While Doctor Who might be fine with telling adventures over the course of a single, 50-odd-minute episode these days, back in its classic iteration, serials could run twice as long or even longer, broken up into 30-minute chunks over the course of several weeks. But it seems like the BBC’s official YouTube channel is experimenting with making some classics even more digestible.
This week, the official Who YouTube channel released a condensed version of the 1976 classic “The Hand of Fear.” Originally told across four 25-minute episodes—and cut down here to the equivalent length of roughly one and a half of those episodes—the serial sees the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith battle the sinister Kastrian criminal Eldrad.
Executed for crimes against his people thousands of years in the past, Eldrad’s titular hand (of fear!) survived obliteration and made its way to Earth, where an unwitting Sarah Jane falls under its thrall (presumably also, of fear!) as Eldrad attempts to reconstitute his form and enact revenge.
Aside from featuring an awful lot of very good overacting with a prop rock-hand, and Judith Paris in a truly delightful costume as Eldrad’s new, feminine form, “The Hand of Fear” is best known as Elisabeth Sladen’s final regular appearance as Sarah Jane Smith, one of Who’s most iconic and beloved companions. Although in the years between Sladen would be involved in attempted spinoffs and audio dramas, it wouldn’t be until 2006's “School Reunion” that she formally returned to Doctor Who as Sarah Jane, kickstarting guest appearances and another—this time successful—spin-off show, lasting until Sladen’s passing in 2011.
And now you can experience it in this weird, officially sanctioned, edited form? It’s an interesting thing for Doctor Who’s YouTube channel to do—there’s also a recent upload of a similar edit from another 1976 serial, “The Masque of Mandragora,” which you can check out below.
Maybe it’ll start being a regular thing, taking some of classic Who’s bests and condensing them into a YouTube-bingeable form? We’ll have to wait and see.
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