The Hand of Fear was originally broadcast in 1976 and starred Tom Baker as the Doctor (in his fourth incarnation) and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. It marked something of an end of an era for the series, being the final story featuring Sarah Jane. So what is the story like and how well does it translate to DVD? (contains spoilers)
An alien crazy, Eldrad, gets obliterated for his own people even as that same civilisation dies. The TARDIS lands on Earth in a quarry where, in an accident, Sarah Jane gets buried alive and comes across the stone hand of Eldrad – the alien then influences her mind and she ends up taking it to a nearby nuclear research facility. The hand uses the radioactivity there to regrow itself into a modified version of Eldrad.
Eldrad ends up convincing the Doctor to take hime/her/it back to his/her/it’s homeworld so that it might set things right, save that planet and overthrow those who betrayed him/her/it. Almost as soon as the Doctor, Eldrad and Sarah Jane are onboard the TARDIS, Eldrad attempts a mental attack which the TARDIS neutralises – showing Eldrad’s true colours.
When they land, the three of them discover that Eldrad’s people are all dead and that Eldrad is indeed now king – a king of nothing. Eldrad again tries to kill the Doctor and Sarah Jane but is defeated when he trips over the Doctor’s scarf and falls into a seemingly bottomless abyss. On the way back to Earth, the Doctor receives a summons to Gallifrey and realises that he can’t take Sarah Jane with him (Time Lords don’t allow Humans on Gallifrey) – so, quite reluctantly, he drops her off home.
The call back to Gallifrey leads into the story The Deadly Assassin.
In short, the story has a few themes running through it but undoubtedly the main message is the ol’ ‘Be careful what you wish for, it may just come true…’. In this case, Eldrad wanted to rule his people so badly he got what he so desired but failed spectacularly in his goals none-the-less.
The special effects, as per the norm of that day, ranged from ‘Hey, that’s not bad’ to the ‘What the h…?!’. Eldrad’s costume worked quite well (except for the back flap on the male version) yet the computer displays made you wonder if the best British computers of the day could handle a single game of Pong.
The DVD extras aren’t that special, to be blunt, though the Changing Time documentary is an interesting look at how the story was created through a variety of different perspectives. Otherwise, the special features include much the same as you’d find on many other Dr Who DVDs – continuity announcements, photo galleries, etc. The inclusion of the 1977 annual in PDF format is nice, though, and makes for a good (if quick) read.
The Hand of Fear is nothing special but it is certainly not a bad story, definitely a DVD to purchase for any decent Dr Who fan.