"They said you like to make a mess."

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We're torn, we're torn. The first time we watched this two-parter, we liked Army Of Ghosts but hated Doomsday. The second time we watched it, we still liked Army of Ghosts and surprised ourselves by rating Doomsday higher than we'd remembered. Then we discussed both episodes, and they fell to pieces in our hands. So we guess the logline is: crumbly skeleton and a couple of limbs missing. But nice skin.

So. Army Of Ghosts. We all knew Rose was going to cark it, right? And here she is, confirming it. Right from the horse's mouth. (OK, she doesn't have quite that many teeth.) Very intriguing, and the start of furious viewer speculation that never stops until we find out what's really happened. A tiny bit melodramatic, yes, but an effective device anyway.

While we're pondering, the giant bungy cord attached to the TARDIS twangs it back to the Powell Estate, and Jackie tells us Grandad's about to drop in. We love the way this throws you into the thick of things: none of that vague hint of trouble followed by strong intimation of trouble followed by an alien eating your head stuff. Then we're outside watching the haunting for ourselves, and it's a pretty impressive sight: not just the ghosts themselves, but also the way they've just become part of the landscape.

Meanwhile, after the season-long blizzard of hints, clues and teasing little references, we finally get to see the Torchwood Institute Queen Victoria was so humourless about getting up and running back in Tooth And Claw. And wouldn't ya know it? They're involved in this ghost stuff right up to the ectoplasm. A sweaty, straining scientist heaves on a humungous lever (your joke here) and there's a round of self-congratulation. We certainly sat up straighter on the sofa: what with the mysterious ghosts and the mysterious Torchwood, they'd definitely got our attention.

Meanwhile, back on the estate, the Doctor's doing some serious scientific research on the telly (again). This ghost thing's international and already completely ingrained, as the various TV clips show. It's an economical way to show how Earthlings are feeling about their new visitors, which gets the point across far more vividly than Jackie's yapping. But then we thought... isn't it just the teensiest bit unlikely that everybody everywhere would have convinced themselves, especially as quickly as Jackie describes it, that the "ghosts" are the dear departed? We don't know about you, but you could show us silvery creature things from here until the day of reckoning and we're never going to believe it's Aunt Patsy. (Especially when they're all men-shaped.) Faith is one thing, but sorry, we can't suspend our disbelief quite that high above the floor.

Jackie points to her Fox Mulder I Want To Believe poster, but the Doctor and Rose remain (unsurprisingly) about as convinced as Richard Dawkins in the Vatican. We love the Doctorís scepticism here; itís so utterly Doctorly, and Rose feeling the same way shows wonderfully what kind of effect travelling with the Doctor has had on her. Jackie urges Rose to put her back into it, and the Doctor muses about how the more they convince themselves, the stronger the ghosts get and that the ghosts are using the humans' belief to squeeze themselves into the world. Arresting stuff. But then we thought... that's bollocks, innit? Because what the humans believe is nothing to do with it whatsoever. So much for the power of positive thinking.

Meanwhile, back at Torchwood, a big floaty sphere that doesn't actually seem to be there remains stubbornly visible, while a couple of office drones go for a snog amongst the scariest plastic since the Autons. This scene really is a tour de force: there's nothing particularly original about it, but it's astonishing just how terrifying a few sheets of plastic can be. (And we were taken aback by how much our fangirl hearts were thrilled by the plastic-ripping.) Despite the whirring and screaming, the drones go back to work wearing not full metal jackets but just an extra Bluetooth headset. Scary. But then we thought... why the need for surgery when the earpods worked fine without it in the other dimension? More importantly, how the fracking hell did the Cybermen manage to get themselves and their upgrading/earpod-making facility through that well-populated Torchwood portal and amongst the plastic without anyone noticing them?

Meanwhile, back on the estate, the Doctor does his best Ghostbusters impersonation (argh) while Jackie worries that all this travel is going to turn Rose into something inhuman. It's meant to be an affecting speech, and weíre probably supposed to be glad itís a fate Rose escapes, but then we thought... so experiencing a whole lotta new stuff makes you inhuman, does it? What a load of arse. Watch out, kiddies! Learning new things turns you into Plog from the planet Zog!

After doing his best Guantanamo Bay on the ghost, the Doctor is himself trapped by the wily Torchwoodies. That'll teach him, won't it? But when he gets there, he finds that he's a rock star. Here, we were divided: some of us thought the clapping scene was unmitigated crap, the rest of us quite liked it, unconvincing as the applause was (well, you try clapping enthusiastically while you're trying not to shoot your eyebrows off). Either way, it's certainly a novel greeting for the Doctor, and all of us liked Yvonne's response to the Doctor's introduction of himself of "Oh, I should say!". Obligatory Disclaimer: a couple of us have had the great pleasure of working with Tracy-Ann Oberman before (why yes, she did like our script. Whyever do you ask?). Favouritism aside, though, we think she's brilliant as Yvonne: charming, steely and driven (often at the same time), she manages the often elusive trick of coming across not as a Character but as a real human being.

Then they crash through the doors into the Big Reveal: Torchwood in all its glory. But then we thought... well, two things, actually. By all the ta-daaing it's obviously meant to be a huge moment, but it's actually pretty yawnsome: crates, some vague bits of machinery and a sarcophagus (yes, yes, we got it). And wait a minute - haven't we seen this exact same sequence before? Yep, it's lifted wholesale from Men In Black. We'll be kind and call it a homage.

We can't be quite as kind, however, about Torchwood's Evilness. Yvonne, and by implication Torchwood itself, is obviously meant to be worryingly proto-fascist, with the British Empire stuff and all: considering how fervently the new series has jumped up and down waving the Union Jack, it's a blatant pot/kettle scenario. Also, underlining the evility is Yvonne's assertion that Torchwood's keeping all this nifty alien tech for its own benefit instead of handing it out for the General Good: yes, horrible and selfish, but sadly undercut by the fact that this whole thing is about solving Earth's energy problems, i.e. doing the exact thing Yvonne's said Torchwood doesn't do. So which is it, then? Necessary-for-this-episode evil nemesis of the Doctor? Or noble spearhead in the battle for Earth's security (and star of spinoff series)? Since they can't afford to plump for either side, they end up landing precisely nowhere.

Anyway, on we go. Sphere, void ship, oh dear this isn't looking good. In an enjoyably flashy use of the sonic screwdriver (for once), the Doctor cracks the glass and explains that the ghosts have been leaking through the cracks. It's a big OMG moment that points to a whole new level of complexity, but then we thought... whaaaat? It took them three years because they were walking? (They should have asked the Daleks for a lift.) And this nothingness sure seems to have a lot of somethingness - time and direction, for a start.

The Doctor suggests they don't do that ghost shift thing no more, and when he's ignored, in one of our favourite displays of Doctorliness from this Doctor thus far, he abruptly changes tack, pulls up a chair and tells them to go for it. It's so much more effective than manic ranting, and what's more it works. Alas, our Cyberfied friends start tap-tap-tapping and the shift starts after all. Oh, no! Big, exciting moment without a doubt, because it's clear Something Very Bad is going on. But then we thought... tap-tap-tapping? What happened to the sweaty lever-heaving?

The Cybermen come to full life all over the world. Some pick the scenic spots and do some sight-seeing; others tromp into people's houses and then just hang around menacingly. One terrified family nevertheless manages to switch on the telly, and one of their Cyberguests watches it with them. (The other one, we like to think, is bringing a tray of tea and biscuits up the stairs.) All very scary, but then we thought... there are a measly five million Cybermen, and they're bunching them up two to a house in London?

We haven't mentioned Rose, because she hasn't done anything interesting thus far except stumble across Mickey, but at last she slips back into her accustomed role as Dalek meeter-and-greeter. (She could do with one of those little signs drivers hold up at airports.) And that, needless to say, is the cliffhanger.

Like we said at the beginning, we're torn, probably more about this episode than any other. There's no doubt that the plot's intriguing, the characters are well drawn and the peril is perilous. In short, it's an entertaining watch. But if you stop and think about any of the underpinnings for more than a nanosecond, it all dissolves and gurgles down the sink. It's not that we insist every scientific detail must be perfect: if we did, it'd be an uphill battle to be Doctor Who fans, after all, and we're happy to cut them some slack in the interests of expediency. It doesn't all have to be completely justified, either - as far as we're concerned they can be as handwavy as they like. But it does have to be at least vaguely plausible according to the episode's internal logic. Stopping short of galactic stupidity helps too. When your plot ideas make no sense either scientifically (not really a biggie) or according to the rules you yourself have laid out (biggie), the whole thing collapses under its own weight. For most episodes, like Girl In The Fireplace, this kind of scenario's enough to bury them. However, Army Of Ghosts carries you along so irresistibly on its big sparkly flashy tidal wave that while you're watching it, for once it doesn't actually seem to matter much. And that's the best we can do. While you're watching it: pretty cool. Afterwards: not so much.

On we go to Doomsday. It took us two watchings to see any merit at all in this episode, because the first time through we never recovered from the shock of the Dalek versus Cybermen fanwankarama. Words can't express what an utterly dumb idea this was, but they're going to have to try, because we're not about to leave it there. The most charitable thing we can say is that we hope that eight-year-old boys form a large segment of the Doctor Who viewing audience, because they're the only ones that can have got anything out of it. For the rest of us, the tension didn't so much leak out of the episode as explode out.

And that's Doomsday's big miscalculation. All this massive apocalypse-type stuff is going on, with heaps of show-stopping budget-busting CGI, and it's completely wasted. First of all, none of us except the eight-year-old boys are on the edge of our seats to find out whether it's Daleks or Cybermen who are going to win: who cares? Both of them are enemies, so it's completely immaterial. Second, when they turn on each other, the stress is instantly eased off the beleaguered Earth, thus chucking out all the carefully built up tension of Army Of Ghosts with one squelch of the plunger. And third, all that ghastly repartee makes both Cybermen and Daleks toothless. They're supposed to be terrifying and ruthless killers, not stand-up comedians: they couldn't have been defanged more effectively if they'd been strung with fairy lights. The chucklesomeness of the Cybermen all mooing ďDelete!Ē while the Daleks bray ďExterminate!Ē doesnít help matters, either.

So Cybermen versus Daleks is a horrific idea just by itself. What makes it even worse, though, is that story isn't where the interest of the episode lies. All this expensive mayhem, yet what turns out to really matter is Rose and her family's story. Although School Reunion was a much better episode, it's similar to Doomsday in this way: the emotional story steamrollers the peril story completely flat. As a result, all that Cyberman and Dalek stuff feels like it's happening a long way away, a mildly annoying and tedious interruption to the real story.

Where were we? Oh yes, in a finale where after some reworked familiar TV programmes Rose is chatting with Daleks. Eerily reminiscent of something, isn't it? Considering this is Rose's last hurrah, aside from her big gesture at the end and all the emo parting stuff she has to do this is actually a pretty lousy story for her. She does precisely nothing in Army Of Ghosts, and her involvement with the Daleks is limited to rehashing her glory days, telling them how cool she and the Doctor once were. We know! We were there! Continuity's all very well, but chewing over something they've already shown us is very feeble storytelling. Worse, it makes Rose seem not an action hero but a blowhard. We're surprised she didn't say "So nyaah!".

Rose manages to intrigue the Dalek enough to ensure she sticks around; Singh, however, isn't quite so lucky. It should have been soberingly violent, but unfortunately, his brutal plunging is completely hilarious. The Daleks and Cybermen set about blasting each other to death and boring us to death. Rose, having zero cunning plans, instead does a bit more taunting (something about the Dalek's father smelling of elderberries, we think it was).

Then something that we actually care about happens: Jackie gets taken away for upgrading. Rather than seeming repetitious, it's actually a very nice echo of The Age Of Steel, because the horror of Jackie's upgrading in that is still fresh in our minds. This time, though, she gets away, and whatever you've thought of Jackie over the past two seasons, we can't imagine there was a single viewer who wasn't cheering her on. It's terrifically tense and involving telly. Yvonne's fate also works perfectly: because of her involvement in bringing the Cybermen through to earth there's a certain justice to it, but because she's a real person rather than an evil tyrant it's still completely horrifying.

Meanwhile, the Doctor's natter with a Cyberman is rudely interrupted by a squad of completely pointless humans from the other dimension. This episode is crowded enough without bringing Jake into it and then ignoring him, especially as since the Daleks and Cybermen are shooting at each other having humans shooting at them is just a wee bit superfluous. It's like a lion and a rhino having a go at each other while a hamster pops up occasionally to give them a nip.

Jake, doing his exposition device thing, whips the Doctor back to the other dimension and whaddaya know, it's good old Pete Tyler. Considering how brilliant this character was in Father's Day, it's disappointing how far he's fallen by this stage: instead of the complexity he showed then, here he's just some not very nice (and not very convincing) guy. We're sure it's meant to be a happy ending that Jackie gets him back, but frankly, we think she could do better. Even Howard from down the market has to be better than this cold and selfish bastard. (And no, his saving Rose doesn't redeem him. Jackie probably nagged him into it.) The Doctor modifies Jake's gun, and much to our surprise we find that Daleks are made of polycarbide. So there you go: your sander discs are impervious to known human weaponry. Who'd have thought? (We plan to make our fortunes sewing them together into flak jackets.)

Back they go, to find a Dalek politely stifling a yawn as Rose tells yet another back-when-I-was-omnipotent yarn. Overcome with gratitude for the interruption, the Dalek fills the Doctor in about their secret club where they have cool aliases and everything. Well, OK. Sounds the very antithesis of Daleky to us, to the point weíre not sure how theyíd even manage it, but we guess that's the whole idea. We like it better than the Emperor Dalek, anyway. (Wonder what fresh Dalek variant next year's finale will reveal?)

Mickey gives the Ark a pat and as they run away they stumble into Jackie. This scene more than any other shows how far the episode's structure has gone wrong: all this expensive global carnage is going on, yet it's this very small-scale meeting between two people that plays and feels like one of the key scenes. We might not like Pete all that much by this stage, but that doesn't detract from the power of the scene one bit: the building up of these two characters, particularly Jackie's, over two seasons pays off here with a depth charge of really genuine emotion. It's not just Pete and Jackie, either: the reactions of the Doctor, Rose and Mickey also contribute hugely. We particularly like the looks the Doctor and Mickey exchange as Jackie avows there's never been anyone other than Pete for her.

Meanwhile, back to the Ark. We all knew it was unlikely to spell good news, didn't we, and we were right. What we didn't expect was that it would be quite so dumb. A prison ship? What were the Time Lords thinking? Yes, yes, it's a terrible tragedy that they were all wiped out, but frankly, we're starting to think they were too stupid to live. Also, wasn't the whole point of the Time War that the Doctor may have sacrificed the Time Lords but in return he put an end to the Daleks? So much for that. Daleks here, Daleks there, Daleks being spat out of the Ark: sorry, Doctor, but the next time you decide to kill off all the Daleks we suggest you have a quick look behind the fridge to make sure there aren't any left over, because you're starting to make offing the Time Lords look a wee bit silly. Itís a shame when the seriesís Big Ideas get diluted out of expediency - remember when the whole point of Dalek was that it was the last Dalek? Looking a bit spurious now, isnít it?

Daleks start exterminating the Cybermen wholesale, which is oh so very interesting, and the Doctor explains his plan: good for the Earth, bad for the Daleks and Cybermen, very very bad for the Doctor and Rose's deep and abiding passion (or whatever). Rose is singularly unimpressed, zinging back to the Doctor's side as he prepares to open the breach. Like we care, some Cybermen try to get away, but the post-Yvonne mows them down accompanied by a single oily tear. It's a nice end to her story (apart from the oily tear, that is), but it flies in the face of everything we know about Cybermen and, what's more, extracts even more teeth from them along the way.

Back to the breach. Clearly, the force the breach exerts is pretty powerful, seeing as how it vacuums up Daleks from miles away. Now we know the Doctor and Rose, not having spent as much time in the void, aren't as susceptible as the Daleks, but we ask you: if you had the Doctor's vast intellectual resources, wouldn't you have come up with a better plan than hanging on to a clamp? They don't even try to tie themselves onto it! Nevertheless, when the breach opens that seems to work pretty well, so maybe the Doctor knew what he was doing after all. Until...

Remember the lever? And the tap-tap-tapping? Well, they're coming back to bite us on the bum. Hang on to something (possibly a magnetic clamp) and concentrate. You can open and close the breach with the levers, right? We saw the scientists do it, although it seemed to need two levers. You can also open the breach via the keyboard. (Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-Alt-B.) But here, despite the force the scientists previously had to apply to move the levers, Rose's lever slips all by itself and they tell us the breach is closing. So it's one lever you need, then? Beats us, because although they say the breach is shutting down the hoover still seems to be slurping away. Also - and here's the really big one - if the breach is closing, why not let it? It's not like the Dalek-vacuuming has to be happening this very microsecond - why don't they just let the breach shut, yank back the lever (tying it in place this time, for God's sake) and re-attach themselves to the clamps? It's. Just. Dense.

Rose screams and lets go. The Doctor screams too, clinging desperately to his clamp, and watches her go without the slightest sign of any effort to do anything about it (and that's a sight we really didn't like to see). No last-minute brilliant plan from either of them: instead, it's Pete Tyler who saves the day. Bit-part Pete Tyler. Feel cheated? We did.

Rose pops out into the other dimension and begins sobbing and clawing the wall, while in the single most effective shot of the entire episode the Doctor simply leans against the wall with a face that speaks volumes. It's sock-it-to-you stuff, and in our opinion it's a thousand times more powerful than an entire bathtub full of tears. As Orson Scott Card once said of novels, if a character cries the reader doesn't have to, and we contend the same applies to the screen. We were unmoved by Rose's histrionics, whereas the Doctor's dry-eyed shock hit us hard. If only they'd left it there, this would have been incredibly powerful television.

But they didn't. They had to give us the coda. So off we go to Bad Wolf Bay (he WOULDN'T let it LIE!). We were chanting "Don't do it! Don't do it!" - but of course they did. Rose chokes out her passionate declaration, and the Doctor as good as does. Maybe everybody else who watched this was sobbing their eyes out, we dunno - we were howling "Noooooo!" instead. And even worse, an oh-so-poetic tear or two slides tragically down the Doctor's stricken face. Perhaps for some people it was exactly the closure they needed, but for us it was over-egging the pudding by a considerable margin. What did those scenes give us that the Doctorís hand on the wall hadnít already accomplished? Werenít their emotions already completely obvious?

Well, of course, most of the point was to get closure not about the Doctor but about Rose. The new series has been the Rose Show to a greater or lesser degree ever since it started, so itís no surprise that so much effort is devoted to her ďdeathĒ. We've seen the Doctor through a companion's eyes to an extent never seen before in Doctor Who, and she's been presented as more his equal even than another Time Lord. The Doctor's trust in Rose's abilities is so complete that it's become an article of faith: so much so that the Doctor in The Satan Pit gambles Rose's life on her ability to deal with trouble. What's more, their feeling for each other has always been made clear. It's not surprising, then, that so much attention is paid to their separation and its aftermath for Rose.

Except that it's not really like that, is it? The whole thing's built on a handful of illusions.

First, this isn't the breaking up of some great love affair: yes, Rose is fathoms deep in love with the Doctor, but the Doctor is definitely not reciprocating in kind. Remember how he dodged Rose's overtures about settling down together in The Impossible Planet? Not to mention the French bint he was gooey-eyed about not very long ago? There's no doubt the Doctor loves Rose in his way, but this is no grand mutual passion.

Second, Rose isn't the woman the Doctor paints her. Yes, she justified his faith in her in The Satan Pit, but on many other occasions she's been clueless and helpless, not least in this very episode when her only strategy when confronted with a Dalek is to tell it stories of how powerful she once was with the borrowed energy of the universe running through her. Rose's horizons have been widened since she started travelling in the TARDIS, sure, but she's still a pretty ordinary girl: compare her, for example, with the woman the Doctor (supposedly) instantly fell for, (supposedly) the most accomplished woman in history. Not that there's anything wrong with being ordinary (the Doctor trumpets its charms often enough) - but to tell us ordinary is actually extraordinary is simply misleading.

Third, the Doctor isn't exactly who Rose paints him either. How frequently has he promised both Rose and Jackie he would never abandon Rose? In fact, he's done just that several times already (in Girl In The Fireplace and The Impossible Planet, for example), and here it actually sticks. Also, Rose's faith in the Doctor's abilities is almost as misplaced as his faith in her: he can't be relied on to protect his companions or even necessarily to worry about protecting his companions. Take this episode: the Doctor tells Jackie he'll think of something as she's dragged away by the Cybermen, then promptly forgets about her, leaving her to save herself.

Ironically, even the closure's not actually closure of any remotely soothing kind. In an echo of Sarah's history in School Reunion, it's clear Rose is never going to get over losing the Doctor. He's transformed her life in ways almost unimaginable, but the price she has to pay is fantastically high. Just like Sarah before her, she's going to spend the rest of her life never fully adjusting to her new reality and with an ear always cocked for a certain groaning wheeze (or is it a wheezing groan?). If the parting at the breach was sad, this is, despite the surface resolution the chance to say goodbye affords, even sadder.

But tears or not, the Doctor, unlike Rose, won't be looking back. That's just the way it is with him. As he pointed out in School Reunion, even if Rose had spent the rest of her life with him, he knew one day he'd be saying goodbye. When humans' lives are so brief to a Time Lord, looking back isn't an option. Some viewers may have found the transition from the tears to the bride jarring, but we thought it was absolutely right. Just as it always has, just as it always must, the Doctor's life goes on.

Without doubt Doomsdayís a considerably weaker episode than Army Of Ghosts: the irrelevant Dalek/Cyberman war sees to that, and the illogic of the whole breach closing thing pretty much finishes it off. Thereís too much in there weíve seen before, much of it at the same time the previous year, and itís soaked in mush. Oh, yes, and the music deserves special mention for its sheer horrificness: the Daleks bring their choir back with them, and overall itís unbelievably cliched. Nevertheless, it does some things right, especially if you donít stop to think about them too hard. Like it or not, weíve invested quite a bit in the Tylers, and they as a bunch get a decent sendoff. Thatís most of what makes the two episodes work.

And there you have it: round two of the new series, and one series down for this Doctor. Been a funny old season, hasnít it? On the one hand, there are the terrible episodes like Fear Her, the dull episodes like Idiotís Lantern and the ones that just donít work, like the Cybermen duo and New Earth. Thereís been far too much repetition, both in the structure of the season as a whole and of the individual episodes. And once again weíre far too stuck to the Earth. Yes, we know they think people wonít watch Doctor Who if itís all skiffy, but hey, what saved Doctor Who when it first started was The Daleks, set on a planet a long way away and like a bomb going off in the public consciousness. Are modern audiences any different? We doubt it, and we wish the production team would stop underestimating them.

On the other hand, some of this season has been nothing short of sublime. Although nobody has yet unseated the Fourth Doctor in our hearts, our opinionís unchanged that our favourite episode ever is School Reunion, and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit isnít far behind. Thatís quite an achievement for one season. Weíve also seen mould-breaking stories like Love & Monsters, and flawed as that was, we hope itís that kind of novel storytelling rather than the repetitious structure and Earthboundness that we see more of in future.

It hasnít been as good a season for Rose as last season: although she learned a lot in School Reunion, it didnít translate into any noticeable character growth for her, and nor did the Doctorís defection in Girl In The Fireplace. Thatís disappointing. Other than some annoying smugness, she really hasnít come all that far, and while we applaud Billie Piperís performance, weíre ready to say goodbye and meet someone else.

And the Doctor? He hasnít quite lived up to the potential he showed at the beginning of the season: thereís been too much muggery and smuggery for that. But when he dials it back, thereís no doubt that heís absolutely outstanding. We really hope he gets more of the dark stuff to do and less of the manicness and pop culture: if he does, heís going to be one of the best.

MORAL: When travelling between dimensions, shut the door.



Yvonne explains that Torchwood hasnít gone metric, then goes on to talk about measuring the breachís power in gigawatts. Whereís the horsepower, dudes?


We hate the pop-culture references anyway. But referring to Denís ghost in Eastenders when his killerís the head of Torchwood is too sniggeringly pomo for words.


Why are they only opening the void for a few minutes at a time? And what are they doing with all the energy theyíre getting?


How does psychic paper work with an electronic lock?


ďLiving a life day after day - the one adventure I can never have.Ē Beg to differ, Doctor. Just take the distributor cap out of the TARDIS to remove all temptation and away you go.


Unfortunately for the thematic significance of it all, Darlig Ulv Stranden actually translates as ďPoor-Quality Wolf BeachĒ. (Apologies to Norwegians for our lack of little circles and other exciting Scandinavian punctuation. How come we donít have little circles?)

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