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article imageClassic Doctor Who story tribute for Elisabeth Sladen

By Mathew Wace Peck     Apr 29, 2011 in Entertainment
Radio Times has announced that, as a tribute to the late Elisabeth Sladen, a classic four-part Doctor Who story will be broadcast on BBC Four in May.
Radio Times broke the news via its Twitter feed: "Confirmed - BBC4 will show Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear as a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen on Mon 9/Tue 10."
Sladen, who was much loved by viewers of the 48-year-old science-fiction television drama series, had been suffering from cancer and died, age 63, on 19 April.
Writing in the Radio Times, Patrick Mulkern sums up Sladen's legacy thus: "Elisabeth Sladen, as the gutsy Sarah Jane Smith, set the benchmark for all subsequent Doctor Who companions. Without her, there would be no [current companions] Amy Pond and no River Song."
As well as tributes from Sladen's friends and colleagues, thousands of messages have been posted to the BBC and Doctor Who fan websites.
The four-part story, The Hand of Fear, originally saw Sladen leave the show after four years playing the role of Sarah Jane Smith, companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker).
A brief description of the episodes is given in the Doctor Who Guide, which reads: "Sarah becomes possessed by a mysterious stone hand found buried deep in a quarry. The hand is a remnant of Eldrad, a member of an ancient Silicone based civilisation. With Sarah’s help Eldred is reborn and desperate to return to her home planet, but all is not as it seems."
The Radio Times Episode Synopsis for the story reads: "On Earth Sarah becomes possessed by a fossilised hand after it is uncovered by a quarry blast. She takes the hand to a nuclear research complex, where radiation from the reactor core regenerates it into an entity, based on Sarah's form, called Eldrad. The alien, who was obliterated by his own people, asks the Doctor to take him to his home planet of Kastria, which he now hopes to rule. But Eldrad finds a dead world, the race banks long since destroyed. Dispatching him down a chasm, the Doctor and Sarah leave. A disgruntled Sarah wants to go home and the Doctor, having received a distress call from Gallifrey, returns her to Earth."
The Hand of Fear was originally broadcast on BBC 1 almost 35 years ago, over four consecutive Saturdays from 2 to 23 October 1976.
Thirty years on
In 2006, thirty years after Sarah Jane Smith stepped out of the TARDIS for the last time, Sladen returned to the role, in School Reunion.
Such was the success of her return to Doctor Who that the BBC gave Sladen her own spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and has appeared with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
A special 15-minute tribute to the actor, My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, was broadcast last Saturday on CBBC immediately following the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. The episode itself, The Impossible Astronaut, was dedicated to Sladen's memory.
My Sarah Jane featured contributions from the show's creator and executive producer, Russell T Davies (Torchwood), Smith, Tennant, Katy Manning (Sladen's long-time friend and predecessor, Jo Grant, in Doctor Who) as well as her young co-stars in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Tommy Knight, Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra, who play Luke Smith, Clyde Langer and Rani Chandra.
ATV Today reports that over 700,000 viewers tuned in for the first showing of the tribute.
According to Whoovers, My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen will be shown again on CBBC on Monday, 2 May at 6.10 p.m.
The tribute broadcast of The Hand of Fear will be shown split in two parts, on Monday, 9 and Tuesday, 10 May, times to be confirmed.
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