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This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 2nd - 23rd October 1976. A brief and not really spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Tardis lands in a quarry, where Sarah Jane loses consciousness and finds a fossilised hand.
'The hand of fear' is bad, self-referential, pretty good, less good and moving downhill, and rather sweet. In that order. (And beware, there are some spoilers ahead.)
Bad. The opening scene is among the worst Doctor Who that I've ever seen, with bad sets, ugly costumes and characters shouting gibberish at each other.
Self-referential. Things start to get better when the Tardis lands and our heroes step out. "Where are we?" "We're in a quarry." That bit of dialogue made me laugh out loud since - and if you're reading this you probably know this - many Doctor Who serials were filmed in quarries but this is the first that is actually set in one. It is a rather nice quarry too, and it is blown up in a rather spectacular explosion. You can't go wrong with rather spectacular explosions.
Pretty good. After the quarry the action moves to a hospital, and then to a nuclear reactor. We get some real tension here and the location work in the nuclear reactor is fantastic, even if it does make the serial seem to belong in Jon Pertwee's era rather than in Tom Baker's. One thing that didn't quite work for me here was the tone - at times the story seems to aim for pathos (professor Watson's phone call) or horror (Sarah Jane) but we also get the 'all goofiness all the time - nothing that happens in this story really matters' vibe of the later Tom Baker years.
Less good and moving downhill. Much of part four is set on the villain's home planet, and this part of the story is a bit disappointing. Part of this is caused by the polystyrene sets, which can only disappoint after the excellent location work in the preceding episodes. There's also the villain - who starts promising, but then transforms into a run-of-the-mill ranting Doctor Who monster complete with 'MWUHAHAHAHAAAA' evil villain laugh. The story is rather good but it does require quite a lot of exposition, and whenever I'm watching this my mind tends to wander.
Rather sweet. Even when Doctor Who was starting to become all goofy all the time, 'The hand of fear' manages to come up with a rather sweet farewell scene for Sarah Jane.
Not the best Tom Baker serial, but not bad either.
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