Ben Johnson is a perfectly normal kid living a perfectly normal life in the perfectly normal town of Werrinup (in Western Australia). That is, until the legendary Werrinup Thief
steals his favourite pair of sneakers
. Ben catches the thief, and is shocked when he finds out that it's his best friend, Francis Short.
However, he quickly learns that things are not always as they seem, and the thief is not actually Francis, but a doppleganger from another world has the same name.
Ben follows 'this' Francis down through a drainpipe, and arrives in an almost identical Werrinup, where everything is oppresively regulated. Not only that, but his house isn't even the same- it turns out to be the home of his previously unknownsister
, Katherine Raddic.
Ben soon learns from his mother that she, himself and his sister are Guardians
, who protect the Parallax
, a network of alternate universes linked by portals. As he explores the Parallax, he meets new friends in other worlds, fights monsters, and attracts the attentions of Betti, a fallen Guardian with grand plans to 'improve' the Parallax.
Main characters include:
- Ben Johnson: the youngest Guardian, a somewhat cocky teenager who initially sees the Parallax as a source of fun and adventure.
- Katherine Raddic: Ben's older sister, whose version of Werrinup is obsessively regulated, which has led to her becoming something of a Stickler For The Rules. Gradually starts to loosen up after continued exposure to Ben and his friends.
- Francis Short: Ben's best friend, he is reluctant to get involved with anything concerning the Parallax, and is uncomfortable with the idea of having Alternate Universe counterparts.
- Francis 'Thief': from the 'Hippie World', discovered the Parallax by accident, and used it to acquire goods to sell in his own world. Quickly develops a friendship with Ben, and becomes his main source of help in Parallax-related adventures.
- Melanie: Katherine's best friend, who is more interested in boys and fun than in keeping to the rules of her world. Her counterparts are often the target of Martin's affections, and Ben has a crush on his world's Melanie.
- Una and Due: Sisters from a version of Werrinup obsessed with the latest technology, Francis introduces them to the Parallax to impress Una. Rarely seen apart.
- Mundi: an inhabitant of Forest World, who quickly becomes an ally of the Guardians and develops a close friendship with Katherine. Is one of the few non-Guardians whose counterpart in other worlds is never met.
- Veronica Johnson: Ben and Katherine's mother. She left Katherine with her dad while pregnantr with Ben, because they were attracting too many of Betti's minions.
The antagonists are:
- Martin Dunkley: a pompous bully, who is actively malicious to Ben and Katherine, as well as most of the others. Melinda is frequently the target of his dubious affections, except in Techno World where he was Una's boyfriend, and in Forest World.
- Betti: Veroncia's twin sister, who wants to improve the parallax by removing dissidents from their various worlds. Resides on an island in Techno World.
While their are an uncounted number of worlds, the ones visited in series are:
- Ben's World: The 'default' reality. Identified by a red glow in the parallax animation. Links to Katherine's world through a storm drain, and to Techno World through Mrs Dawes' chicken coop.
- Katherine's World: (Blue) A very formal and organised world with many strict laws. Links to Ben's World via two large rocks and Hippie World by going in between two bookcases at a library. When pushing points on the parallax at the two rocks you can 'skip' to Forest World.
- Hippie World: (Yellow) This is a very 'mellow' world which follows the hippie lifestyle. The only known portal here is through an old van out the front of Francis' home, which links to Katherine's World (the library)
- Techno World: (White) Home to Una and Due, where advanced technology is discarded as soon and it stops working or something better comes along. The portal to get to Ben's World is located at the rubbish tip. The other portal is located at an abandoned office building, and is only used to reach Garden World, via a computer code to allow a skip.
- Forest World: (Green) A world that takes care of its environment, its Werrinup is built on towers above the forest floor to minimise human impact on the eco system. The portal that gets the most use sits between two trees; the other known portal is in a gap between two rocks and is infested with Krellicks, linking to Bush World.
- Desert World: (Orange) A world that has been reduced to barren desert, its water turned purple. One portal is buried about a foot under the sand and marked by stones arranged in the parallax symbol; the other is near the beach and marked only by a tent Betti erected as a place of solitude.
- Garden World: (Purple) Betti's idea of an ideal world, where everyone is content, and no one is different. its portals lead to Ben's and Techno World, via skips.
- Bush World: (Brown) a seemingly uninhabited world adjacent to Forest World, its portal is in a river, preventing krellicks from passing through.
This series contains examples of:
- Acting for Two: Some scenes have as many as four iterations of the same character. Mostly played when the Martins encounter each other, as most of the others only encounter one other version of themselves (although the Francises have a Video Phone chat). Also involves Veronica and Betti, although they're actual siblings instead of counterparts..
- All There in the Manual: The official web site gave us an epic back-story, which presumably would have been revealed had the show gone on to a second season...
- Alternate Universe: A series of parallel universes which form the Parallax of the series. All of them are different in at least one respect.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Every universe has its own colour, seen in the 'glows of the portals' in each universe (regardless of where they lead) and in the Inter-universal transition animations.
- Crosscast Role: Faith Clayton plays not only all the "Mrs Dawes" roles, but also plays her brother Henry Dawes for one scene.
- The Ditz: Tiffany. In every universe.
- Evil Twin: Betti to Veronica.
- Genius Bonus: For those who are studying the physics of the Many-Worlds Interpretion theory, this whole show makes perfect sense...
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Betti ends up blandished in an attempt to convince Katherine that they are more alike than the rest of her family.
- Instrumentality: Betti's goal.
- Les Yay: Katherine and Mundi. Katherine appears disinterested in boys (in opposition to her friend Melinda) and, in one episode dances with Mundi during a party. They cap the night off by appearing to gaze into each other's eyes before a goodbye hug.
- Luke, You Are My Father: Shocks both Ben and Stefan. Veronica fled Katherine's Werrinup once she realised that she was pregnant with Ben.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Forest World Martin is actually rather nice, and, in one case, tries to help the others evade Betti.
- No Ontological Inertia: Averted. All that they can hope for is to undo the damage themselves.
- Portal Network: Used to navigate the parallax. Only some are located in natural 'doorways': they have no visible boundary as part of their structure, so the only clue to their location is an environmental feature and the parallax symbol that appears somewhere nearby.
- Real-Life Relative: Actors Francoise (Melinda) and Kazimir (Martin) Sas are children of Igor Sas (who plays Stefan)
- Things start going into Incestuous Casting a little, though (albeit briefly and extremely toned down), when you realize that, during the masked disco scene, Martin (Kazimir) is flirting with Melinda (Francoise).
- Una and Due are also played by actual sisters.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Welkins sort of look like a cross between purple "snakes" and wasps.
- Sequel Hook: Due to said undoing of damage, Betti returns with new-found fury.
- Time Police: The Guardians are supposed to prevent 'contamination' of the universes- by making sure that no one had to go through Never the Selves Shall Meet' situation. Subverted with the Alternate Universe Martins however.
- Threshold Guardian: Mrs Dawes and her family, who keep an eye on the portals. Not the most competent examples, but its implied that they simply make sure that the portals are kept recognisable as such (to the right people), and help guide lost Guardians.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Betti wishes to "blandish" the whole Parallax. She does this by putting a strange 'potion' in the water that turns all who would oppose her into purple vapour. Her 'ideal' world is a 'paradise' where there is no dissent and everyone gets along: exemplified by the Garden World, where even Martin is an unabashedly good person, but also bland and a bit unsettling. She seems perfectly content in the knowledge that people must 'die' to achieve her ideal.