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Love Stories: Let's Kill Hitler

Dance Me To The End of Love

    Well, not the end of love, because who knows when the story begins, and when it ends?

    I finally got my thoughts together after watching Let's Kill Hitler, and I managed to put them into words that make sentences that make paragraphs. A lot of them. Hence the cut, because yeah, verging on prolix here.

    One warning. This commentary treats Let's Kill Hitler like Rory and Company treated Hitler.

Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
  "Because she's a woman ... oh, shut up! I'm poisoned!"

  With the first half of this line, Steven Moffat managed to infuriate me.
  The second half contained, I eventually discovered (or decided, I suppose, but I'm betting on the first) that he had apologized to me — and not just to me and not just for the front half of the sentence.
   I heard in that entire sentence an essay, a bemused and defiant apology, an apologetic scream of confusion and a ... well, not a promise to change, but an acknowledgment that everything changes, and everything probably should, particularly in matters of the heart. His, primarily, but also those various tattered and worn hearts that he writes, as well as the battered and bruised fannish hearts he plays with.

    It's all about love, really.

    Oh, kaffyr, you mystifying pontificator you, whence came that bouquet of epiphanies? Out of a hat, you say? Or someplace else? Or was it the drugs?

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

    First things first.

    Let's Kill Hitler is typical Moffat: breathless pacing and marvelous character vignettes, a story both strengthened and weakened  (almost to the point collapsing upon itself and held up by strength of will and acting ability alone at certain points) by his love for time travel-powered plots with hairpin turns and unexpected people, places, things and concepts.
  And loads of people have commented on the story itself — some folks loved it for the chock-full-o-nuts intellectual and plot richness, some folks loathed it for the internal plot stupidities, some loved it for Rory and Amy and Eleventy awesomeness, others had (some rather reasonable) concerns about the way Wee Rory was presented, or the ways Mels' and River's characters were presented.
  I agree with some of the concerns, didn't loathe anything, and loved about, oh, 87 percent of the whole thing. But what hit me the most as the end credits rolled had far more to do with the way this episode spoke of love, and the way that its' speaking of love gave me still more information on Moffat, and how that allowed me to come further to terms with Moffat  —  perhaps because I think he's coming to terms with me in a manner of speaking.

    As I said, it boils down to love.

We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above

    I haven't had an easy time of it since Moffat took over Doctor Who. It's been hard for me to synchronize the way I fell in love with the show all over again on his watch with my unease over the way Moffat seems to view women and relationships or, frankly, how he seems to view the human race in general.

    I adore his cast, and his cast of characters. I think he's successfully reshaped DW following Davies' departure, making it quicker-thinking, writing faster-paced and overtly multi-pronged stories. He writes — and showruns — in quicksilver, which makes him hard to follow around, but equally hard to resist. 
  (I'll always love Davies for bringing the show back, for filling it out with humanity, for Nine and Rose, for Martha, for Donna, and for some work of aching, soaring grace and beauty. But when I go back to any of the series except for S1, I have to pick and choose episodes to watch, because some of them feel muddy and inchoate to me now.)

     I'm never bored with Moffat's episodes even when they make me grind my teeth or go BWUH? And when an idea or an episode falls in on itself, as things spun out of quicksilver are apt to do, I can forgive because at least it's his reach exceeding his grasp, not a failure to dream.
  Watching "Lets Kill Hitler" made my relationship with Moffat, and Moffat's Who, clearer. I am more content and less at odds with myself about him and his Whoniverse. And that's because it's helped me do the necessary synchronization, and it offered me that apology I mentioned about which more, anon.

    Let's start with the brutal truth (the "as I see it" should be considered appended to all my comments from hereon out. I am well aware that I could be talking out of my ass.)
   Moffat seems to be uneasy with relationships, unless it's relationships between children and adults (and even then ... well, just
  watch how he turns those relationships on their head, particularly in S6.) If it's relationships between adults, he writes them withdiffidence, and with one assumption at their base.

    Each relationship — no matter how deep, how caring, how passionate, how long-lasting or permanent it is — grows out of mutual misunderstanding and resentment even as it grows out of, and into, yearning towards understanding and affection.

    Moffat is a very smart man, and a gifted observer. There is nothing of which he writes that isn't part of the human condition, and he captures it brilliantly. He watches humans, men and women and, yes, children, interact. Then he recreates those byzantine courtship and friendship and parent-child dances as he sees them (as he sees them, remember that) in dazzling mixes of wit and vitriol, love and the desire to protect, and uncomprehending blindness and kindness.

    And that's all real.

    We do yearn towards each other, and we do resent each other. We all misunderstand those to whom we are drawn, and
we deal with it by learning, by refusing to give up and walk away, by overwhelming the resentment with the understanding and the love. We end up loving and wanting to protect that which we may not understand, but which we understand is important to us — is absolutely essential, in fact.

    Moffat writes that in Doctor Who and he's written it before, in Coupling, where the relationship of Steve and Susan is alternately infuriating, hilarious and beautifully, vulnerably loving.

    So all the humor, all the love, all the groping for each other even as we fear each other, and all the efforts to transform the bitter into the sweet ... it's contradictory, it's confusing and it's right.

Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
   No writer writes from anything if not from his or her own heart. Writers can springboard from their own hearts to places that look nothing like themselves, of course, and that's the mark of good and great witers; but it all starts at the center. And from what they write, readers can infer who they are.

    I can build a picture of Moffat from his work, and I think it's important that I do so. Why?  It won't be 100 percent accurate, it could be significantly out to lunch. But I don't think it will be, because really good writers like Moffat paint really good pictures with their words, and those pictures become the clearest mirrors in which they and others can seem themselves, and yes, I think I just mangled three, count 'em three, metaphors. But the point is that the picture I build of Moffat from his writing helps me understand his writing.

    That's as infuriating and contradictory as anything in a Moffat script, probably. Hopefully it's as accurate.
     No matter. The Moffat I see is not only a close observer of the human condition, but a man both repelled by and attracted to humanity.
     He is a father and a husband, he loves deeply and he has a desire to protect those he loves. But he will freely admit that he doesn't understand them, and that those he deems incapable of protecting themselves may be able to do so just fine, thanks. And he sometimes resents that, and he knows his resentment is illogical, but it's part of him, damn it, and why can't people understand that? Well, he admits when the lights are low and no one's around, it's because he's screwed it up time and again, and he's too bright not to know it. So there's nothing to do but get up and try again to figure it out, to figure himself out, to figure her out, and them out, because he'll die of loneliness if he doesn't, and he can't stand the thought of them (of her) being lonely either.
      And he lives through his mistakes, and sometimes he acknowledges them, and he messes up, and he loves all the more, because that love is the only thing that's worth all the crap it takes to find it, it's the only thing that's going to pull him out of the mess he made by not understanding, by resenting and being blind.

    And he finds it in their eyes — the eyes of his children, the eyes of friends and companions, her eyes.
    And he slips again and again, despite his best efforts, because he's a bit of a tosser, and he knows it. But his heart beats true.

    That kind of affection and love, that kind of understanding? It's very human. It's very grown up human.
    (Which, by the by, is why being able to be kind to children, to protect them, is so alluringly important to us tired old adults. To him. Yes, we know that childhood is frightening when one's a child. We know that children are cruel and we know they are blind and resentful, because we were children once, but we remember the love someone gave us when we were children, and we want to pass the favor forward, because the more love we give them, the better chance they have to beat the misunderstandings and resentments that can screw them up as adults.)
    But the love thing ... loving my brother, loving my mother, loving my child and my lover — it's a full time job. It's the center of creation, and it powers me forward, and it drains me, and I wish I could run away, but I won't. I wouldn't change a thing. Not one line.

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
    And so Moffat has given us Nancy and her son, whom she treats as a brother until she gives in to the truth.

    We have Amy, who bullied Rory because everyone bullied her, but grows past that as best her young damaged self can, because her heart's too big to be choked by her own bad habits, and because she loves him. We have Rory who put up with it, and resents it, and grows past that resentment because he wants to protect and nurture her. Because he loves her. They rescue each other.
    We have the Doctor, an exercise in contradictory affections and rejections of humanity, who can't not help when he hears a child crying. And who tells us we breed like rabbits and says, with a great deal of smiling and affable resentment, that he'll never be done saving us. And is rescued by the dreams of a child who didn't forget him because he wouldn't let her.

    And we have River Song, who is betrayed by adults who should have known better.  Who is bent and twisted into a weapon by the very people who should have protected her— who, in fact, should have let her own parents care for her, but who stole her from them instead. Who is so broken by this — broken child of a broken mother — that she can't even live in the right direction.

    But — determined child of a determined mother — she somehow puts herself back together.
     It's love that allows her to put herself back together. Not just of the Doctor, but of life, of her parents, of adventure, of archaeology and the long con, of other men and women. Love is all that holds her together. And she's broken enough to resent it, but she's wise enough to keep loving.

      (I have never thought, as some have, that River's new life in the library was somehow unfair or stereotyped or incomplete, because she was caring for children. To someone whose childhood was hell, built by adults who betrayed their trust and duties as adults, perhaps heaven is the rescuing of children. Besides, she will raise them to be adventurers, like her. But I digress.)

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove

      And when I watched Let's Kill Hitler and heard the Doctor — poisoned and resentful because the woman he
loves in some way, in some alien Time-lordish completely human way that he hasn't figured out yet, has just killed him (because she doesn't yet know that she loves him and because she's totally fucked up by people who did not understand their duty toward a child) — say what he does? I hear Moffat saying "here's the crap I believe when I'm weak, but I know it's crap. Give me time. I'm growing out of it. Because love's too important to poison with the crap. But for Christ sake, let me be .. at least until I can become something better."

Lyrics nicked brazenly from Leonard Cohen's "Dance me to the End of Love."


( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen the new ones yet.

But....they definitely need to have a woman write a season or three.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
So you haven't seen any of Matt Smith's second season? Or you haven't seen the resumption of the second season?

In either case, the episodes (or episode, if it's the latter) are wonderful, maddening, deeply flawed and fantastic, and provide much to chew on.

There are some female writers in the DW stable, but I agree that they need more. And I'd love to see a woman succeed Moffat as a showrunner, as long as she loves DW as much as he and Davies do. You need the love.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Am running out the door but just wanted to say:

(I'm not even sure I agree with everything, but I ended up as a little puddle on the floor by the time I was finished, so I'm not gonna argue...)
Sep. 2nd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! But please come back and chat about this. I really want to see how your ideas (which I read in your marvelous commentary) might mesh with my mushy meta. Ahem.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
That line really never bothered me--I understand why some people thought it was sexist, but I actually thought it was funny. Because the Doctor, for all he's nearly a century old, is still very much a little boy at times. It didn't strike me as spiteful but as the sort of petulant "girls don't make sense" complaint of a baffled boy. And River always has baffled the Doctor.

I really like what you got out of it. This is a really nice analysis of some sort of heartbreaking things. And this line--just, yeah. Wow. " To someone whose childhood was hell, built by adults who betrayed their trust and duties as adults, perhaps heaven is the rescuing of children." I never thought about that, but that's really sort of perfect.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
... but as the sort of petulant "girls don't make sense" complaint of a baffled boy.

Bingo! It was just that initial thought that started me on this whole ramble, so I'm glad to hear others heard it, too.

And, although I never had a problem with River's fate, seeing AGMGtW and LKH brought my feelings about it into even sharper focus by giving me even more context about River herself.
(no subject) - ladymercury_10 - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladymercury_10 - Sep. 2nd, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 3rd, 2011 12:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
I...I think you've just fundamentally changed the way I think about Moffat and his writing. Particularly with this:

Each relationship — no matter how deep, how caring, how passionate, how long-lasting or permanent it is — grows out of mutual misunderstanding and resentment even as it grows out of, and into, yearning towards understanding and affection.

I read it once, blinked about four times, and then read it again. And then suddenly everything started to make sense. An unfamiliar sort of sense, but sense nonetheless.

So: Thank you so much for this post. I'm still thinking it through, but there's little doubt in my mind that this approach to the show and the characters is much more forgiving, rewarding, and emotionally complex than what I've used before. I like it.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
I'm glad what I wrote gave you something to chew on.

It all hangs on my assumption, from the evidence, that Moffat is a very self-aware writer.

It's taken me a while to get my thoughts about him, and his writing, into order, and those thoughts will probably continue to evolve, just as I think Moffat and his writing are continuing to evolve. But as my understanding increases (or what I think is understanding), my resentment shrinks and the affection grows.

(no subject) - earlgreytea68 - Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 3rd, 2011 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
Love this review.
This was fun to read, and reflected most of what I feel about Moffat's Who. I watched Couplings and thought it reflected the same kind of benign but strangely enjoyable mysogyny -- yeah not possible-- we see in soap opera where men are at mercy of their hormones, or women.

We could and people have written papers and books about RTD's Doctor Who. But Moffat's who is pure popcorn stuff.

Moffat does write about women in the way he best understands them, I think he likes them, but has some strong beliefs about place, like anyone else who has lived in a culture where a faith stresses that verse about women being made for Men. There is a verse early on that declares both male and female are for the Pleasure of the Creator and I love to see certain groups of men dance around that verse.

That aside: Moffat also seems to have formed wierd connection between Strong Woman/Bad Girl, that is rather like a teenage girls Bad Boy/Good Sex illusions--and I was one of those girls, so Moffat's attitude is okay.

What I like about Moffat's Who -- I'm back to watching Who for the reason I watched the Classic show: It was fun.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
benign but strangely enjoyable misogyny

This is a very good way to describe it, especially if one considers misogyny the ultimate in misunderstanding and resentment. And it has a hopeful subtext: when misogyny turns benign, perhaps it's the first step towards learning to grow past the resentment and misunderstanding.

Moffat does write about women in the way he best understands them, I think he likes them, but has some strong beliefs about place ....

I think you're right. And I think he's self aware enough to know it, and I'm coming to believe that he actually is working through all that stuff.

I'm back to watching Who for the reason I watched the Classic show: It was fun.

Although I have always watched it for the fun, I get what you mean here, because the RTD Who had a lot — a lot — going on. I think there's a lot going on in Moffat's stuff, but it's of a different nature, and one could argue that it's secondary to his genuine love of the intellectual concepts he plays with.

(And by the way, I loved your comment about the bible verse about both man and woman being for the pleasure of the creator!)
(no subject) - viomisehunt - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
This was such a beautiful essay. I have always loved the way Moffat writes, but I never sat down to figure out why that is, mostly because I dismissed it as, "Oh, you can tell he's having fun, and I like that," or "Oh, he's got such a magnificent ear for rapid-fire dialogue, and that's my favorite," or "Oh, this plot makes my head hurt, and that's what I *love* about it."

But, in the end, I think I always knew that what I liked most about Moffat was that I always felt like his love--for what he was doing, for his characters--was tangible to me. It takes weird acrobatic leaps, but it's fuzzy in the way of a warm hug, his writing, harsh in the way that arguments filled with emotion can be, nonsensical in the way that you're never able to explain love. I never put it into so many words, but what you say here, I realize, is what I've been thinking all along: It's all about love. And I'm okay with that.

What's so strange is that recently I watched "Family of Blood" because it happened to be on BBCA. I loved "Family of Blood" when it first aired, but I found it so profoundly strange that it's the same show as the show that gave me "Let's Kill Hitler." The *feel* is so different. I think S1-S4 and S5 onward work best if you view them as being two different shows, because they are as different as can be, really, and judging them by pitting one against the other merely cheapens what was great about each of them in the first place.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
And you've said, beautifully, in your second paragraph what I rambled on about in this entire thing.

judging them by pitting one against the other merely cheapens what was great about each of them in the first place.

I think the trick is to compare rather than judge. Comparing things is an intellectual exercise that helps us understand the things we are comparing, or at least that's what I try to think of it as. Judging things, on the other hand, is an exercise in futility that not only cheapens both things, as you so aptly say, but leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

I admit that my comment about how I now react to some of the episodes from the RTD run might look a little judgmental, but perhaps I was speaking more to my reaction than that to which I reacted. Because I love Davies' stuff, but if Moffat writes in quicksilver, Davies sometimes writes in slow glass and bitter honey to beat this poor analogy into the ground like a dead horse.
(no subject) - sensiblecat - Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
That was a lot to process. But brilliant.

Personally, I was amused by the "Because she's a woman" line, because, well, it was such a "guy" thing to say. And the Doctor's really not that sort of guy (though what did Amy say in that extra from last series? "You are such a bloke"?) but at times he can be such an idiot when it comes to humans and human behavior.

So I was just a bit startled by some of the more upset reactions to that line. But I can see the point.

As a long-time Classic Who fan who did welcome the revival, I find now looking back that I prefer Moffat's approach and style to Davies'. And I love Eleven so much more than Nine or Ten.

I partucularly like this bit:

(I have never thought, as some have, that River's new life in the library was somehow unfair or stereotyped or incomplete, because she was caring for children. To someone whose childhood was hell, built by adults who betrayed their trust and duties as adults, perhaps heaven is the rescuing of children. Besides, she will raise them to be adventurers, like her. But I digress.)

Yes! That works perfectly.

Your emphasis on the theme of love is beautiful. Do you think that's what the Doctor whispered to Mels/River with his last breath? Something like, "Find River Song. Tell her I love her."

I wish I could write meta so articulately. Instead, I did it in prose here:

Identity Crisis

and here:

KnowingMy Fate Is to Be With You
Sep. 3rd, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Thank you - and thank you for the links to your pieces; they are really lovely! (Go, folks, and read them!!)

I'm pretty certain that love was at least part of the message that the Doctor whispered to her.

ETA: I still adore a great deal of what Davies brought to the show, as I said ... and, as my icon shows, I'm rather fond of at least one Doctor from each era. Heh.

Edited at 2011-09-03 03:37 am (UTC)
(no subject) - hawkmoth - Sep. 3rd, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 3rd, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
And this whole post is the reason why I am loving Moffat's writing much more than I ever could RTD's. Because RTD, while trying to 'stay real', went into the realms of fairy tale when it came to love and relationships. But, with Moffat, we have a plot that is fairy tale, while the relationships all stay very, very real.

It's also underplayed in the emotion department. RTD played up emotion to the point of it being completely unbelieveable to me, to make big huge impacts with the viewer's emotions to the point where the characters came across as false, unreal. Moffat may manipulate, but he doesn't need to do what RTD did. To me, it comes off as much more real. Amy, Rory, Melody, River, the Doctor even, are 'real' in the way they feel things.
Sep. 3rd, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
Davies definitely had his weaknesses, something all writers have to acknowledge, and you've correctly noted his over-fondness for over-the-top. He'd probably be the first to admit it, too. Heh. Moffat, too, has his weaknesses and I imagine he, too, is more than willing to admit them.

I enjoy contrasting them as much for their strengths as for their weaknesses - and I'm always tickled to find that not everyone sees what I see as strengths, and not everyone sees what I see as weaknesses. Art's so bloody subjective, isn't it?
(no subject) - malicehaughton - Sep. 3rd, 2011 04:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - malicehaughton - Sep. 4th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaffyr - Sep. 4th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I don't have much intelligent to add, unfortunately, but I adore your interpretation of the Doctor's "Because she's a woman ... oh, shut up! I'm poisoned!" line. I would never have thought of it that way, but I love that you did!
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks! The entire commentary flowed out of my reactions to that line, and the way it suddenly unpacked itself for me. It's amusing, actually, the way I rebuilt the entire three segments into an entire conversation, but I'm still convinced I'm on to something.
Sep. 6th, 2011 02:26 am (UTC)
I think you get at something very true in this post <3
Sep. 6th, 2011 03:40 am (UTC)
Thank you very much; I couldn't have done what I did without having read some of the interesting thoughts of people like you.
Sep. 7th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
Not sure I agree with everything here (as an English major, I have severe reservations that one can ever build a proper image of an author from their writing alone; as a writer, well, I end up putting far more of myself into everything then I notice at the time, so). But it's very well put.

And, actually, makes a great deal of sense out of why, from "The Eleventh Hour" on, Moffat's Who has made SO much more sense to me than RTD's did (though I love it still). Because I grew up thinking that loving people meant never making mistakes with them, and am only now learning how to love *with* the mistakes, through them, by means of them.... And as you put into Moffat's mouth, I end up saying "Let me be for a while!" as I try to figure all this out.

Thank you for this.
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
You're absolutely right; you can't build a proper image of an author from their writing alone - or at least you can't build a complete image (which is why I included some weasel-wiggle words about that.) But you can discern patterns and you can make some more or less (in my case, probably less) educated guesses. It's part of the discovery process, and the one on which I focused for the purposes of this ramble.

And, oh, are you ever right about love. If we could only love people by never making mistakes with them? This earth would be barren of humanity, I suspect.
Sep. 7th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
To someone whose childhood was hell, built by adults who betrayed their trust and duties as adults, perhaps heaven is the rescuing of children.

This line? Made me burst out into tears. I won't go into it, but you have no concept how true this is for some of us.
Sep. 8th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, my. I hope the tears were not too long, or too painful.

I was lucky enough, despite being a child of divorce, to be raised in a loving and stable home by loving and responsible adults. You have no idea how much respect I have for those of my fellow humans who were not, and who overcame it. No one should ever have to overcome something like that.

May you, and everyone else who may have had been poorly served by adults in childhood, be recompensed by having lives filled with love now.

Edited at 2011-09-08 09:01 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 18th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you found what I wrote interesting.

I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about information processing, which is one of his other themes.

I'm intrigued; are we talking information processing in the sense of individuals processing and making sense of the world around them and the people and relationships around them, or sometimes making up sense about the world around them? That sort of thing I can definitely see in some of Moffat's work.

Several people have mentioned Eleven's resemblance to Seven. I've seen the Seventh Doctor almost not at all, although (thanks, well-written fanfic!) I feel at least some acquaintance with him - and I think I'd like him. Warily, of course. Heh. I have also heard McCoy doing the Pandorica speech, and was very impressed with how true it seemed coming out of his mouth.

Happy to be added, and I hope you don't mind if I reciprocate. I note we know more than a few of the same people.
( 41 comments — Leave a comment )

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