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 scientistMek'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.
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.
Aliens Speaking English: Well, not aliens, but all worlds visited use English as their own language, no matter how different they are.
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).
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ashka, big time. Since all she cares is herself, she switches sides whenever she finds it profitable for her and is not above pulling Enemy Mine or supporting someone she was planning to overthrown mere hour ago. This is especially prominent in second series.
Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Paul in first season was a prankster teenager who didn't get along with his father and had Missing Mom. Most of the time he was acting calmly and all he wanted was to get back home, with somewhat careless attitude toward Riana when she's trapped in his world. One of subplots was his Character Development into responsible person. Kathy is a teenage girl with loving parents, while she herself highly value family ties. She's much more impulsive and irrational than Paul, often relying on Indy Ploys. She's also much more resourceful than Paul. Her goal is to be with her parents and brother, but she also cares about all the people around her much more than Paul. Both of them use their wits and knowledge to survive and their actions are instrumental into thwarting the Big Bad's plan.
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.
Expendable Alternate Universe: Ashka treats every dimension as expendable, even her own. After she learns in the second season about infinite number of different worlds, you can almost see gears working in her head.
Hope Spot: In both series, by the 11th episode, with very similar pattern
In first series Ashka's scheming is exposed. In last ditch effort she calls a duel with Correon, as a form of Trial by Combat. After a while it's made very clear that she's no match for him and he opelny talks with Paul about sending him back home no time after the duel. To bad Gryvon tempered with Correon's suit...
In second series the Morgan family is finally reunited, Sun came back, Ashka's scheme is exposed and she lost a wax mask allowing her to use the Prime Oracle. To avoid capture, she ripped the Interface out of it's port, rendering the Oracle system inoperable...
Infinite Flashlight: Enforced with the video camera in series 1, averted with the car in series 2.
It's All About Me: Ashka's modus operandi. Whenever she can profit on it, she will scheme, switch sides, betray everyone on spot, abandon her friends and go so far as destroying whole civilisation for her own, often petty, gains.
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 Molochs' world.
Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Whenever someone with knowledge in any given field enters the dimension that lacks that piece of science, they end up as overpowered. This is especially obvious in Season 1, where Paul pretty much survives whole season thanks to his - mind you - high-school education. It should be also notet that it doesn't mean those characters become unbeatable or can see through manipulations.
No Water Proofing 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.
Spellbinders world is made entirely by small, rural societies, where everyone knows each other, which is sharply contrasted how anonymous modern society is when Riana lands in Paul's world.
In alternate Australia Alt!Morgans focused on money and their careers, which led to their divorce, made everyone unhappy and turned Alt!Kathy into Alpha Bitch. The other Morgans live much simplier, but happier lives and family is the most important thing for them.
Molochs' world denounce any form of technology aside from most simplistic as a consequence of being almost destroyed by rebellous AIs, showing how people are happy living their lives once again in pre-industrialized society.
Science Is Bad: Invoked, discussed, and subverted. The whole point of rather Anvilicious Season 1 is to show that science by itself is not bad or good, but can be used to achieve both good and utterly horrific things. Season 2 toned the preaching down, but the message still remains, since all the events are set into motion by poorly-conducted scientific experiment.
Spoiler Opening: In both series, many important events are part of the opening sequence. In Series 1 viewers know from the start that Ashka will visit Paul's world and meet Paul's dad, while in Series 2 has shown us whole Morgan family in Land of the Dragon Lord, Ashka allied with Sharak and Moloch in it's action.
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.
Apocalypse How: The world of Spellbinders was hit by Class 2. When the old Spellbinders conducted some unspecified experiment, it ended up with nuclear winter and turned almost all of the planet into toxic wasteland. What remains under the Spellbinders control is probably the only enclave of humanity and arable land.
Awesome, but Impractical: The eyestones is the only radio device in Spellbinders' world, giving them a huge advantage over people without long-distance communication. But it can't be turned down and they are all tuned on the same frequency, meaning that no real radio silence is possible. This is often used for humorous and dramatic effect.
Becoming the Mask: Alex and Katrina are forced to pretend that they are in love for their numerous schemes. After a while they start to develope real feelings toward each other.
Book Dumb: Alex. While he's obviously smart on his own, books and school knowledge are not his strong sides.
Call Back: When Riana met with Coreon for the first time, he get angry about her stubbornness, on which she replied that he should met her mother. When Coreon ends up in Clayhill, he instantly chews Maran for being such bad example for Riana. Luckily for everyone, it's Played for Laughs.
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.
City Mouse: Paul whines a lot for few first episodes.
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Paul saved Riana's brother when the latter drowned. He use the now obsolete technique of 30 pushes and two breaths. While he prepared the boy's body in proper way, the pushes are obviously faked and done incorrectly. The procedure is of course successful and the boy throw up some water during the pushes, sparing Riana from tasting it.
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.
Eureka Moment: After spotting the Southern Cross Paul realised he can't be in Europe - this must be either a dream or some pararel world! And since he's not dreaming...
Fate Worse than Death: While banishment is suppose to end with the outcast's death, it's also needlessly cruel. Convicted prisoners are dumped in the middle of barren wasteland, with no supplies and just left there for themselves. Not only they have a slow and painful death out of dehydration or starvation, but also they die alone.
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.
Kangaroo Court: The trial hold by the Regents over Paul looks like this. It's implied that they don't bother about holding the court and banish everyone just to get over with each case as soon as possible.
Loophole Abuse: Riana never walks between two signs of the Spellbinders. When Paul asks her if it's another superstition, she simply explains that it's forbidden to cross between, but not to walk around the signs.
MacGyvering: Paul is relying on it constantly, using his "superior" knowledge as his only edge against people from the Spellbinders' world. After a while, Ashka get really sick of his attempts to double-cross her.
Medieval Stasis: Enforced by the Spellbinders who imprison anyone who applies the use of any new inventions.
Metaphorically True: When Gryvon told Riana's sister that he had "flown to the end of the world and looked over the edge", Paul instantly rebuked it as a lie - the world is a globe after all. Much later in the series, it's revealed that right outside the land under Spellbinders' control there is a seemingly endless wasteland, so this is possibly one of the few situations when Gryvon isn't telling a tall story.
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...
The Marauders are simply banished people, trying to survive and using a hoax to help their agenda
The old Spellbinders, not the Marauders, brought the Darkness upon their world.
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.
Start of Darkness: In the beginning Ashka is just a lowly Spellbinder. After meeting Paul, all her Fatal Flaws start to emerge, seeing the boy as her tool for power. Note that early on she wanted to use Paul's knowledge to simply repell the Marauders, not gain anything for herself directly.
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 has an average of one dimension shift every episode.
Adult Fear: Both Kathy and Josh are constantly missing, driving Vicky to the brink of depression.
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.
Amulet of Dependency: People from the Land of the Dragon Lord are so dependend on the Oracle system that they civilization almost collapses when it's turned off. Lampshaded in the fact that they never developed any form of administration, since the Oracle allowed direct rule of the Dragon Lord.
Apple of Discord: Kathy for the Immortals - everyone wants her, for different purposes and reasons.
Artifact Title: Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord is the full title for second series. It's entirely possible to watch it without even knowing there was any other series, understand everything and be puzzled why such minor part of the setting like spellbinders is mentioned in the title.
In Polish version the second series is simply known as "W krainie Władcy Smoków" - "In the land of the Dragon Lord". This is somewhat of inversion of infamous Polish tradition of creating artifact titles for sequels.
Artificial Stupidity: The mechanicals from the Land of the Immortals are very poor in decision making, having problems with pathfinding and generally mindlessly following their duties.
Big Heroic Run: The only way to cross the border guarded by the Great Warrior is to move really fast, so it will be unable to aim at you. The Morgans use their jeep for it, while moving on foot and on horseback is proven too slow.
Big "NO!": Kathy, when almost turned into Immortal.
Bigger on the Inside: Moloch. Being a APC (Soviet BTR-60) with bulldozer plow, it's insiside is almost twice as big as the vehicle itself.
Blithe Spirit: Kathy for the Immortals society, but mostly in the bad sense. Till her arrival everything was boring, but at least peaceful. When she shows up, the Immortals start to fight and argue for her, since everyone wants to have "the only child in the world". Oh, and she introduces a few ideas about gender equality and feminism, shaking the decaying society even further.
The Casanova: Alt!Carl is implied to be one. It could be one of the reasons why he and Alt!Vicky divorced.
Career-Ending Injury: Carl suffered one in the past and had to abandon his rugby team. Alt!Carl never had such injury, so he become famous player and winner of many trophies.
Cassandra Truth: Every time someone is trying to explain the idea of parallel world and trans-dimensional travel, they are treated as crazy or bad liars. Averted with Dr Elvo, who almost instantly believed Kathy, being fully aware that there is no other way for her to be in his world.
Chekhov's Armoury: Pretty much all important gadgets that the Morgans use later are introduced in the first episode, ranging from chocolate bars Kathy took from the can of biscuits to digital camera or snorkling gear.
Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Right in the first episode. Kathy slides over a cliff and shouts for help. Mek is going for the rescue, but since he was chasing her for quite a while, she angrily tells that she doesn't need his help. Cue sliding a bit further down and accepting his hand.
Cruel Mercy: In the end, Ashka is put into the trans-dimensional boat blind-folded and told to pick destination of her new home without seeing the dials. In his courtesy, Sun left her the power suit. Last time we saw her, something roared in the background.
One of many reasons why Josh's parents doesn't believe him about Kathy disappearance is that he's a prankster. Not that saying things about aliens and disappearing boats are belivable in the first place...
When Sharak's army is invading, Josh is trying to warn the villagers. Since last time they met he tricked them into thinking he's a water spirit, they don't believe a single word from him and are preparing to lynch him.
Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Both Mek and Kathy put themselves in lots of trouble because of curiosity, he because he's a scientist and she because she's a young teen.
Defector from Decadence: Dr Elvo. He's fully aware that his civilization is stagnant and decaying into childish state. Meeting Kathy and Mek gave him an opportunity to change that.
Defiant to the End: When the plan to scare off Sharak and his army fails, Aya decides to capture Ashka, just to depower her in eyes of Sharak. It borders on I Surrender, Suckers, since the invasion was already successful and Aya just wanted to show everyone who is the real ruler.
God Guise: Josh is mistaken for water spirit because of wearing diving gear, so he decides to play along. It soon badly backfires for him - he's chained and forced to grant wishes, treated more like a slave than anything else. Then he's almost killed by the angry mob for tricking them.
When Sun "defeated" Sharak's invasion, he proclaimed a week-long mandatory holiday. Not only that, but he changed the callendar to include this holiday forever. Right in the middle of harvesting season.
When Sharak is marrying Aya, his dragon, Roggar, yells at gathered poeople that anyone not displaying happiness will be punished.
Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The travell between dimensions happens somewhere and it's quite unpleasant experience. The vision is distorted, everything is contorting and time seems to flow slower, to the point that even sounds are stretched.
I Am Not My Father: Sun is sick of everyone reminding him what would his father do in his place. At least some of his actions are made out of spite.
Idiot Ball: Josh is holding one out for a while. When Ashka is running with the Interface, he got into her cart and instead of sneakily take it back, he just hanged on the back of the cart for the whole journey. He finally decide to act when Ashka was paying full attention toward him, being instantly blasted with a bolt from the power suit.
Immortal Procreation Clause: Non-natural example: The Immortals are the survivors of a great plague, whose antidote turned them all immortal — and infertile.
It's All My Fault: Mek is blaming himself more and more for all the mess created by his trans-dimensional boat.
Kids Are Cruel: Sun is treating people like toys, be it his servants or advancing barbarian army.
Kung-Foley: Present here and there, but out of all places, this trope is super-persistent in the Molochs' world, giving slapstick feel to the darkestofall shown dimensions.
Lightning Can Do Anything: When the energy crystal powering the trans-dimensional boat is hit by bolt from the power suit, the boat ends up in the Land of the Immortals instead of Kathy's world.
Limited Wardrobe: Justified - the Morgans are wearing the same clothes for most of the time, since they don't have any other with themselves. Kathy changes her attire mid-way the series, when she was lucky enough to get back home for a while.
Artemis from the Land of the Immortals, but she's just a robot.
Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Dr Elvo couldn't probably forseen that Kathy and Mek would be able to figure out how to escape his basement with use of blanket and his own chemical supply.
Logic Bomb: Mek and Kathy escape from a robot guard by using one of these.
Low Culture, High Tech: Land of the Dragon Lord is similar to Imperial China, but the Vast Bureaucracy is replaced with computer-like Oracle, build by the first Dragon Lord. Common people think it's magical, while more scientific circles are fully aware it's a machine, but have no idea how it is build or even works. It's not entirely clear if they can build more terminals or not.
Miles Gloriosus: Sun. Since he claims all possible victories as his own and no-one ever dared to fight him seriously during his trainings, it's more than expected. When he's stranded in Australia, he keeps on making fearsome faces, while being constantly scared by pretty much anything.
Mundane Luxury: Early on, when Kathy ends stranded in the Land of the Dragon Lord, she's on the brink of depression. Aya offers her a bath and fancy gown to wear, so Kathy can relax. It works, at least for a while.
Of Corset Hurts: Since she's not used to wearing it, Kathy has problems with breathing while wearing her corseted dress and complains about it.
Out-Gambitted: In the end, pretty much everyone is out-manoeuvred by a mere fence from Alt!Australia. Not even Ashka was immune. It took a considerable effort and Enemy Mine situation to finally bring him down.
Regal Ringlets: Kathy is forced to wear them with ribbons when living with Lem and Guin.
Reluctant Retiree: Zenzo is unceremoniously removed from the position of the adviser, when Sun get bored with him.
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.
Sun keeps on loosing his bracelet, so the Oracle won't recognise him as the Dragon Lord.
Morgan family trying to pass as gods.
After a while, Kathy gets really tired of explaining over and over that she's from another dimension.
Secret Path: Right after the throne of the Dragon Lord there is a passage leading to the Prime Oracle. Whenever the Dragon Lord appears in the trone room, he or she arrives in flash of light, so no-one can see that the throne simply circles around. There is also a secret path inside the secret path.
Show Some Leg: Done by Ashka of all people to help get information from Alt!Carl. To drive the point home, it's done with the accompaniment of Sexophone.
Slave Brand: Hugo brands Kathy with his signet ring to claim her as his property. Luckily for her, it was only ink and very soon the arbiter denounced the brand as illegal, since humans can't be claimed as objects.
Space Whale Aesop: If a barbarian tribe ever invades your country, don't fight them back. Instead you can always talk some sense into them and send them with your trans-dimensional boat to parallel universe that badly needs more people and can offer the barbarians all the land they want. Which by itself borders on Broken Aesop of "send your problems to someone else".
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".
Suspiciously Small Army: Sharak's army is about fifty men strong, most likely for the budgetary reasons. They take over the Land of the Dragon Lord. It's made even more bizzare when the whole barbarian army with their families and posessions are put on a single ship and send to Molochs' world.
Take That Me: When Elin is telling the story of the basilisk, she calls it the ugliest thing ever living, even uglier than her.
Torture Always Works: Averted. When the Morgans are captured by Sharak's forces, they are denied any food or water until they will confess all they know about the Great Warrior and army of the Drgaon Lord. Since they have no clue about what they were even asked, it obviously doesn't work.
Techno Babble: Carl is purposefully using it when he's pretending that the jeep is broken.
Throw It In: The weather during shooting in China was poor, with foggy sky and almost constant raining. The producers decided to use it as form of Empathic Environment - when Sharak takes over the Land of the Dragon Lord, everything is gloomy and dulled.
Trash Landing: Tony landed on the stack of cardboard boxes after pulling a stunt on the filming stage, so Kathy and Sun could use the distraction and escape in the boat.
The Unfavourite: Alt!Josh is a Geek and computer enthusiast, while his father wanted a sportsman. As a former rugby champion, he feels ashamed of his son's lack of interest in sports. That doesn't mean Alt!Carl doesn't love him, he just wished for a better son.
Unwitting Pawn: Ashka tricks Josh into helping her to convince Sharak that she's a powerful magician. Which leads to barbarian invasion on the Land of the Dragon Lord.
What the Hell, Hero?: Aside from Aya, no-one in the Land of the Dragon Lord seems to be even interested with the fact that Mek was able to create a machine that allows trans-dimensional journeys - they just want a set of musical jewels.
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.