The Left-Handed Hummingbird

Roots: There are quotations from Divus Vespasianus, Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Poul Anderson, and Konrad Adenaur. Benny quotes Milton. The Beatles are mentioned, as John Lennon's assassination is featured. There are references to Back to the Future, Cream, Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Journal of Mesoamerican Antiquities, self-proclaimed alien abductee von Daniken, Indiana Jones, Fortean Times, The Midwich Cuckoos, Flash Gordon, Peter Pan, Van Helsing (Dracula), and Ronald Reagan.

Goofs: The Seventh Doctor bears little resemblance to Sylvester McCoy on the cover. Crook Marsham is spelt Crook Meersham.

In the first printing, there's a scene on page 107 where Benny and Cristián ask about obtaining a visitor's ass, and (predictably) have no success. Later printings corrected the mistake, and talked about a visitor's pass.

Dialogue Triumphs: Huitzilin to the Doctor: 'Are words your food, world killer? All this talk, and still the healer is becoming the warrior. How many people have you seen die, killer of worlds?'

Memorable Moments: The Doctor asks Ace to kill him if he can't prevent Huitzilin taking him over - she looks him the eye, asks him if he is ready to die, and pulls the trigger of her gun, at which point he flinches, confirming that he isn't, in fact, ready to die.

Continuity: Huitzilin is a powerful psychic vampire. His name means "Hummingbird". He was born with a clubfoot. The Aztecs brought a ruptured fuel pod from an Exxilon spacecraft with them when they migrated from the north - whether they got it from the Incas or the Exxilons also experimented on them is uncertain. The fuel pod was ruptured, exposing the plutonium fuel source, which began to kill Aztecs who approached it. The pod was abandoned in a cave near to Tenochtitlan. When Huitzilin and his men sheltered in the cave, the radiation mutated his DNA, turning him into the most powerful psychic in human history. He prolonged his physical life, but at the point of death, he was able to continue to exist as an "imaginary person", a being composed of pure psychic energy. However, the energy required for him to exist in this state would increase exponentially - he believed that the energy released by the dedication of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan in 1487 would stabilize him, but he was wrong and he should have dissipated. The Monk used Artemis to alter history at this point, allowing Huitzilin to survive. The psychic energy released by death and powerful emotions feed him - he engineers John Lennon's murder because the effect on Lennon's fans releases a vast amount of psychic energy. He fed on the deaths of the Aztecs at the hands of the Conquistadors, the disappearances in Chile, the famine in East Timor, the China/Viet Nam war, the civil war in Rhodesia, and the terrorist actions in Brazil. He is time permeable, which enables him to know the Doctor from future meetings on their first encounter. The Doctor becomes his ixiptla, which means the image becoming the God and the God becoming the image - Huitzilin and the Doctor are one and the same, which allows Huitzilin to steal the Doctor's existence and be reborn into the physical world. He can consume people to increase his psychic energy. The Blue is the manifestation of his psychic energy - the eyes of anyone possessed by him turn blue, and blue feathers grow out of the Doctor's scalp as Huitzilin's hold over him grows. He nearly succeeds in becoming one with the Doctor, but is shot and killed by Cristián Alvarez just as he becomes tangible.

The Xiuhcoatl ("Turquoise Serpent") is an Exxilon weapon, which the Doctor describes as the most powerful and precise weapon that he has ever seen - it can fuse two molecules of hydrogen together or turn a pool of water into nuclear bomb. It could be used to hollow out a planet or carve a name on a tree. The Exxilons left it on Earth, and Huitzilin found it, using it on one occasion to vaporize a mile-wide stretch of forest and the four hundred men hiding inside it. Huitzilin needs to be tangible to use it. It sinks with The Titanic and remains on-board the subterranean wreck.

The Doctor and Ace wear hooded cotton robes as disguise whilst in Tenochtitlan although they aren't authentic Aztec robes. In order to face the Blue, the Doctor takes the magic mushrooms Psilocybe mexicana, claiming that his control over his own metabolism means that they can't do anything to him that he doesn't want them to. Gallifreyan and human metabolism is reasonably similar, although the Doctor reflects that he has to be careful with human drugs, since an aspirin could kill him (The Mind of Evil). Macbeth keeps the Huitzilin-possessed Doctor cuffed to a bed for three weeks, since he is unable to sedate him with drugs, and treats him like a lab rat. When the Doctor has psychic attacks caused by Huitzilin, the effects are felt all over Britain - one of Macbeth's psychics miscarries, a rabbi in Birmingham goes mad and starts speaking in tongues, and the inmates of an asylum in Lancaster burn it down. Boysenberry ripple is the Doctor's favourite flavour of ice cream. Nothing on Earth relaxes him more than having his hair cut.

Ace wears a Hard Rock Café Svartos t-shirt, obviously from Iceworld (Dragonfire). She later dons a Cure T-shirt. When she was four years old, she got stuck in a lift and was too small to reach the buttons - ever since, she has had a recurring dream about a lift that goes sideways, and becomes unreasonably small and impossibly fast. Despite her agreement with the Doctor that she won't carry firearms, she wears a Browning 9mm pistol taped to her skin beneath her T-shirt. Her time fighting in the Dalek wars is again referenced, as she recalls the sound a Dalek makes when it dies. She punches the Doctor when he tells her that she is quite capable of turning into a killer without anyone else's aid. She has a cluster of small scars over her right temple, which the Doctor suspects was caused by shrapnel from an exploding Dalek. She owns a lightweight flechette thrower. She swears in Russian. She disarms Cristián faster than Bernice's eyes can follow. Under Huitzilin's influence, she tries to stab the Doctor in his left heart, but the obsidian blade snaps on a rib - the Doctor feigns death so that Huitzilin will let her go, rather than consuming her, and she is left with no memory of the attack.

Bernice has seen Back to the Future and Alien (the respirator Ace wears in hospital reminds Benny of a facehugger). She can drive twentieth-century cars. She contemplates leaving the Doctor, but changes her mind.

The TARDIS from the alternate time line (Blood Heat) still has its swimming pool (the Doctor was forced to jettison the pool in his old TARDIS when it started leaking - see Paradise Towers). He has identified the problem that led to the leak in his other TARDIS and has mended the equations that formed the water filtration system. He has also repaired the Chameleon circuit - the TARDIS adopts the shape of an idol when it materialises in Tenochtitlan. On returning to 1994, it returns to its police box shape, although this might be because it likes it rather than because the Chameleon circuit has broken again. It materialises around Ace on board The Titanic, thus saving her life seemingly without prompting from anyone.

Following his "retirement", Mike Yates refuses to speak about his UNIT days. Corporal Bell was promoted to Captain and ended up brain-damaged in a car accident (see The Face of the Enemy).

Glaswegian Hamish "Hank" Macbeth is a former UNIT lieutenant and now psychic investigator. He has red hair. He was present during the Yeti invasion of London (The Web of Fear). He set up UNIT's Paranormal Division in 1968, consisting of four lieutenants, twelve lab assistants, and six physics (three GESPers and a psychokinetic). Ace breaks his nose after he keeps the Doctor prisoner for three weeks. After being kicked out of UNIT at Christmas 1968, he became a paranormal investigator, and managed to dig up classified information on his former employers. He is aware of the evacuation of London (Invasion of the Dinosaurs), the death of Hubert Clegg (Planet of the Spiders) (which Harry Sullivan made his nurse attribute to a heart-attack on the death certificate), a mysterious prison riot (The Mind of Evil), a chemical crisis in Wales (The Green Death), a nuclear crisis in Cornwall (possibly The Claws of Axos) and the destruction of Devil's End Church (The Daemons). He also knows that Mike Yates retired under unusual circumstances (Invasion of the Dinosaurs). He still uses his UNIT pass to gain access to classified information. Huitzilin kills him in 1994, but this timeline only exists due to the machinations of the Monk (see No Future) and is aborted when Huitzilin dies aboard the Titanic.

Nightshade is repeated on British television in 1968 (Nightshade).

Links: The Doctor recalls Barbara's ill-fated attempt to change history in The Aztecs. He mentions Leela and Dodo. Bernice mentions the Garvond (The Dimension Riders) and the Silurians (Blood Heat). The Doctor briefly wonders if the Blue is a natural pooling of psychic energy like Saul (Timewyrm: Revelation). Ace mentions Ishtar and Uruk (Timewyrm: Genesys). The Doctor mentions aliens who have interfered in human history, including the Osirians in Egypt (Pyramids of Mars and The Sands of Time), the Exxilons in Peru (Death to the Daleks), Scaroth (City of Death), the Timewyrm, and "various Dalek sorties" (The Chase and The Daleks' Master Plan). Ace reminds him that he is Merlin (Battlefield). Benny briefly becomes homesick for Beta Caprisis and Heaven (Love and War). Ace recalls her first meeting with the Doctor (Dragonfire) and Mike's death (Remembrance of the Daleks). The Mara (Kinda and Snakedance) and the Fendahl (Image of the Fendahl) are mentioned. Macbeth returns in Happy Endings. Ace notes that she is in Crook Meersham (see Goofs) in 1968 (Nightshade). Ace tries to contact Lethbridge-Stewart, but he hasn't met her yet in 1968 (Battlefield). She manages to contact Air Commodore Gilmore (Remembrance of the Daleks). The Doctor mentions Xanxia (The Pirate Planet).

Location: New York City, 8th to 15th December 1980; Mexico City, October 31st 1993 and 1994; Tenochtitlan, 1487; London, 20th December 1968 to January 10th 1969; The Titanic, 14th to 15th April 1912.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor, Benny and Ace were having a "holiday" in Switzerland in 2030 when they called in at UNIT headquarters in Geneva and received Cristián Alvarez's note. The Seventh Doctor has met Professor Lawrence Fitzgerald before, during some "bother with the Egyptian Government". He claims that at least two of his previous incarnations were present at Woodstock.

Q.v. Benny's Birthday, Love and War.

The Bottom Line: A marvellous debut from Kate Orman, and a classic New Adventure. The Orman trademark of putting the TARDIS crew, especially the Doctor, through mental and physical torture is used to great effect and the historical backdrops of Tenochtitlan and The Titanic are well captured.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke
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Comments

An emotional roller coaster. Kate Orman explores the Doctor's feelings like no other writer thus far in the New Adventures, and does it during a terrifying epic adventure that gives up timey-wimey long before Steven Moffat was on the scene. The prose is a little rough in places but otherwise it's a damn fine story.

I was concerned about all the mentioned atrocities and disasters though. I hate when real-life disasters are given supernatural/alien origins, and The Left-Handed Hummingbird looked like it was about to become one of the most outrageous examples of this. However, Orman subverts this with Huitzilin claiming he was present at scenes of grief and pain to feed off them but didn't cause them himself. This was a relief to see.

There's a further link: Benny recalls Zamina telling her about catfood monsters when she observes a New York City bag lady with pet food (Transit).

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