Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

The Burning
Book - The Burning
The Burning
(Justin Richards)

 Name: The Burning

 Format: Book

 Time of Origin: Earth, 1890s (Precise date unspecified save that it was after 1894).

 Appearances: "The Burning"; origin revealed in "Time Zero".

 Doctor: Eighth Doctor

 Companions: None

 History: Not only was the Burning a highly unique life-form in its own right, being a semi-sentient force of pure fire, but it was also significant in that it was the first foe that The Doctor fought after the destruction of Gallifrey and the subsequent loss of his memory. Its origin was initially unrevealed, but it was later implied that it was created as a result of a black light explosion that took place in an ice cave in 1894 ("Time Zero"), the resulting energy infusing magma underneath it with a form of life that manifested as an elemental life form.

 In its natural state, the creature lacked memory of its own, ‘interacting’ with others by observing how they interacted with their fellows and adjusting itself accordingly, but possessed some degree of sentience, occupying a spongy rock that could be shaped into other forms and features as it wished, able to assume these forms and then essentially ‘remember’ this form so that it could resume that form even if it was destroyed. When it absorbed its victims into itself, it was then able to take on their forms, and could also mould natural rock into humanoid creatures to act as its minions, although these minions were only capable of basic human interaction; The Doctor speculated that the Burning’s focus on mass and expansion rendered it unable to replicate the fine details of individuals. After its creation in the Arctic, it spread out for a time until a large quantity of it eventually ‘settled’ underneath the English village of Middleton, although there may have been some parts of it that settled in other locations to account for the fact that its ‘agent’ was aware of it before he reached Middletown.

Book - Time Zero
Time Zero
(Justin Richards)

 The Burning eventually manifested in Middletown, which was facing economic failure after the tin mine that had been the town’s only real source of income had been mined dry, and the recent construction of a nearby dam had only provided a temporary substitute occupation before it was completed. After a mysterious fissure opened up in the middle of the ground near Middletown - in an area that was so deep it gave the impression of having been a previous source of volcanic activity -, the mysterious Roger Nepath arrived in Middletown, using the Burning to essentially possess Lord Urton, the local landowner, in order to gain his ‘permission’ to re-open the mine and harness the Burning within the mine for his own purposes; having somehow made contact with the Burning, Nepath was convinced that it would restore his long-dead sister, Patience, to life if he gave it the opportunity to expand across the world.

 Although Nepath was able to use his control over Urton to set up a base within Urton’s manor and restart the mining operations - using various digging tools to penetrate deeper into the mine after taking control of the mining foreman -, he met with unexpected opposition when The Doctor became involved in his plans. Although he was currently suffering from total amnesia with no idea who he was or what he had once done beyond his name, the Eighth Doctor was drawn to Middletown after the fissure opened when the TARDIS - currently deprived of power after it released all of its energy to destroy Gallifrey and Faction Paradox’s invasion fleet ("The Ancestor Cell") and reduced to nothing more than a small black box about two inches in size, The Doctor unaware of its true nature even if he recognised its importance on some level - began to display a certain strange sensitivity to the fissure; no matter what way The Doctor held the small black box that his ship had become, whichever side was facing Middleton was always hot while the rest were merely room temperature. Having ‘followed’ the box to the location where it was all hot, The Doctor infiltrated a dinner at Urton’s house, making his appearance so casually that all four groups at the dinner-table - Lord and Lady Urton, Reverend Stobbold, Roger Nepath, and Professor Isaac Dobbs and Alistair Gaddis of the Society for Psychical Research (Invited by Urton to investigate the fissure before Nepath took control of him and reluctant to leave despite Urton’s now-blunt manner) - initially assumed that he was the guest of one of the others, The Doctor managing to arrange for Stobbold to give him a room during his stay in Middletown before anyone had the chance to realise that he shouldn’t have been there.

 While assisting Dobbs and Gaddis in their investigations of the fissure, The Doctor discovered that the water in the nearby reservoir was suspiciously hot despite the otherwise cold temperature, being left with further evidence that something was wrong when Gaddis was found burned to death near the fissure while dowsing for energy lines, despite the fact that it was so cold that it was snowing. Attending an auction arranged by Nepath at the manor, The Doctor witnessed Nepath demonstrating a unique ‘memory mineral’, that could be either soft and malleable or as hard as metal, capable of being forged into a specific shape and influenced to remain in that shape to the point that it would repair itself if it was damaged so long as it was exposed to sufficient heat, The Doctor being given a small statue as a ‘sample’ despite not purchasing anything himself. When this statue - which The Doctor had already identified as a copy of another - reverted to a lava-like state to attack The Doctor when it was revealed to be made of Nepath’s memory mineral, the TARDIS absorbed the mineral into itself, the energy it produced providing the TARDIS’s attempts to rebuild with the power it needed to properly start the process, causing it to grow from a two-inch-sized black box of unidentified material into a smooth wooden blue box about the size of a man, even if the finer details of its usual appearance would still take a long time to restore themselves.

 Seeking information about Nepath, The Doctor sent a telegram to inquire for information about his past while he and Dobbs investigated both Nepath’s rooms - discovering the remains of a badly-burned young woman before the Urtons tried to burn them alive and they were forced to flee - and the mine, discovering several pools of the memory mineral and allowing The Doctor to determine its semi-sentient nature, although Dobbs was captured and killed by one of them when and The Doctor escaped. Returning to Stobbold’s house, The Doctor realised that Stobbold’s daughter Betty was ‘possessed’ by the Burning - a small statue that Nepath had given her earlier allowing the Burning to control her without actually consuming her like the Urtons -, forcing The Doctor and Stobbold to bury her under a garden wall as they hurried to the Urton house. Arriving at the house, The Doctor and Stobbold confronted Nepath, having learned from The Doctor’s earlier telegram that Nepath’s sister Patience - who he had claimed had been staying in their rooms due to fatigue - had actually died in a fire when he was a child; his alliance with the Burning as he provided it with new opportunities to grow beyond the mine was motivated by his desire to bring her back to life as well as his claims of desiring power by moving in to locations that it had destroyed in order to restore order. Although Nepath attempted to ‘prove’ the Burning’s power by recreating Betty, Stobbold quickly realised that this Betty was a mere imitation as it lacked the original’s knowledge of literature, failing to recognise a Biblical quote from her father, Stobbold siding with The Doctor even as the Burning appeared to regenerate Patience.

 While Stobbold and a group of visiting military officers who had attended Nepath’s demonstration prepared to destroy the dam in the hope of releasing the water to put the Burning out before it could destroy them - Urton having been destroyed when The Doctor kicked him into the river and he subsequently ‘froze’ into a rock statue -, The Doctor attempted to convince Nepath that the Burning had deceived him, but his efforts failed, Nepath too blinded by his mad dreams of power and the restoration of Patience to accept reality even as Patience referred to herself as ‘we’ and generated fire in her hand. Although the military forces lacked sufficient explosives to destroy the dam directly, their attempts were unintentionally aided when one of the Burning’s minions, reduced to a moving ‘puddle’ of the mineral, tried to smother the dynamite they were using to destroy the dam; the Burning’s actions, motivated by instinct rather than thought, resulted in the blast being focused on one particular part of the dam, thus causing more damage than would have been sustained if the dynamite had been left alone and the explosion spread out over a wider area.

 As the water was released on Middletown, the rapid shift in temperature cooling the Burning and forcing it back into the fissure, abandoning Patience to leave her as nothing but a statue in Nepath’s embrace, the bitter Doctor actually kicking Nepath into the retreating Burning even when he had a chance to save the other man. With the Burning defeated and his box now grown, The Doctor departed on his journeys once again, leaving Stobbold with the restored Betty and the survivors of Middletown with new hope for the immediate future after the torrent of water exposed new lines of tin ore in the mining tunnels.

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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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