The Hand of Fear (TV, novelisation, Black Archive); also, Eldrad Must Die!; also, Eldrad Must Live!

I think I missed the first three episodes of The Hand of Fear in October 1976 – I don’t know what would have taken nine-year-old me out of the house on those Saturday weekends, though I note that my grandfather died suddenly the night the second episode was shown, which must have led to some family disruption the following week.

However I vividly remember the fourth episode, with the barren, abandoned planetscape of Kastria, Eldrad shockingly crushed and then transformed from woman to man, and then the abrupt departure of Sarah Jane Smith, after three and a half years in the TARDIS. I enjoyed it a lot at the age of nine, even without having seen the story that got us there.

When I rewatched it in 2008, I wrote:

This may not be the greatest of stories – I rather missed UNIT being able to let the Doctor take control of the quarry and the nuclear plant – but it is still rather fun. In particular, it’s unusual for the Doctor to be so thoroughly hoodwinked by the bad guy (or gal in this case), and I rather liked the setting of Kastria. Of course, everyone remembers this for Sarah’s departure, but I could entirely sympathise with her fury at getting hypnotised yet again (I haven’t counted, but it must have been roughly the fourth time in five stories).

For my Great Rewatch in 2010, I wrote:

The Hand of Fear is two decent but not terribly memorable stories joined together – the first two episodes being the Nunton nuclear plant invaded by an alien, and the second two being the Destiny of Kastria once Eldrad arises. I remember first time around being really shocked by the moment the female Eldrad is apparently crushed to death. Most of the story is however fairly unremarkable; what makes it linger in the memory is of course Sarah Jane’s farewell, scripted on the spot by Baker and Sladen – I found I had something in my eye while watching it.

Maybe I was just in a good mood – if memory serves me right, I watched it on the way home from Oslo – but I enjoyed it a lot this time round. Out of sequence, I did not mind the absence of UNIT so much; I did like the awful horror of the power station, with the director’s tense farewell phone call to his family; and Judith Parris really steals the show as the first version of Eldrad. Having said which, Elisabeth Sladen is on top form here, and Sarah really does get one of the best farewells of any of the classic companions, perhaps only Susan and Jo are in the same league. There’s a nice piece about the story from 2011 in the Guardian.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of Terrance Dicks’ novelisation is:

Tom Abbott was being surprisingly co-operative. At first the
Doctor’s reception had been rather hostile, but his insistence that
no one blamed Abbott for the accident and that Sarah was
comparatively unhurt, and above all his production of a set of
impressive credentials from some secret Government
establishment called UNIT, had all combined to put Abbott in a
more friendly frame of mind. He had even agreed to move the
old blue police box, in which the Doctor stored his equipment, to
a safe part of the quarry, and look after it until the Doctor had
time to arrange for its removal.

When I reread it in 2008, I wrote:

A pretty standard retelling of the TV original, without much added or taken away. The story line seemed slightly clearer on paper, but maybe I just was not concentrating sufficiently when I watched it. On the other hand, Dicks does not quite do justice to Sarah Jane’s farewell scene.

I think that’s not quite fair; as the co-creator of the UNIT years, Dicks does add a bit more material to link The Hand of Fear with continuity. But basically this is a book to reassure you that you can re-experience the TV serial, in an age before video recorders. You can get it here.

It did strike me that the cover, by Roy Knipe, has Sarah not in the Andy Pandy suit that she wears on screen, but in what is frankly a much more sensible blue outfit, though with the same red top and headscarf.

Left: book cover (scanned from my own much-loved copy, hence creases); right: TV series

In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought; so I went back and re-listened to the 2013 Big Finish story Eldrad Must Die!, which I consumed shortly after its release but never got around to writing up here. It’s by Marc Platt, featuring the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough, and I’m afraid it’s not all that brilliant; poor old Turlough gets possessed as usual, and Stephen Thorne shows up as the male Eldrad and shouts. There’s a nod also to J.G. Ballard’s The Crystal World. You can get it here.

More intriguingly, shortly before his death in 2021, Bob Baker (who with Dave Martin wrote the original story) published a sequel, Eldrad Must Live!, through Cutaway Comics, illustrated by Stephen B. Scott, Andrew Orton and Colin Brockhurst. This is the second frame of the third page:

As you can see they’ve caught Glyn Houston’s portrayal of the director rather well. It seems that Eldrad’s traces were not completely removed from the nuclear reactor, with predictable consequences, and a mysterious woman supposedly from the authorities shows up; however I’m afraid that the comic ends in mid-story, promising that it will be picked up in Cutaway Comics’ main sequence of Gods and Monsters; and this has not yet happened as far as I know. But you can get it here. I got only the PDF rather than the physical version, which comes with extras.

Simon Bucher-Jones has produced a really good Black Archive on this story, considering mainly the horror tropes. It’s quite long but has only four chapters.

The first and longest chapter, “Why Are Hands So Significant?”, looks at the history of the hand in art from the stone age onwards, and at the precedents for detached hands in horror films, looking at the obvious Addams Family, The Beast with Five Fingers and Carry On Screaming, but also a 1963 B-Movie called The Crawling Hand which features a detached body part from a spaceship explosion.

The second chapter, “‘Eldrad Must Live’: Three Types of Fear in The Hand of Fear“, points out that the hand itself doesn’t strangle anyone and isn’t bloodied; so why is it scary? Or even, is it scary? Bucher-Jones diverts via the Flixborough disaster to considering the story’s plot structure and how the narrative beats function. He’s not completely certain that it all works, but I’m more confident that it does.

The third chapter, “The Thing from the Aeons: Fossil Horror and The Shadow Out of Time“, looks at how ancient figures coming back to life are treated in Doctor Who, linking Eldrad with Omega, Davros and Rassilon. Its second paragraph is:

We discussed in Chapter 1 why the hand is a potent image in horror and fear, and in Chapter 2 how the ‘idea’ of Eldrad adds or transcends the physicality of that horror, being presented as a dark religion that afflicts and repurposes the mind, but there is a further aspect of the horror in The Hand of Fear in the first episode, which we have not yet touched on.

The fourth chapter, “Gender (and Other) Issues in The Hand of Fear“, briefly considers a) the fact that Judith Parrish’s female Eldrad is much better than Stephen Thorne’s male version; b) how the Hand could have landed relatively undamaged; c) the morality of the Doctor’s disposal of Eldrad; and d) the perfection of the final scene with Sarah’s departure.

An appendix, “Kastria and the Kastrians”, considers the difficulties of locating Kastria and of the Kastrians’ biology.

It’s a rare case among the Black Archives where I think I like the story more than the writer does, but in any case he does a good job and you can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56)

K9 Megabytes, by Bob Baker

Second paragraph of third story (“The Time Thief”):

The secret of this huge ornate building was a NuSev technical innovation, known as a holo cloak. The entire exterior of the museum, was, in fact, a massive 3D virtual reality illusion, projected across the building by tiny holo emitters, dotted around the building’s base, ensuring that it looked like a solid bygone age structure when seen from afar. The truth of the building was only revealed when visitors entered it, disrupting the light emitters. Walking in, visitors found themselves in a massive hall made of marble and artificial sandstone. Upon entry, visitors were required to wear holo glasses so exhibits could be viewed clearly, even though in reality they were all held in high security light box cages.

A modest volume of four short stories featuring K9 Mark 1, subsequent to his Australian adventures. For two of the stories Baker revives other Whoniverse creations, namely Axos and Drax, and the Axos story in particular is an interesting revisiting of the concept. Bt in the end there’s not so much to see here; K9 can never progress much as a character, so it’s really adventure-of-the-week stuff. Out of print, I’m afraid.