Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 8

There’s good and then there’s great and then there’s the best of the best, sir! That’s particularly true with Star Trek.

Question From Scott: "What are your five personal favorite episodes from the original series?"

Andrew’s Answer: Star Trek is one of those shows where the best episode is the one I just saw last, but there are a few that consistently stand out. These are the ones I think pack the biggest punch:

Mirror, Mirror: It is simply not possible to give a best of list without including this episode. This episode has spawned generations of science fiction with its idea of an evil alternate universe with a bearded Spock. Although their universe simply couldn’t function, it is still fascinating to see the dark side of these characters brought to life. And the final speech where Kirk tells Spock that “one man can change the present. . . It’s up to you. . . in every revolution, there’s one man with a vision,” just sends chills down my spine!

Balance of Terror: This is easily the most tense episode Star Trek made as Kirk plays a high stakes game of chess against the best commander the Romulan fleet has to offer. No episode ever made the Enterprise feel more genuine for me than this one as you see the crew act like a real crew.

Where No Man Has Gone Before: This episode has everything. You get introduced to Kirk, his crew, his mission, and the fact that Kirk will need to choose between his friends and his ship at times in this series. You also have the awesomely well-developed lesson of absolute power corrupting absolutely as we see Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell slowly transform into a murderous God-like being.

The Ultimate Computer: This episode offers the ultimate in the struggle of man versus machine, as Kirk must overcome a computer which has taken over his ship and cannot tell friend from foe. But even more impressive is the mental breakdown of Doctor Daystrom, whose instability finally causes his mind to collapse and he delivers a speech that I believe truly grasps the pressures under which the human race puts geniuses by holding them to unfair expectations and criticizing them for failing to turn out brilliance on command. . . rows and rows of fools, baby!

Dagger of the Mind: There is so much in this simple episode, from questions of brainwashing to abuse of power to whether or not we can trust the things we “know” to be true. In many ways, this is why science fiction exists, so we can explore technologies that will soon be upon us before they get here. And this episode asks, will we ever be safe if those in power get the power to alter the human mind?

Scott’s Response: Very good choices and I can't say I disagree with any of them. It's amazing how deep some of these episodes really are. Of the ones you chose, I would say "Mirror, Mirror" is my favorite. I realize they might be cop-out answers but I also would've included "The City on the Edge of Forever" and "The Trouble with Tribbles" which is one of the rare classic TV episodes - of any series - that is worth the hype. Best of all, it was revisited 30 years later!

82 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

"The City on the Edge of Forever" and "The Trouble with Tribbles" are not cop outs. Just quintessential shows.

My other favorites are:

"Mudd's Women" Mudd's profession -->"Wiving settlers."

"The Devil in the Dark" "I'm a doctor, not a brick layer!"

"Amok Time" A genuine smile from Spock. "Jim!"

"A Piece of the Action" Spock talking like a gangster. "I would advise youse to keeps dialin' Oxmyx."

"The Corbomite Maneuver" "Not chess, Spock. Poker!"

Tennessee Jed said...

Balance of Terror, The Devil in the Dark, City on the Edge of Forever, Wolf in the Fold, Turnabout Intruder. These are based on being personal favorites rather than necessarily the very "best" episodes.

tryanmax said...

I have to go with The Naked Time, if only to see Sulu channeling Errol Flynn. I think George Takei took the title a tad too literally. Man, he's cut! There's probably a reason why only Kirk was allowed to take his shirt off after that.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, City of the Edge of Forever is probably the fan favorite actually. That's the one they always take about. I love the message -- pacifism kills. :)

Those are all excellent episodes. What's funny is when I started thinking about this, I could make a case for including almost any of the episodes!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Excellent choices. The Devil in the Dark is almost the quintessential episode to me. That's got everything there is to get about Star Trek. I should also have mentioned Court Martial, which is another personal favorite.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That was a fun episode and I have to say, I was extremely "put out" when TNG copied it right off the bat. At the time, they were giving interviews where they denigrated the original Trek as just a space western and "monster of the week" and they said they intended to do something very different.... and the first thing they did was copy an original episode. Grrr.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Did you forget to reply to my response? :-)

As I mentioned above, ALL are great choices, though if you had trouble and were tempted to include almost any of them, perhaps you should've done a list of "least favorite episodes"?

And yeah, I can't believe TNG copied the original in their second episode, after making a big deal about being different and not repeating themselves!

Unrelated...

In Trek music news, this was announced yesterday and took us all by surprise! (Many had thought the record label had gone out of business years ago.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, No reply needed.

We'll definitely have to do a least favorite. It may be hard to find five, but there are a couple.

I don't know what TNG people were thinking. I can tell you though, at the time, we thought this meant they had run out of material already. And then they followed up with a couple turds and we began to suspect the series was in trouble.

ScottDS said...

I was only 4 at the time TNG premiered but sometimes I wish I could go back in time and see the reaction first-hand. While there are some good episodes in the first season ("The Big Goodbye," "11001001," "Conspiracy"), watching some of the lesser episodes now, it's amazing the show lasted 7 years!

As I've mentioned before, the writer's room was a revolving door and Roddenberry's health (and, uh, ego) wasn't helping either.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I was right at the end of high school and directly in the target market and I and my friends were stunned -- and not in a good way. This was not the show we expected in any way.

1. Poor production values.
2. Laughably stupid plots.
3. An effete captain with a fricken counselor on board?
4. Stolen storylines.
5. Wesley fricken Crusher

And the coup de gras was the holodeck. Here you have a spaceship that can go anywhere in the universe and they spend their timing looking at holo-porn? Give me a break. That was absolute proof the writers were clueless.

I tell you honestly, most of the people I knew at the time stopped watching after the first season and didn't come back until the Borg. I stuck around, but didn't really enjoy it. And I very much expected it to be cancelled after season 2.

Kelly said...

Excellent list! My personal favorite is "Wolf In The Fold".

I never saw TNG in first run either so I never saw them in order, but I never watch the first season.

Ed said...

I honestly could not name my favorites. I could name my least favorites, but I will save those until you all do them. I do, however, like the episodes with the other ships the best. Those are some of my favorites.

tryanmax said...

I'm in Scott's boat. I was only seven when TNG debuted and just happy to watch something about space. But in retrospect, yeah, it's pretty amazing the show didn't get cancelled right away. Although they did accomplish the unbelievable feat of making a show more dated-looking than the original! They could have just as easily subtitled the series "Yuppies in Space."

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, We will definitely to least favorites. I like the ones with the other ships too. I think it was great seeing other parts of Starfleet and getting as sense that it wasn't just the Enterprise floating around out there.

tryanmax said...

Speaking of other ships, you should do a question on favorite favorite Trek ships besides the Enterprise.

darski said...

"For the World is Hollow and I Have touched the Sky". is a fave of mine and I loved the title.

That is one thing that TOS did so well. They used titles that would qualify as a novel to today's texters. :)

"Spectre of the Gun" I loved for the way Spock worked out the puzzle. It was also fun for someone who grew up watching SAW's for years. (SAW= Saturday Afternoon Westerns)That prertty much covers my mis-spent youth.

I think I like "The Empath". it has stuck with me since I first watched it so I think it qualifies.

I also really enjoyed "The Menagerie" episodes. It added much to the myth of Spock and I think it also made much of the intention of Sci-fi to cause people to think and consider that "ideas have consequences". Would that we had put more thought into reproductive 'messing around'. I do think that sci-fi is a call to stop and think once in a while.

I enjoyed so many eps that I agree that it would have been easier to note the failures.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Re: Speaking of other ships, you should do a question on favorite favorite Trek ships besides the Enterprise.

I actually mentioned this to Andrew months ago but part of me thinks it might be venturing into full-on nerd territory. :-) (As if we haven't already!)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, What's funny is that at the time, it didn't feel particularly modern either. It felt like a poorly imagined version of an unbelievable future. It was very shallow and without substance, and you knew that none of it would ever happen. And it certainly didn't feel like a reflection of the 1980s. To the contrary, it felt like a repudiation of the 1980s.

But in hindsight, I can see it now as a world based on the worst liberal excesses of the 1980s (shrinks, whiny feminists, elitism, smug groupthink, celebrities, etc.). It's like if you took a self-conscious film about Hollywood insiders and then used that as your modern world and then imagined the future using that as a starting point.

At some point, they finally broke from that and the show came into its own. Then it got a lot better. But the first couple seasons were garish and self-indulgent beyond belief.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Now you're talking true nerd territory!

AndrewPrice said...

darski, I agree about the titles -- excellent titles! And those are good episodes too.

I particularly enjoyed The Menagerie/The Cage because it gives us someone to compare to Kirk (Pike) and it shows us Spock before he met Kirk. And those are fascinating comparisons.

I love Spectre of the Gun! That's a great episode which always got my mind churning about what is real and what isn't and how much of reality is created by the mind.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yes, we must watch the nerd factor. If we hit the redzone who know what could happen around here? ;)

ScottDS said...

Andrew and darski -

I miss the great titles! TOS and DS9 had the best ones. For DS9, a few come to mind: "Through the Looking Glass," "In the Pale Moonlight," "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges," "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River," "Who Mourns for Morn?" and "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night."

Thinking of a good title is an art form in and of itself. Now I know why Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David wanted every Seinfeld episode to be "The [Blank]"... they didn't want the writers spending all their time coming up with clever titles that the audience would never see!

Voyager had some good titles but by the time we got to Enterprise, most of the titles were bland and forgettable. "Anomaly"... really?!?!

ScyFyterry said...

Space Seed! So cool it spawned a movie!

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, Plus it has the ever-cool Ricardo Montalban!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Cool titles are a great way to start an episode. But a lot of series really don't care about their titles. I never got the sense TNG did except on certain occasions.

And you're right, it does take time.

Who Mourns Adonis is a TOS title by the way. Other cool TOS titles include... well, most of them. Mirror, Mirror, Dagger of the Mind, Balance of Terror, The Omega Glory, Wolf In The Fold, The Deadly Years, The Naked Time, A Taste of Armageddon, etc. Each has cool double meanings.

Tennessee Jed said...

Kelly - re: "Wolf in the Fold". It is probably my favorite episode when push comes to shove, based on the eternal take of Jack the Ripper. Robert Bloch is also one of my favorite mystery writers from my father's generation. He was a desciple of writer H.P. Lovecraft. Probably best known for his story "Psycho" which later became a Hitchcock icon, the Star Trek episode was played with just the right amount of levity. The actor who played Hengist was perfectly cast: "prefect, I must protest." But honestly what stands out in my mind is DeForrest Kelly's imitation of a drunk after he had to inject himself with the tranquilizer to drive all fear from the mind. I l.m.a.o. :)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Maybe it wasn't clear... I know "Who Mourns for Adonis" is a TOS title.

"Who Mourns for Morn?" is a DS9 episode, and it's actually a good episode. Not great, not bad... just good. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - As you know, "Tribbles won the Hugo award on David Gerrold's very first try. Pretty neat. Andrew - "Turnabout Intruder is memorable to me because it showcased Shatner's not insignificant acting chops when he played a woman in Kirk's body. The P.C. police probably hated the episode because he showed her getting emotional and then hysterical--taboo stereotypes if there ever were any.

Dr. Dastrom to the computer: "I am great, you are great" is one of my favorite lines that I still quote regularly to this day.

ScyFyterry said...

Corinthian leather! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Same here. I love that line from Daystrom! :)

Turnabout Intruder is one of the more interesting episodes in that regard because you do see Shatner have to play someone other than Kirk and it's interesting how well it's done. You really do believe it's not Kirk inside of Kirk. I think Shatner is very much unfairly maligned for his portrayal of Kirk. He did excellent work and really came to define how we expect space captains to be.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sorry, I misread you. I actually can't put titles to the DS-9 episodes. I can with TOS, and most of the TNG stuff, but not the DS-9 episodes.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That is one of my favorite episodes too. I love the concept of Jack the Ripper being an energy force which can move from body to body over time. And I really liked how Kirk stood up for Scotty. That was one of those episodes which made the crew so much more than just a crew -- they were friends and family too.

Interesting that it was written by the same guy who wrote Psycho, I never put that together! :)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - have you seen the Blu Ray for season 1? I looked it up on Amazon and the first "citizen review" gave the HD transfer very high marks. Good to hear, but hardly enough on which to hang a $50 plus purchase in and of itself. One always wonders if the care was put into it to make it worth the extra jack over a DVD

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I have the TOS Blu-Rays and they probably look as good as they can. I'm not an A/V expert but on my 32" Samsung, they look damn good. The Blu-Rays also allow you to toggle between the original effects and the new CGI and it's about 98% accurate.

If you want another opinion, you can read this review from The Digital Bits, one of the longest-running home video websites.

Having said all that, they're also bringing TNG to Blu-Ray soon. But they can't simply remaster it - TNG was shot on film but edited and posted on video, so there are no edited film masters to use. So as we speak, CBS/Paramount is reconstructing the entire show from scratch: re-editing every episode and re-comping every FX shot, using CGI when necessary to replace stuff that isn't salvageable.

tryanmax said...

I wonder if they will use CGI to get rid of those horrible season 1 jumpsuits. If they just digitally erased the pinstripe on the shoulders, I could be happy. And maybe put a beard on Riker. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

I don't understand why the future is all about the jumpsuit in any event? Do people just get too lazy to buy separate pants and shirts?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and Jed, I've got my old fade-blue TOS on DVD and I'm happy with it. The bluish tint has become part of the feel of the show to me and I don't want it cleaned up anymore -- and I refuse to watch the (de)mastered crap they put out. They turned the Enterprise into a fricken cartoon!!!!

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - blue tinge? Oh no!! Khaaaaaaaaaaan! Scott - thanks for the link. That is one great review. The concept of TOS soundtrack in 7 channel DTS HD Master lossless is too delicious a concept to think about. It really sounds like the guys involved gave this the attention a seminal SF TV show deserved. BTW - you always want your own screen to calibrated achieve 6500 degrees Kelvin and have the ability to lock that in on a memory setting. If the original source material is poor, you can adjust, but 99.9% of the time, that is the most accurate color you can get.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It's that blue tinge all Technicolor productions get over time. It's like the visual version of how a fine wine ages!

rlaWTX said...

I had to follow Andrew's & Scott's links to see which ones you were discussing. I gotta go watch this show again! When they come on, I say "oh, yeah", but can't name them offhand.
I loved the Tribles! I remember the one with Captain Pike - memorable is good.

So, I will remove myself back to the peanut gallery and enjoy your conversations...

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I highly recommend watching the show again! It's very enjoyable. High quality television! :)

The Pike episode was great.

ellenB said...

Nerd away boys! Nerds are sexy in the modern world. ;D

I have not see all of the original Star Treks and I probably should. I am enjoying your Star Trek articles a lot though.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, Nerds shall inherit the Earth!

PikeBishop said...

Do we even need to worry about a certain formality in the upcoming "Worst five TOS episdoes?" How could "Spock's Brain" not be in anyone's bottom five?

AndrewPrice said...

Pike... yeah. That's a hard one to like.

PikeBishop said...

also in my bottom five:

"Lights of Zetar" Yeah Scotty gets to fall in love, but dull,uninteresting story.

AndrewPrice said...

Pike, I'm not a fan of Catspaw either.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew, me neither, silly Halloween-themed clunker. And let's not forget the spinoff attempt "Assignment Earth" but that did feature a young and very hot Terri Garr, so it was not utterly pointless.

Commander Max said...

Five favorite episodes?

The Changeling
The Doomsday machine
Mirror, Mirror
The Enterprise Incident
Return to Tomorrow

I have more than that. I was never comfortable with listing favorites. My tastes change with time and mood, Andrew, I think I need a legal disclaimer:).

Scott was only 4 when STNG came out?
I was out of high school for 2 years. What a way to make a guy feel like an old man.
I had the rose colored glasses on when watching STNG. Until about half way through the series run. But I watched each episode, by the end of it I was sick of STNG. At that time I swore off ST for a while. But I came back.

AndrewPrice said...

Pike, Yep, that one didn't really go anywhere. Kirk and Spock were little more than extras. I did like Terri Garr though!

AndrewPrice said...

Max, Sorry if I'm slow... I'm trying to do my taxes.

I have a very hard time doing favorites for the same reason you do -- it depends on my mood. Nevertheless, your list is excellent! The Doomsday Machine in particular highlights a lot of neat aspects of rank and power and obsession and insanity and loyalty. I love that one.


Scott often makes me feel old, but tryanmax and T-Rav are worse. They make me feel like AARP is stalking me!

Tennessee Jed said...

Pike - geez man, you're dissin' "Lights of Zetar". Sure the episode sucked, but Lt. Moira Romaine was hot, you must admit. At least until her eyes got all crazy. Actress Jan Shutan has shown off her chops over the years in such memorable great films as Dracula's Dog and Mother Juggs & Speed. Don't forget t.v. guest shots on Hello Larry and Charley's Angels. With those kind of acting creds you simply cannot put it directly in the bottom five bin ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The Enterprise is a babe-magnet! ;)

ScottDS said...

Sorry for making you guys feel old! I'm aware of it whenever I indicate my age but if it makes you feel any better, the freshmen in my art history class make me feel old! They don't know life without cell phones and the Internet whereas my generation is the last one that does. One of my classmates was born in 1991... 1991!!

Re: "Assignment Earth," Gary Seven and Roberta are featured in Greg Cox' Eugenics Wars novels. Basically, Gary Seven is the one who thwarts Khan and his followers.

I read the novels a few years ago and I felt Mr. Cox tried too hard to "graft" the Eugenics Wars and Khan's rise and fall onto real history. Better to have created a fictional alternate history instead of pretending the War did happen... but we were ignorant because Seven managed to cover Khan's tracks the whole time.

By the way, if Gary Seven appears in the reboot, he should be played by Daniel Craig, with Emma Stone as Roberta and burlesque model Dita von Teese as Isis (in human form). :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Don't even say that in jest -- no more Gary Seven.

I never read the books.

ScottDS said...

I know, I was just throwing it out there. :-)

Are you not a fan of the character, or are you simply concerned with what J.J. Abrams and Co. would do with him?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The whole thing felt like a rip-off. They stole an episode and used the show to launch this pointless spin off with an unlikeable premise and unlikeable characters.

So Abrams can do whatever he wants with the character, I just don't want to see the character again.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I guess I am one of the few who liked that episode. The premise was fine and interesting. I would have liked for STNG or DS9 to have re-visited them.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I have long disliked spin-off episodes because they feel like ripoffs to me. It's one thing to spin off a good character, but another to write an episode intended to set up a new series.

Commander Max said...

Good luck with the taxes Andrew. My wife does mine, I could figure out statics/physics and design my own machines. But was scratching my head with tax forms. I hoping to see one day the postcard form.

Gary Seven? That character didn't strike me as a fit in the Trek universe. Obviously he wasn't since he was never brought up again(in cannon). He would have been better in a cop show.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, It just kills me every year. It takes forever and I always end up owing money because the government does nasty things to me. Arg.

I don't think Gary Seven fit either. For one thing, he didn't fit theme of Star Trek. Star Trek was a series of morality tales. Gary Seven was more of a cop-show/spy show character. Also, the episode introduced the idea that universe was governed by this mystery world which has vast powers sufficient to even predict the future, and that's just not consistent with the very grounded world of Jim Kirk.

Commander Max said...

Chalk up Gary Seven as Roddenberry only trying to increase his market share.

I did like his computer, and his cat;).

If anything annoyed me about the old Trek, it was the mystery worlds. Stating we are not yet mature enough to understand. I do understand the message, but introducing such worlds only increases my curiosity. But I wasn't the only one that got annoyed. Straczynski in B5 not only gave us the mystery worlds with morality tales. plus we got to see the worlds and find out those races were not so perfect after all.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I like that a lot in B5 -- that these supposedly perfect places where just as corrupt as everywhere else. I thought that was a great bit of reality.

DarthDiggler said...

Creating a top 5 list of OS episodes is too hard. For me, it would have to include "Mirror, Mirror," "Space Seed," "City on the Edge of Forever," "Arena," "Where No Man Has Gone Before," "Balance of Terror," "The Squire of Gothos," "Doomsday Machine," the cheese-tastic "Spock's Brain" and about two dozen others. Couldn't do it.

AndrewPrice said...

DarthDiggler, It is an extremely difficult task. Star Trek is one of those shows where my favorite episode is the one I just saw most recently. And there are way more than five truly inspired episodes. A "least favorite five" might be easier!

hadso; said...

All of them, except Elaan of Troyus, Way To Eden, and Spock's Brain.

AndrewPrice said...

handso, I don't care for "Elaan of Troyus" either. And "Spock's Brain" is definitely getting some negative votes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The one that perplexed me the most was Errand Of Mercy.

Because the Organians treated Kirk and the Federation equally as messed up as the Klingons even though Kirk was only trying to protect them.

IOW's they were saying that trhe use of force to protect is equally as wrong as the use of force to enslave and conquer.

I thought that was messed up and that the Organians were idiots.

Agree with all the favorites!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That's always bothered me too. Plus, I don't like how they make Kirk so bloodthirsty.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I liked The Enterprise Incident a lot.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Requiem For Methusaleh- This one had a very poignant ending (among other things) where Spock actually takes away or covers up Kirk's immense grief with a mind meld.

Very interesting episode.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Also The Immunity Syndrome.
Kirk must pick between Spock and McCoy for a suicide mission.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I agree, those are some excellent episodes. The Immunity Syndrome in particular posed an interesting choice.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Okay, I've seen this one panned at a few of the Trek sites, but I consider The Omega Glory to be more than it appears on the surface, and the ending sure gave me goosebumps.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I'm a big fan of that one. What a cool idea.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I liked how Kirk mentioned that the US Consitution was exceptional and that he recited the pledge of allegiance and the first sentence of the Constitution.

I was surprised to find that Rodenberry wrote that episode!
Obviously he was much more conservative in the early days than he was during TNG.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I thought it was all around an exceptional episode. America will prevail no matter how long it takes.

And it was neat to see Kirk matched against another top notch (but insane) commander.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Aye! Kirk actually lost their first fight which helped build suspense when they fought later.
The other Capt. was no pushover.

The fight scene between Kirk and the Chieftan (and his wife) was also good. Kirk really got a workout on this one, lol.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That's one of the neat things, he was totally a match for Kirk. It really gave a sense that Starfleet truly did have some of the best people -- even if he had gone crazy.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Indeed. I still can't get over Rodenberry writing that episode. I wonder what happened that he chose to go so far left?

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I think he, like most liberals, drifted far left over the last couple decades. That's the problem with liberalism -- it has no core principles, so it ends up all over the place. At this point, liberals were recoiling from their flirtation with fascism and that pushed them far toward the "classical liberal" end of the spectrum. But as WWII faded, they moved back to where they were in the 1920s/1930s.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That's a good analysis. I reckon without first principles self evident truths ain't self evident.

That would also explain why some conservatives (or self described conservatives) also end up all over the place.

It's crucial that this be taught in our schools as well as in homes.

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