The Hand of Fear: Part Four

First Broadcast October 23rd 1976 @ 6.00pm (12m viewers)

Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor’s best friend. But sadly all good things must come to an end. Elisabeth Sladen had debuted opposite Third Doctor Jon Pertwee. However, it was as companion to Tom Baker’s incarnation that Sarah thrived. The relationship between this Doctor and his companion was a dynamic partnership that heralded a golden era. Iconic classics such as ‘The Ark in Space’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘Terror of the Zygons’, ‘Pyramids of Mars’ and ‘The Brain of Morbius’ were shared by this team. Although not the first Doctor plus one companion combination, it was this team who established this ideal paradigm. When the series returned in 2005 the Doctor was given a single female companion, Rose Tyler, mirroring that Doctor and Sarah friendship.

Have you met Miss Smith? She’s my best friend.

Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear: Part Four (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Hand of Fear: Part Four (c) BBC

Although Elisabeth Sladen and Tom Baker didn’t socialise outside of rehearsals and filming the programme, their connection resonated onscreen. But after three seasons Sladen decided it was time to move on, bowing out whilst her character was still popular. She was specific that Sarah should not be killed or married off. The latter proved to be the fate which befell her replacement Leela and proved that it was an easy option that couldn’t be effectively or convincingly achieved. When ‘The Hand of Fear’ was designated as her final story Sarah Jane Smith was afforded a significant amount of the action. In many ways, she carries the bulk of the story. Elisabeth Sladen was given an opportunity to stretch her acting muscles, important for an actor looking for further work. She manages to be disturbingly eerie and unnerving when possessed by the hand, leading to the unforgettable line “Eldrad must live!”

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

till we meet again, Sarah

Although effectively tacked onto the end of the story, Sarah’s departure is deeply emotional. As a comparison, Rose Tyler’s departure in ‘Doomsday’ is full of tears. This scene is notable by the absence of any tears. The emotion is instead achieved through subtlety. This is a skill not often seen these days as the tears are a more favoured strategy. However, Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen deliver a masterclass in how to convey deep emotion without stooping to the level of gushing lacrimal glands. It is not so much what is said but what is not being said. With a friendship so synchronous those things don’t need to be said out loud. It’s beautiful stuff.


Doctor Who – Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen
Eldrad – Judith Paris
King Rokon – Roy Skelton
Kastrian Eldrad – Stephen Thorne


Director – Lennie Mayne
Producer – Philip Hinchcliffe
Writer – Bob Baker
Writer – Dave Martin

Also First Aired On This Day…

  • The Myth Makers: Small Prophet, Quick Return
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mad Woman in the Attic: Episode Two


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