The Great Fire of London was a massive fire started when a Terileptil weapon overloaded in a bakery on Pudding Lane, London on 2 September 1666. (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Visitation) The Fifth Doctor and his companions Adric, Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka left the scene while Richard Mace attempted to put the fire out. (TV: The Visitation) The fire raged for three days, destroying most of the medieval city of London. (PROSE: A History of Humankind) The fire proved helpful in clearing plague from the city. (TV: The Visitation) The Fifth and Tenth Doctors took credit for the fire, but stated it was completely necessary. (AUDIO: The Gathering, COMIC: Black Death White Life)
The Twelfth Doctor forewarned the Great Fire of London to the immortal Lady Me in 1651, noting that it would come after a second bout of the bubonic plague ravaged London, realising that Me had endured the Black Death of 1348. Me suggested that she would be the one to start the fire, only for the Doctor to tell her that the Terileptils would be responsible. (TV: The Woman Who Lived)
In 1664, Charles II, aware of the dangers of fire, tried to convince the Lord Mayor of London to enforce safer building regulations that would guard against the spread of a conflagration. However, sufficient action was not taken. The Doctor described the fire as "an accident waiting to happen." (PROSE: The Republican's Story)
Prior to witnessing the cause, the Doctor had been accused of starting the fire. (TV: Pyramids of Mars) The Fourth Doctor witnessed the outset of the fire at a distance and urged the Republicans and the forces of Charles II to stop fighting and work together to put out the fire. Sergeant George Mullens, suspicious of the strangeness of the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, attempted to arrest them for starting the fire. (PROSE: The Republican's Story)
Shortly thereafter, George, Helen, Ida and Alan Mortimer were rescued from the Great Fire by the First Doctor. It is possible that, for a brief period after the First Doctor's arrival, there were three separate incarnations of the Doctor co-existing in the same time period and in close proximity to one another. (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Invasion from Space)
A play entitled Ye Unearthly Childe, purported to have been written by William Shakespeare, was part of a set of diaries which were badly damaged in the Great Fire. The play was rediscovered in the 1960s but its possible importance as a lost Shakespearean play was not realised until the 2010s. (PROSE: Ye Unearthly Childe)
A column at the bottom of King William Street — close to the Bank of England building in the City — commemorated the event. Its plaque, however, neglected to mention the Doctor's involvement in the tragedy. It read in part:
- "In the year of Christ 1666, on 2 September, at a distance eastward of this place of 202 ft, which is the height of this column, a fire broke out in the dead of night which, the wind blowing, devoured even distant buildings, and rushed devastating through every quarter with astonishing swiftness and noise..." (PROSE: Matrix)
As the Terileptil involvement was equally unknown, it was widely believed that the people of London were so scared they set fire to London. Alistair Gryffen noted this as an example of events concerning the spread of fear. (TV: Fear Itself)
Historians noted that there were positive aspects to the fire. It destroyed the London slums which became home to rats and fleas, therefore preventing the further spread of bubonic plague, as well as, so the Twelfth Doctor noted, the Terileptil invasion. (PROSE: A History of Humankind)
"Second Great Fire of London"
Nearly 300 years later, London suffered nightly air raids from Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe during the Blitz in World War II. On Sunday, 29 December 1940, one raid caused a firestorm that set much of the capital ablaze. The blaze became known as the Second Great Fire of London. (PROSE: A History of Humankind)
Behind the scenes
The date of 2 September is derived from prose sources. It's Matrix and the novelisation of The Visitation, not the serial, that give the specific date. The novelisation's rendition of the scene in episode one where the Doctor and Nyssa are sneaking around the manor house contains a line where he claims it's the first of September. Since night falls during the course of The Visitation, it's reasonable to assume that the Great Fire occurs on 2 September. Matrix takes away all guesswork by quoting a commemorative plaque which flatly gives the date.