On the frozen wastes of Kastria…
Sue: Is this planet of the anoraks?
A humanoid figure is tracking a spaceship on a computer screen.
Sue: He’s playing the slowest game of Pong ever.
This cold opening (sorry), which mainly features an asthmatic alien freezing its bollocks off, doesn’t do anything for Sue.
Me: Yes, love?
Sue: What the **** is going on?
A spaceship explodes and the galaxy goes for a quick spin.
Sue: Okay, I think the acid just kicked in.
So, to sum up…
Sue: A terrible start. I didn’t understand a single word of that. What just happened?
The TARDIS lands in a quarry, which this week is doubling for a… wait for it… quarry. This throws Sue completely (she thinks we’re still on Kastria after the thaw).
Sue: Sarah Jane looks like Andy Pandy this week. I had a pair of dungarees like hers, but mine were blue denim with cream stripes, and they were less flared at the bottom. It’s a cute look, mind.
The Doctor, unperturbed by the sound of distant sirens, decides to hone his cricketing skills.
Sue: Well, that’s just bollocks, isn’t it? That rock wouldn’t have fallen over like that. It breaks the laws of physics. They must have used some fishing wire to pull that over.
The Doctor and Sarah are distracted by a man in a hard hat who’s waving at them from afar.
Sue: This reminds me of a 1970s Public Information Film.
But it’s too late – the quarry explodes.
Sue: (Sitting up in her chair) Now that was good.
When the Doctor digs his unconscious companion out of the rubble, she’s clinging to a petrified hand and won’t let go.
Sue: It’s a helping hand.
Me: Right, I’m banning the hand jokes. The next person who makes a joke about hands, arms, or appendages of any kind, has to empty the cats’ litter trays for the rest of the week.
Sue: What about fingers? Do they count?
Sarah is taken to hospital.
Sue: This could so easily have been a crossover with Casualty. Where’s Charlie when you need him?
Me: Ah, Derek Thompson, the only actor to rub the back of his neck more than Jon Pertwee.
The Doctor has his injuries seen to as well, but, thanks to NHS bureaucracy, he has to tell them where he comes from.
Sue: “Gallifree”? Where the hell is Gallifree?
Sarah wakes up, attacks a kindly doctor and runs away with the hand.
Me: I love this. I can remember playing Doctor Who in the school playground the Monday after this went out, and all the girls took it in turns to be Sarah, which meant it was their job to kill me. Evil Sarah was easy to mimic – the girl just had to walk around with a glazed look on her face, a sandwich box under her arm, and a gaudy ring on her finger. I was killed hundreds of times that week. One day, we found some white fossilised dog poo and pretended it was one of Eldrad’s missing fingers.
Carter regains consciousness.
Sue: I’m glad he isn’t dead. I wouldn’t have wanted Sarah Jane to have that on her conscience. I know it’s not her fault, but think of the guilt.
Sarah strides into a nearby nuclear power station.
Sue: This is eerie. I really like the direction – there are some really interesting camera angles. It’s completely different to what we usually get. The location is quite interesting, too. Jon Pertwee would have loved this place.
The cliffhanger, where the hand slowly returns to life, still looks impressive today.
Sue: It’s The Addams Family meets Torchwood.
Sue: Doesn’t this hand end up in Torchwood?
It takes me a while to work out what she’s talking about.
Me: No, that’s not the right hand.
Sue: It’s definitely a right hand, Neil. You can tell by the thumb.
I reach for a cushion.
Sue: That was a great cliffhanger. We’re off to a good start. Apart from that scene at the beginning. What the hell was that all about?
Sarah communicates with Eldrad’s spirit.
Sue: She’s talking to the hand ‘cos the face ain’t listening.
Professor Watson (who’s played by Glyn “He’s been in loads of stuff” Houston) enters the story.
Sue: He’s worried about how this will look when they have the inevitable public inquiry. I bet he was a few days away from retirement, as well.
Despite the emergency, the Doctor is still allowed to waltz around like he owns the place.
Sue: So a complete stranger can fiddle with the controls to a nuclear reactor? The security in this place is a disgrace.
Aside from that, Sue really likes this episode. She’s impressed with the hand effect (“For its time”), the unusual camera angles are right up her street, and Carter’s death, which involves him plummeting from a very tall height, is praised, too. Although for Sue the best moment definitely occurs when Watson telephones his family to say goodbye.
Sue: That was really sad. I didn’t expect that. I actually give a shit about his character, now.
The Doctor concludes that the hand must feed on radiation, at which point Sarah suggests that it isn’t as ‘armless as it looks.
Sue: Hey! Sarah is doing hand jokes, now. That isn’t fair!
The Doctor probes Sarah’s mind for information about Eldrad.
Sue: It’s a great performance from Elisabeth Sladen. She looks like she’s really enjoying this story. And so am I.
Meanwhile a technician named Driscoll is possessed by Eldrad’s mighty ring of power.
Sue: Okay, forget Torchwood, this is The Addams Family meets Lord of the Rings.
Me: You’re mad, love.
Sue: The hand hasn’t grown very much. We’ll be here all day waiting for it to sprout a forearm.
Driscoll steps into the reactor core, which starts a chain reaction.
Sue: This is really good. I have no idea what that scene at the beginning has to do with anything, but that wasn’t bad at all. Oh, and Neil?
Sue: Eldrad must live.
Sue: It’s all gone a bit Chernobyl. If the explosion doesn’t kill them, the radiation will. Unless they come up with a sci-fi explanation.
Of course they do.
Sue: Okay, fair enough, but Watson should phone his wife before she books a luxury cruise with his life insurance.
Eldrad is trapped in the reactor core.
Sue: The hand is going to turn into a crap monster, isn’t it?
Watson requests a nuclear strike on the reactor and the RAF are only too happy to oblige.
Me: That must have been some phone call.
Sue: This can’t be a good idea. If Eldrad eats radiation, this attack will be a takeaway snack. Blimey, it really has turned into a 1970s Public Information Film. In the event of a nuclear blast, please hide behind your nearest car. No wonder the Doctor is taking the piss. This is ridiculous.
The reactor opens…
Sue: Please, don’t let the monster be shit…
And Eldrad emerges.
Sue: Oh, I wasn’t expecting that. Is it a lady alien? You don’t see many of those.
Sue checks her out.
Sue: Chipped mirrored tiles were all the rage in the 1970s. And don’t you think she looks like one of the X-Men? Don’t ask me which one. But yeah, it works for me.
The Doctor brings Eldrad up to speed: 150 million years have passed since her ship crashed on Earth.
Sue: I think they should help her out.
Me: Are you sure about that?
Sue: Yeah. She’s having a bad time, the poor thing.
Watson has the opposite reaction and tries to kill her.
Sue: Two nukes didn’t kill her… I know! I’ll try these bullets instead! You idiot.
Eldrad retaliates and Watson writhes in pain.
Me: Do you still want to help her?
Sue: He just shot her six times. I’d be pissed off if I were her. And she didn’t kill him, so chill, Neil.
Watson is left to deal with the metaphorical fallout.
Sue: Somebody should take that gun off him before he shoots himself in the head. His wife could still get that luxury cruise, after all.
The TARDIS arrives on Kastria.
Sue: Finally. The scene at the beginning might make sense now.
When Eldrad sets off a booby trap, she’s speared through the chest. It’s one of those rare occasions where a cliffhanger actually made Sue gasp.
Sue: Bloody hell, I didn’t see that coming. I told you she was the goodie. You wouldn’t have a cliffhanger where the villain was in danger, would you? That would be silly.
Sue: This is a bit stupid.
What’s annoying Sue is the way in which the Doctor and Sarah take time out to spout exposition at each other, or admire the Kastrian scenery (which Sue hates), even though they should be rushing to save Eldrad’s life. After all, Eldrad must live.
Sue: Stop blathering! Can’t you walk and talk at the same time?
Me: If they did that, they’d run out of set.
Sue: Well, the writers should know better. And there are two writers. One of them should have spotted that.
She doesn’t like the way they’ve written Sarah, either.
Sue: She’s screaming a lot this week. This isn’t like Sarah Jane at all.
The Doctor and Sarah stare into a yawning abyss. We know exactly how it feels.
Sue: Are you sure this isn’t a Terry Nation script? Did he hide behind two pseudonyms because one wasn’t enough?
Sarah crosses the chasm via a makeshift bridge, although she doesn’t half make a meal of it.
Sue: You could drive a bloody truck over that bridge!
When the Doctor carries Eldrad into the regeneration room, Sue is impressed with Judith Paris’ ability to mimic a plank of wood.
Sue: You have to be really fit to stay as rigid as that. Or you could just watch this episode, I suppose; it will bore you rigid. It’s a shame because I enjoyed the first three. It was on for a seven or an eight yesterday.
The Doctor and Sarah accidentally flatten Eldrad.
Sue: Is that it? They’re just going to shrug their shoulders and leave?
And then the real Eldrad turns up.
Sue: I like his purple hat.
Eldrad rants and raves. A lot. So Sue sighs. A lot.
Sue: Okay, this is officially rubbish now. It’s heading for a four.
Sarah exclaims they’ve all been taken for a ride.
Sue: Tell me about it, love!
When Eldrad discovers the Kastrian race banks are empty, he has what Sue calls a “dicky fit”.
Sue: He’s pathetic. This is what you were like the last time our internet went down, Neil.
The villain activates a video message that’s been left for him by the Last King of Kastria. Its condescending tone sends Eldrad over the edge.
Sue: Stop talking to it, then! You’re trying to have a conversation with an answer machine, you moron!
Eldrad turns his attention to Earth.
Sue: Eldrad definitely has a chip on his shoulder. Well, he’s got several chips, actually, but you know what I mean.
The Doctor and Sarah make a run for it. Eldrad gives chase, but he trips over the Doctor’s scarf and falls into the abyss.
Sue: This is embarrassing. It’s a bloody pantomime, now.
The Doctor believes Eldrad could have survived the fall.
Sue: So why throw his ****ing ring down after him, then? Which writer would be stupid enough to bring him back, anyway? What a load of rubbish. Worst. Monster. Ever.
But it isn’t over yet.
Sue: Oh, the Doctor’s been called to “Gallifree”. That’s almost as exciting as being called to Gallifrey.
And then the joking stops.
Sue: I’m genuinely shocked by this. I thought Sarah would be around a lot longer than that.
However, when Sarah is deposited on a suburban street, my wife is delighted.
Sue: Aww, what a gorgeous Labrador. She looks like Buffy when Buffy was young. That’s nice.
Once the credits have faded to black, and I’m satisfied that my voice won’t crack, I ask Sue to sum up.
Sue: That was a brilliant scene at the end, but I know she’s coming back, so it’s fine. If I didn’t know she’d get her own series, I think I’d be more upset. It’s only upsetting now because Elisabeth Sladen is no longer with us. There are different layers of poignancy to that scene now, especially for you, I expect. But look at her at the end, Neil. She’s happy.
Sue: It’s a difficult story to score. It was good, then very good, then good, then shit, then really shit, then excellent. I don’t know what to do… Oh sod it, it’s Sarah Jane’s last story so I’ll have to give it…