The Hand Of Fear
Working Titles: The Hand Of Time, The Hand Of Death.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
The discovery of a calcified hand, unearthed in the demolition of a quarry, leads to Sarah's mind being taken over by an alien called Eldrad, who had been seemingly destroyed by his people centuries earlier. Eldrad compels Sarah to break into a nuclear reactor, where he is able to regenerate his entire body. He then convinces the Doctor to return him to his home world of Kastria, from where he claims to have been wrongfully exiled. But there is far more to Eldrad's past than he claims...
By the time The Hand Of Fear came around, Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith was chronologically the longest-serving Doctor Who companions, having appeared in the programme for more than three seasons (which was the old mark held by her predecessor, Jo Grant; Jamie McCrimmon still held the record for most episodes, though). At the end of the thirteenth recording block, Sladen announced her intention to leave Doctor Who two stories into the next season, feeling that she had done everything she could with her character, and preferring to go out at the height of her popularity. Originally, her final story was to have been a pseudo-historical tale by director Douglas Camfield about aliens and the Foreign Legion. Sarah Jane would have died at the end, and received a full military burial. Camfield's scripts fell through, however, and this was not entirely to Sladen's disappointment, as she preferred that Sarah Jane not be killed off (or married off, either).
For a replacement, script editor Robert Holmes turned to two Doctor Who veterans. Bob Baker and Dave Martin had last written for the show two years earlier with The Sontaran Experiment. Holmes suggested they write a story inspired by The Hands Of Orlac, a 1960 horror film about a man whose hands are replaced by those of a dead serial killer. Along these lines, the Bristol Boys also referenced the 1946 picture The Beast With Five Fingers, about a murderous severed hand. Baker and Martin were working on their story by January 1976. It was titled The Hand Of Time, The Hand Of Death, and finally The Hand Of Fear.
Unusually, Baker and Martin secured a major location for the story before any other crew had joined the production. The Oldbury Nuclear Power Station in Avon was close to both their homes, and the writers sought permission for Doctor Who to film there. Consequently, much of the action of The Hand Of Fear was set in and around a nuclear reactor -- originally intended to be the Nuton Power Complex from Baker and Martin's Season Eight story The Claws Of Axos, but later renamed Nunton.
The director for The Hand Of Fear was Lennie Mayne, whose last work on Doctor Who had been The Monster Of Peladon two and a half years earlier. Unfortunately, this would also be his final contribution to the programme. Some time after The Hand Of Fear wrapped, Mayne was killed in a boating accident. Location filming began in mid-June, the start of a notoriously hot and dry British summer. After finishing at Oldbury, production moved to the Thornbury region. An accident with potentially dangerous consequences occurred during filming at a quarry in Crowhall, when an explosive charge was mis-set. Much stronger than it should have been, it destroyed one of the three cameras taping the scene; fortunately, no personnel were close enough to be caught in the blast.
Unlike most four-parters, The Hand Of Fear enjoyed five studio days rather than four. Recording started with a three-day block from Monday, July 5th to Wednesday, July 7th, and then clued up with a more traditional two-day session on Monday, July 19th and Tuesday, June 20th. During this final day, cast and crew were plagued by a persistent fly -- which was finally dealt with when Sladen inadvertently swallowed it while reciting dialogue.
The 20th also brought Sladen's regular involvement in Doctor Who to a close. She and co-star Tom Baker were very active in rewriting her departure scene, after Holmes' original version proved unpopular (Baker and Martin had left this portion of their script intentionally unfinished). Sladen would continue to work in theatre, television and film, although from 1985 she curtailed her schedule considerably after giving birth to a daughter, Sadie. Sladen also found Doctor Who a difficult franchise to stay away from. She took a starring role in the 1980 spin-off K-9 And Company, which potentially would have lead to an ongoing series. She also appeared in The Five Doctors in 1983 and Dimensions In Time in 1993, as well as two radio dramas -- The Paradise Of Death (1993) and The Ghosts Of N-Space (1996).