The Roots of Evil Review

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on the fourth 50th anniversary short story.

reeve-roots-of-evil-50thThe Roots of Evil in short, was unsatisfactory. Enthusiastic and energetic it was abounding with well-written descriptions but lacking in character depth. Philip Reeve clearly had a solid idea of how the story would become, and The Roots of Evil was certainly a triumph in terms of writing quality, yet a drastic dearth of dialogue for the Fourth Doctor and Leela left me feeling little for them.

Much like The Doctor’s Wife, The Roots of Evil has the Doctor face off with a sentient planet that is incredibly vindictive towards the Time Lord. Rather than House, we have the Heligan Structure; a treelike celestial body that the Doctor has allegedly angered and naturally the structure wants retribution. It deploys some minions: malevolent spores that go around pulverizing people. They are pretty horrible creatures; particularly in the way they kill people. The Doctor and Leela, upon arrival, encounter a young boy called Ven (short for “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-The-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonizing-Deaths”, naturally), a girl named Aggie (of course it’s a shortened version of “Agony-Without-End-Shall-Be-The-Doctor’s-Punishment”), and a nasty fellow named Director Sprawn. These characters aren’t particularly well-rounded and all seem like canon-fodder really. The resolution is effortlessly easy and uncomplicated (think The Power of Three meets Closing Time), and the story felt like it could have been prolonged. We are given no aftermath, which seems necessary given the horrific demises and pain occurring around them.

Reeve does nail Leela’s unschooled attitude; her ignorance to certain things, and non-contracted sentences. She describes the sonic screwdriver as “magic”, states the obvious: “there is danger here” and describes K-9 rather sweetly as “the little metal one”. She is exactly how Louise Jameson portrayed her on the television series. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor is also well-done, and Reeve utilizes all the character’s idiosyncrasies (“would you like a jelly-baby?”) and charm, perfectly forming the Doctor we have grown to love. K-9 gets a brief cameo but doesn’t appear for any length as he is “recharging [his] batteries” which, is a shame because I think Reeve’s story would have benefited from K-9’s inclusion. Some of the TARDIS’ rooms are briefly (and I say briefly) explored; this is rather topical as Saturday’s episode is Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

In comparison to last month’s thrilling romp, The Spear of Destiny, The Roots of Evil seems rather uneventful. Marcus Sedgwick plunged his heroes into action immediately, and included all sorts of Third Doctor characteristics: Bessie, the Master, and the Brigadier. Reeve confined his players to a smaller area and although the said area is a winsome planet, the lack of distance covered lets the story down a little. I probably shouldn’t juxtapose each of these e-books as some are naturally weaker than others but because of March’s outstanding story, it was hard not to draw contrast.

Whilst The Roots of Evil is enjoyable, I felt the lack of dialogue for the two main characters, and a disappointing resolution let it down. Bits of it are marvellous – particularly a very open reference to a future Doctor (Reeve handles this a bit more better than Eoin Colfer in A Big Hand For The Doctor) – and the characterisation is fantastic but I came out feeling a little empty.

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

Note: In last month’s review, I had the chance to interview Marcus Sedgwick, author of The Spear of Destiny. I am to do the same with Philip Reeve however due to communication errors, the interview will have to be published separately. It will come, rest assured.