So, I figured the “Hand of Fear” would be some metaphorical thing, but no, it’s an actual hand, running around, possessing people and causing… well, fear. Neato! Actually, it’s quite a creepy scenario at first and the visual effects are pretty good.
Set primarily in a nuclear power facility, this serial makes good use of an actual nuclear power station, thereby adding a touch of classy realism. The hand uses the radiation to grow its silicon-crystalline form back into a millennia-old alien ruler from the planet Kastria, called Eldrad. Although Eldrad has unsavoury goals, expectations are subverted when the Doctor and Sarah elect to actually help her. Expectations are subverted again when the her turns out to be a he and Eldrad reveals the truth of his past, his exile and destruction at the hands of his now deceased people, with a minor twist thrown in for good measure.
It’s quite a clever ending, really. It takes a while to get there, mind you, and the set up in the power station is perhaps longer than it needs to be, but on the whole it’s rather good. There are some funny moments too, like when they first arrive in a quarry and the Doctor says he can’t possibly know every single quarry they end up in. It’s disappointing that Sarah Jane gets possessed again as it’s a bit of a lazy trope now, particularly since this appears to be her final appearance. The closing scene aboard the Tardis is touching and natural, a perfect way to… well, part ways. It doesn’t feel forced or contrived; the Doctor simply needs to answer the call of the Time Lords… alone.
I’ve enjoyed Sarah Jane Smith as a travelling companion. I don’t think she’s the best (that title still goes to Ian Chesterton!) but, certainly with this incarnation of the Doctor, there is a rapport and a good-natured humour to their scenes. I think she could have been used more effectively, perhaps made better use of her background as a journalist (which is practically forgotten about), however I am sorry to see her go.