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Series / The Secret World of Alex Mack

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"I'm Alex Mack. I was just an average kid until a freak accident changed my life. And from then on, nothing's been the same.
My best friend Ray thinks it's cool. My sister Annie thinks I'm a science project. And I can't let anyone else know. Not even my parents.
I know the lab wants to find me and turn me into some experiment. But you know what? I guess I'm not so average anymore."
Alex Mack's opening exposition

The Secret World of Alex Mack is a Nickelodeon television series created by Thomas W. Lynch and Ken Lipman that ran for four seasons from 1994 to 1998.

Alex Mack (Larisa Oleynik) is a teenager who lives with her family in Paradise Valley, Arizona, with her parents and older sister in a planned community owned by a local chemical plant. She has a bad first day at her new school, and to make matters worse, a truck from the plant crashes and inadvertently drenches her in a top-secret chemical called GC-161.

The chemical gives her an interesting variety of superhuman powers: telekinesis, the ability to zap electricity from her fingers, the ability to melt à la the T-1000, and glow when she senses danger or gets upset. Her best friend Ray Alvarado (Darris Love) and her older sister Annie (Meredith Bishop) learn soon after and try to keep it a secret from anyone else, including Alex and Annie's parents, George (Michael Blakely) and Barbara (Dorian Lopinto).

Unfortunately, Danielle Atron (Louan Gideon) — the head of the chemical plant that created GC-161 — intends to see what effect the chemical has on human beings, and to do so, she tries searching for the kid who was drenched and experimenting on them. She enlists the help of Vince Carter (John Marzilli), the head of plant security, to track her down. Vince is partnered up with Dave Watt (John Nielsen), the driver responsible for the accident, who may or may not (more likely the latter) be able to recognize the child.

A series of chapter books for kids was also released alongside the show.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Art: Robyn's oral narrative "The Dogs Ate My Homework" gets a good grade, even though that really was the story of what happened.
  • Accidental Athlete: Alex is sprinting down the hallway of her school attempting to avoid being late to class and getting in trouble. She is still late for class, but instead of getting chastised she is recruited for the track team.
  • Adults Are Useless: Lampshaded in the finale when her parents wonder why she never told them about her powers in the first place.
    • Averted by Dave (of all people) in Season 3 and 4 after he discovers Alex's secret.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The chemical plant has these in the series finale when Ray and Hunter break in.
  • All Just a Dream: The "Be Careful What You Wish For" wish turned out to be this at the end of the episode.
  • Ambiguous Ending: We never find out whether or not Alex took the antidote to GC-161 and lost her powers.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Alex to Annie, although their relationship gradually improves over the series.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: "I wish I'd never been born at all." The All Just a Dream episode shows that, had Alex not been there to be doused by GC-161, well... Her mother Barbara would've been doused, then she'd be captured and used in experiments. With the side-effect of her father George not being able to ascend at work and her sister Annie being unable to develop her Tween Genius potential.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Alex. She may be a sweetie normally but she has some a bunch of weird powers that could possibly kill a person. Also there is a Jekyll & Hyde plot episode which shows she has a dark side as well. Further, when her good and bad sides recombine she admits at the end it was kind of fun to be the bad girl.
  • Big Bad: Danielle Atron
  • Blob Monster: Alex's most recognized power is turning into goo. She goes from a jellyfish-looking thing to actual silvery goo after some CGI upgrades in Season 2.
    • In the book "Halloween Invaders", Alex suffers an allergic reaction to some costume makeup that Robyn puts on her, causing her to semi-morph into an actual blob monster. Things get dangerous when she's mistaken for an alien that Vince wants to capture.
  • Brainy Brunette: Annie.
  • The Cavalry: The FDA arriving just before Danielle could make her escape thanks to Hunter restraining her, forcing her chopper to flee once they realized the cops were coming, leaving Danielle to fend for herself.
  • Character Development: Alex goes through a surprising amount for a series of this nature. Throughout the series, she gradually becomes more confident, less whiny, more respectful of Annie and begins to accept and even embrace her powers rather than complain about them.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Libby Flanders ("False Alarms") claims that she'll get back at Alex but is never heard from again save for a dream-sequence cameo in the series finale.
    • Alex's early rival Jessica, who vanishes for good after three Season 1 episodes. Her character is officially dropped in the beginning of Season 2 when it's mentioned that Jessica moved out of town.
    • Alex's friend Nicole, who is not seen at all in Season 4.
  • Clip Show: "The Storm", Season 3
  • Combo Platter Powers: Lightning generation and telekinesis make a little bit of sense, but how either one fits with turning into what looks like quicksilver is puzzling to say the least.
  • Company Town: Nearly everyone in the town works for the chemical company that sprayed Alex.
  • Cool Big Sis: Annie to Alex.
  • Correspondence Course: One plot has Dave taking a course in detective work and eventually discovering Alex's secret identity. This also led to him using Obfuscating Stupidity for the rest of the show to stop anyone from realizing he knew.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Danielle Atron.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Essentially, the whole premise of the show.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: When Danielle Atron realized that GC-161 has too many side effects to be used as a weight loss product, she decided to sell it as such anyway and leave the country with the money before the FDA would realize what happened. It never occurred to her that she would be able to make a lot more money (and not be an outlaw) if she would sell it to the army as a Super Serum.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • In a Season 2 Halloween special episode, Alex learns of a house where supposedly a little girl was abused and forced to stay indoors by her mother, then raised by her grandparents as a child prodigy who later moved away to go to school. The episode's ending reveals that the little girl was in fact Danielle Atron. A newspaper clipping in Hunter's bedroom in Season 4 reveals that Danielle narrowly escaped a fire at a rival chemical plant where she was injured, suggesting possible arson.
      • Vince reveals to Dave in Season 1 that he was a victim of bullying in school, always getting beat up by other people. We also learn throughout the series that Vince was a Navy SEAL with a dark past probably involving murder and corruption.
      • Hunter reveals in Season 4 that Paradise Valley Chemical has been involved in illegal research and that his own father was an attempted whistleblower murdered by the company to keep his silence. A character called Chappy, a hobo who used to do chemical research, also reveals in the series that Paradise Valley Chemical has been researching GC-161 since at least the 1970s, when Danielle Atron would have only been in her early 20s, a fact that surprises even Lars when he and Annie both come across this revelation.
  • The Dragon: Vince. Even after being fired he constantly tries to capture Alex as a way to convince Danielle to re-hire him.
  • Dream Intro: The final episode features an intro dream where Alex has to face everybody in town suddenly knowing about her powers. A weird follow-up is when she sits in the park with Ray during a subsequent scene and reveals that another common dream she has is one where "Vince dresses up as a male nurse".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In the first episode, Annie is often snarky and mean toward both Alex and Ray. She becomes more nice and pleasant as the series goes on.
    • In the season 1 episode "Alex and Mom" While Danielle Atron is supercilious and condescending and hassles Barbara, she comes off more as just a demanding boss than the evil mastermind she is as the series goes on.
  • Easily Forgiven: "The Feud" - Alex forgives Ray pretty easily and quickly for almost telling her secret to Vince and Dave. While Ray admits he was just pulling a con on them, he still put the both of them in danger.
  • Elemental Powers: Electricity and Water.
  • Enemy Without: In one episode, Alex is exposed to a new chemical while morphed and is split into two puddles, one of which reforms into an Evil Twin. She initially tries to kill the good Alex by trapping her in the basement of a building scheduled for demolition, and later by trapping her puddle form in some clogged plumbing and waiting for her to either suffocate or reform while still inside the pipes.
  • Enigmatic Institute: The Paradise Valley Chemical Plant has been conducting secret research into a new kind of chemical, GC-161 (intended to be some kind of wonder weight control pill), but when things threaten to expose their activities, they go to extraordinary lengths to track down any possible leaks, both to protect their product and because GC-161 contains illegal substances. Their most persistent loose end is the unknown kid who was drenched in the substance when the truck transporting it crashed. They spend the rest of the series trying to identify and secure this kid.
  • Extreme Doormat: Robyn Russo, a friend of Alex who has extremely low self-esteem.
  • 15 Minutes of Fame: Alex and Louis come across a kid trapped under a giant pipe. Louis tries to lift it and Alex uses her powers to make it seem like he does in order to save the kid. The kid turns out to be the governor's son, promptly putting the spotlight on Louis.
  • Fun with Flushing: Alex travels through plumbing pipes in puddle form.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Annie is really smart and also quite a Nice Girl, as well as a Cool Big Sis to Alex.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Doctor", a doctor tells a nurse that he is going to give Louis Driscoll a "testicular spike and a kidney twister". The doctor is trying to scare Louis because he thinks it's darkly amusing. What is a "testicular spike", and why was this said in a show for preteens? Who knows?
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Annie and Alex, though the rivalry itself takes a back seat to Annie's fascination with Alex's powers and Alex's reliance on Annie's smarts when she gets in trouble.
  • Government Conspiracy: Paradise Valley seems to revolve around Danielle Atron and the Paradise Valley Chemical Plant.
  • Harmless Liquefaction: One of Alex’s powers is the ability to melt into a silvery puddle of liquid.
  • Haunted House: In the Halloween episode ("The Secret"), and again in the book series ("Haunted House Hijinx").
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dave, when he finds out Danielle Atron wants to kill the child he contaminated with the GC-161.
  • Hero Antagonist: Dave qualifies without knowing it. While he actively helps Danielle and Vince, he honestly thought he'd be helping "the accident kid." When he realizes both of them are corrupt and have no intentions of helping the kid, he secretly plots against them for the rest of the series.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: During the first season (and some parts of the second season), Alex frequently complains about her powers and wishes she never had them. Despite the trouble they get her into and the people hunting her down because of them, she grows to enjoy her powers. The lead actress claims that Alex keeps them at the end of the series when given a chance to be normal.
  • Imagine Spot: Alex has a bunch, especially in the early seasons.
  • Inspector Javert: Vince is obsessed with finding the kid from the GC-161 accident, even after he's fired as head of security.
  • Jerkass:
  • Karma Houdini:
    • In "The Feud" Ray almost sells Alex out to the plant, just because he's miffed she didn't invite him to a concert. He's never properly called out on this. YMMV on this though, since Ray reveals that he had no intention of selling her out, and pulled a Batman Gambit on Vince instead.
    • Vince himself, who is easily as much of a villain as Danielle Atron, as it is unknown what happens to him after his last appearance in Season 4's "Leaving".
  • Lab Pet: The bunnies are named and are never killed or dissected, not surprising as it is a children's show.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When Hunter and Alex are discussing what a kid would do if he/she was doused with the chemical, Hunter says "you'd be stupid not to" tell your parents. It was never clear why Alex never told her parents about her powers.
    • In the finale Barbara says she and George must be the most oblivious parents in the world for not realizing Alex was the GC-161 kid and had powers. No kidding.
  • Lethal Joke Item: According to George Mack, GC-161 was intended for a mundane usage.note  Guess they need to go back to the drawing board with that one.
  • Locked in a Freezer: The plot of the book "Frozen Stiff", in which Alex is frozen while morphed inside a supermarket freezer. The freezer is also holding frozen lab specimens for the chemical plant, and Alex is mistaken for one when the lab workers come to pick them up.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Annie, who's regularly a supergenius, falls apart around her new cute lab partner.
  • Love Triangle: Alex with her initial crush Scott and his girlfriend Kelly. Later on in the series, Scott's true colors come out when he gets caught in a lie about some volunteer photography work Alex had done by claiming her teacher hated them when in actuality the teacher loved them.
    • Also a non-romantic platonic example occurs when Louis first moves to town and becomes such good friends with Ray that Alex begins to fear that her own friendship with Ray is in jeopardy.
  • Luminescent Blush: Alex, literally, as a side effect of the chemical.
  • Mind over Matter: Telekinesis is probably Alex's most used power.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Alex relies on her sister to steer her in the realm of her new super-powered life because she's only familiar with everyday mundane life.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Danielle nearly had her secret safe and sound and her escape ensured: She had the Plant rigged to blow, made certain that Alex, her parents, and Ray would perish in the blast, thus covering up any evidence of her misdeeds with GC-161, and had a helicopter ready to pick her up and evacuate her before the FDA arrived. Too bad for her, Alex is able to get everyone safely out via her powers before the bombs blow, and Hunter restrains her from reaching her escape helicopter, forcing it to retreat without her as the FDA arrive as The Cavalry thanks to Dave warning them in advance to arrest her for her crimes.
  • Never Bareheaded: You almost never see Alex without some sort of hat on her head. Lampshaded as sometimes others even mention her frequent hat usage. It was also made fun of in a promo for the show, which featured a song called "Alex Mack wears a hat."
  • New Transfer Student: Louis.
  • Novelization: The first and last episodes are given these in the book series.
  • Nightmare of Normality: In two different episodes, Alex dreams a world where she was never born, and she also dreams of a world where Ray is the "GC-161 kid" instead of her. In both dreams, the outcome isn't good.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Alex; she even says "I was just another average kid until an accident changed my life" in the opening credits. It's also worth noting that she wore a similar outfit to the one mentioned in the description of this trope on the day she was soaked with the chemicals that gave her superpowers.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Rather selective. The Mack parents often notice the problem of the episode that Alex and/or Annie is having, but don't notice Alex's powers or Annie studying her for four years.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: Frequently, usually when Alex gets exposed to foreign chemicals. Even getting the common cold messes with her powers.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Alex Mack and Danielle Atron. Also, in a couple fourth season episodes, Alex and school bully Jo. Jo didn't have any idea she was Mugging the Monster, not that Alex used her powers when dealing with Jo.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Alex and Ray, a rare example of a platonic friendship portrayed realistically. In one fourth-season episode, Ray gains a girlfriend, and Alex grows jealous because Ray spends more time with his girlfriend than with her now. Both Alex's parents call her out on this, saying that Alex is acting like a jilted ex and has never been romantically interested in Ray, so she should be happy for him instead. Alex and Ray's girlfriend eventually come to terms because the girlfriend admits that Ray cares about Alex more than anyone else. It definitely helped that she helped Alex out when Jo (mentioned above) tried to bully her again.
  • Power-Up Food: In one episode, Alex gains Super-Strength after eating her mother's new curry recipe.
  • Properly Paranoid: Louis doesn't take it seriously when Ray says not to discuss Alex's secret on a cell phone. That's how Danielle's spies learn the secret.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Alex has a prophetic dream in the finale of everyone learning about her powers, just before her secret actually gets out. Note that precognition has never been part of Alex's powers before.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: The local police place Danielle Atron in their car when they arrest her and drive away from the destroyed plant at the end of the series.
  • Required Secondary Powers: When Alex turns into an amorphous puddle, she also can turn things she touches (usually her clothes) amorphous as well, though this takes at least some effort—the first time she tries it, she ends up naked. Also, she can still see while amorphous, despite no longer having any visible eyes, and can speak, despite lack of a mouth.
  • Romantic False Lead: Three of them, in fact, though two were only one-shot characters.
  • Searching the Stalls: Alex once avoids detection this way: when her stall is opened for examination, she has liquefied and hid in the toilet bowl.
  • Secret-Keeper: Annie and Ray, and later Alex's boyfriend Hunter Reeves.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Unbeknownst to any of them until the finale, Dave, the driver responsible for the accident. Dave himself found out without much effort.
    Dave: [watching from a distance] Don't worry, Alex. Your secret is safe with me.
    • And it's Dave warning the FDA of Danielle's escape plan and erasing any trace of evidence linking her to GC-161 by blowing up the Plant that allows them to arrive in time to catch her before she could escape.
  • Serious Business: The student council election Ray takes part in. Big Time! His opponent even runs a series of unflattering negative ads against him.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: The first time Alex liquefies herself, she leaves her clothes behind, reappearing naked a few moments later behind some convenient boxes. After that, she figures out how to take her outfit with her.
  • Shorttank: Alex.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Louis.
  • Snapback: Due to episodes not being aired in production order, there is a moment that seems this way. In one episode, Ray provides the plant with false evidence as to the identity of the accident victim (in order to get the $250 reward), and accidentally convinces Vince that he himself is the kid. He nearly gets vivisected, but Alex helps him escape. In the next episode, in which all of the students in Alex's school get one-day jobs at the plant as part of a project, Ray is working with Atron herself and Vince doesn't seem to recognize him. Later episodes actually have Ray covering his face as he walks past Vince.
  • Split-Personality Merge: Alex ultimately defeats her evil twin by merging their puddle-forms together and recombining into a single and not-evil Alex Mack.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: In the third intro, there is a small glimpse of this happening to Alex as, in narration, she explains what the people at the chemical plant want to do with her.
  • Super Serum: GC-161.
  • Super-Strength: A temporary effect after eating curry.
  • Teen Genius: Annie, though with a lot less angst most of the time.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Alex and Danielle Atron give these to each other in the series finale when Alex calls Danielle out for being a greedy, selfish person, and Danielle points out that Alex would've been able to stop her a long time ago if she'd just told the truth.