The first 1963 four part story "An unearthly child" has the Time Lord, his grandchild and two of her teachers back in caveman days. Two factions are in conflict over the secret of fire. Ian is showing one bunch how to rub some sticks together but the Doctor walks past, leans down and strikes a match to the kindling. A quote ensues - " he makes fire come from his fingers" My question is:- Why would an alien with a high tech TARDIS carry around a box of matches?

  • 10
    Because the doctor is always prepared.
    – Robbert
    Jul 14, 2017 at 5:46
  • 7
    “Why would an alien with a high tech TARDIS carry around a box of matches?” — to start fires? Jul 14, 2017 at 6:06
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    The answer may have to do with pragmatism. Granted, the Doctor has access to the most advanced of technologies, but how advanced do you need to be to make fire? A lighter can run out of fuel or the flint might break. A lazer fire started needs power. But matches only need the match and the box. Matches are in many ways more reliable than other ways of starting fire. Jul 14, 2017 at 6:57
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    During Tennant's run in the episode "The Doctor's Daughter" he had a wind up toy mouse!!!! They're the pockets of a Timelord... I wouldn't be surprised about anything in there.
    – Layna
    Jul 14, 2017 at 7:19
  • 1
    “why would he want to start fires?” — to impress cavemen? Jul 14, 2017 at 7:50

3 Answers 3


To light his pipe.

We see the scene where the prehistoric men first see the Doctor light fire here (although it's not super-clear that matches were involved):

s01e02 - An Unearthly Child - Part 2 - The Cave of Skulls

Your memory of the situation seems to be slightly off in that he wasn't intending to show off, but rather was observed (by someone who does come to believe, and tell others, that he makes fire from his fingers), and perhaps there were other, later, scenes where he did something similar to what you remember, but this first instance reveals the answer: to light his pipe.

Keep in mind that although he is an alien with a hi-tech TARDIS, he both had an appreciation for and lived on Earth, at that time masquerading as a human. Bringing forth a self-lighting pipe or some technological doo-dad would have seemed out of place in 1960s society, so, if he wanted to light a pipe, particularly when he was out and about in modern day society (such as might be required for getting Susan registered in school), carrying matches would be a good habit to get into.

Why he might like to light a pipe would be a separate question.

  • And may I add, using a cigarette lighter to light a pipe is a real pita. Jul 14, 2017 at 13:59
  • Fairy Nuff . Faulty memories. I knew there was matches but really can't recall him smoking a pipe on the series
    – Danny Mc G
    Jul 14, 2017 at 15:09

According to here the Doctor smoked a pipe in the first story, An Unearthly Child

enter image description here


Maybe he carried matches because the sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood. Which begs the question, why don't the more current doctors carry matches?

  • If you have another question, please ask it by clicking the Ask Question button.
    – Mithical
    Jul 17, 2017 at 13:03
  • Also, could you please provide some explanation of why the screwdriver might not work on wood?
    – Mithical
    Jul 17, 2017 at 14:45
  • @Mithrandir, I have no idea why the screwdriver doesn't work on wood. It has been a long standing "joke" during the reboot seasons. Immediately after the nearly magical sonic screwdriver has saved them from a complex and nearly un-escapable danger, they come across a simple wooden door and the Doctor has no canned solution. Time for the companion to spring to the rescue. Jul 17, 2017 at 17:41

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