Doctor Who Story 087 – The Hand of Fear

Doctor Who Story 087– The Hand of Fear

Eldrad in female form.
Source: Wikipedia. Copyright 1976 by BBC.

Who Wrote It: Bob Baker and Dave Martin

What’s It About: After being buried under rocks during a quarry blasting, Sarah discovers a fossilized hand that contains the life-essence of an ancient warlord named Eldrad. Eldrad begins to reconstitute himself, using Sarah as a conduit, but is Eldrad benevolent or malicious?

I’ve had to sit on this one for a week or so. It needed to stew. And I’m conflicted over it. I love the central idea, the question of whether we can trust Eldrad or not. I love Eldrad as a concept, a silicon-based lifeform that can rebuild itself. There are some great supporting performances in this story, and even supporting characters get some development that moves them beyond cannon-fodder. And this is Sarah’s final story, which is a big deal.

Unfortunately, with so much going for it, this story failed to engage me. I can’t quite say what caused this disconnect. Perhaps I’m no longer in a Hinchcliffe/Holmes mood. In fact, when I watched this era a few years ago, I had a similar feeling. I grew tired of the era about halfway through. I think, despite some very different stories told along the way, this era of Doctor Who has a unified atmosphere and tone, which conflicts with what I appreciate about Doctor Who: variety. No matter what the story, every episode feels the same to me. When I watch the episodes out of order, I love this era. In sequence, however, it begins to feel redundant. The series isn’t trying to be experimental or innovative; it is telling the types of stories Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes want to tell. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but apparently it isn’t my cup of tea. I want diversity, even if it leads to spectacular failures. And the fact that this story ends with another dungeon crawl didn’t help it much.

That said, I welcome the change in dynamic, despite knowing what to expect. But I find that my attempts to watch all the remaining stories before the anniversary date are being stymied by a lack of enthusiasm. I think, since I’ve seen all the Tom Baker stories, I want to watch something new. Indeed, much of my enthusiasm for Doctor Who has been the joy of buying a DVD that I haven’t seen before and watching it for the first time. But I won’t be out of the Tom Baker era until sometime in May. That means I will not see a “new to me” episode for another three months. I think I’m experiencing the realization of the mortality of this project: when I finish, there will be no new “classic” episodes. And since new Who doesn’t typically satisfy my Doctor Who craving the way the classic series does, it feels as if a death is looming, the death of discovery. I’ve encountered this feeling before: the end of Babylon 5, the final issue of The Sandman. I don’t think I ever thought I would encounter it with Doctor Who.

My Rating: 2.5/5

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