The Hand of Fear

I cried. I wasn’t expecting to, because obviously I’ve still got a lot more Sarah Jane to watch once I hit the modern era and the spin-offs. But seeing her leave made me realise how much I’ll miss her until then – I rarely mention her in these write-ups, because her consistent brilliance comes as standard. The central performances have just been perfection in these last couple of seasons, and I can’t quite imagine the Fourth Doctor without her at this stage.

Another reason for my tears was undoubtedly the fact that Elisabeth is no longer with us. Seeing this young, beautiful girl saying goodbye when I know that she’s going to die young… yeah, life’s just not fair, is it? But on its own merits, the departure was the right level of bittersweet. Her throwing a strop and threatening to go home, then them both being devastated to discover that she really did have to go home. I hope the next serial addresses exactly why Sarah couldn’t go to Gallifrey, so that it makes a tiny bit more sense, but I’m not holding my breath.

Still, they parted with a typical snappy but happy exchange, and she headed out into the world with a smile on her face. Beautifully done, plus Lis had been centre stage for a lot of the preceding serial. She played the catatonic stuff brilliantly – most actors would have gone down the robotic zombie route, but she moved so elegantly and sassily, with that hint of mischief in her eyes. God, I love Sarah Jane Smith.

The rest of the serial was decent enough – there wasn’t much depth to the plot, and even less originality, but at least it moved along at a fair rate, with a nice variety of settings. I liked the woman version of Eldrad; there was never any question that she’d turn out to be the baddy once she got back home, but that was OK, because my brain was distracted by the question of whether or not it’s acceptable to find a big grey rock thing sexy.

The final part suffered from a bit of padding – lengthy sequences of our heroes avoiding booby traps and crossing ravines are time-filling techniques almost as old as the show itself – and the resolution turns out to be one of those frustrating ones where The Doctor is largely a spectator. Apart from tripping the baddy up with his scarf.

But sod it, they did well to get the pesky plot out of the way in order to spend a bit longer on the goodbye scene. I’d have been perfectly happy for Sarah Jane’s last story to just be a four-episode two-hander in the TARDIS, to be fair. Still not a fan of the new console room, but so glad the ship is once more being used as a setting, rather than just as a means to an end.

RATING: 8

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