Roots: Fire demon legends. There are numerous Biblical references as the Doctor and Stobbold discuss theology and Hell. There are references to Darwin, Agni, and Dr Faustus. The fire creatures are similar to some lava villains that appear in an episode of the animated Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Continuity: The nature of the fire creature is not explained here. It is sentient and occupies a warm, spongy rock, which can take on the form of the creatures victims and other objects. It has no memory of what it is or was. It can form the rock into shapeless humanoid creatures. It is destroyed by the cold of the huge flood released by the destruction of the dam.
The Doctor has no memory of events prior to waking up in a train carriage (The Ancestor Cell). He notes that he used to have a coat and hat, but felt that they didn't suit him and replaced them with a bottle-green velvet jacket. He carries a pocket watch with no hands. Given the opportunity to save the pleading Roger Nepath, the Doctor pushes him to his death without remorse, suggesting that his usual previous sense of morality has been forgotten along with everything else. He has a note in his pocket saying "Meet me in St. Louis', February 8th 2001" and signed "Fitz". He rides off at the end on a cart with the TARDIS strapped to the back.
The TARDIS starts out as a small black cube two inches along each side (see The Ancestor Cell). It is attracted to the energy of the fire creature in Middletown and its what leads the Doctor there; whichever way he holds the cube, the side pointing towards Middletown was always warm. The TARDIS absorbs energy from a sample of the malleable rock that is part of the fire creature, and uses it to start regenerating itself; it grows from a small black cube to a featureless blue wooden box the size of a police box.
Links: The Ancestor Cell. Nepath has a smooth metal sphere of Tibetan origin, possibly a reference to The Abominable Snowmen.
Location: Middletown, England, c.1899.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor vaguely recalls being in Turkey and witnessing the chess playing "automaton" that actually contained a midget.
The Bottom Line: 'I have no memory of my past? no memory at all.' A superb start to a new era, The Burning reintroduces the Doctor, whilst re-establishing the basics of what made the series successful in the first place. The Doctor's callous disposal of Nepath is unforgettable.