With his planet and his people gone, the Doctor, literally a man without a name, awakens on Earth at the turn of the 20th century in a carriage, amnesiac, with only a tiny blue box and a letter from a mysterious `Fitz' asking to meet him at St Louis on February 8th 2001 in his coat pocket.
`The Burning' by Doctor Who luminary Justin Richards was one of the first classic Doctor Who novels I read. Having read the graphic novel collections of Scott Gray's run on the Eighth Doctor in Doctor Who Magazine, and established a firm image and characterisation of one of the most complex and deeply passionate, humanised, incarnations of the Last of the Time Lords, I was wholly unprepared for diving into where it all began.
`The Burning' reinvents and reinterprets the Doctor Who mythos, heralding a new beginning in the Doctor's life, and readers alike. The Doctor here is a blank slate: a chance to be someone else, to be human for once. No longer does the Doctor have to `act' human, or project a human side, so as to not alienate the human companions that have taken up so much of his lifetimes, filling the long periods of loneliness in his long life. He can finally form human relationships, experience human love and loss, as is explored in the subsequent `Earth Arc' as it has become known. By cutting the cord to Gallifrey, and thus the weighted burden of his Time Lord responsibilities, the Doctor can finally adopt Earth as his home-from-home. He has become a blood-brother to the human race. He is a fallen angel seeking redemption for the sins of his tumultuous and tenebrous past. To quote show-runner Steven Moffat: "I think of the Doctor as an angel that aspires to be human".
I highly recommend `The Burning' for anyone interested in not only one of the more fascinating periods in Doctor Who's history, but for anyone who is interested in finding out what it's all about. It's a perfect place to start. You don't need to know anything about the character or his history: that's something for you both to discover (or re-discover) together.