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After the sour ending to Warriors of the Deep, the TARDIS crew go looking for some peace in the sleepy village of Little Hodcombe, home to Tegan’s Grandfather. Unable to find any trace of him, the Doctor finds the locals entrenched in battle re-enactments, the rules of which are severely followed. Who is the surprisingly authentic middle-age peasant caught up in it all? What is the brooding presence in the church crypt? Given that the last set of war games ended rather badly for The Doctor, he’d better watch his step, as a much greater fate awaits than getting an unexpectedly large nose and even bigger bouffant this time around!

*Sob*...and you never compliment my new outfit...!
It seems a little odd to be writing about The Awakening the day after finishing the review of Frontios, as the tale we previously wrote about came after, but our palate was truly refreshed but this engrossing story. We have to admit, that we had forgotten a number of things about the story, but it was a long time ago. From the outset, there is an ingenious freshness to the writing and direction, where the sight of thundering hooves would have most rolling their eyes and thinking “Oh Christ, another period one again”, only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet upon discovering it’s the sport of an overzealous re-enactment society.

The Awakening takes a look at the clique-driven nature of small villages, with those of “breeding” taking charge of the community in a manner which suits their own purposes. These types can beaver away at their own affairs and only call on the locals to do something which benefits their own needs, like a fund-raiser for the parish church, and the like. But of course, this is Doctor Who, and our villain is Sir George Hutchinson (Denis Lill), is being controlled by an unearthly force out to keep itself alive through psychic energy, and the war-games are just what’s needed.

Solo Doctor Who writer Eric Pringle was unhappy when his intended four-part story (originally called War Game) was diluted into to episodes, and really didn’t like Sawards’ rewriting of his work, and coupled with having to try and get the story made on a much smaller scale, it wasn’t a happy situation for a writer trying to keep hold of his original idea. The condensing of material leads to a number of problems, but doesn’t detract from the ingenuous tale Pringle originally conceived.

Some of these writing problems are addressed in the extras, and come about mainly in the second episode, due to having to bring events to a conclusion after the first part took its time setting them all up nicely. The most jarring has to be when our heroes take cover in the TARDIS, with The Doctor having a go at Tegan about leaving the doors open. She replies that it was too late, as there was already “something in there”. This is a psychic projection of the Malus, and most viewers will be scratching their heads at...

1) Why Tegan has little concern for it being in there.

2) Why wasn’t such a potentially important event in the story not show.

3) Why the hell would a psychic projection need to enter through the doors in the first place?

Oh and whilst we’re at it, how about the way that everybody handles the concept of the TARDIS with amazing ease…

There are many prime example of subtext in the writing, making it more complex than the average seven-year-old would find it, merely taking it at face value. Our favourite is that old Dario Argento theme of physically breaking through something in order to find a form of truth, and it the case of The Awakening, it comes when The Malus is revealed by breaking through the wall. Couple this with the ascetics of the entrance to the chamber, and you have a very cool sequence, all very typical of a smashing micro- Who story.

At the time, there was much derision towards the way the Malus was realised, with many writing it off as “ just another goofy Doctor Who alien done on the cheap", but we will always spring to the defence of it. How many other ways are there to realise the rock-creature without having it too expressive so as to move in a way which rubbishes the stone-based nature of the beast? To those who moan that it is essentially just a large face embedded in a wall, we’d stick or necks out and say that there is a good chance that it had an influence on The Face of Boe in Nu-Who. Or was that just from Dune…?

All of the main cast seem to be having fun, with the location work in a quiet village something they probably wish for whenever stuck out in a dusty quarry for the umpteenth time. This certainly filters through to the performances, with nice turns by all three principles, with more “realism” to butt up against. To this end, Davison gives a pretty good performance, probably as a consequence of starting out a series built on a decent set of scripts, renewing his enthusiasm after the largely mediocre Season 20. We all know that there are certain instances and inflections from his predecessors integrated into his characterisation, with Pat Troughton being one of the chief influences, and this is enjoyably heightened with the addition of Will, producing strong echoes of the Doctor/Jamie chemistry. The inclusion of Tegans’ grandfather gives Fielding more to do, and less of a chance to whinge. As for Turlough, well, he gets some nice dialogue scenes, which is fitting for one of the most “busy” actors to play a companion, never willing to just sit back and wait for a line. Besides, The Awakening proves - yet again - that nobody does “thrown to the floor” like Strickson.

"Oh God!  I've been playing it so broad all this time.  Why didn't you tell me???"
Denis Lill was possibly cast in haste, or at least without keeping him is check during the filming, as he really does go off the radar when playing Sir George Hutchinson. He threatens to throw all the good work from his fellow cast-member clean out of the window, but it can be argued that being controlled by a being which feeds off of bad vibes induces the worst traits in those in its’ thrall. Either that or he just thought: “Sod it, it’s science-fiction…”

It was a weird treat for us to see under-appreciated character actor Glyn Houston again, giving a predictably robust performance once more as the multi-faceted “baddie” Col. Ben Woolsey. We really first saw him in the ITV comedy show Keep it in the Family, and has always been a hit with us as he lacks the pompous air his thespian brother Donald Houston always exuded. His turn in The Awakening starts out at a pleasing one, but by the time he chooses the path of right, you really find yourself sporting a wide grin, and it takes an actor with a goodly amount of charm to pull off a feat without coming across as a cynical exercise.

One problem we had was strictly personal, but suspect it might play on the minds of others of a certain age. A running thread is that of the ghostly apparitions which appear, and all are fuelled by “psychic energy”, allowing them to intrude into present day, but the design of them is of a somewhat camp nature, with one looking very much like Mr Davenport from Rentaghost. Obviously the raiding of the BBC costume/props departments is largely to blame, but such wild thoughts are bolstered by copious talk of “psychic energy”, to the point where you expect one of our spirits to hold their nose before disappearing to a familiar sound effect. Oh, and that the previous story had the two guys who played Dobbin on Rentaghost doing their thing doesn’t help, either.

A frown like Malus!
Another, more prominent caveat with the writing is that the element of having Tegan visiting her father and the “importance” of him to the plot becomes almost redundant, relegating him almost to the status of a MacGuffin, Hitchcock’s term for the subject of a quest which is irrelevant and only serving the purpose of initiating said quest. It seems that another use of the character is so than companions can be imprisoned with him so they won’t be lonely.

The location filming adds to the freshness of the story, which is augmented by The Awakening being a combination of both an oddity and a treat when it first went out all those years ago, as it was a two-part story broadcast on consecutive nights. All elements combine to make a really satisfying adventure which is pretty unique in the annuls of Doctor Who. There is a certain air to The Awakening which harks back to The Daemons, and helps to make a well-made story even better. Both take place in a rural village, and featuring the unleashing of a Hellish creature upon the Earth, with each story using the locales in a way which enriches the production.

The whole theme of folks running around with traditional weaponry re-enacting battles and unleashing a demon in the process is a deeply intriguing one, and makes us wonder if those rather odd guys who run around doing the same thing in the depths of Chislehurst caves are trying to conjure up a malevolent spirit of their own. It’ll take a damn sight more than waving foam swords or rolling “fight dices” to get rid of the one invoked in Little Hodcombe.

Will caught in mid "Oo-ar!"
Everyone old enough to remember The Awakening going out first time around will be familiar with a certain cock-up when The Doctor and co arrive via a horse-drawn carriage. Looking fine on the show, it was played by Noel Edmonds on his Late, Late Breakfast Show in its’ original form, the gee-gee in question getting far too excited by his mare being nearby that his gonads gravitated towards her and smashed over the faux gateway it was supposed to be walking through. God knows how much the BBC made out of that clip, as it was played in numerous countries around the world. You can bet that Dick Clark’s dabs were all over it.

Tegans’ humorous line of “never a dull moment” is a fitting way to describe The Awakening. Stephen King once compared the length of stories to relationships: with novels, you have a romance with them, something deep and meaningful. With short stories, it’s a quick kiss in the dark. Both are love, but on different levels. The Awakening is an hugely enjoyable time in the make-out closet, as refreshing as a lemon sorbet after a heavy main meal. Whilst we’re talking about Tegan and dialogue, the use of recurring lines in The Awakening helps to bind the stories together, such as “Brave heart, Tegan” from The Doctor in times of crisis, and solving things by finding “another way” rather than situations resolving themselves through violence, relating directly to the end of the previous story Warriors of the Deep, where everything ended on a sour note.

Speaking of dialogue, possibly our favourite line in the entire story is a simple one, and all in the delivery. Polly James has just realised that the final battle in the war games has to be played out for real, with countless lives at risk. She points out the screamingly obvious, imploring: “You must stop him!”. With a perfect balance of sincerity, patronisation and humour, he dryly replies: “Yes, I know…”. It might not read like much, but it is dynamite in the hands of a very engaged Davision. Running a close second comes The Doctor’s repost when accused of speaking treason, that of “Fluently!”.

Generally accepted as being a result of the BBC trying to weasel out of paying Gerald Flood to come in and give Kamelion a proper send off, the unpopular companion vocally imitates both The Doctor and Turlough, in an infamous deleted scene. Whilst is a pretty cool and creepy idea, is distinctly less palatable when you know the reasons behind it - not to mention that the robot just looked like an animated hat-stand in the first place. With only Planet of Fire to come, it would have been nice to have included it in the first place and make it more worth his while turning up on the show in the first place.

"Fashion Polic e! Gimmie that bag!"
There has always been speculation that Will was being lined-up to be a permanent addition to the TARDIS crew, but more on that reality of the situation later. Most point out that he would have been very limited in his contribution to the show, especially as male characters are so very difficult to integrate into Doctor Who. We would like to point out that a certain kilted commoner turned out to be one of the best companions in classic Who, and although Jamie is an almost impossible act to follow, it can still be done.

There are plenty of amusing little asides to break up the potentially pompous nature of the subject matter, but all carefully handled so as to avoid post-ironic smugness. Our favourite example has to be when Wolsey concedes that he needs more men in his pursuit of Tegan, he tells orders of his underlings to phone for reinforcements, only to be told: “that’s not allowed, I’ll have to go back…” Now that’s what you call sticking to the rules of a re-enactment society.

The efforts to make the Doctor Who universe one which is one-in-the-same is something which we very much applaud, and giving Hutchinson a lump of the malleable Tinclavic as a plaything was a stroke of genius. It refereed to the past in a way which wasn’t as blatant as showing the Sir George talking to an alien entity over a monitor, and was supposed to signal the future return of the Terrileptils, which ultimately didn’t happen. Of course, this was more than just something rather cool, as it functioned within the story in that the Tinclavic was being used as a lightening-rod for channelling negative energy with which to feed the Malus.

There’s nothing more unnerving for us “city-folk” than quaint village festivals, and when Little Hodcombe decides to have a spring-clean for the May Queen, with Tegan wearing the title, it makes us fear yokels even more. Happily, she is saved from her gruesome death by means of replacing her with a straw dummy, which you would have wondered if it should have been spotted earlier, the main difference being that one whinges much less than the other. Whilst on the subject of dead-ends in the script, there is a prime example of an end-of-episode cliff-hanger being a “stairway to nowhere”, with all the screaming and general tension almost forgotten about at the start of the second episode. Such shoddy treatment of viewers gets on fans’ wicks.

So, The Awakening is a fun tale which could teach so many six-parters how to tell a story and leave them wanting more. Will the image spoil things with previous instability? Might improper mixing leave Tegans’ whinging practically inaudible? Let’s take a look at the disc itself…

"Can I 'ave some water for 'me bucket?"

Video


With so much location work, you might expect the image to be lacking in some areas, but we a pleased to report that both interior and exterior footage looks very nice, and certainly better than when it went out. Like the story itself, there is a freshness to it which really draws you in, and the outdoor material is a world away from how you remember it - both stable and bursting with colour. It’s what you expect from the DVD release from this era of Doctor Who, and given the high standard of work put out, it’s certainly a complement.

Audio


Nothing bad to report here, with a faithful rendering of the elements to make for an entertaining aural experience. Dialogue is crisp, Peter Howell’s music sounds just fine, and it all comes together nicely. Nothing more to be said, really.

Extras


Audio Commentary: Michael Owen Morris and Eric Saward are brought in to talk their way through (or out of, depending on your opinion) The Awakening, moderated by the ever-personable Toby Hadoke. This being the last DVD outing for the Fifth Doctor, it’s a little disappointing to find that Peter Davison is missing from this otherwise entertaining track. After a few minutes of the participants who did show up, you’ll have forgotten all about the Wet-Vet.

Early on, the question of Kamelion is brought up, and Hadoke pitches it from the point of view of a fan at the time, that being “if he can change his appearance, why not just do that?”. Saward is blunt, saying that the production was just trying to completely forget the character once they realised how impractical it was. “We sent an AFM (Assistant Floor Manager) out to get some “AA” batteries, but he never came back… it was a terrible thing.”

There is real praise for Mark Strickson, and Saward expresses regret that they didn’t really do anything with the character of Turlough, with steady viewers knowing that this isn’t the first time the script editor has done so. Strickson was always working as an actor, which translates as making sure his is actually doing something in a scene, rather than blankly standing back whilst waiting for his line. Got a clunky piece of expository dialogue? Simple, give it to ol’ Mark, as he’ll fiddle with his tie and keep things grounded and interesting during such pace-stoppers.

With so many people out there all-too-ready to label Doctor Who as a “kids’ show”, it’s refreshing to hear both Saward and Morris deny such accusations. Saward points out that it was always came out of the “series and serials” section of the BBC, which was reserved for adult drama, and they made no real concessions to children when making them, and Hadoke wisely notes that the show has always functioned on different levels - shortly before going that one step too far by comparing it to The Simpsons. Confusion and disbelief shortly follow.

The question of the Doctor Who decade had to be asked, and Hadoke makes sure he does: why was synthesiser-based scores so predominant during the eighties? The answer comes in the form of three letters: JNT. Yep, Mr Nathan-Turner was enamoured of keyboard music that he insisted that they be kept as the house-style during his reign of terror. There will be many who will read a lot into that. Both Saward and Morris agree that such music was overused on the final product, playing much better under the principle of “less is more”. For the record, Saward wasn’t that keen on it anyway.

With a relaxed atmosphere and a director who looks fondly upon his first job, this is a very pleasant, informative way to spend just under an hour. It’s a perfect companion to The Awakening itself, being fun, engaging and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Info Track: The script of The Awakening went through some drastic changes, first being commissioned as the four-part “War Game” before it was halved, and with judicious pruning carried out after that to get it down to size, but we are happy to report that the info track is more than up to the challenge of detailing the evolution of this bizarre entry in the Fifth Doctor’s canon. Aside from truncating the running time, there were numerous instances of “line juggling” during production, the process where dialogue is switched to other characters to make them fit better, and all are faithfully listed herein, and help fill in the numerous plot-holes and discontinuity generated by the changes.

With the pruning going on behind the scenes, it’s nice to know that you can find every instance of these aforementioned “hangovers” thanks to this track, even ones which might have gone flying over the average viewer’s head. Take when Turlough and Verney are discussing the Malus, for example. The companion is well aware of the events being talked about, even though he wasn’t present when they happened. The same thing happens in the very next scene, where the character Jane seems to have an almost telepathic way of knowing about incidents she did not witness. Oliver North would have been in serious trouble if he possessed such abilities.

Even changes to the number of shot planned for a scene are to be found here, giving greater appreciation of the incredibly demanding schedule allocated for the location filming on The Awakening, and goes a long way to silencing those who scoff at classic Who for their lack of funding and resources. Yeah, you can do it all on HD-video damn quickly these days, but give them the same time constraints and 16mm, they wouldn’t get even half of it done.

Having been uncredited on Shaun of the Dead, this track gets a very big thumbs-up from us for listing all those in front of the camera (and behind!) whom didn’t make it onto the closing rollers. Speaking of credits, we had no idea that this was to be the last story for veteran designer Barry Newbery, whom had been there since An Unearthly Child. We had even less idea that he almost ended his time on Doctor Who with his name spelled wrong on the titles, only picked up on at the last minute, if it wasn’t for the exhaustive research to be found here. That would have been a real kick in the balls for Mr Newbery, you have to admit…

Did you know that the more horrific elements of The Awakening were too much for Head of Serials David Reid, who issued a notice to John Nathan-Turner that he urged him “to be careful” with it? We do now. How about that the yokel dialogue for Will was written phonetically to assist with characterisation? You will when selecting the option to watch the story with this little gem, and it almost gets to the point where we run out of superlatives to adequately just how informative and entertaining the Doctor Who info tracks are. Reassuringly indispensable.

Return to Little Hodcombe: Michael Owen Morris retraces the steps of the production, including how he started out on Doctor Who and how he worked his way up to directorship, with Keith Jayne, Janet Fielding and Eric Saward all talking a nostalgic wander around the locations. This is a particular treat, as it gives Fielding a chance to go out on location and talk about her experiences on the show, rather than just being sat in a studio, and she’s a delight whilst detailing the time spent. Fielding recalls how everybody elected to “go easy” on virgin director Morris, choosing to bite their tongues on parts of the script which they would have ordinarily have questioned, given that the poor guy was shooting on location, made worse by a heavy load of variables he to cope with. Naturally, this made things worse, proving that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

Fielding demonstrates how to win an arguement with JNT via a knife and his testicles.
Some of the Shapwick locals are interviewed, and the whole experience of the BBC filming there was a positive on, with a number of amusing anecdotes, including when the whole crew were agog at the sight of one of the production horses being tended to by a blacksmith. It might not sound like much, but it proves just how little city-folk know of cun’ry ways.

The cock-up of the horse destroying the gate - made famous through being played on The Late, Late Breakfast Show - is covered by cast, crew and villagers, and gives a wider perspective rather than just it being amusing. Morris is somewhat galled that this is the one piece of his work which travelled the world and survives on to this day, whilst Jayne notes that he made a few quid in repeat-fees from the clip being played over and over, more so than he in got payment for the show originally.

Morris, Saward and Fielding make no pretence that The Awakening was perfectly executed, all of the belief that the conclusion and tying up of the various plot strands were too hasty, and that a third part to the story might have iron thing s out. Saward is quick to deflect part of the blame in the direction of Morris, but Fielding counters by going through a list of unanswered questions which are clearly at the writing/script-editing stage.

Any rumours of Will becoming a permanent addition to the TARDIS crew are well and truly squashed, with Jayne denying all knowledge of it, Saward pointing out that he himself would have had to have been involved through being script-editor, and Fielding completely stamping on any vain hope that the whispers could have been true, assigning the blame to John Nathan-Turner, who planted gossip about the show in the press at every opportunity.

Everyone involved expresses their satisfaction with the production and the final results, especially Morris, how affirms that as he is still being paid to do what he loves, he must have done something right on his first directing job. Oh, wait until the end of the credits, as you might want to go duff up a yokel should you be a fan of angry temperament…

Making the Malus: Visual effects designer Tony Harding and model maker Richard Gregory are reunited with the Malus prop they built for the story in this rather cool addition to The Awakening’s canon of extras. All bases are covered, from the vagueness of the description they were given right through to the main prop being carved with a chainsaw from polystyrene.

Many have scoffed at the almost primitive design of the Malus, but this was mainly a way of keeping it mechanically simple so as to prevent costly breakdowns during filming, and we have to say that we’d take this piece of sentient rock over the stop-motion one in Return to Oz any day. It still looks just he cool today as it did back then, with both Harding and Gregory surprised just how well it hold up when confronted by the evil face after so long. OK, so a little of the menace evaporates when it’s revealed that the evil glowing eyes have been fitted with low-energy light bulbs in the intervening years.

Pondering where it had been for a couple of decades, Harding is surprised that the Malus prop didn’t just “end up in the skip”, which was the fate of many such things created for BBC shows. This is absolutely true, as it was only recently that the full size Aslan prop from the Narnia series turned up on The Antiques Roadshow, and no prizes for guessing how the current owner got hold of it.

Best of all is current owner of The Malus Paul Burrows’ recounting the reactions from guests when they clap eyes on the ominous face hanging up in his living room. It’s another winner, and we can’t get enough of extras like this, told from the perspective of the crew. Excellent.

Now and Then: As with the recent release of Resurrection of the Daleks, we get another detailed look at some of the primary locations used in Doctor Who, and for The Awakening, those in question are Martin, Shapwick and Tarrant Monkton. From the outset, you know that these guys really have done their homework, giving us exact match-shots with sequences from the show, giving the ultimate in looks at how things have changed in the intervening years. You might assume that this is pure nostalgia, but such thoughts are firmly countered by the geographical and historical information which are interwoven with the images, providing context and relevant facts about the areas covered.

Want to know how they got the different locations to tie in together? Well, we get a look at the paining of the glass-shot used to deposit the church at a location 14 miles away, backed up by a good look at the filming plans which exactly pin-point where the illusion was needed. Careful cutaways are also revealed to achieve the same purpose. They are pretty thorough about things, as they even go to the trouble of retracing the location used for a deleted shot, the one where Turlough goes to look for Tegan.

Things are brought to a timely close with the full take of the model church being blown up, which will please many fans. You’re hardly going to get one visiting the actual quarry-pit seen in so many episodes of the show, so cherish these lovingly-made slices of Doctor Who history while you can, as there are only so many left to come.

From The Cutting Room Floor: It has gotten to the point where we almost expect Peter Davison-era Doctor Who releases to come with a selection of extended and deleted scenes, and that’s just what we get once again. Taken from the original edit via a time-coded tape, there are ample examples of pieces dropped for time purposes, which is to be expected, given that the first part drastically overshot the required length. What is of real interest is the inclusion of unedited film sequences, coupled with on-set footage courtesy of film rushes. We get the aforementioned appearance of Kamelion, so we also do with the shot of Turlough chasing after Tegan. We find that Will is afraid of the dark, Polly James is very girly and not able to escape through opening doors or windows. The film trims are the most engrossing, including alternate takes, unused shots, two looks at the infamous gate incident and a couple of other pieces ruined by act of horse. This is really interesting stuff, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

The Golden Egg Awards: As mentioned earlier, the piece with the horse demolishing the faux gateway to the lush, green churchyard was featured on Mr Edmonds’ Late, Late Breakfast Show, and those guys at 2Entertain didn’t just commandeer the original footage of it going our: they have most assuredly gone one better. Davison is present and correct to collect his “Golden Egg” award for that particular cock-up. We remember this when it went out, and was a real kick to see it again - Davison plays up to the cameras in a shameless, but very amusing manner. No doubt if they tried such a thing with TV’s Naughtiest Blunders, a “Golden Dick” would be handed out instead.

Isolated Music: OK, so Mr Saward might not have been too keen on synthesiser music being used on the show, but it always a pleasure to get to hear the music of Peter Howell, especially without having to fork out money to buy the CD (where available). As mentioned in the commentary, less is more when using an incidental score, and this is one example where we think that the balance is just about right, as you can go for stretches where there isn’t even a squeak of it. It’s all employed perfectly, adding to the action and atmosphere rather than drawing attention to itself. Sounds to enjoy in a darkened crypt, preferably with a demonic face on the wall.

Photo Gallery: Another excellent selection of all things photographic from the filming. There is more flavour to these ones, including what looks like shots from the round-table reading of the script and a load of star-struck Hampshire villagers clamouring for pictures. There are more shots of the crews at work than we are used to seeing, and this is a welcome addition, offering another dimension to the experience, and we also get numerous looks at the cast on location both on and off camera. Model shots, make-up chair stills, you name it, they are included. Oh, and a number of photos from the Kamelion sequence. This is possibly the most diverse selection of images presented on a Doctor Who release, which is a real surprise in light of how short the story is. Wanna bet that in a vault somewhere is a gob-smacking collection of them from Mission to the Unknown…?

PDF Material: Nostalgic bliss. The ones here are as brief as the story itself, bolstered by a picture of Polly James. Can you ever get enough of browsing the listing for Doctor Who in the Radio Times? Nope, nor can we. They are so addictive that you just want to dissolve them in a spoon with a few drops of water…

Coming Soon: Paradise Towers. Not entirely jazzed about this one, but it might be through bad association at the time. It makes for a pretty good trailer, though, with amusing underpinning of the bureaucracy aspect of the tale. We’ll certainly give it another go, even though it comes with that horrible ginger monster which attached itself to the TARDIS for a while.

That Liver Birds revivial didn't get past the pilot...

Overall


We had a lot of fun with The Awakening, proving that Doctor Who could still work in the Nu-Who time constraints, in spite of a few problems. Everyone is enjoying themselves, and it looks just wonderful. The extras are uniformly excellent, and whilst it was an odd choice to pair this tale with The Gunfighters, you’ll be picking up a pretty entertaining double-feature when you stick your hand in your pocket. Another solid recommendation from us.


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