- Title: The Roots of Evil
- Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
- Author: Philip Reeve
- Characters: Fourth Doctor, Leela
- Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2016
**Spoiler Alert** The Roots of Evil is part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors set of mini-books or novellas. This is the fourth book in the series so it features the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) and Leela (as played by Louise Jameson) from the British television series Doctor Who.
The Doctor says that Leela has been complaining about not ever seeing trees on their journeys, so the Doctor takes her to a space station that is a giant tree in space. However, no sooner than they land than the Doctor and Leela are in trouble. Leela senses something dark about this “tree”, and they soon meet Ven, which as he explains is short for: “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-the-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths”. Everyone else on the space station/tree has similar names vowing revenge against the Doctor. However, when Ven falls into a digestion pool – the Doctor and Leela rescue him. This, and the Doctor’s way of getting people to trust him easily and quickly, means the young Ven becomes sympathetic to the Doctor. When the troops arrive, Ven insists the Doctor and Leela be taken to the Judicator – not the civilian/military/religious leadership. As the Doctor and Leela start to discover what’s happened, that the people of the station/tree are angry at the Doctor’s future Eleventh Incarnation and not the current one, the meeting hall is attacked. First the Chairman (civilian/military/religious leader) arrives to take the Doctor to immediate execution without trial. Then, tree spores begin to attack everyone.
This actually forces the various splinter groups together because survival becomes more important than petty disagreements. The Doctor also realizes that it was a future version of himself that caused these colonists to end-up in the tree space station in the first place; but every story has two sides. The original leader of the colony expedition was a racist and xenophobic nightmare. Having found a planet, he ignored the fact that an intelligent methane-breathing species already lived there, and began the terraforming process to replace the methane with oxygen (effectively killing the natives by smothering them.) The Eleventh Doctor stopped him – thus causing the chain of events. But even more interestingly – the original leader is still semi-alive, and is the soul of the dark tree. He is the one who wants vengeance. He’s actually so bent on destroying the Doctor that he’s sabotaged the natural ability of the tree to terraform a lifeless rock into a life-supporting planet, thus trapping the colonists in the tree/station for 900 years. The Doctor and Leela defeat the colonial leader who’s a nightmare, release the tree spores into space, and explain what’s happened to the clueless colonists – who will have a new home in a decade or so.
Despite it’s lack of science (a tree in space? Opening a window on a space station to let the spores out???) I liked this story. The society living in the tree, with their wooden tools and weapons, and pounded wood pulp fabrics is fascinating and very, very different. That the Fourth Doctor would run into something a future incarnation would do (had already done in fact) gave the story both a modern-Who twist in a Classic Who framework. The colonial leader was suitably annoying and evil. And the story showed that every battle has at least two sides. This is the first book in this series that I thought could have been much longer, because the society in the tree and the main characters could have been fleshed-out a bit more. Still, an excellent short story or novella. Recommended.