Follow TV Tropes


Series / Parallax

Go To

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 who has the same name. Ben follows 'this' Francis down through a drainpipe, and arrives in an almost identical Werrinup, where everything is oppressively regulated. Not only that, but his house isn't even the same — it turns out to be the home of his previously unknown sister, 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, who is reluctant to get involved with anything concerning the Parallax, and is uncomfortable with the idea of having Alternate Universe counterparts. He loves surfing and is a little shy, particularly around the exchange student Julia whom he fancies. Aside from Hippie World, he also has counterparts in Katherine's World (though he's never seen), Techno World and Forest World (Francis Zapmeister nicknames this rarely seen version "Forest Boy.")
  • Advertisement:
  • Francis 'Thief' / Francis Zapmeister: 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. He is considerably more outgoing than Francis. Despite a rocky start, the two Francises eventually form a friendship of sorts.
  • Melinda Bruce: 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 Melinda.
  • 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. They also have counterparts in Ben's World, Katherine's World (though they are never seen), Hippie World and Garden World. Una's name is mentioned to be "Fortuna", the name she goes by in all other incarnations.
  • Mundi: an inhabitant of Forest World, who quickly becomes an ally of the Guardians and develops a close friendship with Katherine. She 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 pregnant with Ben, because they were attracting too many of Betti's minions.

The antagonists are:

  • Martin Dunkly: 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, the only world in which he is a nice guy, where he fancies Katherine.
  • Betti: Veronicia's twin sister, who wants to improve the parallax by removing dissidents from their various worlds. Resides on an island in Techno World.

While there 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) 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 as 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:

  • Aborted Arc: In the sixteenth episode "Dad Meets Dad", Stefan displays advanced knowledge of physics when there is nothing in his background as an artist which suggests that he would possess such knowledge. At the end of the episode, Jeremy points out that none of them have ever met other versions of Stefan in other universes, implying that he may not have any and perhaps that he is even a Guardian and that he has forgotten it. However, none of this is even mentioned in the subsequent episodes.
  • Allergic to Routine: Ben in the first episode. Averted with the Francis of Ben's World, who wants nothing to do with the Parallax at the beginning.
  • 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 Self: Given the premise, this comes up a great deal.
  • Alternate Universe: A series of parallel universes which form the Parallax of the series. All of them are different in at least one respect.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: How Katherine views Ben.
  • The Artful Dodger: Francis Zapmeister. The third episode is even called "The Artful Dodger".
  • Assimilation Plot: Betti's goal.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Ben and Katherine. Mrs Dawes (all of them) and her brother Henry (who is admittedly only seen once) guard the portals together.
  • The Bully: All of the Martins except for the one from Forest World. Their mothers qualify as well.
  • Butt-Monkey: Early in the series, the Francis from Ben's World frequently gets the blame for Francis Zapmeister's thefts and other antics.
  • 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.
  • Cannot Talk to Women: The Francis of Ben's World is quite shy and introverted and has difficulty talking to his crush Julia in "Achey, Breaky Heart". Averted with his extroverted counterpart Francis Zapmeister, who has no such problem with Una.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Both the Francis of Ben's World and Francis Zapmeister - who describes himself as a "devout coward" - have their moments but both eventually prove themselves to be very brave by risking their lives in the fight against Betti.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: Francis Zapmeister is this to the Francis from Ben's World. He later reforms though.
  • Crosscast Role: Faith Clayton plays not only all the Mrs Dawes roles, but also plays her brother Henry Dawes for one scene.
  • Cute Bookworm: The Melinda of Katherine's World certainly qualifies. All other Melindas too, to a lesser extent.
  • Daddy's Girl: The Melinda of Ben's World qualifies for this one.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: Francis Zapmeister believes that his counterpart on Techno World qualifies when he is blandished by Betti in "The World According to Betti". In the inappropriately named final episode "It Ain't Over", however, it is revealed that he and the other victims of blandishing (including his dad) aren't really dead after all. Their DNA is suspended in the chemistry of the Parallax and they are reconstituted.
  • Different World, Different Movies: Completely averted as the characters from the various different universes make references to films familiar to the viewers.
  • Disappeared Dad: Martin's father is out of the picture in all five of the series' main worlds. He is never mentioned in any universe.
  • The Ditz: Tiffany. In every universe.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: All of the portals to the Parallax qualify.
  • Drop-In Character: Most of the main characters as they regularly visit each other's worlds.
  • Elvis Lives: As revealed in "Achey, Breaky Heart", Elvis Presley wandered into Hippie World (presumably from Ben's World) years earlier.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Francis Zapmeister dislikes his mother calling him by his hippie name Freedom.
  • Evil Twin: Betti to Veronica.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Otto's world was destroyed by Betti before the events of the series.
  • Extreme Doormat: Francis has shades of this. He goes along with all of Ben's crazy plans (which don't involve him entering the Parallax) and is occasionally bullied by Martin into going along with him, though he isn't one of his favourite targets.
  • Face Your Fears: In "The Reading Room", Ben overcomes his fear of water while, in the same episode, the Francis of his world overcomes his fear of the Parallax by agreeing to go on a mission to save Veronica.
  • Freudian Excuse: Understandably enough, Katherine initially resents Veronica for abandoning her and Stefan and does not forgive her until learning that she missed them and came an eye on them all the time.
  • Guardian of the Multiverse: Veronica, Ben, Katherine and Otto.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Francis Zapmeister's parents seem to be this, letting him do whatever he wants and go wherever he pleases, even giving him the hippie name Freedom. It goes a long way towards explaining his sticky fingers and initial selfishness, as he's used to looking after himself and taking whatever catches his eye in case he can use it later.
  • Hippie Van: The main portal in Hippie World is in the one owned by Francis Zapmeister's parents.
  • 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.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Part of the reason that the Francis of Ben's World dislikes Francis Zapmeister so much initially is that he views him as a Consummate Liar. In "One Man's Rubbish", he says that Francis Zapmeister has "a very bad relationship with the truth" and warns Ben not to trust him. In "Cheats Never Prosper", by which time he has warmed to his counterpart a little, Ben's Francis would rather lose honestly to the two Martins in the triathlon than go along with Francis Zapmeister's plan to beat them at their own game. However, he eventually wins anyway.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: In "Ex-Ben", the Francis from Ben's World realises that Betti is posing as Veronica when she offers him an apple, which Veronica knows he hates.
  • Loner-Turned-Friend: Although he is more outgoing than the Francis of Ben's world, Francis Zapmeister, oddly enough, doesn't appear to have any friends in his own world. He eventually comes to consider Ben to be his best friend and forms close friendships with Una and Due from Techno World. He even becomes friends with the Francis of Ben's World, after a fashion.
  • Loveable Rogue: When we are introduced to Francis Zapmeister, he is stealing all and sundry from Ben and Katherine's Worlds to trade in his own. He is initially out for himself - he has no problem with landing the Francis of Ben's World in trouble, for instance - but stops stealing and becomes more selfless as the series goes on. This is partly due to Ben and Una's good influence on him.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Shocks both Ben and Stefan. Veronica fled Katherine's Werrinup once she realised that she was pregnant with Ben.
  • Meddlesome Patrolman: Constable / Sergeant Garcia in Ben's World, Katherine's World and Techno World.
  • Me's a Crowd: The Franciscam features three different Francises communicating with each other across the Parallax (alongside Una). Towards the end of the series, the Martins begin to work together as well.
  • Mistaken Identity: As you would expect for a series dealing with alternate universes, this comes up a lot. The most notable example is in "The World According to Betti" when the Francis from Techno World is blandished after being mistaken for his identically dressed counterpart Francis Zapmeister by Betti.
  • Mook–Face Turn: It's not specified how but Otto gets Spy Boy to turn against Betti.
  • Motor Mouth: Francis Zapmeister. In contrast, his counterpart from Ben's World is The Quiet One.
  • Mouthy Kid: Ben in spades.
  • The Multiverse: Though it is referred to as the Parallax.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Forest World Martin is actually rather nice, and, in one case, tries to help the others evade Betti.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Completely averted. The Francis from Ben's World and Francis Zapmeister meet regularly while the Martins work together a huge amount towards the end of the series.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted. All that they can hope for is to undo the damage themselves.
  • Other Me Annoys Me:
    • The Francis from Ben's World initially dislikes Francis Zapmeister as his counterpart's behaviour gets him into trouble on several occasions. He may also be a little jealous of him as he is more outgoing than he is. However, they do work together when the need arises, particularly later in the series when they and the Francis from Forest World use the Francis Cam to communicate with each other across the Parallax, and sort of become friends. More generally, he dislikes the idea of running into his other selves as it is "like looking at [himself] in a mirror, only it talks back."
    • The Martin of Forest World is disliked by his counterparts because he's a nice, decent guy.
    • Una takes an instant dislike to her counterpart Fortuna from Hippie World, though mostly because she was sharing an ice cream with Francis Zapmeister.
    • Conversely, the Melinda from Katherine's World admires the confidence and popularity of her counterpart from Ben's World and tries (with poor results) to imitate her style several times.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Francis Zapmeister.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shock Stick: Staves are the signature weapons of the guardians and have a variety of features. One of these features is twin retractable prongs that deliver an electric charge. This feature is mainly used for killing Welkins. Staves can also manipulate electronic machinery to some extent.
  • Shout-Out: The Zeerust Techno World is based on the Hill Valley of 2015 in Back to the Future Part II. Elvis performing "Johnny Be Goode" in "Achey, Breaky Heart" may be a reference to the first film.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: In a less extreme example than Betti and Veronica, Ben and Katherine.
  • Surfer Dude: Outside of his love of surfing, this is mostly averted with the Francis of Ben's World. He's much nicer and more intelligent than most examples of this trope.
  • Slimeball: Francis Zapmeister said it best, "Martin is a slimeball in all worlds." However, they later meet the nice Martin from Forest World.
  • Team Mom: Veronica.
  • 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.
  • 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 two main Francises and the Alternate Universe Martins however.
  • Tree Top Town: In the green Alternate Universe, Werrinup is built in the trees to protect the environment and keep the people safe from the Krellicks.
  • 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.
  • Your Universe or Mine?: Francis Zapmeister and Una. They spend most of their time together in Techno World, her world, as they both find it more exciting than Hippie World: him because he is so used to it and her because she dislikes its low tech nature.