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The Hand Of Fear
An explosion in a quarry unearths a calcified hand, which is inadvertently discovered by Sarah. The hand contains the consciousness of a silicon-based alien called Eldrad, who seizes control of Sarah's mind and compels her to break into a nuclear reactor, where he is able to regenerate his entire body. Eldrad then convinces the Doctor to return him to his homeworld of Kastria, from which he claims to have been wrongfully exiled. But there is far more to Eldrad's past than he is letting on...
In February 1975, the longtime Doctor Who scriptwriting duo of Bob Baker and Dave Martin watched as their most recent contribution, The Sontaran Experiment, was transmitted as part of Season Twelve. By this point, they were already working on new ideas for the programme, and around the end of May they submitted to the production office an outline for a six-part story called “Hand Of Fear” (which may have also gone by the titles “The Hand Of Time” and “The Hand Of Death”). The “Bristol Boys” thought that this new adventure might be suitable as the final serial of Doctor Who's thirteenth season.
Several disparate concepts underpinned “Hand Of Fear”, amongst them the presence of a completely ruthless, bloodless villain, the phenomenon of people who wanted to escape modern society and get back to nature, and the inclusion of murderous hands that could move on their own. The latter evolved from script editor Robert Holmes' suggestion that Baker and Martin consider including elements of Maurice Renard's 1920 novel Les mains d'Orlac (which had mostly recently been adapted for the screen in 1962 as The Hands Of Orlac, starring Christopher Lee). This concerned an amputee who is cursed with new hands which had originally belonged to a murderer, and now induced him to kill as well. Holmes also wanted the Bristol Boys to think in terms of “crawling hands” films such as The Beast With Five Fingers (1946).
In addition, Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe were in the process of winding down the involvement of UNIT in Doctor Who, moving away from the prevalence the organisation had maintained throughout Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor. “Hand Of Fear” was therefore viewed as an opportunity to send Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart out in a blaze of glory (something which had also been considered for the original version of Pyramids Of Mars). For a suitable villain, Baker and Martin decided to seize upon the notion of a thoroughly “bloodless” individual and literally send the Doctor and the Brigadier up against a creature made completely out of stone.
“Hand Of Fear” was set in the 1990s, at a time when technology and the military are forbidden. Sarah is sent to live in a commune while the Doctor is despatched to a labour camp. There he meets the aged Brigadier -- now part of EXIT, the Extraterrestrial Xenological Intelligence Taskforce -- and discovers that an anthropologist named Mountford has unearthed a mysterious fossilised hand. The hand takes control of Mountford's mind and forces him to transport it to the Nuton nuclear reactor (previously seen in Baker and Martin's Season Nine story The Claws Of Axos), which is in the process of being decommissioned. There, the radiation allows the hand to regenerate into its original form: a creature called an Omegan made of teryllium, which has travelled to Earth from inside a black hole.
It transpires that there are actually two Omegans at work on Earth, representing different factions of their people. The “hawk” Omegans wish to destroy humanity, while the “dove” Omegans simply want to remove mankind as an interstellar threat. They have accomplished this by slowly devolving men into ape-like Trogs, which manifested itself early on as the backlash again science. Sarah is now undergoing the same transformation. This is undone, however, when the “hawk” Omegan (who crashlanded on Earth, necessitating his reconstitution at Nuton) destroys his “dove” counterpart. He then flees Earth in the other Omegan's spaceship, having configured Nuton to explode and obliterate the planet. At the last second, the Doctor manages to redirect the power of the blast to fuel an experimental rocket called the Icarus. Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart commandeers the Icarus and uses it to pursue the Omegan, ultimately sacrificing himself by ramming the enemy vessel head-on, preventing it from impacting with the Earth.
On June 19th, Baker and Martin met with Hinchcliffe and Holmes to discuss their storyline proposal. At this point, it was decided to do away with the near-future setting (and hence the evolution of UNIT into EXIT), as well as the Brigadier's demise. Nonetheless, the production team was pleased with “Hand Of Fear”, and it was formally commissioned the next day. At this point, it was planned that “Hand Of Fear” would indeed be Serial 4L, the final story of Season Thirteen, and would be directed by Douglas Camfield.
Over the summer, the plot of Baker and Martin's adventure -- now given the slightly amended title of The Hand Of Fear -- continued to evolve. Lieutenant Hawker, who had been a central character in the original draft, was largely replaced with former companion Harry Sullivan. Along with the calcified hand, an Omegan spaceship (referred to as “the Monolith”) was now discovered at the start of episode one, and became central to the storyline, serving as the location of the adventure's climax. The separate factions of Omegans were excised. Baker and Martin also introduced a new supporting character, in the form of a Time Lord named Drax. An untrustworthy Gallifreyan mechanic who wants to steal the TARDIS, Drax was conceived as a possible recurring character for Doctor Who.
As autumn loomed, Holmes continued to harbour concerns about The Hand Of Fear, believing that it was too complex and convoluted. With less than two months remaining before Serial 4L was due to enter production, Robert Banks Stewart was commissioned on September 30th to write The Seeds Of Doom, which could replace The Hand Of Fear as the season closer if circumstances demanded it. Finally, on October 14th, Hinchcliffe decided to pull The Hand Of Fear from the schedule; Baker and Martin agreed to continue working on the story, with a view to readying it for the penultimate slot of Season Fourteen instead.
After production concluded on The Seeds Of Doom, Elisabeth Sladen informed Hinchcliffe that she wanted to leave Doctor Who early in the next block of stories. Sarah Jane was about to become the longest-serving companion, surpassing Jo Grant's three seasons (although Jamie McCrimmon continued to hold the record as the companion who had appeared in the most episodes), and Sladen thought it was time for new challenges.
Around the same time, Douglas Camfield approached the production team about writing for the series. On January 22nd, Camfield was commissioned to write “The Lost Legion”, a four-part story set in a French Foreign Legion outpost which involved a campaign between the alien Skarkel and Khoorians. It was agreed that, at the story's climax, Sarah would be killed by the last of the aliens, making her the first companion to die since Katarina and Sara Kingdom perished in Season Three's The Daleks' Master Plan.
From an early stage, Holmes was dubious about “The Lost Legion”, despite Hinchcliffe's enthusiasm for the project. Holmes became more concerned when Camfield delivered his first script on February 9th. In an ironic turnabout, Holmes decided that The Hand Of Fear should now be prepared as a possible replacement for Camfield's serial, and so he issued a revised, four-part breakdown to Baker and Martin the same day. This shorter version removed UNIT and the devolving-humans aspects of the plot altogether; also deleted was Drax, although the Bristol Boys would revive the character for The Armageddon Factor in Season Sixteen. Baker and Martin formally agreed to write the four-episode version of The Hand Of Fear on March 3rd.
As Baker and Martin worked on the new scripts for The Hand Of Fear, Camfield fell increasingly behind deadline on “The Lost Legion”. By the end of March, The Hand Of Fear was now on the schedule in its place. Baker and Martin left Sarah's departure for Holmes to write, but there were no longer plans to kill off the character. This met with Sladen's approval, as she had feared such a turn of events would upset Doctor Who's younger audience members.
In making the final transition to its completed form, The Hand Of Fear continued to undergo changes. Holmes was concerned that the name “Omegan” would cause confusion with Omega, the villain of Baker and Martin's own Season Ten adventure The Three Doctors, and so the aliens were correspondingly renamed Kastrians. It was also decided that the nuclear complex should not be the same as the one seen in The Claws Of Axos, and consequently the name of the location was amended slightly to “Nunton” (rather than “Nuton”).
Now designated Serial 4N, The Hand Of Fear was directed by Lennie Mayne, whose most recent work had been on The Monster Of Peladon. Sadly, this would also be Mayne's final contribution to Doctor Who. After completing one further directorial assignment (an episode of Softly, Softly: Task Force), Mayne drowned when he was swept overboard by a freak wave in the English Channel. Even at this stage, Hinchcliffe was not entirely happy with The Hand Of Fear, as he felt that the first two episodes were lacking in incident and failed to give Sarah Jane enough of a role to befit her final adventure. Unfortunately, by now Holmes was completing his own scripts for the next story, The Deadly Assassin, and could do no further work on The Hand Of Fear.
Production on Serial 4L began with filming at the ARC Quarry in Cromhall, Gloucestershire on June 14th and 15th. This was a rare instance of a quarry actually appearing in Doctor Who as a quarry, rather than posing as some form of alien landscape. June 16th began with roadway material, recorded at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire, and continued at the nearby Oldbury Power Station. Unusually, Baker and Martin had assisted in securing this location, which was very near to where they lived. Cast and crew remained there on the 17th, before travelling to Thornbury, Gloucestershire on June 18th for Sarah's departure. The dog in this scene was handled by Mayne's wife, Frances Pidgeon, whom he had also cast as Miss Jackson (a character originally intended to be male).
Production then moved to BBC Television Centre Studio 8, beginning with a three-day block from July 5th to 7th. This dealt with all the Earth-based scenes, with each day devoted to one of the first three episodes. Cast and crew were plagued on one of these days by a persistent fly, which was noisy enough to interfere with the sound recording. The interloper was finally dealt with when Sladen inadvertently swallowed it while reciting her “Eldrad must live!” mantra. The second studio session then took place on July 19th and 20th. Recording on the first day focussed on sequences in the TARDIS, as well as material on Kastria from parts one and three. The remaining Kastrian scenes from the final installment were then taped on the 20th.
This day also brought Elisabeth Sladen's regular involvement in Doctor Who to a close. She would continue to work in theatre, television and film, including appearances in Take My Wife..., Dempsey & Makepeace and Peak Practice. In 1985, she gave birth to a daughter, Sadie, and curtailed her schedule considerably for some years thereafter. Sladen also found Doctor Who a difficult programme to stay away from. She took a starring role in the 1981 Christmas special K·9 And Company, which was originally intended to pave the way for an ongoing spin-off series. She then appeared in two Doctor Who anniversary episodes -- 1983's The Five Doctors and 1993's Dimensions In Time -- before rejoining her original Doctor, Jon Pertwee, for the radio adventures The Paradise Of Death (1993) and The Ghosts Of N-Space (1996).
In the twenty-first century, Sladen recorded two seasons of audio dramas starring Sarah Jane for Big Finish Productions before finally accepting an invitation from Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies to appear in the 2006 story School Reunion. With Sarah Jane's enduring popularity reaffirmed, it was decided to spin the character off into her own series. The Sarah Jane Adventures debuted on New Year's Day 2007 with a special entitled Invasion Of The Bane, before her first full season aired later that year. The journey that seemed to have come to an end with The Hand Of Fear was really just the beginning. In all, there were five seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures -- by turns charming, scaring, and delighting a whole new generation of children -- before Sladen's death from cancer on April 19th, 2011.
|Updated 19th April 2011|
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