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The Hand of Fear
Series: Doctor Who - TV Stories
Season Number: Season 14
Story Number: 87
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Companions: Sarah Jane Smith (Departure)
Enemy: Eldrad
Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Director: Lennie Mayne
Broadcast: 2nd October - 23rd October 1976
Format: 4 25-minute Episodes
Previous Story: The Masque of Mandragora
Following Story: The Deadly Assassin
"Eldrad must live!"
Sarah Jane, under the influence of Eldrad

The Hand of Fear was the second story of Season 14. It was perhaps most significant for being Elisabeth Sladen's final story as a member of the regular cast of Doctor Who.



When the TARDIS lands on Earth in a quarry, the Doctor and Sarah are caught in a mining explosion. Sarah is found clutching what appears to be a fossilised hand, buried in 150 million-year-old strata. Analysis shows the hand to be silicon-based and inert, but when Sarah begins to act as if possessed, the Doctor suspects that it may still be alive...


Part 1

The Doctor examines an x-ray of the mysterious hand

Millennia ago on the planet Kastria, a traitor and criminal named Eldrad is sentenced to death for crimes including the destruction of the barriers that have kept the solar winds at bay. Placed into a capsule and shot into space, Eldrad awaits obliteration. Conditions are deteriorating rapidly on Kastria so the capsule is detonated prematurely, despite the risk of particle survival. The remaining Kastrians await their fate on the desolate planet.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith arrive in the TARDIS in a modern-day quarry and are caught up in a quarrying explosion. The Doctor is slightly injured, and Sarah is found unconscious in the rubble clutching a fossilized hand. She is brought to a local hospital to recover. The hand is examined and based on the strata of the rock in which it was found it is determined to be 150 million years old; pathologist Dr Carter dismisses these findings as ridiculous. Examining a sliver of the hand under an electron microscope, the Doctor observes a helix similar to DNA. The minuscule radiation of the microscope causes the sample to grow, and the Doctor realizes that this fossil might actually contain vestiges of life.

Sarah awakens in her hospital bed, holding a crystalline ring that had slipped from the hand. The ring begins to pulse with energy, and Sarah is possessed by a voice in her head saying Eldrad must live. She steals the hand and escapes from the hospital, knocking out Carter with a flash from the ring, and heads for the nearest nuclear reactor, the Nunton Complex. With the aid of the ring she overpowers guards and workmen and enters the reactor room. She watches as the hand absorbs radiation, regenerates its missing finger, and begins to move.

Part 2

Sarah releases the hand of Eldrad

The head of the complex, Professor Watson, displays great bravery in remaining at his post when the reactor goes critical, and offers the Doctor aid and advice in trying to get to Sarah. Sarah sits serene amidst the chaos and klaxons. The Doctor resolves to enter the chamber through a ventilation shaft, but is stopped by Dr Carter, now also under the hypnotic control of the ring. He attempts to kill the Doctor but falls to his death. The Doctor enters the chamber and finds that there is no radiation whatsoever; the hand is absorbing the entire output of the reactor. Sarah is removed and the hand placed in a sealed cabinet. The Doctor is able to break through Sarah's hypnosis.

The ring, however, is left behind in the chamber and is found by a technician named Driscoll who then falls under its control. He takes the hand and walks into the main core. The reactor once again nears critical.

Part 3

Eldrad lives

Watkins orders an RAF strike to destroy the hand and the reactor, but the missiles' impact cause an 'unexplosion'; that and the full power of the reactor are enough to complete the full regeneration of Eldrad. Crystalline, silicon-based and female, she explains how she created the solar barriers that allowed Kastria to thrive, but in an interstellar war the barriers were destroyed and she was disgraced and condemned. She persuades the Doctor to return her to Kastria so she can save her people; he agrees on the condition that they travel to Kastria in the present, 150 million years after she left.

The planet is barren and ruined, but her ring activates some remaining instruments. Eldrad's presence, however, is detected by automatic sensors that trigger various traps set long ago in place by her rival, King Rokon, on the miniscule chance of Eldrad's return. As they enter an elevator to the subterranean levels, Eldrad is impaled by an acid-tipped spear.

Part 4

Sarah Jane walking away from the TARDIS

The Doctor and Sarah take the dying Eldrad to a regeneration chamber deep below the surface of Kastria. The regeneration chamber is rigged to destroy Eldrad, but a malfunction allows a full regeneration; much taller, and now male (Eldrad based his initial form on Sarah, being the first human he encountered). He boasts that he did indeed destroy the solar barriers in a rivalry with King Rokon. They find Eldrad's ultimate goal, the Kastrian Race Bank, from which he intends to revive the dormant Kastrian people, but the Bank is empty. An image of Rokon appears, informing Eldrad that without the barriers, facing perpetual subterranean existence and a small possibility of his return, the Kastrian race elected to destroy both themselves and the Race Bank. Rokon mockingly salutes Eldrad from the grave, as "King of Nothing." A bitter Eldrad now decides to rule the Earth instead and demands that the Doctor return him. He refuses and lures Eldrad into an abyss where he appears to fall to his doom. Eldrad's fate is uncertain, as the Doctor notes that silicon-based lifeforms are difficult to kill.

The Doctor and Sarah depart in the TARDIS, and the Doctor sets about making repairs. Sarah bemoans her life in the TARDIS, bouncing around the universe, fleeing from bug-eyed monsters, and needing a bath. The Doctor is focused on his work, which infuriates her to the point where she demands to be returned home and storms off to her room to pack. While she is gone, the Doctor receives a summons to return to Gallifrey, and informs Sarah that he must return her to Earth. Her bluff called, Sarah is quite taken aback, especially at missing the chance to see Gallifrey. The Doctor brings her to Hill View Road, South Croydon, her home. She asks him not to forget her; he replies likewise. Once the TARDIS dematerializes, she realizes that it's not South Croydon at all, and, as she remarks to a passing dog, "He blew it."




  • Sarah Jane mentions giving the Doctor's love to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Harry Sullivan at the end.
  • Kastria was a cold and inhospitable planet, ravaged by the solar winds.
  • Eldrad says he built barriers to keep out the winds, machines to replenish the soil and atmosphere and devised a crystalline, silicon based form for the Kastrians.
  • Eldrad has heard of the Time Lords, saying that they are pledged to uphold the laws of time and to prevent alien aggression.
  • The Doctor is called back to Gallifrey at the end of the story, and says he has to leave Sarah behind.
  • The interior of the TARDIS exists in a state of temporal grace.
  • The extreme cold of Kastria might have affected the TARDIS' thermocouplings, which the Doctor tries to repair with an astro rectifier, a multi quantiscope and a Ganymede driver. He decides that he doesn't need the mergin nut or the Zeus plugs.

Story Notes

  • Working titles claimed for this story were The Hand of Death and The Hand of Time. However, the production notes on the DVD release state that there were no working titles for this story.
  • In terms of seasons, Elisabeth Sladen was the longest serving companion with any Doctor, appearing for over three seasons and surpassing Katy Manning's record as Jo Grant. In terms of years, Janet Fielding holds the record for playing Tegan Jovanka for just under three years. Frazer Hines as companion Jamie McCrimmon holds the record for the longest serving companion in terms of the number of episodes in which he appeared. These records do not take audio adventures into account.
  • When Sladen expressed her intention to leave the series, Sarah was originally supposed to be killed off in a pseudo-historical story involving aliens and the 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 off or married off. Sladen also asked that Sarah's departure not be the main focus of the story, as she felt the program was about the Doctor, not the companion.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The original script for the story featured an aging 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.
  • 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's original version.
  • In the final scene, Sarah Jane whistles the tune "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow". Since Elisabeth Sladen is unable to whistle, director Lennie Mayne provided the whistling while she mimed to it.
  • Sarah's clothes make her look 'just like Andy Pandy'.
  • 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 and the 30th Anniversary charity special Dimensions in Time. While Sladen pulled back on her acting career after the birth of her daughter Sadie in 1985, she continued to appear as Sarah in various Doctor Who-related spin-off media, including two radio dramas with Jon Pertwee (BBCR: The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space), and a series of audio dramas from Big Finish Productions (BFSJS: Sarah Jane Smith (audio series)). She returned to television in the Tenth Doctor episode DW: School Reunion (in which Sarah's departure point was revealed to be Aberdeen rather than Croydon), and her own TV spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • The fly that can be seen walking across Glyn Houston's brow in one scene was swallowed by Elisabeth Sladen in an out take.


  • Part 1 - 10.5 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 10.2 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 11.1 million viewers
  • Part 4 - 12 million viewers


  • A real-life quarry explosion was filmed for the episode. Unfortunately the crew badly underestimated the power of the explosion, and a rumour persisted for many years that a camera was totally destroyed in the blast. However, in the DVD commentary it is made clear that this is just a fan myth.

Filming Locations

  • Cromhall Quarry, Cromhall, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire (Quarry where the TARDIS arrives at the start of the story)
  • Oldbury Nuclear Power Station, Oldbury Naite, Thornbury, Gloucestershire (Location of the 'Nuton Experimental Complex')
  • Stokefield Close, Thornbury, Gloucestershire (Where Sarah is dropped off by the Doctor)
  • Rickmansworth Road (A412), Croxley Green, Hertfordshire (This was reused stock footage of an ambulance)

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • The Doctor and Sarah seem unable to comprehend clear signs of danger in the first episode (sirens, man waving, etc.) They do comprehend them, just too late to get out of danger.
  • Hiding behind a jeep would not provide much shelter from an exploding reactor. It would not, however it was the only potential cover available so they took it.
  • According to 'E=MC[squared]' the amount of energy released in a simple nuclear fission reactor would be infinitesimal compared to the energy released by the complete annihilation of matter, and conversely the amount of energy required to create matter from pure energy. Therefore, even if every ounce of radioactive material went into meltdown, there wouldn't be enough energy in the reactor to create an entire new body for Eldrad. Creating new matter was not necessary. The energy from the reactor only provided the source of power by which matter already present in the reactor room was re-structured to provide the female Eldrad with her temporary body.
  • The Doctor's statement of Time Lord policy in intervening when the indigenous population of a planet is endangered by the aggression of an alien power seems in contradiction to the Time Lords' existing policy of strict non-intervention. And how did Eldrad know of it having been dormant in a quarry for millions of years? This may be a policy of the Time Lords instigated since the Doctor's last trial. Additionally, it has been shown that the Time Lords do have a strong anti-genocide policy. That policy likely would compel them to prevent the destruction of an entire indigenous population by an outside aggressor. Eldrad knew of the Time Lords and some of their policies from before he was executed. It is stated in The Ultimate Foe that they are the oldest civilization in the Universe.
  • The entire Kastrian race committing self-genocide on the tiny off-chance that Eldrad might return seems a little excessive. Surely, Eldrad's capture and partially successful execution was proof that they could at least mount some kind of resistance against him should he ever return? Suicide can be revered in some cultures. Without knowing the culture behind the Kastrians, it's difficult to judge the likelihood of such a decision.



DVD and Video Releases

DVD Releases

Released as Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear.



  • Commentary by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Judith Paris, Bob Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe.
  • Changing Time - A 50-minute documentary, looking at the making of the story and the special relationship between the Doctor and Sarah.
  • Swap Shop - Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are interviewed by Noel Edmonds and callers on the Saturday morning children's show.
  • Continuities - Rare surviving continuity announcements relating to the story.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Doctor Who Annual 1977 (PDF DVD-ROM)
  • Radio Times billings (PDF DVD-ROM)
  • Production Information Subtitles


VHS Releases

  • This serial was released on VHS in February of 1996. It was the final video tape to include the diamond logo on the cover artwork, and was deleted along with much of the rest of the Doctor Who video range only a few weeks after its initial release, making the original tape something of a collectors' item.


Main article: Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide to The Hand of Fear
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Hand of Fear
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) Guide to The Hand of Fear
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear
Season 14
The Masque of Mandragora  • The Hand of Fear  • The Deadly Assassin  • The Face of Evil  • The Robots of Death  • The Talons of Weng-Chiang
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The_Hand_of_Fear. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the TARDIS Index File, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).

This article uses material from the "The Hand of Fear" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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