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Series / Psi Factor

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It's more believable with a proper seal.

"These stories are inspired by the actual case files of the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research (O.S.I.R.)."
Opening Credits

Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal is a Canadian science fiction horror drama television series and aired 88 episodes over four seasons from 1996 to 2000. Dan Aykroyd hosted the show, providing a lead-in talk for each episode and concluding the respective case at the end.

The show deals with the fictional organization "Office of Scientific Investigation and Research" (O.S.I.R.), which investigates a variety of paranormal activities during the course of the show. Whereas the first season mostly features two cases per episode, from season two on the series changes to a more conservative format.

The staff of the investigating team changed over time, with case managers Conner Doyle (Paul Miller) and Curtis Rollins (Maurice Dean Wint) in the first season, who were then replaced by Matt Praeger (Matt Frewer) in the second season. Other main characters are senior data analyst Lindsay Donner (Nancy Anne Sakovich), physicist Peter Axon (Barclay Hope) and Dr. Anton Hendricks (Colin Fox). In Season Four, Hendricks was promoted to director of the O.S.I.R. and was replaced by Mia Stone (Joanne Vannicola), while recurring character Claire Davison (Soo Garay) was promoted to the main cast.

This series provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Alien Abduction: In “Communion”, a biologist develops a set of supernatural powers after an alien abduction.
  • Alternate Universe: In "Happy Birthday, Matt Praeger" Matt is transported to an alternate version of his life.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Matt in his early appearances; even when saw the alien/ghost/zombie/monster of the week himself, he reflexively dismisses any supernatural explanation. This changed over time.
  • As Himself: Dan Aykroyd is "Dan Aykroyd, for Psi Factor".
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: See the opening credits quote above. And OSIR doesn't exist in reality nor the over-the-top cases they dealt with regularly.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The giant mutant meteorite bugs from "The Infestation".
  • Blessed with Suck: The biologist in "Communion" develops the ability to change the cell composition of living creatures, which he hopes to use in growing new strands of sustainable plants. Unfortunately, he can't fully control his powers and accidentally kills his boss.
  • Chupacabra: "Harlequin" features one attacking the animals at a zoo. Unlike most depictions, it's implied to be a mutated human rather than an alien creature.
  • Clip Show: In “Tribunal”, the team is questioned about the cases they investigated and their testimonies are accompanied by footage from earlier episodes.
  • Continuity Nod: Peter gets very anxious around the snakes in "Reptilian Revenge" and mentions that he's always had a snake phobia. In "The Buzz", Conner, Lindsay and Peter have a frightening encounter with a swarm of rats. Afterwards, Peter comments, "At least they weren't snakes."
  • Cult: "Sacrifices" features the murdering Satanist variety.
  • Curse: "The Curse" plays with this: several Egyptologists involved in excavating an ancient tomb suffer mysterious deaths. O.S.I.R. concludes that the deaths are actually caused by a toxic fungus growing in the tomb.
  • Cyberspace: Virtual reality is explored in "Old Wounds".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Matt, very much.
  • Demonic Possession: "The 13th Floor" and "Frozen Faith" play this straight, while "Possession" subverts it. The people who initially appear to be possessed have actually been exposed to LSD without knowing it, which causes them to suffer violent and terrifying hallucinations.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In "Sacrifices," Mia kicks a literal demon in the face. Repeatedly.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: In "The Warrior", a Chinese Consul General uses diplomatic transports to smuggle valuable antiques out of China for sale on the black market. Unfortunately for him, the Chinese government eventually finds out about this and has him sent back to China to face charges.
  • Dirty Cop: In "The Kiss" a policeman murders a criminal who's in the process of surrendering, and his two partners agree to cover up the circumstances of the man's death. This comes back to haunt them, literally.
  • The Fair Folk: A malevolent version in "Little People".
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Aliens, werewolves, mutants, ghosts, vampires, zombies, teleportation, gnomes, psychic powers, time travel, demons, spontaneous human combustion, the Bermuda Triangle, basically whatever paranormal things the writers could come up with.
  • Friendly Ghost: "Clara's Friend" has the title character meet a benevolent spirit who just wants to be her friend. Unlike some examples of this trope, she allows herself to be visible to others (though she only communicates with Clara) and is clearly no threat to Clara or her family.
  • Gaslighting: "Ghostly Voices" involves an elderly woman convinced she's being visited by the ghost of her dead husband. The team investigates and discovers that it's an elaborate hoax by her son to have her committed to a mental institution.
  • Gendered Insult: At the beginning of "School of Thought," the shop teacher thinks that Marty isn't working hard enough, so he says, "Is the best you can do, Marty? Or should I call you 'Mary'?"
  • Hollywood Healing: When Praeger steps in a bear trap in “Frozen Time”, he is so severely injured that he almost bleeds to death. The newly discovered nerve agent comes just in handy. Plus, it's never mentioned again afterwards.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Subverted in "Heartland"; the team suspects that the villains are digging up artifacts on a Cree reservation, but they're actually terrorists looking for a hidden cache of chemical weapons.
  • Insectoid Aliens: A possible origin for the meteorite bugs in "The Infestation".
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: In "Man of War", Matt asks Catherine Azzopardi how long she's had remote-viewing abilities. She replies, "Always. Only I thought it was a game. I thought everyone could do it."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In the first season, at least, the average case was as likely to have a mundane explanation as to be anything supernatural (which is lampshaded in one episode, where Hendricks comments that 85 percent of their cases turn out either to be hoaxes or have natural explanations). In later seasons there's more emphasis on the "magic," with a handful of exceptions (like "The Haunting" and "Heartland").
  • Monster of the Week: Aside from a handful of recurring storylines, the show's episodes tended to be self-contained.
  • Mysterious Informant: Michael Kelly, an old friend of Matt Praeger's who provides information on several cases.
  • Mystical Plague: In “Death at Sunset”, an inexplicable disease kills the inhabitants of a small town one by one.
  • Nazi Grandpa: The ghost that possesses Anton in "Frozen Faith" is revealed to have been a Nazi war criminal who'd gone into hiding before his death.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Frank Elsinger, the O.S.I.R. Director for the first three seasons, is this to the T, giving the team absolutely no slack and stepping in to block sensitive investigations. He's replaced by Dr. Hendricks in Season Four.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: When it comes to monsters, the series plays a lot with conventions. Some examples are:
    • The angel in "Angel on a Plane" appears as a friendly nurse that only certain people can see, and may not have been angel at all.
    • The vampires in “The Night of the Setting Sun”; they're non-supernatural beings whose longevity is the result of a genetic defect and the magnetic field of the location they live in.
    • The zombies in “Wish I May”, who just live like normal people, except that they're dead.
    • The gnomes in “Little People”, who threaten Praeger's daughter because she let on about their existence.
    • Several episodes, including "Clara's Friend" and "The Damned," feature ghosts that turn out to be psychic projections of living people rather than spirits of the deceased.
  • Phantom Limb Pain: has a segment, aptly titled "Phantom Limb", that has a man lose an arm in an accident. Not only does he suffer from the pain of phantom limb, but he eventually has a psychic response, able to use a telekinetic force much like his missing limb, even rescuing his grandson from falling with the phantom appendage.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • "The Damned" features an aged real estate developer who harbors a very old-fashioned hatred for the Irish, to the point where he wrote bigoted editorials about them in his younger days. Not only that, but it's revealed that he deliberately flooded the home of an Irish immigrant family who refused to move from their property, killing them in the process.
    • Also, the ghost in "Frozen Faith," who is openly sexist and bigoted even before we discover he's a Nazi fugitive.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent:
    • Averted with the snakes in "Reptilian Revenge", who are only seeking revenge on their owner's murderer and otherwise avoid harming people.
    • Played straight with the gator man in "The Underneath".
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The victims in "The Fire Within" turn out to be this; the villains in "Heartland" are a Canadian version.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • The snakes in "Reptilian Revenge" were attacking to avenge the death of their owner.
    • The spirit in "The Damned" seeks revenge for the murder of her family several decades earlier.
    • "The Kiss" features the spirit of a criminal murdered by police possessing a living person to murder those involved in his death.
  • Rotating Protagonist: In the first season the case manager varied from episode-to-episode. In the second season onward the show was generally an ensemble drama, though Matt tended to receive the most focus.
  • Sewer Gator: A mutant gator man living in the sewers is seen in "The Underneath".
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: "Fire Within" focuses on this with a twist involving nanotechnology.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: In "Shocking", Marilyn Roman tries to describe the woman she saw near a crime scene, but all she remembers is that the woman had "big hair." Not only is this a vague and useless description, but the woman in question was wearing a wig at the time, so Marilyn didn't even see her real hair.
  • Time Travel: A particularly tear jerking example in the episode "Man Out of Time". A somewhat less tear jerking example in "Once Upon a Time in the West".
  • Teleporter Accident: In the episode “Threads”, two people and a part of a skyscraper vanish due to a teleporter accident.