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Australian-Polish sci-fi TV drama for older children (quite possibly the only show in existence to qualify for that exact description).
The series deals with parallel worlds, with a group of modern-day Australians acidentally crossing over. The sequel, Spellbinder 2, was an Australian-Polish-Chinese collaboration which featured a new cast and several new parallel worlds, but kept the villain from the previous series.
Australian teenager Paul Reynolds, while trying to pull off a prank on a school camping trick, falls through a rift caused by electrical signals in 'our' Australia coinciding with those happening in the same place but in an Alternate Dimension. When he finds himself in a primitive feudal world, he initially assumes he's been a victim of Time Travel to mediaeval Europe, but then it turns out that the feudal overlords, known as Spellbinders, have flying ships and electrical 'magic'...
An interesting aspect is that all the Polish actors were used to represent people in the Spellbinders' world, meaning the difference in accent strongly identified people from one world rather than the other.
The first season covered Paul trying to get home while his friends back in Australia learned the truth and tried to convince his scientist father. While the latter plot arc was fairly formulaic (Adults Are Useless) the former was notable for its twists and turns in which one was never quite certain for a long time which of the Spellbinders Paul encountered was 'on his side' or out for their own gains.
Paul returned at the end of the first season, but brought Rianna, a peasant girl from the other world who had helped him, with him and she soon became lost in modern Sydney in a Fish Out of Water scenario. Meanwhile, the antagonist Spellbinder Ashka was able to follow them...
Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord (1997)
The sequel series Spellbinder 2 featured a new cast and several new parallel worlds, in which only Ashka and her Dragon reprised their roles.
The Morgan family Carl and Vicky with their children Kathy and Josh, are on a camping trip when Kathy accidentally kidnaps herself in travelling scientist Mek's trans-dimensional "boat". Kathy's random dialing takes them to the Spellbinder's world, from which they escape with Ashka from a labour camp (where she was put after Series 1) back to Mek's world and homecountry: the China-styled Land of the Dragon Lord, ruled over by Sun, eponymous Dragon Lord and spoilt boy, supported by the Oracle, a computer-like device which among other things keeps the empire and its borders safe. From there on it deals with the families attempts to find each other and get home safe, Ashka's plots, a barbarian invasion, and stints in several other worlds while everyone tries to outwit and evade each other while fighting for control of the boat, the empire, and the Oracle.
Reccuring tropes in both series:
- Action Survivor: Paul in Series 1, and pretty much everyone in Series 2.
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: The German dub used this to distinguish the Spellbinder-world people in place of an accent.
- After the End: It's eventually learned that Spellbinder Land was the victim of a nuclear war in the past, hence why advanced technology is suppressed.
- Also shows up in the Land of the Immortals and the world with the Molochs in the second series.
- Another Dimension: Our own world and the Spellbinder's feudal world in Series 1; several new ones in Series 2: mainly the Land of the Dragon Lord, but also the Immortals' world and the Moloch-world, and an Alternate Universe Australia.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: This is pretty much the modus operandi of the Spellbinders: they enslave the whole population by acting as powerful wizards, helped by pieces of technology they do not understand. Ashka's mastery of this technique is the reason why she blends in better (see below).
- Devil in Plain Sight: Ashka, of whose not-good intentions the protagonists often try to convince the people in charge.
- Dramatic Irony: Lots of examples: the main characters' courses of action are usually logical from their own points of view, but the audience, seeing the big picture, can tell that they are in fact counter-productive.
- For example, in early Series 2, Kathy and Mek, having just arrived in Spellbinder's Land, are led to a labor camp by a Spellbinder; they naturally try to escape with the help of a woman from the camp. The kicker? They were going to be brought before Correon, who had in Series 1 been established as a definite good guy, while Ashka, the woman who helped them escape, was actually a villain.
- Evil Chancellor: Whenever there is a ruler at hand, Ashka routinely works and plots herself up into such a position.
- Fish Out of Water: A natural byproduct of cross-universe travelling.
- Genre Launch: taught the Polish movie industry many important issues about modern children shows, and opened the way for a lot of new Polish productions.
- Infinite Flashlight: Enforced with the video camera in series 1, averted with the car in series 2.
- Mage in Manhattan
- Magic From Technology: The peasants believe the Spellbinders have magic powers, but in reality they are simply the only people to understand electricity and radio — and even then their knowledge has decayed from an earlier period. The S2 Oracle also is some form of technology, but the non-tech people also view it as magical.
- Demonstrating this trope was arguably the point of the show.
- The Multiverse: More relevant in the second series where there is our world, the Land of the Dragon Lord, Land of the Immortals and Land of the Moloch.
- Non-Lethal Warfare
- No Waterproofing in the Future: The Spellbinder's power-suits short out when wet, which is exploited several times by knocking a suit-wearer into water or emptying a bucketful on them. Also, the robot servants in the Immortals' world short out when immersed in water.
- Subverted towards the end of the series 1 right after telling Paul's father about the Spellbinder world. Ashka overhears and realizes the jig is up and begins threatening them with her new, improved power suit. Paul and Riana throw water on her, only to have his father say he'd water-proofed it.
- Poland Doubling: The Spellbinders' world and the Land of the Molochs kind of look alike because of this; this is not the case with the Immortal's world, even though it was also filmed in Poland.
- Stun Guns : The Power Suits.
- Trapped in Another World: Often, both from ours to others and vice versa.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Ashka does it whenever she does her "I'm a powerful magician" act.
- Villains Blend in Better: Two hours after arriving to our Earth Ashka is already owning a car and able to kidnap scientists. Having no scruples and a shitload of stolen money helps immensely, with people either fearfully submitting to help her or throwing their helpful services at her feet with dollar signs in their eyes.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: What makes Ashka such a compelling villain is that she knows how to fold'em and quickly adapt her strategy whenever something goes wrong; the heroes can only hope to keep up with what she's doing.
Series 1 contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Riana.
- Adults Are Useless: None of the adult in Paul's world believes he has been transported to another world, so it's up to teenagers Alex and Katrina to save him.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: The video camera in series one; you think it has served its purpose when it's used to show Paul's world to Riana and Correon, but then it's used again to show the Spellbinder's world (and Ashka) to Paul's father in the penultimate episode.
- Cool Old Guy: Correon
- Cute Bookworm: Katrina
- Description Cut: Katrina decides to tell Paul's father that she thinks Paul has been transported to a parallel world, claiming that as a scientist, he will be open-minded and understanding. Cut to Paul's father, dismissing Katrina's story as nonsense.
- Determinator / Agent Mulder: Katrina. She just knows that Paul is in a parallel worlds, and she won't give up trying to bring him back.
- Gender Is No Object: While non-Spellbinders are frowned upon, the Spellbinders doesn't seem to care much about gender: women can be Spellbinders, even Regents, and that's no big deal. Ashka even get to challenge Correon (and win) without it causing much fuss.
- Jerkass: Gryvon
- Knights Templar: The Spellbinders
- Medieval European Fantasy: Spellbinders' world.
- Medieval Stasis: Enforced by the Spellbinders who imprison anyone who applies the use of any new inventions.
- Pinch Me: Paul asks Riana to punch him early on.
- Politically-Correct History: (Well, not history so much as an alternate world, but) Averted--When Riana is trapped in Paul's world and is interviewed by a Chinese doctor, she asks what happened to her eyes...
- Scooby-Doo Hoax: The Marauders are talked up as being some kind of scary, humanoid monsters that attack villages at random, but they're actually just people in plant cloaks swinging bullroarers over their heads. The raiding parties are also just a small part of the whole communities of people who have been banished and outcast from society by the Spellbinders.
- Spoiler Opening: Ashka will visit Paul's world and meet Paul's dad.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Paul and Riana.
- Those Two Guys: Alex and Katrina.
- Wizard Duel: Correon vs Ashka, but Ashka cheats and sabotages his power suit just to get him exiled
- Wrong Genre Savvy: At first Paul thinks he's travelled back in time to mediaeval Europe, until he sees a flying machine...
Series 2 contains examples of:
- Actionised Sequel: Series 1 has two parallel worlds, has an Anvilicious message about science and freedom, and is relatively slow paced: it takes Paul 13 episodes to go back to his world. Series 2, on the other hand, tones down its preaching considerably (the message is still there, though), features six parallel worlds and must have an average of one dimension shift every other episode.
- All Asians Are Alike: Invoked in reverse by Josh. When one of Sharak's men recognizes him as the guy who stole his clothes, Josh replies that he must be mistaken, since "all Australians look alike." It doesn't work.
- Alpha Bitch: Alternate Kathy.
- Alternate Universe: One of the parallel worlds is very similar to our own, but the fates of the protagonist's parallels have taken some different turns.
- Big Brother Instinct: Mek towards Kathy.
- Foreshadowing: In the first episode, while discussing parallel worlds with Mek, Kathy jokingly asks him whether there is a world in which her parents "spoiled [her] rotten". She would later travel to one such world.
- Enemy Mine: While looking for the interface in Alt!Australia, Kathy and Josh are forced to work with Ashka.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Mek.
- Immortal Procreation Clause: Non-natural example: The Immortals are the survivors of a great plague, whose antidote turned them all immortal — and infertile.
- The Kid with the Remote Control: Sun, as the current Dragon Lord, has the remote of the Oracle.
- Logic Bomb: Mek and Kathy escape from a robot guard by using one of these.
- People Farms: Dr Elvo wants to set up one of those.
- Replacement Goldfish: The people of the Land of the Immortals are all sterile, so they built doll-like robot children and babies to fill their need for children. When Kathy appears, everyone wants her, a 'real live child', instead, making her a replacement for the robot children.
- Robot War: The Land of the Molochs was almost destroyed by one of those.
- Royal Brat: Sun is a thououghly Spoiled Brat, which just might be the result of becoming a ruling quasi-sacred emperor with control over the almost all-powerful Oracle as a pre-teen.
- Show Some Leg: Done by Ashka of all people to help get information from Alt!Carl.
- Spoiled Brat: Sun is a spoiled Royal Brat before he is reformed, Alt!Kathy is a 'regular' one in alternate Australia.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Even though she never verbalizes it, Ashka is obviously thinking this every time Sharak is frightened by the Dragon Lord's displays of "magic".
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the Land of the Immortals those few who survived a terrible plague were turned immortal, but also infertile, by the antidote. Now everyone lives the life of nobility, being waited on by robot servants — but they get horribly bored after living so long and having tried every past-time, and they cannot have children to liven things up, the doll-like robot children being only a sad attempt at playing parents.