Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear


Part One

“Do they have seasons in South Croydon?”

I remember RTD once saying he’d never dream of starting a story on Planet Zog with a load of aliens we’ve never met before expositing at each other. Well, it seems the Bristol Boys have no such qualms! Interesting look for an alien race- faces unseen behind the hood of an anorak…

In an already familiar seeming self-referential moment the Doctor and Sarah land in a quarry on earth, and there’s a hilarious reference to it seeming like an alien world. Oh my aching sides. There’s a siren blatantly going off, and the our heroes are caught in an explosion. You can’t help but be impressed with the Doctor’s health and safety regime for TARDIS landings…

All the same, I’m quite enjoying this. It’s consistently witty, even in little moments- I like the hospital doctor’s speech about pain, a nice little moment for a minor character. And then there’s the agreeable Dr Tyler- er, Carter, who seems a nice chap, enthusiastically investigating this strange, ancient stone hand Sarah’s been clutching. He’s a nice chap, who doesn’t at all deserve to get whacked over the head by Sarah during her latest alien possession. While interestingly dressed- “Yes, just like Andy Pandy!”

Of course, this being a script by the Bristol Boys, the action now moves to a scientific complex…

Part Two

“That’s not as ‘armless as it looks!

A rather long reprise, and what with this becoming practically a hostage situation in a nuclear reaction things get very tense very quickly. Once again Lis Sladen performs being possessed brilliantly, even taking in to account all the practice she’s had.

It’s a shame Dr Carter gets killed- he seemed a nice chap! But it’s a moment which indicates how high the stakes are, something achieved very well with the Professor’s touching “last” phone call to his family.
There’s a nice moment as Sarah responds to the Doctor’s hypnotising her with “Ah no, that’s not fair! Not aga-“. But on the other hand that’s a bit more mission creep for one of the Doctor’s recently acquired superpowers.

Part Three

“It’s just that no one is going to believe me.”

We begin with our heroes in big radioactive trouble, but fortunately Eldrad absorbs the radiation. Fine so far. But then, as in Claws of Axos, the RAF happily set about dropping a nuclear bomb on the complex while Sarah and the Prof shelter behind a car? Oh dear! Yes, Eldrad absorbs the blast, and the Doctor probably expects this, but that still leaves a hell of a lot of bad science on show.

I like the “I worry about you” chat between the Doctor and Sarah on their way to meet Eldrad- it reminds us what a great relationship they have just as it’s about to end.

Interesting that Eldrad, from 150 million years ago, and Solon, from at least a few centuries in our future, have both heard of Time Lords. They must have been around a while then. And the Doctor tells Edrad, without being contradicted, that he can’t break the “first law” of history and take her back to Kastria in her own time- it has to be the present day. Not only this but the Doctor claims she can’t harm him in the still brand spanking new TARDIS control room because it exists in a state of “temporal grace”, something which seems rather inconsistent with previous stories, The Enemy of the World for one. And these are both rather big and limiting things to set up for plot convenience in one story!

The Prof shoots at Eldrad yet he gets to live. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised in hindsight- after that phone call there was no way he was going to die…

Part Four

“I’m sick of being cold and wet and hypnotised left, right and centre. I’m sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters, never knowing if I’m coming, going or been.”

Well, Eldrad can’t pronounce “matrix”, and the abyss looks too obviously like a set, but otherwise this is a satisfying conclusion. Sadly Eldrad has to become a rather shouty bloke who is much more obviously a baddie from the word go. As Sarah puts it, “I quite liked her, but I couldn’t stand him.” The Kastrians’ trap for Eldrad perhaps becomes implausible if dwelt on, but it feels satisfactory as a conclusion and I for one find it a fitting ending: “Hail Eldrad, king of nothing!”

And then it happens. One of no doubt many half-hearted arguments, but then the Doctor is summoned to Gallifrey, and actresses whose contracts are about to end may not set foot on that world be ancient degree, or not until next season in any case. It’s a great scene, threatening even my own tear ducts of steel. Sarah will be missed. Doing this marathon has shown me just how great she was, and what a great actress Lis Sladen is, especially with facial expressions and so many little physical things. I think at the moment she’s by far my favourite.

All good fun, if not quite up there with the best, as so many of this run are turning out to be. 4/5.

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