5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE HAND OF FEAR
' "Where are we?" "We're in a quarry." '
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US
There are two stories we can't watch without sobbing enough to seriously accelerate coastal erosion. One is Logopolis. And the other is The Hand Of Fear. We were young impressionable girlies when Sarah Jane was doing her thang, and it was role model city. We just adored her. It was a terrible tragedy for the universe when she left (hey, who says you have to have a sense of perspective?), but at least her last story is a good one. And her exit? Magnificent.
Admittedly it's not perfect, but there's a lot to like in The Hand Of Fear. Lennie Mayne's direction is fantastic: the adventure's full of cool high and low vantage point shots and other prettiness that add a whole new dimension. Particularly impressive are the scenes in the power station, where Mayne makes the most of an already dramatic location.
And the female Eldrad is a total showstopper, stunning costume and makeup combining with a great performance to produce Who's best alien after the Daleks. (And in case you ask, yes, we are including the Cybermen, tedious tin boxes that they are.) As well as looking incredible, she's a nicely ambiguous villain for a change. We also like the whole Kastria thing about the entire population choosing death - it's a pretty impressive sense of scale.
But the high point of the adventure for us has got to be the Doctor and Sarah's relationship. Never have they seemed quite so much in sync. The high point's probably the "I worry about you" scene, where they're the most open ever about how they feel about each other, but there are lots of other lovely moments too, like when Sarah makes to go through the gate with the Doctor and is brought up short, catching her chin on his arm.
And the leaving scene's beautifully done. Wisely, it's unsentimental, but what's left unsaid shouts louder than a dozen flowery speeches. The freeze frame at the end caps the whole thing off perfectly, giving us a sense of closure and giving Sarah the farewell she deserves (and no other companion merits). Oh no, that's set us off again. Pass the tissues.
Of course, not all of it's successful. The How to Survive a Nuclear Strike by Ducking behind a Jeep incident's justifiably notorious. Eldrad's scuttling hand is a little too gigglesomely Thing-like for comfort. The threatened nuclear accident works brilliantly the first time - Professor Watson's phone call to his family is genuinely touching - but it's a serious plot misfire repeating the exact same scenario.
As for Boy Eldrad, let's not go there. We pity poor old Stephen Thorne having to make that horrendous infodump speech, but overall the transition to stock ranting villain is unforgivable.
But perhaps the worst part is the Doctor's oh-so-convenient gullibility when it comes to Eldrad's story. Sure, she says she's not evil. But she would say that, wouldn't she? Would he really help her with so little to go on and with her violent track record on Earth? Somehow, we doubt it.
A (mostly) great villain and a Doctor and companion at the top of their game. It's got to be a winner. Just don't make us watch it again without a jumbo-sized bottle of uppers.
MORAL: Some villains are sneaky. Check first.
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING
Sarah's near-death at the beginning is a nice rehearsal for her departure at the end.
SO THERE REALLY IS AN UN-DEADLY ASSASSIN
The pathologist is a great and sympathetic character, and we really feel sorry when he dies, but God, that's a pathetic attempt at killing the Doctor.
FINGERS ON STUN
Yet again, someone is magically knocked out by being tapped (by Driscoll) between the shoulders. Sigh.
REPORTS OF MY DEATH ARE EXAGGERATED
There's a nasty cheat at the end of Episode Two, when we see Professor Watson lying on the floor in a distinctly deadish way. When the next episode starts, he skips merrily to his feet in a much quicker time.
YOU DIDN'T ASK
Why doesn't anyone (that's you we're talking about, Doctor) point out before it's too late that a nuclear strike is only going to make Eldrad stronger?
When Elisabeth Sladen's supposed to be dangling above the abyss, she's clearly standing on a flat surface.
When the Doctor's stretching his scarf across the bridge, he bumps into a rock, which wobbles delightfully.
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US