Aug 23 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Armageddon Game”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game“Armageddon Game”
Written by Morgan Gendel
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 13
Production episode 40512-433
Original air date: January 30, 1994
Stardate: unknown

Station log: The T’Lani and the Kellerun have recently ended a lengthy war, probably fighting over which of them had a sillier hairstyle. Both sides used biological weapons called harvesters, and they’ve asked for Starfleet assistance in destroying those weapons once and for all. O’Brien and Bashir have been ordered to provide that assistance. It’s taken a week to find the right radiation sequence, but Bashir finally finds it, while O’Brien purges all T’Lani and Kellerun databanks of any information about the harvesters. As they’re about to destroy the last of the weapons, two Kellerun soldiers enter the lab and kill everyone except for Bashir and O’Brien, who manage to overpower the soldiers. Communications with the Ganges have been jammed, so they beam down to the surface of T’Lani III, which was wiped out by harvesters during the war. However, in the firefight, the last of the harvesters is fired upon by one of the weapons, and a drop hits O’Brien’s arm.

Ambassadors Sharat of the Kellerun and E’Tyshra of the T’Lani come to Deep Space 9 to inform Sisko that O’Brien and Bashir, along with the T’Lani science team, are dead. They also claim it was a security device that O’Brien accidentally activated, and they provide Sisko with security footage of the accident occurring. Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Odo watch it. The words are all ones we’ve heard before, but the placing of the people is wrong. Then O’Brien mentions a security program, then there’s a pulse of light, and everyone’s gone. Odo says he’s heard of devices like that, that can vaporize anyone who doesn’t enter the proper code. Sisko tells Dax to request new officers from Starfleet, and Kira to inform the crew that there’ll be a memorial service. He goes to tell Keiko himself, and she immediately wishes to know exactly what happened; Sisko promises to send her the security footage.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

On T’Lani III, Bashir and O’Brien move about the ruins. They find some food and medical supplies, and speculate as to why the Kellerun broke the treaty, and wondering why they waited until the harvesters were destroyed before attacking. O’Brien also finds a deactivated comm unit. He works to repair it so they can contact the T’Lani. They talk about various and sundry things, from the party they’re missing on T’Lani Prime to marriage. When O’Brien puts a blanket on, Bashir’s doctor sense tingles, and he examines O’Brien to discover that he’s been infected. As time goes on, his vision starts to blur, and Bashir offers to take over, with O’Brien talking him through it.

Dax and Kira talk about Bashir for a bit, and Quark brings them free drinks to toast the pair of them. Later, Keiko goes to see Sisko: she believes the footage has been altered, as it shows O’Brien drinking a mug of coffee at 1500 hours—he never drinks coffee in the late afternoon, it keeps him up all night. Sisko and Dax decide to head to T’Lani to retrieve the Ganges, and Sisko promises to find out why the recording was tampered with.

O’Brien’s legs stop working, but he’s able to help Bashir get the communications console up and running, and sends a signal to the T’Lani.

Sisko and Dax arrive at T’Lani III. Sisko questions E’Tyshra about the possibility of Sharat altering the data clip of the security feed, while Dax discovers that a request for transport was erased from the Ganges computer—that request was made three minutes after O’Brien and Bashir were supposedly vaporized.

The T’Lani arrive—along with the Kellerun. It turns out that the soldiers were carrying out the joint orders of both E’Tyshra and Sharat. The final stage of destroying the harvesters was to kill anyone who might have intimate knowledge of how they worked, which meant the science team and Bashir and O’Brien. But before they can be killed, Dax beams them up to the Ganges.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

The Ganges beats a hasty retreat, with the T’Lani cruiser following. The two ambassadors insist that Bashir and O’Brien be turned over. Sisko is less than impressed, and points out that they just declared war on the Federation. E’Tyshra orders the runabout destroyed, and then they go back to get the other one that was left behind—but it’s gone. Turns out that Sisko, Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien beamed to the other runabout and piloted the Ganges by remote.

O’Brien recovers in the infirmary. Keiko gives him a mug that Molly made for him, and he says he’d love a cup of coffee in it.

“Miles, you never have coffee in the afternoon!”

“Sure, I do!”

“You do?”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

And fade to black....

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, muons are the key to neutralizing the harvesters. Because, y’know, science.

The Sisko is of Bajor: To his credit, Sisko trusts Keiko’s judgment regarding O’Brien implicitly, and never once questions her belief that the recording was tampered with. (Which, indeed, it was, albeit not for the reasons Keiko initially thought...)

The slug in your belly: Bashir lent Dax his medical school diaries in the hopes that she’d understand him better. She never got around to reading them.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: O’Brien accuses Bashir of only thinking about women—Bashir admits that he does think about them a lot. He tells O’Brien about his first love, a dancer named Palis Delon, but he chose his Starfleet career over her; he hasn’t spoken to her since he left Earth.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark eulogizes Bashir and O’Brien the best way he knows how: he calls them great customers, quoting the 57th Rule: “Good customers are as rare as latinum—treasure them.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

Keep your ears open: “It was hell! You can see for yourself, the man never stops talking!”

O’Brien describing being stuck in a room with Bashir for a day to Keiko.

Welcome aboard: Rosalind Chao is back as Keiko, and Larry Cedar, Peter White, and Darleen Carr all have incredibly unfortunate haircuts as various T’Lani and Kelleruns. Amusingly, this is the first of three roles for Cedar on Trek, the others being on Voyager’s “Alliances” and Enterprise’s “Marauders,” and in all three he has terrible hair.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

Trivial matters: The Ganges is the second runabout to bite the dust, after the Yangtzee Kiang bought it back in “Battle Lines.”

Kira and Dax’s talk in Quark’s about Bashir is blocked and directed the same way as Riker and Data’s talk in Ten-Forward about Marla Aster in TNG’s “The Bonding,” also directed by Winrich Kolbe.

This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling, which is just hilarious on every possible level.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Armageddon Game

Walk with the Prophets: “Not quite. Close.” Until the climax, this is actually rather a good episode (absurd hairdos notwithstanding), the biggest step forward in the ongoing Bashir-O’Brien bromance as they bond over past and present relationships and the differences between career officers and enlisted personnel, and so on. Colm Meaney and Siddig el-Fadil are at their best here, playing magnificently off each other and revealing a great deal about each of their characters. So many great bits, from O’Brien’s impersonation of Bashir when prompting him to talk about Palis to Bashir putting his foot in his mouth regarding the O’Brien marital strife to “I wanna die on m’feet!” And the very ending is brilliantly hilarious.

Still, the folks-grieving-back-home well is one that we’ve dipped into before, on TNG in “The Most Toys” and “The Next Phase,” and it’s just a little too perfunctory. Every beat back at the station is utterly predictable.

And then the whole thing falls totally apart after Sisko and Dax rescue O’Brien and Bashir. It’s a nice twist that what they thought was the Kellerun breaking the cease-fire turned out to be the T’Lani and Kellerun working together to eliminate the last vestiges of the harvesters. But while I have no trouble accepting that Sharat and E’Tyshra would alter security footage to cover up murder, I find it impossible to credit that they’d fire on a starship belonging to one of the superpowers of the quadrant and expect there not to be consequences. I especially love them asking Sisko to turn Bashir and O’Brien over to them as if that was even a reasonable possibility. They lose all credibility as antagonists (what little they had, given those hairstyles) and just turn into idiots at that point. It cuts the episode off at the knees.


Warp factor rating: 6

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Thomas Thatcher
1. StrongDreams
They lose all credibility as antagonists and just turn into idiots at that point. It cuts the episode off at the knees.

Hmm. I'm pretty sure the US has been the subject of numerous acts of war and has rarely retaliated in kind. Pearl Harbor, yes. But lately think about Benghazi, the Palestinian territories, the USS Cole bombing, or even the takeover of the embassy in Iran in 1978. We retaliate with trade sanctions, diplomacy, and sometimes covert ops, but not open warfare. And think of all the times the Federation didn't go to war with anyone who attacked the Enterprise. Would the Federation really destroy the silly hair aliens over one runabout and two crewmembers? Of course not. They'd frown, mutter, complain, sanction, maybe blockade. But they'd never blockade anything important, like food or medicine, that might affect innocent civilians. Keiko and Molly could sue in intergalactic court. Maybe they'd put the officers who came up with the plot on trial for war crimes (in absentia) -- good luck enforcing the sentence. Maybe Section 31 would find the officers responsible and snatch or kill them; sounds like acceptable losses to me. No, I'd say that the risk-reward calculation is on their side.
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
I've always had a big problem with the end of this episode, which is that it missed a chance to make the kind of moral/philosophical statement about war and peace that's Star Trek's bread and butter, and that missed opportunity gnaws at me.

See, here's the thing: The T'Lani and Kellerun are afraid of another cataclysmic war, so they want to wipe out the weapons and are willing to murder anyone who knows about the weapons. But that is hugely, fundamentally misdiagnosing the problem. There are plenty of different ways to kill people. Get rid of this weapons system and it'd be easy enough to devise a different one. So the weapons aren't the problem. The problem is the willingness to kill. As long as they're willing to destroy to get their way, then they will eventually invent other horrible weapons. So their plan to murder everyone who knew about the harvesters is just perpetuating the problem, not solving it. It's a stupid and self-defeating strategy on their parts.

So I wanted Sisko to come in at the climax and point this out to them in a classic Trekkish speech about how they couldn't truly achieve peace until they rejected the willingness to kill, whereupon they'd realize the error of their ways, stand down, and let Bashir and O'Brien go. Heck, I just wanted Sisko to tell them what idiots they were being, to have somebody in the episode point out the fatal flaw in their reasoning. Instead, the DS9 gang just rescue their people and run away, and the opportunity to say something meaningful is squandered. It really damages the episode for me. I didn't enjoy the rest of it all that much, but the lack of a meaningful statement at the end just makes me feel I sat through it all for nothing.

One thing I was never clear on: which quadrant did this episode take place in? Which side of the wormhole? I always assumed the T'Lani and Kellerun were Gamma Quadrant species -- otherwise why would it be the DS9 staff dealing with their problem instead of a starship crew? But Memory Alpha says they're from the Alpha Quadrant. And the episode doesn't even specify. It's confusing. Why is this even a DS9 episode and not a TNG one?

Another thing that annoyed me was Bashir's line near the end that O'Brien would be dead in under an hour if they didn't get back to the station. What? Since when was it possible, even in Trek, to make an interstellar journey in less than an hour? One of the rules in the TOS and TNG writers' bibles was "Don't treat deep space as a local neighborhood." Roddenberry didn't want his writers to forget that even with warp drive, space is huge and it takes a significant investment of time and effort to get from one star system to another. And let's do the math. Assuming they were in the Alpha Quadrant, then even if they were in the star system right next to Bajor, it would still probably be 3-5 light years away. (And we know the nearest GQ star to the wormhole, Idran, is 4.7 ly away, so if they were in the GQ, they couldn't be closer than that.) So let's say a runabout could make 1 parsec per hour -- at that speed, Voyager's 70,000-light-year journey home would've taken only 2.45 years! So this line was just wrong. There's no way a runabout -- which is a small and relatively slow craft -- could cover an interstellar distance in less than an hour.
Thomas Thatcher
3. StrongDreams
CLB, I very much appreciate and agree with your main comment. Sisko should have made his speech about the futility of violence, then whether the aliens realize their folly or decide to go with the kill-them-all plot requiring a dramatic rescue, either ending would have been very classic-Trek.

But, starships obviously fly at the speed of plot. That battle was lost long ago :)
David Levinson
4. DemetriosX
Flawed but serviceable. I do agree with StrongDreams @1 that the bad guys here could credibly think they could get away with their ill-conceived plan. Since they've been at war for a long time, they could easily see the Federation as weak and squishy. But I also think ChristopherLBennett's ending @2 is far better.

The hairstyles are astonishing and the fact that they were nominated for an Emmy even more so. The man (I'm not sure which alien is which) appears to have something resembling a Sumo topknot. The woman was obviously a back-up singer for a Flock of Seagulls revival group.
5. Kibs
Are there any consequences from the aliens attacking Federation officers? Do the T’Lani or Kellerun ever appear in the series again?
Christopher Bennett
6. ChristopherLBennett
@3: Re: "speed of plot," there's no reason the plot needed that one-hour deadline. After all, the aliens were trying to blow them up, not just delay them, so having a ticking clock at that point was a bit gratuitous. Bashir's line should've been something like "I can stabilize him with the equipment here, but only if we get away from the people shooting at us." That way the urgency of getting away promptly would've been preserved without the need for reducing an interstellar journey to a morning commute.

@4: I suspect the T'Lani's civilization was shaped by old Astro Boy broadcasts they picked up from Earth.
7. clarkbhm
I think it's an overall political statement about not being able to "unlearn" things about horrible WMDs that proliferate our planet. And to that extent, it does a pretty good job. Entertaining episode as well. I liked it!
8. Zabeus
I liked this episode much more than the last, and I may be the only one here who liked the crazy alien hairstyles. It's one more little thing (non-cost prohibitive) to make their culture alien and unique. (Even Ira Behr had complained about how Trek aliens are often too human.) Only aliens would have such ridiculous fashion sense. Certainly they must think that our hair is just as weird. Sisko's bald head could even be why they didn't take the Federation seriously and thought they could openly attack!
(Also, they made me think of people in fantasy/sci-fi anime. Like some interstellar elves or something.)

Have to agree with people saying the attack on Sisko was such a dumb move as to strain credulity. What bugged me even more than that was that the "Ambassadors" Sharat and E’Tyshra were the ones directly assaulting the compound AND firing on the runabout. They really couldn't get some military grunts, or special ops team to do that? Of course, there have been cases of ambassador's involved in illicit behavior (most recently with the rumors around Benghazi), but this still just seemed wrong somehow. I assume the producers didn't want to hire more speaking actors.

Finally, I loved the ending. Sisko would have been well within his rights to dismiss Keiko's assertion. When she first made it, I openly laughed at the screen (THAT's the thing you notice and report?). I was preparing to nitpick here... and then they go and lampshade it at the end! Perfect.

@2, I tend to dislike Trek's morality/philosophy speeches, but if we're going to have one, that's a wonderful message, and would have been much better than everyone just running away and forgetting the whole thing.
Christopher Bennett
9. ChristopherLBennett
@7: But like I said, that's the wrong way of looking at it. Sure, specific WMDs are bad things, but there's no shortage of ways to kill people. It's not the knowledge of any specific weapons technology that's the problem, it's the willingness to use it. So ruthlessly murdering people in the name of peace is just plain stupid. It's fighting the wrong end of the problem.
Beccy Higman
10. Jazzlet
@ CLB Absolutely! Saved me a lot of typing. thank you.
Matt Hamilton
11. MattHamilton
While I agree that Sisko should have been telling them about the futility of their actions, speechifying was really Picard's thing. Remember Q, which our beloved rewatcher loved so much---"You hit me. Picard never hit me." Sisko is most certainly, not picard. And he just wanted his people back and for them to know that if they continue on their course of action, the Federation, if not he himself, will kick the ever loving crap out of them, completely negating what they were trying to do in their ill-conceied plot to kill all with working knowledge of the harvesters. Brilliant? No, not really. But Sisko is more a strategist and less a politician. He did give some cool speeches throughout the rest of the series, but nnot like Picard...not like Picard.
12. Zabeus
Well I feel stupid now. I mentioned Sisko's bald head but forgot that at this point they hadn't yet replaced Avery Brooks with Hawk from Spenser for Hire. Disregard that. :P
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
@11: But it's not really about Sisko for me, it's about the story as a whole. I saw this gaping, fundamental flaw in the aliens' underlying motivation, and nobody in the story pointed it out, and that feels to me like an oversight on the part of the writers, like even they didn't see the flaw in the T'Lani and Kellerun's logic. To me, it should have been what the episode was about, but it was like the writers didn't even recognize the moral of their own story. And so it ends up feeling empty and superficial as a result. (And yes, I know only Morgan Gendel was credited, but of course members of the writing staff would've broken the story and revised the script.)
Alan Courchene
14. Majicou
Surely Larry Cedar's membership in the cast of Square One TV (alongside Reg E. Cathey) deserves mention. As a big Square One fan in my youth, I was always amused to see the cast members turn up in other projects, and Cedar and Cathey were definitely the most commonly seen. Incidentally, from the picture on Memory Alpha, Larry Cedar's character on ENT seems to have pretty ordinary hair. And for the Emmy, you have to admit that as silly as these hairstyles are, they must have taken a lot of work.
Heather Dunham
15. tankgirl73
Nitpick: On DS9, 1500 hours would not be "late afternoon."

One of the things the series does remarkably well in terms of internal continuity, is to remember that the station operates on the Bajoran 26-hour day. It is mentioned quite frequently. I think there's even an episode where a 78-hour deadline is mentioned, ie, 3 days. I always appreciate how -- after the series premiere -- it's not explained or discussed, there's no needless reminders to the audience, it just IS.

With a 26 hour day, 1300 hours would be "noon". 1500 would be, at the latest, "mid afternoon". It wouldn't even feel like the equivalent to 2pm (2 hours after noon) because there's still an additional hour to include later, before bedtime.

It's a minor nitpick of course, but since they're usually so good about working within the station's different time parameters, it sticks out to me. :/
Keith DeCandido
16. krad
Confession, which I believe I mentioned in "Aquiel," when Reg E. Cathey showed up on TNG: I never saw Square One. Don't know nothin' about it.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
17. 31
Fine weapons of war auger evil.
Even things seem to hate them.
Therefore, a man of Tao
does not set his heart upon them.
Christopher Bennett
18. ChristopherLBennett
@16: Ohh, if you never saw Square One Television, then that means you've never experienced the joys of Mathnet. It was an ongoing Dragnet parody presented as a film segment at the end of each episode, with each week's five segments adding up to a full half-hour story (and indeed some of its "episodes" were debuted as standalone half-hour specials). Kate Monday (Beverly Leech) and her partner George Frankly (Joe Howard) were police mathematicians (they carried calculators in their holsters) who solved crimes using their mathematical knowhow. It was a funny and well-made show that managed to work as a legitimate detective comedy while still teaching math -- plus it had a ton of pop-culture in-jokes, and often featured significant guest stars like James Earl Jones, Edward Winter, Yeardley Smith, William Windom, Kevin McCarthy, Russell Johnson, and even John Sayles. And Star Trek's Gerald Fried did the music in the first season! (Although it actually used "Danger Ahead" as its main title theme.) It started in LA, but after a few years, the characters and the production relocated to New York City.
Charles Olney
19. CharlesO
Yes yes yes, to everything CLB is saying here. This is EXACTLY what drove me crazy about this episode. Not that the aliens' plan was stupid, but that the manner of its stupidity went completely unacknowledged.

I did love a lot of the character bits though. O'Brien and Bashir growing into a friendship is a lot of fun, especially since it isn't happening too quickly. They're still not 'friends' by any stretch of the imagination, and O'Brien remains essentially irritated by the doctor, but you can see the slow development.

And the scene with Quark's toast is actually one of my favorite of the whole show so far. It's just perfect, for the distress in their faces as they realize what Quark is saying, and the growing realization that it's actually quite an emotional statement coming from Quark.
Nick Hlavacek
21. Nick31
What bugged me about this episode was, in addition to the excellent points raised above, that Sisko and company just accepted the news that Bashir and O'Brien had been killed without any kind of investigation or inquiry. It took Keiko questioning the authenticity of the recording to get them to check out what happened. Sisko is supposed to be an experienced officer; he should know better. And Kira isn't the type to blindly trust some random ambassadors who say her friends are dead. Heck, Dax WAS an ambassador. She should have been the first one to call BS, just as a matter of principle. Even if they were convinced of the truthfulness of the recording, there would still have to be a formal investigation, paperwork (lots of it), delays, buearacracy, etc. before they declared the two dead. And were they just going to write off the Ganges, leaving it there in orbit? Using it as a decoy is one thing, but just forgetting about it until they go back to the scene of the crime is just silly.
22. LeftoverBeefcake
@21 Nick31

"What bugged me about this episode was, in addition to the excellent
points raised above, that Sisko and company just accepted the news that Bashir and O'Brien had been killed without any kind of investigation or inquiry."

Yes, that bugged me, too. I can understand that the video recording made it seem like and open-and-shut case, but I think Starfleet would still want a post-mortem report on what exactly happened. From what I remember, Major Kira was ready to investigate but Sisko called it off.
23. bookworm1398
@8 I loved the coffee ending too.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
24. Lisamarie
In a different genre, the ending would be the signal that O'Brien was really the zombie or spy! They didn't kill the right clone!

By the way, did anybody ever watch Are You Afraid of the Dark as a kid? After we watched this episode, when I went to bed I kept thinking of the one where the chamemleon bites the main character, which results in an evil doppelganger (played by the Mowry twins) and the real girl turns into a chameleon. Eventually the girl realizes which one is real (she throws the other chameleons down the well), hits the fake with water which reverses the spell, and throws her down the well. Happy ending! EXCEPT! The last scene shows her sneaking out to the well that night, pulling a bucket up with all her chameleon friends, and gloating that they left their little friend at the bottm of the well HA HA HA HA!

Anyway, one of the more enjoyable episodoes lately. I totally agree with CLB here on the folly of their plot and thinking (and with others about how there seemed to be a total lack of consequences here), Picard would have speechified their asses! It would have been epic :)

I loved Quark's toast. :)

I also loved Square One growing up. Good memories.

I quite enjoyed the alien hairstyles. I'm sure some of ours look pretty silly!

I thought Bashir's comments about the O'Brien marriage just a bit odd - I've seen a few references to the way Keiko is portrayed as the show goes on, but so far, I haven't seen any huge indicators that their marriage is rocky or that they have major issues, aside from her unhappines (quite justified) in the first episode moving to the station. I mean, he even got that nice sendoff for his racquetball game!
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: I'm confused, are you talking about "Armageddon Game" or "Whispers?" Because there was no clone in this one.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
LOL, I was joking around, I actually haven't seen the other episode yet - just saying that if this were some other type of episode (one that involved something crazy like clones or imposters or pod people or secret double agent spies), the ending could be very sinister. My mind for whatever reason jumped to that immediately.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
27. Lisamarie
Also! I got all excited when I read this, but then forgot to mention it during my long winded reminiscing about creepy shows I watched as a kid...

But I kind of jumped in my seat when I read that Darleen Carr was the female alien. My son is currently obsessed with the Jungle Book (which means we watch the movie, or parts of it, a few times a day) so I've pretty much memorized the credits. Darleen Carr is the voice of the little girl at the end (I did confirm they were the same person). So...neat! For me (as Shere Khan would say ;) ).
Joseph Newton
28. crzydroid
I'd like to point out that Kirk would've also speechified them to death. Perhaps more so than Picard (or at least with more enthusiasm).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
29. Lisamarie
Haha, we just watched Whispers, and now I get your comment, CLB ;)

Granted, he sure was drinking a lot of coffee in that episode too...
30. KenN
@21 - They weren't writing off the runabout, remember Sisko asked Dax "when were you planning on bringing the Ganges back from
T’Lani III?" (27:50)

The T'Lani cruiser reminded me of the ship of the.. uhh I forget their race. The odd talking aliens in TNG where Picard and their captain beamed down to fight a monster together and they all spoke in metaphor.

The "Klingon in me" was hoping for some sort of Federation retaliation lol. I'd like to have seen their faces if a Galaxy class warped in while they were chasing after the runabout :)

I wonder what they would've told Starfleet to try to explain away two more deaths.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@30: Good catch. The T'Lani cruiser and the Tamarian ship from "Darmok" were both modifications of the same miniature, which was originally a Talarian ship in "Suddenly Human," as well as four other ships belonging to species whose names didn't begin with T.

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