Careful. That's not as 'armless as it looks.
For nine out of the last ten days I have weighed in at under 260 pounds, and I expect that tomorrow will finally be the day when the five-day moving average finally shows me at more than fifty pounds lost since I started this project. This makes me very happy. On the other hand, tomorrow will also be the last day that Elisabeth Sladen appears in the classic series as Sarah Jane Smith, and that makes me very sad. True, I have Louise Jameson's Leela to look forward to this weekend, but that's a whole different thing. The good news is, Sarah Jane goes out on a strong story.
So let's talk about that.
The Hand of Fear - Parts 1 & 2
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
After a cold open set 150 million years in the past detailing the attempted destruction of a tyrant named Eldrad, the story opens with the TARDIS materializing somewhere that does not at all look like an English rock quarry. Except, for once, it actually is an English rock quarry. It was bound to happen eventually. The Doctor and Sarah Jane both narrowly escape death when they are caught in the landslide of rubble from a quarry blast, but Sarah comes into contact with the titular Hand of Fear that has lain calcified and buried under 150 million years of stone.
It turns out that the hand of Eldrad is still alive, and it feeds off of radiation in order to regenerate. It also possesses the mind of any human that comes into physical contact with it, first and foremost Sarah Jane herself. This leads to Sarah Jane carrying the hand in a Tupperware container and infiltrating a nearby nuclear power plant, where the entirety of the second part takes place.
At one point the Doctor frees Sarah Jane from the psychic control of Eldrad's hand, and as the powerful paw is placed into storage for safekeeping Sarah Jane admonishes the person locking it up: "Careful. That's not as 'armless as it looks." I love it when the dialogue gives me my post title. She even manages to say the line with a completely straight face.
By the climax of the second episode, the hand has possessed another employee at the nuclear reactor and has been taken into the reactor core to draw power, thus leading to chaos and explosions in the control room. Roll credits.
One interesting thing about this story is that it was originally supposed to be a six-parter, and serve as the previous season's close. There were issues with the script, however, and The Seeds of Doom was brought in to fill that slot. After excising several plot lines and streamlining the story down to four parts, it was eventually chosen to be Sarah Jane's farewell story. One can only imagine what could have been, but I think it works very well in its final form.
A very sad thing about this story is that it was director Lennie Mayne's final work on Doctor Who. He had previously directed both of the Peladon stories, which I loved, as well as the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors. Tragically, the following year he died in a boating accident on the English Channel when his dinghy was capsized by a freak wave. Two others on board survived, but the search and rescue team was never able to find him. Interestingly, one of the two survivors was Ian McCulloch, who is perhaps best known for his leading role in the 1975 series Survivors, but whom I instantly associate with my second favorite zombie movie Zombie (or Zombi 2, depending on which print you watch).
Anyway, I am quite enjoying this story so far and I am looking forward to the second half tomorrow morning (and yet dreading saying goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith). The fact that a substantial portion of the story was filmed inside an actual working nuclear power plant instead of using sets really raises the bar on the camera work and staging. The writing also really allows Elisabeth Sladen to shine in her final outing, which is nice. This is definitely the good stuff.
Companion(s): Sarah Jane Smith
Episode(s): The Hand of Fear - Parts 1 & 2
Steps Walked: 7,139 today, 1,484,861 total
Distance Walked: 3.63 miles today, 738.42 miles total
Weight: 258.16 lbs (five day moving average), net change -49.14 lbs