, 1976.
It marks Lis Sladen's departure from the programme as a regular cast member.
The story was originally intended as a six part adventure that would bring the previous season to a close. Influences include the 1946 Peter Lorre movie The Beast With Five Fingers. Disembodied hands have featured in a number of horror tales. In Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965), humiliated art critic Christopher Lee is stalked by artist Michael Gough's murderous severed hand after Lee has run him over and killed him.
Director Lennie Mayne had already helmed the two Peladon stories and The Three Doctors, and reuses a couple of actors. One of these is Rex Robinson (who had appeared in both The Three Doctors and The Monster of Peladon). He is Dr Carter in this. Another is Frances Pidgeon who had been in the second Peladon tale. She is Prof. Watson's assistant Miss Jackson. She just happened to be Mayne's wife. Sadly, this was to be Mayne's last work on the programme. He died in a boating accident soon after.
Professor Watson is played by Glyn Houston, who will return to the series to guest in the Peter Davison story The Awakening.

King Rokon is played by Roy Skelton, usually off camera voicing the Daleks.
To play the two versions of Eldrad we first of all have Judith Paris as the female one, and then series semi-regular Stephen Thorne (Azal, Omega and an Ogron) as the shouty male one. Paris gives the superior performance, and has the best costume / make-up.
Episode endings are:

  1. As Sarah watches, the hand regrows its missing finger then squirms to life...
  2. Professor Watson is thrown to the floor as the station's control room explodes around him... 
  3. In Outer Dome 6 on Kastria, Eldrad is shot by a poisoned dart...
  4. Sarah realises the Doctor has left her nowhere near her home. She looks up to the sky, wondering what the Doctor's next adventure will be, and if she'll ever see him again...

Overall, not a bad little story. It is Lis Sladen's departure that raises it above the ordinary. It was screened again in 2011 as a tribute after her untimely death.
Things you might like to know:

  • The original storyline (had this ended Season 13) would have seen the hand belong to the advance scout for an alien invasion. The Brigadier would have died helping defeat the invasion.
  • Eldrad Must Live!
  • The Kastrians were originally going to be called Omegans - until Robert Holmes reminded Baker & Martin they had already used the name Omega for their The Three Doctors character.
  • Episode 3 sees only the second time that a villain in jeopardy gets the cliffhanger - the first being the end of Episode 3 of The Daemons.
  • It was originally intended that this would have been set at Nuton power complex - the same location as that seen in The Claws of Axos.
  • Sladen's costume - the Andy Pandy one - is probably her most iconic outfit, despite only being worn this once. (It does get a second outing in the best forgotten Dimensions In Time, as well as Kevin Davies' (More than) 30 Years In The TARDIS documentary). The costume is actually referred to as being like Andy Pandy on screen - by Dr. Carter.
  • Eldrad Must Live!!
  • Baker & Martin use the "Gallifrey being somewhere in Ireland" joke for the first time.
  • Baker & Martin did not write Sarah's departure scene. It was the work of Robert Holmes, with significant contributions from Sladen and Baker. 
  • Eldrad Must Live!!!
  • The main hand prop was stolen from the studio, and a replacement had to be quickly made up. Sometime later, police raided the home of a BBC employee and found dozens of purloined props - including the hand.
  • Glyn Houston is noticeably pestered by a fly at one point. Lis Sladen later swallowed it.
  • Eldrad Must Live!!!!

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