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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

36 Comments

  1. William Whyte
    November 7, 2011 @ 12:21 am

    That's a really good point about how television was changing too rapidly for writers to keep up.

    Having said that, I think the jump from 1989 to 2005 isn't as big as the jump from 1971 to 1989, and I would say that Ian Briggs and Marc Platt would both be more than capable of writing new Who stories that would be in the top half of their season.

    It's also worth noting that Robert Holmes's decline isn't noticeably down to a change in television itself, it's because he got tired and ran out of ideas. Twice. The first time you can see him struggling with transitioning from being on top of the writing food chain, stealing the germ of the story from sources as diverse as Mary Shelley and Terrance Dicks, to being just another writer on his own in a room. The second time, he came back fresh, but then he and Eric Saward fed off the bad sides of each other. But Androzani is as contemporary as Claws of Axos, and The Two Doctors would be awful at any point in time.

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  2. Muad'dib
    November 7, 2011 @ 12:58 am

    I think the "ugliness" doesn't stem so much from Sarah's actual departure, as from the subsequent failure to return. And, more than that, it is the seeming failure to even remember her. The scene itself, as you point out, is so beautifully underplayed it almost reduces one to tears. The choice of "Don't forget me," is so realistic and the stiff upper-lipping of it all is what makes it so genuine, putting it at odds with the increasingly maudlin tone Davies injected.

    I think it's interesting to juxtapose your suggestion that the Doctor failing to return for Sarah makes him less trustworthy, or somehow different from the character we've come to know, with your identification of the Doctor's alchemical, ever-changing nature. Certainly, we see elements of the Doctor's past return often in the series, but the Doctor himself tends not to voluntarily retread his old ground. Clearly, part of this is the nature of producing a TV series, but one could imagine a one-off involving Sarah or any of the other companions, but with the exception of the Brigadier, it never happens, during the classic series at any rate.

    I suppose I'm looking at this final scene teleologically, but it seems so melancholy to me because Sarah and the Doctor both know he isn't coming back. Sarah may play it differently in "School Reunion," but I think it's so moving because they both know it's the end, but neither can admit it. With real goodbyes, that reality is often too horrific to contemplate in the moment. So, I don't see this as the Doctor breaking a promise or revealing any new or troubling aspect of his character. Ever mercurial, he hurries onward, ever contemplative, but also unwilling or unable to really reflect on himself. That is one of the things I find so interesting about the characterization of the Doctor in the classic series. Ostensibly, his character is unchanging. For all the alchemy he performs, it never really touches him, at least not until the disastrous mid-1980s. It's one of the things that keeps him credible as an alien. Surely, these things he's seen and done would affect him, as they do his companions, we think, but they do not. Or, at least we get no indication of that until the new series. Perhaps that's why the Doctor can never be seen to revisit his own past. Whenever we return to something, it is with a sense of loss or distance as we have changed. Our relationship to things changes with each passing moment. The Doctor never changes however, how does one play that? How can he go back for Sarah without having to reflect on himself and what has passed in the mean time? He cannot; it just would not work. Therefore, he must remain in motion, always moving, but never changing.

    Finally, ever a partisan of Robert Holmes, I cannot fully subscribe to the idea that his quality declined. I think the script for Sunmakers is superb, if heavy-handed, easily the best in an otherwise poor season. One need not even comment on the quality of Caves of Androzani, of course. And, given the impossible task presented by the production realities of Two Doctors, that can hardly be laid at Holmes' door.

    Regardless, I'm particularly enjoying your exploration of the Baker years. Keep up the fine work; looking forward to Deadly Assassin.

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  3. Alex Wilcock
    November 7, 2011 @ 2:42 am

    I’m with you completely on "Mississippi," which was indeed on the BBC4 Top of the Pops repeats just last week, and quite unbelievable (pleasantly surprised by the Climax Blues Band in the same edition; Paul Nicholas, as always, even worse).

    And I’m with you on most of this, particularly on the key observation that this is where Doctor Who parts company for a while with contemporary Britain, at least visibly. But, putting to one side the idea of whether most UNIT stories were anything to do with contemporary Britain (both in when they were set and, come on, very few of them being remotely like the real world, as you yourself say above), I can’t agree with you that “The Hand of Fear doesn't work because it makes zero effort towards any engagement with the real world”. Of course, it gets further and further away from our experience as it goes on, particularly with an alien world that fails largely because of its delivery and a nuclear strike that fails largely because the writers didn’t have a clue (and, ironically, were every bit as ridiculous on “nuclear” writing in The Claws of Axos), but surely even the most plausible UNIT stories were in huge industrial installations of types that none of us had ever stepped inside? And before all that, The Hand of Fear surely begins as more engaged with the real world than any Doctor Who for years. A works foreperson who’s concerned that the Doctor and Sarah Jane are all right, but even more concerned that it has nothing to do with him, as he’d followed all the right safety procedures; the Doctor and Sarah Jane being taken to an ordinary hospital and having their injuries treated, in a way almost all of us had experienced in the real world but never, ever happened to all those injured or blown up UNIT squaddies; and even the guy who thinks he’s about to be blown up calls his wife and kids and tries to find something to say, which again instantly grounds him in reality in a way that none of the UNIT ‘family’ had ever had meaningful families. So while the story goes off as it goes on, it does at least start by telling us it’s more a part of our world than anything we’ve seen for a very long time.

    I have to agree with you, though, that Tom’s “contemporary” Britain stories “have had a visibly lower average quality than [most of] the others”, even if I think Baker and Martin’s two Hinchcliffe-Tom scripts are far less shoddy than at least The Claws of Axos (though, yes, they have shoddier to come next year).

    [Whoops – more…]

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  4. Alex Wilcock
    November 7, 2011 @ 2:43 am

    […Continued, sorry. I won’t be like this every week]

    Ironically, Sarah Jane’s leaving scene, which you so rightly praise, creates by its very naturalism one of the series’ biggest collisions with the real world. As you say, it makes us think less of the Doctor, because he never goes back – because if they loved each other so clearly, how could he not? But the recognition of that hurt and abandonment in our real lives at the same time pushes us out of seeing the characters as real, because the audience isn’t really perplexed, just suddenly unable to suspend our disbelief: it just reminds us that they’re played by actors on television, and that the reason the Doctor didn’t go back for Sarah Jane wasn’t because he chose to abandon her but because Lis Sladen isn’t Sarah Jane. One wanted the Doctor to come back; the other firmly chose to leave, and didn’t come back even when asked – not until a long time later, anyway. Because actors of course don’t want to stay in the same part for ever, and we know that, even when we also know that characters this real to us would want to stay together forever. And that fundamental clash – the more real the relationship, the more its ending has to draw attention to it only being a TV programme – is one that with a legacy right through the new series, not only in the magnificent return of Lis Sladen and Sarah Jane, but in a crippling inability to find ways for companions to leave, when marriage can no longer be a full stop to a woman’s ambitions and everyone’s supposed to have a great time in the TARDIS. Rose has to have a whole other universe invented for her, then brought back and horribly bungled when a whole other Doctor’s invented for her; Donna… Donna is written out in the most horrible way that I won’t get started on here; and only Martha gets to leave on her own terms, and that’s only because for that one time the writer dares not to have Doctor and companion having the same level of feelings for each other. So that beautiful coda in October 1976 isn’t just another example of The Problem of Susan, but the start of The Problem of Sarah Jane, and it’s one the series still hasn’t cracked.

    I suspect most viewers at the time wouldn’t remember the Doctor dying the last time he went to Gallifrey – I didn’t, turning five that day yet thinking it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen despite knowing none of the backstory – but it’s still something magnificent on the horizon anyway, and I’m looking forward to it. For those of us now watching Doctor Who right through, though, The War Games gives an added context not just to the Doctor but to Sarah Jane’s farewell, too: in that context, the Doctor’s “Don’t you forget me” becomes less fondness for Sarah than fear for what might happen to her if he were to bring her along…

    Finally, I wouldn’t dismiss The Hand of Fear as mediocre, either, but that’s by-the-by (and you can read why here, with its clever ideas on time and religion, but the story itself’s incidental to what you’ve written. I just don’t take that as a given).

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  5. Dr. Happypants
    November 7, 2011 @ 3:01 am

    I'm convinced that that bit where Watson is phoning up his wife is the direct inspiration for Ultravox's "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes".

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  6. Steve Hogan
    November 7, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    No picture? Google didn't have any good shots of Liz Sladen in her coveralls?

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  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 7, 2011 @ 5:19 am

    No, I just forgot to upload one. Sec.

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  8. WGPJosh
    November 7, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    Another great read and excellent analysis: I was expecting this one to be all about Sarah Jane and I was pleased to see how you turned it into a commentary on Doctor Who's relationship with contemporary Britain. I think you knocked it out of the park: Television was changing at a breakneck pace and absent all the things that made the Pertwee era at its best work the show runs into a huge problem. It's a great breakdown and I couldn't agree more.

    That being said, ironically I now have to talk about Sarah Jane. First of all I agree completely with Alex: Sarah's departure, which was admittedly done extremely well, does nothing if not underscore the show's intersection with the real-world processes by which it is built. Lis Sladen was not Sarah Jane and I can't overstate how important a statement that is. But not only was her departure wrapped up in professional concerns about not staying in one role too long, there was a second part of her decision that is never brought up when talking about "Hand of Fear" really needs to be, nostalgia be damned:

    By all accounts, Lis Sladen, at least prior to 2007, didn't like the character of Sarah Jane Smith.

    From the interviews and biographies I've seen, her main complaint was that Sarah was little more than, I believe the words she used were "a cardboard cut-out". Now, I hate to be the Doctor Who contrarian again , I really do, but here I have to be because, despite all the wonderful things she did and how indisputable her legacy is, at this stage of the character's life I find it kind of hard to disagree with Sladen. Lis was a monumentally excellent actor, I would never dispute that, and she lent the role an immense gravity that has to be almost single-handedly responsible for making her so beloved. But the flipside to that, as Lis herself said, was that she was kind of forced to do that because no-one else was developing her character for her: She had to pull all the weight in making Sarah Jane work.

    (cont'd)

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  9. WGPJosh
    November 7, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    Sarah Jane, at least as she was written in the 70s…Well, she was never my favourite companion. Again, I know it's sacrilege to say so, but I never warmed up to her characterisation much. Phil made an excellent plea for defending her back in April by saying she updates and builds upon the Victoria template and that's true…But see I don't like Victoria either. I have very little tolerance for characters who seem to lack narrative function besides forcing exposition and getting in peril every week to move the plot forward. That was the entire purpose of Victoria's character and to me I see little difference between her and 1970s Sarah Jane.

    Not to mention that her oft-touted role as feminist icon is somewhat sullied for me a bit because, as we saw in "The Time Warrior", Doctor Who didn't necessarily have a feminism problem (or as big a one as it later did) until it made itself one. Sure, Sarah gets some killer lines, has incredible gravitas and stage presence and carries a few stories, but that's all due to Lis Sladen being a jaw-droppingly good actor, not the character or the ways she's written (at least most of the time).

    I think a lot of this ties into the nostalgia filter a lot of fans look at Doctor Who from, as we touched on in the "pescatons" entry. As much grief as I give the New Series, and I give it quite a lot, one thing those writers must be unquestionably praised for is giving Sarah a lot more depth and complexity as a character than she had in the Classic Series, thereby actually becoming the incredible character fans wanted her to be, instead of just imagining she was.

    I also want to applaud Alex for coining "The Problem of Sarah Jane" which I think is just a brilliant way to look at a very clear problem the series gets from here on out. None of the companion departures after this one are particularly memorable or satisfying and lack closure to their stories (the possible exception being Romana) and poor Ace, probably one of the best companions the show ever saw, just kind of vanishes into the ether because the show got cancelled and then Mark Platt screwed up her exit story. Great catch.

    I'm very, very sorry. I'll bow out now…

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  10. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    I'm less of a fan of the ending than most are. After having been introduced, back in "Time Warrior," as a self-possessed, professionally dressed woman, Sarah Jane in the finale of this episode becomes a petulant child, staging a fake tantrum to make the Doctor feel bad (only he wasn't paying attention), and being dressed like a ridiculous toddler (with toys in tow) to boot.

    To qualify: the actual farewell scene I agree is quite good. But the scene leading up to it I find unbearable, an infantilising of the character.

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  11. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    And now we've got "The Problem of Amy Pond," namely — if the Doctor gives up traveling with Amy because it endangers her life, then how can he ever have another companion? Pick people he wouldn't mind losing?

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  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 7, 2011 @ 10:03 am

    I think, in the end, that all of these are subsets and special cases of the Problem of Susan. Which was always picked as a term not just because of Ms. Foreman but as a reference to Neil Gaiman's short story by that title, which is itself a story about the problems of female characters in children's literature

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  13. WGPJosh
    November 7, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    But I would argue the show had been making strides to rectify that problem prior to 1974: When taken in that context, coming off of two companions who were The Doctor's intellectual equal and one who wound up consistently out-Doctoring The Doctor throughout her tenure by filling his role better than he did by going meta, dusting off and modernizing the Victoria template for Sarah Jane honestly feels like a step backwards to me.

    Even if you skip Victoria and go back further there was Vicki, was was certainly more than a plot device. And then, looking ahead to Leela who, for all her problems I quite liked and thought was conceptually an interesting idea and Romana, who was not only a match for Baker's Doctor in both her incarnations but also arguably one of The Doctor's earliest canonical romantic interests, Sarah prior to her 2007 return comes up a bit short for me. Even if, as you say Phil, The Problem of Susan is always present the show at its best can at least be aware of it and make strides to fix it instead of ignoring it. That being said, still really enjoying this look at the Tom Baker years and can't wait to hear what you have to say about the next three stories.

    Also, props to BerserkerRL for "The Problem of Amy Pond". I was thinking that very same thing and it's been nagging me since the season began.

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  14. Gavin
    November 7, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    One of the things that makes The Hand of Fear disappointing – at least for me- is that it's one of the worse Sarah Jane stories, both overall and in Sarah Jane's specific role in the plot.

    I see what BerserkRL is getting at, but they think they were going for comedy, and ended up with infantilisation. Actually, I think they were trying to combine two things: some notion that this was on some level a mutual decision, or at least not entirely unwelcome to Sarah Jane, and on the other, a tonal switch from comedy to seriousness back to (at the end) comedy, which would – with any luck – make the serious bit more effective.

    Tack that scene onto the end of a story in which Sarah Jane is portrayed as adult and resourceful, and it would seem very different, I think. But at the end of The Hand of Fear, the scene leaves a bad taste in the mouth, because we haven't been given the context to view it as self-consciously exaggerated for comic effect.

    And it means that Sarah Jane ends up curiously and unfortunately similar to Jo, the most pre-infantilised of all the companions, and the very character that Sarah Jane was created to counter (which is a little too on the nose for comfort). The very end, with her laughing at the Doctor, improves things a little, however.

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  15. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    Her interacting with a dog at the end is oddly prophetic. (Why does she tap it on the head with her tennis racket, though? One can't blame it for getting up and leaving to get away from this rude woman.)

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  16. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    Maybe the Doctor was still watching, and thought, "Oh, she likes dogs; maybe I'll get her one some time. Oh, but she likes to bop them on the head with tennis rackets; I'd better make sure it's a sturdy one."

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  17. John Peacock
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    The tune she's whistling as she's walking down the street after meeting the dog is "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow".

    On my recent trawl through random Whos, I thought Leela was one of the most interesting companions, because there wasn't that cosiness between either they actors or the characters, and because she is openly sceptical to the Doctor's face, generally preferring K9. But we'll see, won't we…

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  18. elvwood
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    It's interesting how rarely, in the classic series, it's the Doctor who takes the lead in deciding when a companion should leave. IIRC it only happens with Susan, Steven, and now Sarah Jane; for everyone else, when there is a choice, it's wholly the companion's decision. Sometimes the Doctor's fine with it (Dodo) and sometimes not (Iananbarbara, Jo), but he's the one reacting rather than the driving force. Oh, and sometimes he gives a K-9 away, but I'm not sure if that should count!

    In the new series he pushes out Adam, Jack, Rose (the second time), Donna (although he didn't have much choice it was against her express wish), Amy, and Rory. Only Martha and Mickey decide for themselves. That's quite a difference!

    Since I've been effectively watching in random order I never thought about how being summoned to Gallifrey for the first time since The War Games would affect him. That puts another spin on the conclusion of this story for me.

    Anyway, another great entry – and I do like the observations about contemporary Britain too, I just haven't got anything to add on that.

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  19. elvwood
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    Forgot to mention – I'm with Muad'dib in thinking that SJS never expected the Doctor to come back, but if there's any need to reconcile this with School Reunion then K-9 and Company will do the trick. After all, if he's sending her presents, that must make her think he hasn't moved on after all – surely a visit will follow?

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  20. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    "The tune she's whistling as she's walking down the street after meeting the dog is 'Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow'."

    Oh duh! I should have noticed that.

    So is all that just coincidence?

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  21. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    I don't think Sarah expected him to come back immediately. But consider her frame of reference – the Doctor came back to UNIT over and over again, after all, and in her experience. He seems to stop by 1970s Britain with considerable frequency, and not for Sarah's sake. So perhaps use didn't expect him to come back immediately, but I also don't think she expected it to take 30 years.

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  22. BerserkRL
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    "Look at you, beaming away like you're Father Christmas!"

    "Who says I'm not, metal-dog-later-on-when-you'll-be-30?"

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  23. David
    November 7, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    "Perhaps the highest praise that can be given to Sladen as an actress is that she was the only co-starring actress Baker actually respected. ("Slept with" is not a synonym for "respected.")"

    That seems incredibly harsh on Tom, and more than a little disingenuous. How do you know Tom didn't respect Lalla Ward, given that they got married (not just "slept with") and were both incredibly intelligent people who must have needed mutual respect for a relationship like that to work?

    You make some really good points about the direction of the series, and I'd really never realised how few stories from here on in involved contemporary Earth. But that little snide remark rankles somewhat.

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  24. WGPJosh
    November 7, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    @ David

    I was gonna let that slide but it confused me a bit too. From everything I read Tom and Lalla had nothing but the utmost respect for one another and were always on the same page on a lot of things, especially when it came to Doctor Who. She was just as vocal and outgoing on set as he was and every time they were on screen together they just crackled with chemistry. Hell, Lalla even said recently she still loves Tom and they divorced because they were too busy for each other, not because they had any kind of falling-out.

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  25. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 7, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

    There are also ample reports of jaw-dropping friction between them, albeit while they were also having relationship difficulties. The comment was snide and bitchy – I mean, I'm not going to pretend otherwise. But the fact remains that Sladen is the only female co-star of Baker's that I can find no reports of blow-out fights with and no reports of him being frankly horrible to.

    So yes, it was obviously a low blow. But on the other hand, the underlying point – that the downturn in Baker's behavior that happens at this point in the series is pronounced and permanent – stands.

    So yeah. The bitchiness was deliberate. Largely because I wanted to make the harshest critique of Baker's behavior first and get the fullest extent of the sting on that one out of the way so that later analysis is nuance and not apologism.

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  26. WGPJosh
    November 7, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    Also, (and I apologise for continuously popping in and out) but one thing I forgot to mention in regards to Sarah Jane and The Doctor's failure to return for her, is that this seems wholly consistent with the interpretation we gleaned from "The Time Travelers": The reason The Doctor doesn't return for Sarah, or any of his other companions after they leave him, is that they're no longer "his" version as he's subsequently changed history and are moved to an alternate timeline as soon as they leave the TARDIS. Seems less like painting The Doctor in an ugly light and more just him doing exactly what we'd expect him to do given who he is and what his life is like.

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  27. Wm Keith
    November 7, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

    On a different tack, you really can read Sarah here as representing modern (1976) Britain – weary, leaderless, and lost.

    This is the country that had just appointed a Minister for Rain.

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  28. ferret4
    November 8, 2011 @ 1:44 am

    It'd be interesting to think that the Doctor dumps her as he doesn't want all their time together wiped from her mind, as happened to Jamie and Zoe (which is seemingly the consequence of breaking the rule of bringing non-gallifreans to Gallifrey, that or they have to stay forever, like Leela and K9).

    However this doesn't at all explain why he never returned for her, but for audiences who had yet to see beyond the end of Hand Of Fear that has to be what some of them are thinking, reinforcing that perhaps the Doctor may be facing another trial and execution.

    Right, back to Season 10 for me and no more sneak-peeking forwards.

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  29. inkdestroyedmybrush
    November 8, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    sorry, coming to the discussion late, and yes, this is a problematic tale to take on, since it is, in my opinion, the worst tom baker tale to date and precisely for the reasons that philip mentioned. Its utter disconnection with reality, its general cheapness, the way in which so little of it really ads up to anything until the ending. Baker and Martin really wrote the worst stories for me, they epitomize the insult "its a plot out of a comic book", since comics used to have writers that didn't know a galaxy from a black hole from a transistor. Comic books are generally far better written than a baker and martin tale.

    but the ending, oh the ending. always tough and yes, it certainly brings up "the problem with sarah" which, for Doctor who, is far worse than the problem with Susan. (Thanks WGPJosh) Played out in Andy Panda PJs does take the very capable Sarah Jane and diminish her tremendously, and yet Lis Sladen's acting and chemistry with Tom redeem the scene tremendously. The look on Baker's face after she walks out, and the breath blown out of his lips gives us body language to guess at: sad she's gone? releived that she's gone before Gallifrey? Ready to move on from Sarah, ending the affair earlier rather than later? Leaving her first before she pulls a Jo on him? The 4th Doctor is inscrutable here. Decidedly so.

    What Sarah Jane needed, decidedly so, was a true character arc, which, of course, they tried to give to Leela and promptly forgot about. Lis Sladen would have certainly responded to that, and not had to do all the heavy lifting herself.

    The look on Sarah's face, to me, and the final turn of her head, always said that Sarah expected him to pop back at any time, and sweep her into the Tardis again. That he didn't makes her anger in School Reunion all the more understandable.

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  30. inkdestroyedmybrush
    November 8, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    @ Alex Wilcock – clearly you felt that this story worked better for you than it did for me. none of the bits you mentioned were acted or staged or shot in a way that meant anything more to me than you average high school play, which is about where this story sits with me.

    And this is perhaps Doctor Who doing I, Claudius (although Greatest Show in the Galaxy would utilize the "two curtains and a blank wall" set approach ever more so), since you could have shot Hand of Fear in a quarry and in a single corridor, it is a step back to time when we KNEW Doctor Who didn't have the budget to show us an alien world, so we gave up the thought that it would ever try to do so and just enjoyed the script. Sandly, all the efforts to make the jungle at the end of the universe, and a realistic space ark and actually scary Zygons has given us false expectations. shame on us.

    I would perhaps amend that while Romana agot a good ending, so did, fittingly, Tegan. She was always angry, and traumatized by her Aunt's death, and her finally having enough of the death and destruction made perfect sense to me. Perhaps it wasn't the happy go lucky Doctor Who universe we'd seen, but it worked rather well, even though it made 5 seem even more feckless and "soft" in that his "wanting to fix the universe" nature in that incarnation didn't extend to trying to make her better.

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  31. Henry R. Kujawa
    April 9, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

    Back in 1979, this story was traumatic. No wonder I resented Leela. But the last 2 times I've watched it… nothing. Oh good.

    Noticed something interesting tonight (probably as a result of reading this blog). "THE HAND OF FEAR" is Sarah's "PLANET OF THE SPIDERS". It's like "Sarah's greatest hits". Like "THE TIME WARRIOR" (Sarah's debut!), you have an alien stranded on Earth who goes to extreme lengths to return to where they belong. Then there's this "recurring event" thing. In "THE ANDROID INVASION", we more-or-less saw the invasion twice. In "THE SEEDS OF DOOM", we saw the Krynoid take over someone twice. Here, we see someone who's possessed walk into the reactor– TWICE! Like "THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA", Sarah goes thru part of the story hypnotized (brainwashed, whatever). In fact, we got a moment of this sort of thing all the way back in "THE TIME WARRIOR". Isn't it odd (or ironic) that such a strong-willed, independant career woman wind up a victim of possession so many times, not to mention being in the position of being a screaming "damsel in distress" FAR more times than sweet Jo Grant ever was??? Further, "PYRAMIDS OF MARS" has 3 episodes on Earth, the 4th on another planet, as our heroes attempt to race thru dark corridors lined with one death-trap after another. (I tend to think of "PYRAMIDS" as the 2nd story of the previous season, not the 3rd; "HAND" is this season's 2nd. Coincidence?)

    Baker & Martin are also having their own "greatest hits", as Rex Robinson had earlier been in "THE THREE DOCTORS". Also, blink and you'll miss it, this story apparently is supposed to take place at the SAME nuclear complex seen in "THE CLAWS OF AXOS"!!!

    Lots of fun dialogue in here. "Careful, it's not as 'armless as it looks." and "What do we do, use HAND signals?"

    My understanding is that it wasn't JUST Lis Sladen, Tom Baker was ALSO improvising dialogue during rehearsals. So NOBODY on this show was getting "character arcs" (or had, really, SINCE Ian and Barbara!!! –nor would again, really, until ACE!). It's a sad tradition. Patrick Macnee said in an interview, describing THE AVENGERS, "There WAS no great writing." He explained that he and his co-stars wrote their own dialogue in rehearsals– and THAT's why the show was so good. It's fiting that in Tom Baker's 1st story, Harry Sullivan dresses up like John Steed and someone says "He's from the Ministry!"

    Finally, I always believed that of all the companions, Sarah was the ONE The Doctor most loved. (Romana came in a close 2nd.) That's why, to me, "SCHOOL REUNION" was such a powerful, emotional experience. Took me 2 days to come down from that. Strangest thing… I think I've gotten over her now. Last time I watched my entire collection, ALMOST every girl on the show had a stronger effect on me. (Except for Tegan, of course. What a B****!)

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  32. John
    December 17, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

    Canonically, he does return for Tegan in Arc of Infinity. In the Pertwee years, he also traveled in the TARDIS numerous times but then returned to hang out with the Brigadier and company. And that's ignoring numerous instances in New Who of traveling multiple discrete times with the same companion or quasi-companion (Donna, Martha, Amy & Rory, River).

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  33. William Silvia
    June 22, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

    I don't believe Jamie and the Doctor wanted to break up, either.

    Reply

  34. Jacob
    December 9, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

    Susan is my sister's favorite companion by far.

    Reply

  35. orfeo
    July 17, 2015 @ 4:03 am

    What, no discussion of Eldrad at all?

    I'm surprised at the dislike for this story in both the review and the comments. I thought the first two episodes were good, and the third episode was fascinating whenever Judith Paris was on screen. And then of course the fourth episode is fairly awful, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that Eldrad mark 1 is a compelling performance. I found myself genuinely wondering about Eldrad's motivations and character and having sympathy for "her".

    Reply

  36. Ombund
    September 9, 2015 @ 4:18 am

    I just watched this story for the first time and had a very similar reaction. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 3 episodes – yes, the last episode is balls, but then that's no different to Pyramids of Mars, and yet that story's declared a classic and this one isn't. To be honest I think I prefer the dialogue, Watson's phone call and even Eldrad mark 1 to anything comparable in Pyramids. The enduring appeal of Egyptology has a lot to answer for.

    Reply

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