Galileo 7 Con 2005

This is an incomplete and not necessarily accurate report on the Galileo 7 Con that took place in Neuss, Germany, from September 30 to October 2, 2005. We had no access to official pictures and transcripts or the news room so the following relies on paper notes and snapshots. We focus on the panels with the stars, for we feel this was the most exciting and most informative part of the Con. We were there only on Saturday, so we may have missed quite a few interesting things though.

William Shatner had been announced as the top guest of the convention, but Shatner cancelled his appearance, allegedly because his schedule didn't allow it. Still, apparently he had no trouble coming to the Collectormania 8 in London the very same weekend he was supposed to appear in Neuss! It is no surprise that most fans at the convention were accordingly pissed. Fortunately René Ahlberg, the person in charge of the Galileo 7, could convince Jonathan Frakes to join the Con.


The Panels

Mark A. Shepherd

Mark Allen Shepherd's actual face was never seen on screen, his character never said a single word, yet he gained an overwhelming popularity that culminated in a whole episode about, you guessed it, Morn. We dropped into his panel just when Mark was performing the last of a couple of Tai Chi exercises with a handful of visitors (as we learned later an extra fee had been charged for this training). There were only few questions from fans, also because it was rather early in the morning. But Mark made the best of it, and he sang his (or rather Morn's) versions of "Moon River" and of "Ring of Fire" where it didn't matter that his voice wasn't oiled so well because it was very funny.

Mark was going to pursue a career as a marine biologist, and he was involved in the development of sea corn -- that is, corn that would grow faster under water (or has he been joking?). The actor now lives in Germany with his German wife Tanja and a baby, Leonard Alexander. They both joined him on the stage for a moment. Among his more recent jobs was the English voice-over of a promotional video of the small town of Dreieich (near Frankfurt), but nothing exciting. Mark also works as a photographer in his spare time, and his favorite motive are the yellow Raps (rapeseed) fields in Germany. There was an auction going on with some of his photographs which we liked very much. Unfortunately we couldn't stay on the convention until the end of the bidding. Mark has begun to learn German, but since he is always talking English with his wife this is still a work in progress. Yet, much like a demonstration of his good intent he recited a top ten list in German of what Morn would have said, had he ever been allowed to talk. On the top of the list was: "One day they will call this place 'Morn's'."

Mark told us the story about his very first day on the set as Morn. He had no car, and no bus was going that early in the morning, so he spent the night until 3 a.m. in a restaurant drinking coffee. He was offered a ride to the Paramount Studios from there. When he arrived at the stage, no one was waiting for him and someone asked him, "How can I help you?" He was then sent to stage 4. There an assistant came and said, "You're not on my list. Why are you here?" But Michael Westmore saw that and welcomed his "favorite alien". The assistant apologized: "I didn't know. I just work here." So Mark got into his heavy mask and costume. It was over 100°F, and the air conditioning was not working. He struggled hard to endure this until the end of the shooting. At the end of the day he was told, "We've been making jokes whether you'd fall over."

Scott L. Schwartz

Scott calls himself the "Ultimate Bad Guy" on his website which he created himself. He had roles on "Buffy", "Angel", "Ocean's Eleven", "Ocean's Twelve", "The Scorpion King" and most notably (for us) in ENT: "Borderland" as an Orion slaver. When our host René came to the stage to announce Scott, he told us to be kind to him because he is a very sensitive nature. René said that when Scott was taking a shower in the hotel, he turned out to be too tall for it, and some water went over the edge of the cabin. Scott then rang up René, worried that this could get him into trouble.

Scott himself told us that prior to his TV career he was a professional wrestler, known under the name "Giant David". He said that when he was a child, he heard his grandmother, who would never curse or yell in his presence, shout "Son of a bitch!" When the boy went down to the living room, he saw that grandma was watching a wrestling match, and one of the opponents was using illegal methods. He then decided it might be a nice idea to become a wrestler so grandma would be proud of him. The actor announced that he would appear in the next "Ocean's" movie with George Clooney as well, named "Ocean's Fourteen" -- skipping the unlucky number. On the question how it was to beat up Clooney, Scott told us, "Men loved me for it, women hated me." Scott on his work with Steven Seagal in "Fire Down Below": "I kicked his ass so badly he couldn't walk for a week." But seriously, he got along with him very well. Only, on a funny note again, that Marg Helgenberger who played Seagal's girl-friend would have rather been around with the "bad guy".

Scott said that the "green job" as an Orion slaver was a nightmare. He had to shave off his goatee, like already when playing a Hirogen on Voyager. In addition to his green spray coating he was wearing several prosthetics or, as the Art Department uses to call them, appliances. So getting off all that stuff takes a long time. First they remove the prosthetics, then the glue. After that the color is rubbed off, and he can go to a shower at Paramount. Still more or less green, he comes home and goes to the bathroom again, only to still find remains of the color in his nose. That goes on for several days. "You miss how you get high with paint in your nose."

Enterprise Blues Band panel

The Enterprise Blues Band consists of Steve Rankin (banjo), Bill Jones (percussion), Casey Biggs (guitar), Richard Herd (pluck bass), Vaughn Armstrong (harmonica, ukulele, lead vocals) and Ron B. Moore who was not on the convention. The five other members came together on a common panel where they gave us an introduction and most importantly a foretaste of their first public concert that was to follow in the evening.

Steve Rankin said that he appeared in four Trek episodes. The first time was in TNG: "The Enemy" where he was the Romulan guy who was in need of a blood transfusion from Worf. Steve: "I would have rather died than pollute my blood with Klingon filth. [some cheering in the audience] And that's what happened. I died." On DS9: "Emissary" he played the first ever nice Cardassian, then a Klingon on DS9 and finally Colonel Green on Enterprise.

Bill Jones is the only band member who never worked for Star Trek. But if he had been given the chance, he said he would have been a "Klingassian", with a Klingon father and Cardassian mother. He has been an actor for 20 to 30 years.

Vaughn Armstrong is the man who brought the band together. He dubbed the band project "Legends in my spare time." While he writes all the songs himself, the sound of it is a matter of the band trying it out together. Vaughn has appeared in too many roles to list, but most memorably as Admiral Forrest on Enterprise. He returned for ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" where he was proud to play the captain of the Enterprise. A sheet with the signature of all the cast and the important production staff of that episode was to go into a charity auction in the evening, with one part of the revenue being used for Katrina relief. Vaughn also said that his "first con in Blackpool five years ago scared me to death." He expected a few people to listen to him but suddenly found himself in front of an audience of 3000. He was glad that he had brought his harmonica along. "Every time there was no question I played, and everybody loved it." His second instrument is the ukulele, although his wife once complained, "This is not music." when he played it.

Casey Biggs is known for playing Damar on Deep Space Nine, a role that no one would have predicted to get bigger and bigger. He reckoned that Vaughn had played something like five hundred roles on Star Trek. Vaughn Armstrong himself interjected, "twelve". Casey: "Oh, twelve hundred."  Casey Biggs joked that if Shatner had been there, "we wouldn't have been able to keep him off the stage." Then he did a small but convincing Shatner impersonation, aspirating "Lucy... in the sky... with diamonds." On a more serious note Casey Biggs announced that another part of the auction revenue would go to a foster care home named Penny Lane in L.A.

Richard Herd, among other roles, portrayed Tom Paris's father on Star Trek Voyager. He told us that he had also been working with Shatner and Nimoy.

The five performed a couple of their songs, like "The Redshirt Blues" and "Trekkie Deckie" which is our personal favorite.

Bobbi Sue Luther

Bobbi Sue played an Orion slave girl in ENT: "Borderland". She got the role through an audition. As the slave girl was supposed to be at least 5'10" tall (model measures) but she was only 5'5" she wore very high heels that day and was given the role. She said that when she was young she wanted to be either a police officer or a fire fighter. She even did a fire fighter training. But for the last ten years she has been in the entertainment business.

When Bobbi was going to prepare for her role, she didn't review the TOS episodes in which slave girls appeared but she looked around in the internet. What she found, among useful pictures and clips, were some strange websites where celebrities like Cameron Diaz were painted green like Orions. The three Orion slave girls are also featured in a cartoon on that Bobbi recommended to check out. The Orion make-up consisted of several layers of green that were sprayed onto her skin. While the women could wear wigs, the guys who played the male Orions were very unlucky because they had to shave all their hair off. When she was asked about what she thought of Hollywood's entertainment industry, the actress complained about the superficiality, and she added that actually people had been telling her she was too fat (which no one would believe).

There were not many more questions, however, when the topic of politics came up, Bobbi said that "Bush makes us [Americans] look ignorant and stupid." which was followed by an almost unanimous applause from the audience. Also, like almost everyone else in the USA she was outraged how badly the disaster relief after Katrina was organized and how Bush personally reacted on it.

Scott MacDonald

Scott takes some pride in being a Star Trek fan long before he got his first role on the show. He was eight when the very first episode aired. "I was horrified by the salt sucker [of "The Man Trap"]." Also, he remembers the cliffhanger from "Best of Both Worlds" as if it had been yesterday. He now holds a master degree in theater. Scott almost always played aliens on Star Trek, except for his appearance as Rollins in VOY: "Caretaker" (who he thinks may be still alive because he was never said or shown as being dead). Scott's probably best anecdote was about the making of this episode where he was on the set during the first days of shooting anything of Star Trek Voyager. Geneviève Bujold had been hired to play Captain Janeway. But "she was lost. She never watched Star Trek." At one point Geneviève approached Scott, asking, "What is Bay-joran?" - "Oh, you mean Bajoran? If the Federation is the United States, then Bajor is Canada." Some time later Geneviève returned: "You weren't kidding?"

The villain Dolim from Enterprise was definitely fun to do, especially since he knew the actor who played Degra from Broadway. When asked which seasons of Enterprise he liked most, Scott decided it was seasons 3 and 4. He thought of Tosk from DS9: "Captive Pursuit" as a special role because it was the first mask Mike Westmore created that was glued into the lips. During the shooting of this episode Scott said he lost 18 pounds in eight days. While he was wearing the heavy costume all day, there was someone called the "bathroom buddy" to stand by for a visit of the restroom. The "bathroom buddy", with gloves on, then helped the actor with whatever was necessary. Just one week after he had finished shooting as Tosk, Scott came to the studio again to play a Romulan on TNG: "Face of the Enemy". And no one of the TNG staff was aware who he was because they were completely separate. While the preparation of the Tosk costume and make-up took as much as 6.5 hours, it was merely 2 hours for the Romulan. When Scott returned to DS9 to play the Jem'Hadar Goran'Agar in "Hippocratic Oath" no one of the main cast recognized him because, with the exception of Colm Meaney, they had all seen him with make-up only. But when they learned that he used to be Tosk, they all came to his wardrobe. During the filming of that episode the air conditioning failed, and it was 90°F in September in L.A.

Comparing his roles as villains, Scott said that he liked playing Goran'Agar because here was a warrior who had never known anything else but fighting and who suddenly found himself in a completely different situation, quite in contrast to Dolim who pursued his goals at all cost. Yet, he said that in the developing third season of Enterprise "they didn't know for sure which direction the Xindi were supposed to go."

Scott told us a few things about roles other than in Star Trek. He said that "working on 'Stargate' was different but fun to do as well." And that "Amanda [Tapping] is as nice as she seems to be."

Dean Haglund

We didn't take notes because Haglund never appeared on Star Trek (he played the long-haired blond guy with glasses on "X-Files"). The comedy show with a woman from the audience (who happened to be a gymnastics teacher) who had to "animate" Haglund like a puppet was very funny.

Suzie Plakson

She appeared infrequently on Star Trek, but always in memorable roles. Memorable also because Suzie is 1.87m tall. Her first Trek role was the Vulcan Dr. Selar on TNG. Suzie Plakson was excited about it because it was the first time she had to wear an alien make-up by Michael Westmore. She intended Selar to have a subtle smile but when she told Patrick Stewart about it, he objected, "No, she isn't even supposed to have that." Suzie doesn't know why Selar vanished and was never seen again. A fan wanted to know whether she had read any of the books by Peter David in which Selar is a permanent crew member, which Suzie negated. When she was on TNG, she soon noticed that Patrick, Jonathan, Michael and Brent were making jokes all the time. She had to pretend not to pay attention to them because she is a giggler and she may have been unable to carry on working.

Like everyone else she wondered why the interesting character of K'Ehleyr was brought back only to let her die. She imagined the responsible people may have applied their very own kind of logic: "She was so popular. Let's bring K'Ehleyr back. " - "Okay, let's kill her." But most of all Suzie was appalled that "they killed her without her fighting back" which she thought was unbecoming of K'Ehleyr's character. On the topic of the moving antennae of the Andorians (Suzie played Tarah in ENT: "Cease Fire") she explained that they are remote-controlled by a puppeteer who emotes together with the actor.

When Suzie got her first real job in L.A., it was the evil Maleficent in the Disney Summer Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. She had to wear a silly green costume with horns and did not get a single curtain call because in a Disney production evil characters are supposed to simply vanish in the end. But Suzie decided to change this, to "kick it" in the very last show. She joined the row of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, well aware that she might not get paid. Well, she did get paid though. Read the full story here.

Besides Star Trek, Suzie appeared in a number of other TV productions. Making a sitcom, as the actress explained, is quite different from a TV drama. It is definitely "a whole different mindset with 18 hours per day on the set of Star Trek." In contrast, in a sitcom, there are just two passes per scene. On a related note, Suzie was curious whether the series "Love & War" was still running in Germany because the "producers are supposed to pay us each time it is shown anywhere." When a fan annotated that in all her Trek and non-Trek roles that he knew she appeared as the same kind of a sarcastic person, Suzie countered that Hollywood tends to "have a limited view of women" and of people in general. Finally, Suzie sang a German song called "Guten Abend, gute Nacht".

Michael Dorn

It was Michael Dorn's second time in Germany. The first one was in a city whose name he "wouldn't mention" (he was talking of the FedCon in Bonn). The actor said that "ten years after TNG and six years after DS9,... Star Trek is still alive. We can still make money." The fans were taking photos with flashlight all the time, and Michael had to ask several times, "Ohne Blitz, bitte".

Michael Dorn said about Star Trek that it was the best twelve years of his life. He was aware of Worf's immense popularity, also because he had become a sex symbol, "the Tom Selleck of space" as he expressed it. And a funny character just as well. "Worf is funny because he is so deadly serious about everything." He confirmed that during TNG the actors were joking all the time. Knowing that Patrick Stewart had played in "Moby Dick", Michael thought it would be a good idea for him to open the "Patrick Stewart School of Pirate Acting". The special thing being to append "arr" to every sentence like in "There's Moby Dick, arr." The rumor that Dorn, standing at the tactical console behind Stewart all the time, once cracked an egg on the captain's head, was rejected by Dorn though. But he said that he was thinking of it, just like he could have used the bald head in front of him as an ashtray. Or he could have slain Stewart with a banana, and the Shakespeare actor would have taken ten minutes to die.

Only "Insurrection" had a different, melancholic feel to it in Dorn's view. "Picard was like Moses, only without the hair", as he sees the movie today. "We tried to make it funny", Michael explained it. There was one fun aspect about it though. When the Ba'ku had to evacuate their village, a woman was carrying a big spoon, and the actors made jokes about it on the set. When they had finished shooting, Jonathan Frakes came and gave everyone a wooden spoon as a present. In contrast, DS9 "was a very serious show" in Michael's view. Everyone was busy working, no one dared to kid around. But he was glad that "it took about a year, and I got them out of that." He also complained about the logic of making TV. When TNG was canceled, it was at the height of its success, although it could have easily gone on for another three or four seasons.

A female fan came to the microphone, and Dorn already knew her. He had met her before, and he had noticed that "Worf" was tattooed on her arm. The actor also remembered that she used to be at a nursery school, and he asked what kind of a nurse she was. She said, "psychiatry", and Michael said, "I'll probably see you there." On a fan's question where he had learned martial arts Michael joked, "I learned to fight in the street." But seriously, he had developed the Klingon fighting style together with Dan Curry. The reason may have been that whenever powerful aliens showed up in TNG it was Worf who got beaten up. Michael grumbled that Picard may as well have introduced his bridge crew like this: "...and this is Mr. Worf. Go and beat the hell out of him." Dorn also worked on a Klingon fighting software which was walking a thin line because "we didn't want to show how to decapitate people."

Fans uttered grief about Worf and Jadzia who were a perfect couple until Terry Farrell left after the sixth season of DS9. Michael Dorn said he didn't know why. "I only know she wanted out." Also, "she was a pretty good kisser." Someone else wanted to know if he could still get along with Riker, the man who is now married to Worf's ex-girl-friend Deanna Troi. Dorn replied: "Now that you mention it, I don't like him." One fan suggested Michael could call someone of the cast with his cell phone. He went ahead and said, "Okay, let's call Brent." but it was just the voicemail speaking to the cheering fans.

Without being aware of the latest development on Enterprise, a fan wanted to know Michael's personal theory on how and why Klingon foreheads changed. The actor conceded that he had no idea. When he came to shoot DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations", "I asked what happened. But they simply put a scarf on my head. They didn't care." On the question which of Worf's make-ups he liked best, he said "I hated the foreheads." But if he were to pick one make-up, he would go for the one of TNG's season 7. "They finally got it right in the last season."

Jonathan Frakes

He was announced by our host René as the top guest of the convention (although Michael Dorn is just as prominent). But Jonathan Frakes filled in for William Shatner for which everyone in the audience was more than grateful. We think that by all means he was a more than worthy stand-in. Frakes avoided the topic of William Shatner until it was brought up later in the panel. He complained, "Was he too good to come over to Germany?"

Continuing with the curious stories about TNG ("the most disrespectful cast I ever worked with"), during the shooting of TNG: "QPid" (the episode that Dorn hates for Worf's "I'm not a merry man" quote) Jonathan Frakes was hurt on his head. He pointed at his head and the "silly short haircut" that revealed how he was already balding, "just like Stewart and Dorn..." Anyway, he was then taken to a hospital, still wearing the silly costume from the Robin Hood story. But no one said a word about it. Hospitals in L.A. must be used to strange patients. Frakes also demonstrated how everyone on the bridge was shaking when the ship was hit by enemy fire, only Patrick Stewart would sit more or less tight in his chair thinking, "30 years in the Royal Shakespeare Company for this." Referring to what Patrick Stewart had told at last year's convention, Jonathan admitted that during the last scene ever shot for TNG, which was in Picard's ready room and not the poker scene, he broke out in tears while Patrick pretended not to cry. One question was about the reason for Denise Crosby to leave the series after only one season. Jonathan speculated that she might have talked to Roddenberry, asking him, "You either have to let me do more, or I will have to go." The actor wondered what was the episode in which Tasha died. When a fan told him, "Skin of Evil", he suddenly remembered and shuddered, "That's when I fell into the black slime. That was awful!"

The best season of TNG in his view was the fourth one, also because it had "Best of Both Worlds" in it, plus several good episodes featuring the holodeck. Frakes always liked the holodeck and especially the Dixon Hill and Sherlock Holmes scenarios. He also enjoyed "Yesterday's Enterprise", although he admitted, "I still don't understand it". Among his favorite episodes are "The Offspring" and "Drumhead", while his favorite movie is no surprise: "Fist Contact". One of the most popular scenes from "First Contact" showed how Deanna was drunk and Cochrane was dancing around, annoying Riker. Frakes said that shooting this scene took "*only* half a day" which is apparently really not much during the making of a feature film. On the question whether he really played the trombone himself on TNG, he admitted, "If the trombone sounds okay, it's me. If it sounds really good, it's another guy." On a funny note again, the actor complained why it got his character 18 years to get his own ship, and why the writers let him turn down one after the other. But on the bright side, what is likely to happen with a ship that Riker is offered? It gets destroyed. Frakes also wondered about how unfair the poker game in TNG always was. "Here we have Geordi who can see through the cards, then Marina who feels everything and Worf who will beat you up. I can only beat Dr. Crusher."

Not everyone in the audience had already seen it, but Frakes said about ENT: "These Are The Voyages" that he liked the script because "it related our show to Enterprise" and "it was very emotional." But he wondered how unselfish the cast of Enterprise and particularly Scott Bakula was when the TNG crew joined for their very last episode. "I would have been indignant or hurt if someone else came in to close my show." He said about the other cross-over episode he made, DS9: "Defiant": "They sent me [as Thomas Riker] to a damn alien prison, and they kept me there to rot... I'd be happy to return." Overall, Frakes was not very kind to DS9, although it was mostly just kidding. Once he called the show "Deep Throat Nine".

At one point Jonathan began to sing out of the blue: "Volare, Cantare". Also, there were many off-topic questions. One fan came to the microphone in a Starfleet uniform but normal shoes. Jonathan: "Where did you get those shoes? These are not Starfleet issue." Among his favorite actors are Robert Mitchum and Gene Hackman. He likes John Ford, Scorcese and Spielberg movies very much. Frakes has read all novels by Richard Russo, who won a Pulitzer Price last year. There's no science fiction on his bedside table. Among his previous work "North and South" (the big series about the American Civil War) takes a special place because here he fell in love with his wife. This is why he will always have a soft spot for that series. On the topic of extraterrestrial life Jonathan Frakes stated that "as the official spokesman for the abnormal [alluding to 'Beyond Belief'],... I have learned to respect the possibility for aliens or the unbelievable. I also feel that as humans we would be very arrogant to believe that we are the only sentient lifeform."

Jonathan Frakes always wanted to direct the Star Trek features. He said that "even though Gene wouldn't have approved, I prayed." And "I went to have breakfast with Patrick Stewart" which is how directors get their jobs. At least that's what Berman told him to do. But when "Nemesis" was going to be produced, he had no chance. "Would I have taken the chance with Nemesis? - They only should have asked me." When someone else (Stuart Baird) was given the job, "I was only surprised - and disappointed... Would I have let Data die? Never! But he is not really dead. He is an android." Frakes expressed his opinion that one of the reasons for the failure of "Nemesis" was that "the show didn't focus strongly enough on the TNG characters." This remark was followed by a powerful applause. Frakes later added that "it will take some time, and the Star Trek movies will come back... They just like to make money... We will rise from the ashes, and I want to be a part of it."


Random Impressions

Here are a few more pictures we took at the Galileo 7 Con 2005:



Although Jonathan Frakes definitely more than only replaced William Shatner, this year's Galileo 7 (or at least what we saw of it) fell a bit short of last year's extraordinary program. But the concert of the Enterprise Blues Band was a definite highlight, only that we were charged another EUR 10,- to attend it.

A price of EUR 59,- for a one-day ticket is a lot, and it doesn't even include a program. I wonder how many fans can really afford to stay all three days on the convention. With EUR 118,- for the ticket, plus hotel, transportation, meals, etc. the convention is a lot more expensive than a one-week all-inclusive vacation in a very good hotel in the Mediterranean. I don't dispute that the convention hotel and the guests are very expensive and it is okay with me if the Galileo team draws a bit of profit from the Con. I see the omnipresent advertising (massively for the movie "Serenity" which has nothing to do with Star Trek) and the booths of SciFi Channel and of Paramount as a necessary evil. But with high extra charges for autographs, photo sessions and even the Enterprise Blues Band concert (which was fantastic and was worth every cent though) it looks more and more like a money-making machine.

Honestly, even if we had had the time, we would still have visited the Con on only one day. That's not because we are so stingy, but because there is just not so much to see that it would take more than one day. Okay, there might be some more interesting stories on the panels of Friday and Sunday, but we don't really want to sit and listen for three days. And we wouldn't want to walk through the corridors all the time either. Because that's pretty much all you can do outside the panels. The Con was definitely well organized, but something was missing. The motto of Galileo 7 is "Join the Family". But it is hard to join when everything is just like on a conventional trade fair, without a real chance to sit down and meet some new people. We reckon that about half of the guests were the real "family", the hard core of Galileo 7 who know each other well, with the rest being just spectators (or customers). The art exhibition and the costume competition (although the latter was awful this time) are a start, but I would like to see more for fans to present their work and visions, not just for officially endorsed websites or game/RPG groups who had their own rooms on the Con.

Finally, it is a bit annoying that working people who can stay just one day can't buy their tickets until one month before the Galileo 7, and that they are given the worst seats at the very rear end of the theater. I can understand the motivation to sell as many tickets as possible for all three days, but I don't think that there should be such a harsh contrast between the two classes of tickets. And it definitely isn't right that owners of the second-class tickets had to sit in the last rows during the Enterprise Blues Band concert as well, as we paid the same extra price (this is why we all quickly moved to better seats at the beginning of the concert).

This all is meant as constructive criticism from the perspective of fans who felt like second-rate visitors at this year's Galileo 7 (and to be honest, to lesser extent already back in 2004). But we would still like to return next year!


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