Watch Sarah Jane Smith's Final Doctor Who Adventure, Cut Down to Just 30 Minutes

Be prepared to face the hand... of fear!
Be prepared to face the hand... of fear!
Screenshot: BBC

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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James is a News Editor at io9, where you can find him delivering your morning spoilers, writing about superheroes, and having many feelings about Star Wars. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!


I can’t watch The Hand of Fear because I’ll break down and cry like a little girl at the end. So sue me. I’m still not over losing Liz.

So I’ll just suggest a couple of better Liz Sladen series to watch. And please watch them in their entirety instead of in this truncated form. Making them shorter does not make them better.

The very first Doctor Who series I saw (in the typical US-version 90 minute combined form) was The Pyramids of Mars. I was instantly hooked, and not just because Tom Baker is charming but because Sarah Jane was not a screaming useless sidekick who’s only purpose was to be the audience stand in for the explanations. Heck, she can even shoot! Slick, stylish, and very Hammer Horror in tone, it’s actually a great series. Gabriel Woolf as the voice of Sutekh is outstanding, and Paddy Russell was one of the great early women directors of Doctor Who. (The other being Julia Smith.) Paddy Russell also directed the extremely good Doctor Who series The Horror of Fang Rock.

And we must not forget Genesis of the Daleks, one of the greatest Doctor Who series of all time in which we get the hands-down creepiest version of Davros, as well as the insane fascist beginnings of the Daleks. Goofy, irritating, loud, and dumber than a box of rocks, in at least this series they are completely menacing. And The Doctor’s moral dilemma at the end is very representative of the Tom Baker version of the character.

Go. Find them. Obey.