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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 01:22 PM

I have started a book review thread, a movie review thread, and what has turned into a mystery review thread so I figured what was one more. Basically, I found myself wanting to review TV shows or random episodes from TV shows but I knew a lot of the times it would get no response so why start multiple threads. This is a solution to that. Here I (and others hopefully) will post reviews for TV shows and random TV episodes that I figure won't get much traction elsewhere.

Dark Skies – The Awakening

I was a big fan of Dark Skies when it first aired back in 1996. There for a while it was part of my Saturday night TV viewing schedule, along with Baywatch Nights and Walker, Texas Ranger.

I haven’t seen the series since it originally aired and had largely forgotten about it. Watching Star Trek: Voyager reminded me of the show because Jeri Ryan was on Dark Skies before she joined the Star Trek universe.

Shout! Factory had released the show on DVD so I decided to buy it, hoping that it wasn’t nostalgia (and memories of the handsome Eric Close being shirtless several times) clouding my memories of how much I had originally enjoyed the show.

I have to say that after watching the pilot movie (the American version not the International one which is included on the DVD set and that I do intend to watch) has made me glad that I bought the DVD. It is an overall strong pilot and I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series.

The series centers around John Loengard and Kim Sayers, a young couple who move to Washington, D.C. so that they can work with the Kennedy government. John gets a job as a Congressional aide while Kimberly works with Jackie Kennedy’s protocol office.

John is tasked with reviewing government programs that can be slashed to help balance the budget. One of those projects is Blue Book, which investigates UFO sightings. His investigation leads him to the discovery of Majestic-12, a clandestine government agency that exists to combat aliens.

John is a believer that the American people should be warned about the threat, but Majestic-12 leader Frank Bach believes secrecy is paramount. He hasn’t even told Kennedy about the existence of the program.

There is a lot to like about the pilot. Eric Close and Megan Ward are believable as the wide eyed young couple who believes in Kennedy’s vision and wants to make a difference in government. J.T. Walsh brings nuance to Bach, a character that could have been a one note villain.

The aliens are creepy as well. We have the typical Greys, but they aren’t the real threat. Instead the main alien menace is the Hive, a group of insectoid like aliens who burrow into your brain and take you over. The aliens, also called ganglions, did this to the Greys and now use their bodies and technology to spread throughout the universe. They are now at Earth and planning to take over use like they did the Greys.

The show mainly uses practical effects for the aliens themselves which I think works in the show’s favor. The ganglion looks chilling and the fact that it is something tangible that is crawling in and out of people’s mouths gives it that extra oomph. Same for the Greys when they arrive to abduct Kim. The entire sequence is great and the Greys look menacing.

I appreciated the arc John took from bright eyed Congressional aide to agent for a secret government organization to more or less freedom fighter when he discovers that said organization has basically no oversight and answers to no one, not even the President.

There are some negatives. Kim is basically wasted as a character. She doesn’t do much for a good portion of the pilot besides gets angry with John when she realizes he is lying to her. She does get used more once she is abducted but she is still a side character in the John Loengard show.

The scene where John is using an experimental treatment to force the ganglion out of Kim without killing her wasn’t as tense as it should have been. The setting (an abandoned house at night) worked well but they didn’t milk the scene for as much drama as they could have.

The 1990s CGI also works against the pilot somewhat. The opening scene where an American jet chases a UFO and then encounters a mothership looks pretty bad and is hard to follow at times.

Those negatives aside, the pilot does a good job of setting up the basic premise of the show: history as we know it is a lie, and a lot of events that took place happened because of the secret war between the Hive and Majestic-12.

The biggest example of this comes at the end, when President Kennedy is assassinated right after John gives him evidence that aliens exist. It looks like Majestic-12 assassinated him to keep the existence of UFOs secret.

I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series, especially all the bonus material that Shout! Factory packed onto the last disc.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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#2 RJDiogenes

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:11 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 18 February 2019 - 01:22 PM, said:

I was a big fan of Dark Skies when it first aired back in 1996. There for a while it was part of my Saturday night TV viewing schedule, along with Baywatch Nights and Walker, Texas Ranger.  
I never watched it.  I remember thinking that it looked like a pretty generic alien infiltration series, like The Invaders or War of the Worlds or whatever. I'm not sure if I ever realized that it was set in the early 60s. That might have made it more interesting to me.

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I have to say that after watching the pilot movie (the American version not the International one which is included on the DVD set and that I do intend to watch) has made me glad that I bought the DVD.  
Do you know what the differences are between the two versions?

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The aliens, also called ganglions,
Cute. :D

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did this to the Greys and now use their bodies and technology to spread throughout the universe.  
That's a pretty good twist. Presumably this sets up the Greys as potential allies, assuming they have their own freedom fighters.
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#3 Virgil Vox

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Posted 20 February 2019 - 08:11 PM

Quote

I never watched it.  I remember thinking that it looked like a pretty generic alien infiltration series, like The Invaders or War of the Worlds or whatever. I'm not sure if I ever realized that it was set in the early 60s. That might have made it more interesting to me.

I guess the plot is a bit generic but the period setting and the focus on explaining away big moments in history as being part of the secret war against the aliens helps set it apart. Apparently the plan was to have a 5 season arc, with each season taking place in a different decade. The last season would be in the 2000s and see open warfare between humans and the Hive.

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Do you know what the differences are between the two versions?

I don't know all the differences. I do know there was a scene where Majestic doctors try and remove a ganglion from a person that was cut from the U.S. version. There were also scenes where John is followed by men in black that were cut because the movie Men in Black was coming out soon or had just come out. The International version is supposed to be the better version between the two.

Quote

That's a pretty good twist. Presumably this sets up the Greys as potential allies, assuming they have their own freedom fighters.

I don't know if that happens or not. I don't remember. It is possible, or if it didn't happen maybe it was planned down the road.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#4 FarscapeOne

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 01:00 AM

I liked DARK SKIES when it aired, and got the dvd as soon as it was out.  I loved the use of historical events in the show, and it would have done a decade each season had it gotten a renewal.  That is a show that went before its time.

#5 RJDiogenes

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 06:28 PM

I like the idea of moving each season into the next decade and tying the stories into contemporary events. They would have had to age the cast, eventually replacing them as they age and die.
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#6 Virgil Vox

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Posted 24 February 2019 - 10:06 PM

View PostFarscapeOne, on 21 February 2019 - 01:00 AM, said:

I liked DARK SKIES when it aired, and got the dvd as soon as it was out.  I loved the use of historical events in the show, and it would have done a decade each season had it gotten a renewal.  That is a show that went before its time.

It definitely went before its time. I think if this show was made today it would have found a more receptive audience, or at least a network that would have appreciated it more.

Dark Skies – Moving Targets

This episode might as well have been called The Awakening since it is an extension of the pilot and brings to a close several dangling threads left at the end of the pilot episode.

At the end of the pilot John and Kim were on the run from Majestic and had learned that Kennedy was killed. Here they are given a mission by Robert Kennedy to get the piece of alien technology that they had given JFK back before Majestic can get their hands on it.

A lot happens in this episode, maybe too much. It is revealed that the Hive, not Majestic, killed Kennedy. They made Oswald the patsy and now are using Jack Ruby, a Hive member, to kill Oswald to keep him from talking. It is a convoluted plot that moves at break neck speed.

Added to that is the plot by a Hive infected pilot who plans on crashing Air Force One into all the leaders gathered at JFK’s funeral. This plot is introduced late in the episode and is almost immediately resolved as we see Majestic agents kill the pilot.

It is also revealed that Majestic agent Steele, a bad guy I love to hate, is actually a Hive agent. Kim discovers this and John passes the information on to Bach. At the end of the episode Steele escapes and tries to use a military helicopter to kill the world leaders but is stopped by John.

The events that happened at Roswell in 1947 revealed are also revealed. The Hive arrived on Earth and demanded our immediate surrender. Bach was there, and convinced President Truman that if the Hive had the power to stage an all out war against humanity they would have done so already. Truman orders the Hive ship destroyed, causing it to crash land.

It is definitely information overload, with none of the plots really being allowed to breathe. I’m still not quite sure what role Oswald played in the assassination of Kennedy or why the Hive wanted him silenced.

Despite that, I did like the episode. John and Kim prove that they have the smarts, more or less, to stay on the run from Majestic.

Kim gets more to do here as she is the one who sneaks into the club to see what Steele and Ruby are up to. She also goes on her own mission to give the alien evidence to Robert Kennedy.

The back story of Majestic-12 and Roswell is convincing, and it explains why Bach is in charge. His character continues to fascinate, since he has clearly done horrible things in the name of protecting humanity yet it is hard to completely hate him.

Honestly, I do tend to agree with him that if humanity did find out that aliens are real and trying to invade us right now there would be mass panic and the collapse of order. His methods are wrong but I understand why he is doing what he is doing.

I had forgotten that Steele was a Hive agent so that was a nice reveal. I want to say he becomes a recurring enemy but I could be wrong.

I’m not sure where the show goes from here but I am along for the ride.

Worst Year of My Life, Again – Happy Birthdays

Worst Year of My Life, Again is an Australian show centered on Alex King, a 14 year old who, as the title suggests, has the worst year of his life. He goes to bed on the night before his 15th birthday but when he wakes up he discovers that he has somehow time traveled, and he is repeating his 14th year. Can he use his knowledge of the year to avoid all of the pain and humiliation he went through or will he only make things worse?

This is a pretty fun show that used to be on Netflix though it has been taken off. You can still find the episodes on YouTube though.

This pilot episode sets up the structure that all 13 episodes will follow. In the first half of the episode we see what happened in the original time line, with the second half devoted to seeing Alex in the new loop year using his knowledge to try and fix things.

Alex is a likeable protagonist to follow. He is your typical 14 year old (played by someone who is obviously late teens, early 20s) who wants this new year to be his best yet. What I like about Alex is that he isn’t perfect and he isn’t above using the loop year for very selfish reasons because I think most people would. However, he usually ends up making things worse when he tries to “cheat” the system, as it were.

Alex’s two best friends are Simon and Maddy. Simon is from England and has some dubious morals. He will usually have Alex’s back but will also run when things get too troublesome. Maddy is a quirky, intelligent girl who has a crush on Alex that he is oblivious to. She is the one who explains to Alex that he is stuck in a loop year.

There are several recurring characters: Mr. Norris, a teacher at the school who doesn’t like Alex and makes his life miserable. Nicola is the most popular girl at school who Alex has a huge crush on. Parker and Howe are the school bullies. Troy is the most popular boy at school and captain of the football team.

Overall this was a pretty good pilot episode. In 25 minutes it did an admirable job of introducing the characters and the show’s hook. Neither the original timeline half nor the loop year half seemed rushed.

This isn’t my favorite episode of the series, nor is it the funniest but it is by no means bad. I recommend checking it out if the premise interests you at all.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#7 Virgil Vox

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Posted 20 March 2019 - 06:40 PM

Dark Skies – Mercury Rising

The fourth episode of the series picks up two months after the last one. John and Kim have been on the run this entire time and are making their way to Florida. Kim has been having dreams about her abduction and she has a sense that she can find answers at Cape Canaveral.

Once there the two find Ty, a secret astronaut who belongs to a group called the Midnight Wing. They perform missions that the public can’t know about. Ty and his co-pilot were sent up in space around the same time Kim was abducted. They were to destroy what they were told was a Russian satellite but is in reality a Hive ship. Both pilots blacked out for several hours.

I thought this was an enjoyable episode. It advanced the overall mythology while also giving Kim some much needed focus. With the help of a psychiatrist Kim regresses back to the night of her abduction and remembers what happened to her aboard the ship.

It is a pretty creepy scene, especially when Kim sees dark shadows crawling on the ceiling above her. It does lose its effect somewhat once the lights are turned on and the CGI Greys are revealed.

Kim remembers that Ty was there but that for some reason the aliens didn’t want him and sent him back without infecting him. They did infect Kim and the other astronaut.

That revelation does lead me to my only complaint about the episode. Once again John and Kim find out about an infected human central to the plot and have to give Bach that information. Last episode it was Steele who was trying to kill all the world leaders and this episode it is an astronaut about to fly another secret mission.

I felt that the episode did a good job of showing the paranoia that John and Kim are forced to live under. When they are pulled over by a cop they have no idea if he is a regular cop, a Hive agent, or a Majestic agent. It turns out that he is working for, in some capacity, Majestic.

Later on Steele rears his ugly head again and is trying to track them down. He thinks he has them and ends up killing two innocent people who rented the same hotel room John and Kim just left.

The CGI effects are better here when it comes to the Hive ship. Ty flashes back to when he first discovered it and it looks rather ominous. Later we see photographs of it parked on the moon.

This was really the first “stand-alone” episode of the series, since the previous episode felt like it should have been part of the pilot movie. I think it sets the tone of the series up quite well: John and Kim trying to do what they can to halt the Hive agenda while staying ahead of Majestic and trying to find proof that they can show to the public.

The fact that Kim was given the spotlight and shown to be a strong, determined woman was great. The last two episodes didn’t utilize here all that well.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#8 Virgil Vox

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 08:50 PM

Superboy - The Jewel of Techacal

This is the first episode of the Superboy series, though it isn’t the pilot. That would air as the fifth episode. Not sure why that route was taken but there you go. As it is, this episode does an okay job of introducing the main characters.

The episode itself is rather average. There are much better season 1 episodes than this one. If I was going to try and recommend this series to a friend I would not show them this episode.

The plot is rather pedestrian. Lana’s archaeologist father has returned from a trip to South America, bringing with him lots of artifacts; the main one being the Jewel of Techacal. Lana hasn’t seen her father in two years which is normal. Her father has been on digs for most of her life.

Lex Luthor decides to steal all the artifacts from the exhibit Professor Lang is setting up to make some quick cash and to get back at Lana for rebuffing his advances. Superboy tries to intervene, but the magic of the Jewel renders him unconscious. Can he recover and save the day?

John Haymes Newton only had the role of Clark/Superboy for one season but I think he does a good job. He makes Clark his own character and makes him feel like a real person, not the bumbling disguise Christopher Reeve and second Superboy actor Gerard Christopher adopted. This Clark still has some nerd tendencies but it feels more like his own personality instead of an act.

He looks fine as Superboy. His costume is comics accurate and I always appreciate seeing the classic red trunks. We don’t see much Superboy action here. He flies up to lower the landing gear on a plane and then flies after Lex and Leo as they drive off with their stolen loot. He doesn’t use any of his other abilities. It is established that he can’t see through lead so that’s something.

Lana is really the star of the episode here as the plot revolves around her relationship with her father. Dr. Lang knows he has been a bad father and wants to make it up to Lana but she isn’t sure if she should trust him.

Stacy Haiduk does a good job as Lana though this isn’t her best showing. She gets better as the series goes along. She is also the only actor to appear in all four seasons.

The last main character is TJ White, Perry White’s son. He is Clark and Lana’s friend and a photographer, acting like a cooler Jimmy Olsen. This is the only season he appears in. I like TJ and wish he had stuck around.

Lex is not a good villain here. He has been re-imagined as a preppie frat guy with an airheaded hunk named Leo as his assistant. It is a pretty bad Lex Luthor, made worse by the fact that the actor just isn’t talented. One of the best things this series did is replace the actor playing Lex in season 2.

All in all, not the best start to the series.

X-Men: The Animated Series - The Dark Phoenix Parts 1-4

I probably haven’t seen these episodes since they aired back in the 90s. I decided to buy the DVD after watching the Dark Phoenix movie in the theater. I was actually surprised to see that the entire series was on DVD. I know that the Spider-Man animated series never got a full release.

I can still remember watching these as they aired. I was so excited for every new episode.

The episodes hold up rather well. I think the animation looks good even if it can’t compare to today’s standards. The theme song is infectious, and for years these voices were the ones I associated with the X-Men.

Honestly, my only big complaint is that four episodes weren’t enough to do this story justice. It feels pretty rushed, especially in the first two episodes, and it throws a ton of characters on the screen.

The episodes follow the comic plot basically beat for beat, and I think that is both a blessing and a hindrance. The comic storyline is a classic for a reason so it makes sense for the show to adopt it as closely as possible.

The problem is that the comics had more time to tell the story. The first two episodes just have way too much to do. Jean’s turn to the dark side is extremely rushed. The Hellfire Club members (called the Circle Club here) are shoved into the episodes rather quickly and given no time to be fleshed out. I couldn’t remember who was who.

Wyngarde’s seduction of Jean/Phoenix is really quick and not all that believable. She abandons Cyclops for some random man way too quickly.

I kind of wished the writers had just opted not to include the Hellfire Club. It would have been better to get rid of those characters and focus more on the Phoenix’s desire to experience new emotions and sensations, the darker the better.

The last two episodes fare much better because the characters are allowed a moment to breathe. They get to talk about what is happening and whether they should be defending Jean against the Shi’ar empire.

There is still a fair amount of rushed development here as Phoenix leaves the planet, destroys a sun, and returns within a few minutes.

The Dark Phoenix is something to behold. The animation, voice acting, and music are great. DP easily wipes the floor with the X-Men. I also love her costume and think it is a shame that we’ve had two film adaptations of this story and neither put Jean in her classic Phoenix costume.

The action is pretty intense. I loved watching the X-Men trounce the Inner Circle in Part 2. All of the Phoenix actions scenes were good. The final battle between the X-Men and the Imperial Guard was well done and tense. The personal stakes made it that much better.

It’s a random observation but a lot of the fights with the low level thugs just involve the X-Men throwing them around. Wolverine is basically rampaging through the Inner Circle’s men and he never throws a punch. He just throws the men themselves.

I like the new ending the series gave to the Phoenix storyline. They either didn’t want to or couldn’t kill off Jean so they found a work around. Jean still sacrifices herself (in a much better way than the comics, IMO) but this time the Phoenix says it can resurrect Jean by taking life energy from the X-Men. They gladly give it up and Jean is alive again.

The Cyclops/Dazzler/Jean jealousy triangle was really weird. It was there just so Jean could think Cyclops was cheating on her and would be susceptible to Wyngarde’s manipulation.

Having DP destroy a lifeless star system and just cripple the Shi’ar ship instead of destroying it changes the arguments right before the big battle at the end. While destructive, Dark Phoenix hasn’t killed anyone yet. Some excellent points are made that Jean is being sentenced to die because she might destroy inhabited star systems in the future.

I totally get why Lilandra does what she does here, but I always end up hating her a bit even though she is right.

Xavier’s attempt to play on Lilandra’s emotions backfired on him badly.

That was a pretty uneven match-up between the Imperial Guard and the X-Men. The good guys never stood a chance. I do wonder why Rogue never tried to absorb the powers of one of the Guards. It might have evened things up a bit.

I’ve always been interested to see what would have happened had Scott not been injured in the final battle. That was the moment Jean unleashed the Phoenix. She had it under control until then.

Some nice cameos from other Marvel heroes like Doctor Strange and Thor.

I had forgotten about Storm’s expressions before she uses her powers. Things like “Rise mighty winds and carry us aloft.” Not that exactly but you get my meaning.

Cyclops was my animated crush, and continued my streak of crushing on the more straight laced heroes. See Superman, Captain America, Jason the Red Ranger, etc.

I find it odd that the DVD that contains the first part of the Phoenix saga sells for $40-50 dollars while I got this one for about $10. You’d think this would be the more expensive DVD.

Despite the rushed nature of this four part saga it still holds up incredibly well today and is probably the best adaptation of the comic storyline.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#9 RJDiogenes

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 04:59 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 02 July 2019 - 08:50 PM, said:

He looks fine as Superboy. His costume is comics accurate and I always appreciate seeing the classic red trunks. We don’t see much Superboy action here.  
This was always one of my problems with superhero adaptations.  They mainstream it too much. It's almost like they're embarrassed by the concept and try to minimize it.

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The last main character is TJ White, Perry White’s son. He is Clark and Lana’s friend and a photographer, acting like a cooler Jimmy Olsen. This is the only season he appears in. I like TJ and wish he had stuck around.  
At first I wondered what the point of that was, then I realized that this is Superboy. Jimmy Olson was probably in third grade. Somebody was actually giving some thought to character continuity, which is rare in these things (another reason I never liked adaptations).

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Lex is not a good villain here. He has been re-imagined as a preppie frat guy with an airheaded hunk named Leo as his assistant.
Like that.  :lol:

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I do wonder why Rogue never tried to absorb the powers of one of the Guards.
Has it ever been established whether Rogue can absorb the powers of aliens, or if she is limited to humans?  It's been so long that I don't even remember if it ever came up in the comics.
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#10 Christopher

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 08:17 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 05 July 2019 - 04:59 PM, said:

Has it ever been established whether Rogue can absorb the powers of aliens, or if she is limited to humans?  It's been so long that I don't even remember if it ever came up in the comics.

Well, Rogue permanently absorbed Carol Danvers's Ms. Marvel powers, which Carol acquired when her genetic code was rewritten to be half-Kree. So I'd say that Rogue could absorb alien powers, yes. I do remember an episode of the animated series where she accidentally touched a reptilian alien and turned green and grew spikes or something. Now that I mention it, I recall having her absorb at least one alien's attributes in my X-Men novel Watchers on the Walls, which I did for Pocket back in 2006.
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