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Series / Tomes And Talismans

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"Atmospheric pollution and overpopulation were serious concerns on Earth by the end of the 21st century. Human movement was severely limited. The Wiper colonization of 2103 could not be stopped. This primitive species from the Dark Star solar system found Earth perfect for their favorite pastime: the disruption of all communication and data technology. The spread of Wipers and pollution increased the need for the scientific search for solutions. In 2117, the world-wide government voted for the gradual evacuation of all Earthlings to the White Crystal solar system. This report was completed in 2123 during our final days on Earth. We leave it for those who may return here in a storage vault for human learning...the last Earth library."

Quite possibly the finest post-apocalyptic educational series about library science ever produced by Mississippi Public Television.

In 2123 humanity is evacuating Earth for the White Crystal Solar System, due to pollution and an attack carried out by the nefarious Wiper race, a group of aliens that are determined to interfere with communication and data technology. The One World Order is preparing a complete library of all Human knowledge which is hidden underground. A desperate search for an important missing volume of recent history begins in the library in the outskirts of the city. The library team leader, Ms. Bookhart, is stranded in her bookmobile and is suddenly metabolically suspended for 100 years by a being known only as "The Universal Being".

She awakens in a world under the control of the Wipers having been discovered and awoken by four children—Aphos, Abakas, Varian, and Lidar—members of another group of pacifistic, tech-savvy extraterrestrials known as "The Users". The children, along with Ms. Bookhart, rediscover the hidden library, and in the course of the series she teaches them how to use it. When the Wipers lay siege to the User base with an entrapping shield and plan an attack, the kids and Ms. Bookhart (later assisted by Colonel Holon, the father of Aphos and Abakas) must decipher a cryptic message from the Universal Being to find a way to defeat the Wipers and save their people. Yes, the world is saved through mastery of library science.


Made in 1985 as a 13-episode serial drama, and (obviously) intended to teach children about various library and research concepts, Tomes & Talismans is now extremely dated and clearly had a rather limited budget, but it gets the job done and remains surprisingly entertaining and even intriguing throughout, less because of the educational segments and more because of the ongoing mystery that must be solved.


This series contains the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Averted—the sewers Abakas crawls through to get from the library to the base are appropriately small, cramped, and narrow—and, thanks to age, crumbling and dangerous.
  • An Aesop: Books must be preserved, and the past studied and learned, to keep it from being lost forever. All writing, whether fictional or factual, has value. Never allow yourself to forget what came before. Knowledge is power.
  • After the End: Of both the "environmental changes" and "after an Alien Invasion" type. Although thanks to being filmed on location, it really doesn't look much like a Polluted Wasteland. (The majority of the series takes place after a 100-year time jump during which the planet could have, and is implied to be, recovered, but it didn't look much different in the first episode when Ms. Bookhart went out in the bookmobile; she certainly wasn't wearing a gas mask like in the opening Montage.)
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Judging by the map the kids consult when they are helping Holon find his way to them as well as food and shelter, the library of humanity, the place the Wipers are trying so desperately to conquer, and the place where the Users chose to make a base the woods near a small town in eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Users have translator headbands as well as computers to aid them, so this is a no-brainer. Why the Wipers still speak it however is a mystery; scenes meant for the viewer are also likely a Translation Convention (the same explains the Big Bad using English when he taunts Tesla over the viewscreen), but it is not clear why or how Wipers would speak it to humans. Perhaps learning the language of the conquered race is another concession Wipers make to communication, so as to inform them of their actions/mock them. This could even explain why they all speak and act like dumb redneck stereotypes, a sign of their limitations as a communication-hating species as well as their contempt for humans.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Aphos is definitely one of these, and he often seems to view Abakas as an Annoying Younger Sibling—until she risks going through the sewers to get the missing book they need, then he is suitably worried about her and determined to go out after her.
  • Answer Cut: After Abakas discovers "the ruby's task" (to ward away evil/protect the User base from the Wipers), she wonders aloud where they could find a ruby. The next scene cuts to her grandmother Elder Tesla, reading the missing volume of History of Wipers on Earth, and after she comes across the account of the battle where the Wipers were frightened by the vision in the clouds of a man on a horse holding up some unknown talisman, she pulls from under her tunic the necklace which is their family's emblem...and it contains a ruby.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Just before going to implement their holographic plan to drive off the Wipers and save their people, the kids and Ms. Bookhart record a video re-enactment of how they found the library and did their research just in case they don't succeed and all get wiped out, so that others who may find and watch it will learn what they did. This is implied to be the very video the viewers are currently watching. Then the Universal Being shows up and gives them a book recounting all their doings for posterity—which is again presented as including all the events of the show being watched. Finally, the show itself begins with a Framing Device with a newscaster claiming the entire thing is a recorded history left in the library for those who may one day return to Earth.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The Users (particulary Aphos) scoff at earlier, more "primitive" technology, and Aphos seems to find it hard to believe that things like physical books, a card catalogue, fiction (as opposed to fact), or anything involving research will be of any use to them...yet none of them, including him, even blink an eye at the Universal Being's existence, nature, powers, or knowledge, or at Ms. Bookhart calling him a wizard. This may be because they know something about him and his people that we don't, but it still comes across as rather odd when contrasted with their uncertainty about Earth knowledge and research.
  • As You Know: A good portion of the first episode consists of Ms. Bookhart telling her two assistants how to look for the missing book she's trying to find, and then the two of them working out how to find it on their own. One would assume that she would have had already-trained librarians assigned to her as assistants, thus not needing this instruction, but even if she didn't, any reasonably educated adult would not need the rudiments of a card catalogue explained to them either; obviously this is for the benefit of the intended audience.
  • Backstory: Intriguingly, when the Wiper leader calls the User base to taunt them about the magnetic shield, both Elder Tesla and Reset recognize and call him by name, and he in turn knows Tesla's name. This implies that there have been enough encounters between Wipers and Users on Earth for the two sides to become familiar with each other's leaders; but exactly how and when this occurred, or the nature of these events, is never explained.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Aphos when he is acting out Romeo and Juliet (both parts, complete with falsetto). Also all the kids when they are re-enacting their research for the documentary film of their adventure.
  • Bad Boss: The Wiper leader is fond of calling his followers all sorts of nasty names denigrating their intellect (of course only of the kind you can get away with on a kids' show, and he may have a point about their capacity), constantly yells at and threatens them, and punishes them for failure by sending them to the magnetic chamber. If the other Wipers weren't so simple-minded and useless, they would surely have left long ago.
  • BBC Quarry: All of the filming, other than the interior sets, seems to take place in the same fields and forested ravines you might find behind any small-town school.
  • Big Damn Heroes: While the kids, Colonel Holon, and Ms. Bookhart coming to the rescue with the hologram to scare away the Wiper army and bring down the shield is the biggest and most overarching version of the trope in the show, there's also the very critical moment when Abakas makes it out of the sewers in time to save her father from the Wiper scouts—by reflecting their lasers back at them with the ruby talisman.
  • Big Eater: Lidar, the only pudgy kid in the group, is implied to be this when he states he'll oversee the gathering of rations and is told to "get enough for everyone, not just yourself".
  • Black-and-White Morality: There are a few hints that Wipers are not universally wicked and destructive invaders (the missing book from the first episode was being read by a man whose family was descended from Wipers who performed a Heel–Face Turn, and even went on to write books about their people which imparted lots of information to the Earthlings), but for the most part they are depicted as evil and the Users as good.
  • Call a Horse a Clomont: The Wiper term for horses is a plot point which the kids have to unravel to carry out their plan; long before they do, the viewer already knows about it thanks to scenes with the Wipers.
  • Can't Argue With Space Elves: To some degree the enlightened mystic form of this applies to the Users, particularly Tesla and Aphos at the beginning; Tesla turns out merely to be strict and no-nonsense, not actually rejecting of humans or their technology, and Aphos ends up learning the error of his ways by the end.
  • Captain Obvious: A lot of the expository dialogue is this, particularly when the User kids, once introduced to the library concepts, then have to explain them again to Colonel Holon and Elder Tesla, and Ms. Bookhart happily launches into them again as well.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Wipers. The rank-and-file members' favorite pastime is literally jumping up and down on top of whatever technology they find that isn't theirs, as well as mocking and deriding the Users and humans; their leader is a Bad Boss who wants to Take Over the World so it can be his and his alone to do whatever he wants with.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • One book from the History of Wipers on Earth just happens to be missing, leading to Ms. Bookhart driving off to find it so that her bookmobile breaks down and she is put to sleep. Justified by the fact the man who had borrowed the book was both the great-grandson of an author of books about Wipers and a descendant of Wipers himself, so he'd naturally be interested. That this same book later turns out to hold the key to victory, however, turns it into even more of a coincidence.
    • Holon happens to have the knowledge to disassemble and build lasers, which is needed to create the hologram—and after Abakas saves him from the Wiper scouts with the ruby talisman, one of them happens to drop their laser weapon, giving Holon what he'll need to work with.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Constantly from the Universal Being. Lampshaded in a snarky moment by Aphos: "Is that the extent of what he will tell us?"
  • Culture Clash: Some mileage is gotten out of Ms. Bookhart and the Users trying to understand each other and their cultures, especially the human one and its information system. As Tesla puts it, "it's as if you've discovered another language!" The funniest moment has to be when they're learning about Earth nutrition and consult a chart to see what foods will be most nourishing for Colonel Holon:
    Aphos: Maybe Father can find some wild hamburgers, they have the most calories! Do you think he will?
    Ms. Bookhart (wryly): I don't think you're ready for fast food yet.
  • Deadpan Snarker: At various times all the User kids and Ms. Bookhart are this, but the most common snarker is Abakas.
    Aphos: Don't forget Our City's Sewers.
    Abakas (rolling eyes in disgust): How could I?
  • Defrosting Ice King: Aphos hasn't fully thawed by the end, but he's a lot better than he was at the start.
  • Delayed Narrator Introduction: Inverted—the series doesn't have a narrator (other than the news reporter who gives the Opening Narration) until after he (the Universal Being) appears in-story to Ms. Bookhart, at which point his voice will be instantly recognizable in the subsequent episodes' Previously on….
  • Descriptively-Named Species: Both the Users and Wipers, of course, although in this case it is due to their behavior and activities rather than looks or home planet. Even the aliens themselves use the terms, although for the Users it is likely a Translation Convention courtesy of their headbands, while for the Wipers it is a narrative device for the sake of the audience (except for when not knowing the translation of a particular word is important to the plot). Whatever their names may be in their native languages is never revealed (even the Users' home system is still called Alpha Centauri, and the great and feared Wiper general is Scourge the First). See also Law of Alien Names, Meaningful Name, and Named After Their Planet.
  • Evil Luddite: The Wipers. They don't seem to hate technology for any particular reason or principle, they just abhor it (unless it can be used to rule, dominate, or kill).
  • Exposition: Everywhere, much of it painfully obvious. Although some is provided through news reports or direct quotations from the books the kids are reading, and is therefore justified and less clunky (although Sounding It Out still applies to the latter).
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: Played with. On the one hand, the series was made in 1985, but the series' opening intro speaks of pollution and the Wiper invasion in the 21st and early 22nd centuries without giving a specific year. When the Framing Device newscaster finally does give a date for the recording, it's 2123 (rather than, say, 2185). However, after the sleep spell the setting jumps to the 23rd century a nice round hundred years later. (See Title Drop for the in-world justification.)
  • Expo Speak: The scene where one of the library assistants reads off a newspaper article about the evacuation that she just put on microfiche seems included just to help establish more of the world, despite the fact the evacuation and the reason for it was already explained in the Opening Narration.
  • Fan of the Past: Abakas already seems like one at the start of the series, but this becomes even more pronounced as she learns about Earth's past from the library.
  • Fantastic Anthropologist: All of the Users seem to be these when it comes to studying Earth (witness the scene in the second episode where Aphos oversees the cataloguing and storage of various street signs), but Abakas is especially so.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Lunans for days; solans for minutes; star-rise for east; star-cycles for years. (Though the Users also use the metric system.)
  • Faux Death: Ms. Bookhart, courtesy of the Universal Being's spell.
    Abakas: She's metabolizing...but so slowly she's nearly ceased!
  • Figure It Out Yourself / In the End, You Are on Your Own: The Universal Being is fond of these tropes, giving the kids a cryptic message to help them find the book to wake Ms. Bookhart, then giving Holon an even more cryptic message linked to a series of books to help them defeat the Wipers...instead of, you know, just telling them outright what to do or helping them out directly in battle. Justified, however, since the whole point of his actions (and, in a meta sense, of the series itself) was to teach kids to read, research, and find answers so as to be able to learn and act on their own; stepping in to explain things or attack the Wipers for them would have completely undercut what he was trying to do.
  • Foreshadowing: When Ms. Bookhart is having her nostalgic trip through the library in the first episode and pauses at the dictionary, the word she points out is "cloud", the very thing she'll help project a hologram onto one hundred years later.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Although there is a little blurring between the personalities, in general the four kids fit this, with Abakas as sanguine, Aphos as choleric, Varian as melancholic, and Lidar as phlegmatic.
  • Funny Background Event: While Holon and Ms. Bookhart are discussing how to film the hologram, Aphos is investigating the projected transparency of the horse, presumably to determine its reality and how it is created. First he seems very confused when trying to touch it only lets him feel the wall, then he gets blinded by the projector light.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: For the Users anyway. They're called "quark pods", and it takes some coaxing to get the Users to try new, wild, "unprocessed" food. (When they do, though, they love it.)
  • Futuristic Superhighway: Averted; while we don't know what the rest of future Earth looks like, the area where the series takes place is near a small town and thus still has regular highways and roads, even railroad tracks.
  • Giving Books to the Users: And with as awed and amazed as they are by the card catalogue, the Dewey Decimal System, and all other aspects of the library, one has to wonder just what the Users' own information storage and retrieval system is like, and exactly how intelligent and technological they actually are.
    • In a surprisingly clever moment, the Users imply that their headbands act as an indexing system to their photographic memories, meaning that they very likely don't need to organize information in any straightforward way because their brains work along a Google-esque "search, don't sort" paradigm. If this is the case, it makes it even odder that they would be so impressed by the card catalogue and the Dewey Decimal System, other than perhaps for its novelty.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The library of humanity is intended to be one of these, but based on sets and budget it...rather falls flat.
  • Hologram: The centerpiece of the plan to defeat the Wipers, recreating a mythical/historical battle playing upon Wiper superstitions by creating an image of a mounted knight with a ruby talisman projected on a cloud.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Both the Wipers and Users are these.
  • Idiot Ball: Despite being relatively naive and clueless, the User kids only carry this once, but it's unfortunately a doozie—Aphos somehow drops his very large and easily noticed navigational computer without being aware of it, which both keeps them from being able to find out where they are or get back to the base, and lets the Wipers know they're in the area and keep hounding them for the rest of the series.
  • Informed Ability: Apparently the Wipers are deadly galactic conquerors, with one of their earliest leaders being the general Scourge the First, and despite being called primitive, off-screen they manage to obliterate communication arrays, win battles, and drive the people of Earth off-planet...yet other than the two battle leaders shown, we never see them do anything except scrounge through trash, destroy random bits of technology, cower from horses, and hide inside their bunkers (and in one brief scene, drag a poor newscaster off and take over the station)—basically, Too Dumb to Live mooks. It makes one wonder why the Users were even worried about them at all during the siege, aside from the lack of communication and supplies. Then again, the Users are pacifists and despite having transporter technology and computers the humans of the future don't seem to have weapons either, plus they are also dealing with the pollution crisis at the time. So the Wipers might not need more than a single weapon and shield array to conquer.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: Averted; one of Ms. Bookhart's assistants is black, as is the User second-in-command and one of the kids. Even the Wipers have some black members. And the Universal Being is also black. So is the leader of the evacuated Earth colony. This is especially significant since the series was made in the South, although as usual all of the above characters are either not actual leaders, are subservient to whites, or are only minor roles.
  • Large Ham: All the Wiper actors, but especially the leader who gives quite the performance when calling in to the User base to mock Tesla. He also gives a nice Evil Laugh in the opening Montage.
  • Last of His Kind: Ms. Bookhart thanks to the sleep spell. Until the end.
  • Law of Alien Names: Completely averted. Not only are the Users and Wipers themselves given descriptive names, even used by the aliens as Translation Convention, but both the Wipers' home system and the one Earth's people evacuate to are called, respectively, the Dark Star and White Crystal solar systems—clearly named by the humans who discovered them, and just as clearly not showing much scientific acumen or imagination. Some of this may be justified, however, by the aesop and meta purpose of the show: by translating everything into English and allowing humans and Users to instantly understand each other, as well as the past histories of both Users and Wipers, it allows the characters to focus on research and education, and makes it easier for them to learn what they need to in order to win instead of time being lost or bogged down in complex issues of language and communication. So, less about linguistic realism and more about the symbolism and morality of the series—by making it easier for the characters to understand each other and get along, the writers emphasize that underneath it all, we're really all the same. And to judge from the books written about Wipers thanks to members of the race who performed a Heel–Face Turn and interbred with humans, it's entirely possible that the cultures and languages are more compatible than would seem on the surface.
  • Leitmotif: Aside from the main theme, Ms. Bookhart, the children, the Wipers, and the Universal Being all have their own themes (which often spoil any surprise for what is coming in a given scene).
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: The scroll the Universal Being gives to Holon consists of nothing but these—a message broken into ten parts, each linked to a different book in the library they must find, read, and decode to figure out how to defeat the Wipers. As if that isn't enough, each book is from a different division in the Dewey Decimal System, so that in order to solve the riddle the kids have to explore the entire system, and just about every section of the library.
    Victory lies within the system that divides all that is into ten

    The Encyclopedia of the World looks up and over
    The Book of Talismans, Amulets, and Zodiacal Gems tells the ruby's task
    Bulfinch's Mythology recalls the memory's memory
    Our City's Sewers digs deep your routes
    The Ancient Wiper Language gives the ancient word
    Clouds of the World screens your cavalier
    Lasers entwine the sign it sends
    The Holography Handbook mirrors victory's history
    The Complete Works of William Shakespeare quotes the king's familiar price: your victory's requirement
    The History of Wipers on Earth carries you to the bookend

    To elide the buckler, these tomes offer succor.
  • Little Miss Badass: Varian tries to be one of these, but it's difficult when you're an Actual Pacifist.
  • Magical Negro: Literally, in the case of the "wizard" Universal Being. And true to form he does seem to exist solely to help the main (white) characters grow, learn, and win their battles. (One of the User children is black, but she has a minor role and never interacts with him other than one scene.) Justified, however, in that the point of the series is about learning to do research so as to find the answers yourself; such a theme doesn't allow for stepping in, being active, or saving the day himself, and with him being both The Mentor and The Watcher, plus coming from a race that are presumably Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and thus not an oppressed minority, such a role isn't possible and the stigma of the trope is mostly avoided.
  • Meaningful Name: The Wipers, who wipe out technology and civilization. The Users, who instead preserve and make use of it. Ms. Bookhart, a librarian who loves books. And the word of power to drive the Wipers away is "Athenaeum"—"library".
  • The Mentor: The Universal Being acts as this overall by providing the information and clues the characters need to win, but after doing so Ms. Bookhart also acts as one to the kids in helping them learn to use the library and decipher the clues.
  • Missing Mom: For Aphos and Abakas. Which is fortunate for their father and Ms. Bookhart, and fitting since the latter acts like a Team Mom to the four kids.
  • Mooks: The Wiper foot soldiers are a particularly pathetic example of this, since none of them seem capable of thinking, planning, or anything more complicated than dressing and feeding themselves (and for some, not even that much) without their leaders keeping them on task and telling them what to do—witness the scene where they think a Monopoly board game is a map of the area (although some of the conclusions they reach from it are surprisingly close to the truth), or where they try to read an actual map upside-down.
  • Motif: Horses. A horse farm was located in the region of both the User base and the library, and Holon sees horses in the vicinity; one even follows him a ways. The Wipers fear horses, because of a great defeat suffered in their distant past; said battle involved a mounted knight bearing the ruby talisman of Tesla and Holon's family (since he was their ancestor). The fact this allowed him to be confused for a centaur (aside from being a nod to the origin of the centaur myth) is retroactively used to justify the Users being from Alpha Centauri (a choice likely made out-of-universe because it's the closest star system to our sun and one of the best known).
  • Named After Their Planet: Averted for both the Wipers (who come from the Dark Star solar system) and the Users, who are from Alpha Centauri. Any names they may have for themselves are averted via Translation Convention, and the Users are not called "Centaurians" or anything similar. Likely chosen both for simplicity's sake and to underscore the Meaningful Name/Slobs Versus Snobs tropes.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The Universal Being introduces himself like this to both Ms. Bookhart and the kids. "...riding on a golden zephyr, weaving time and space...I am the question mark which lives in your dreams."
  • Naïve Newcomer: All of the User kids are this to some degree when it comes to libraries and Earth culture (or even to things such as books or the very concept of an invented story that isn't true facts), but this is especially true of Abakas.
  • Narrating the Obvious: Abakas gets a moment like this as an Inner Monologue when she goes outside the library to observe the sky and weather.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Even though the Users are Actual Pacifists and don't use weapons, the scene where the Wiper leader calls to taunt Tesla proves just how strong-willed, brave, and fierce a leader she is. All of her subordinates also seem to greatly respect and defer to her, regardless whether they agree with her decisions.
  • New Media Are Evil: Zigzagged. The show is all about studying the past and preserving it, as well as conducting research and learning new information, using the "outdated" techniques of physical books and a library card catalogue, while the Wipers' weaponry and shield technology are deplored; in the end the Users win only because of what they learn from the Earthlings' old technology and knowledge which some of them had previously looked down upon. At the same time computers are used constantly, including in the library, lasers are an important part of the plan used to defeat the Wipers, and great pains are taken to point out the library has an audiovisual room complete with VHS tapes, microfilm and microfiche, cassette tapes, and even video recording equipment.
  • No Backwards Compatibility in the Future: Played with.
    • On the one hand, the only old human technology shown is VHS tapes, microfilm, microfiche, and cassette tapes (which are all apparently accessed via the separate machines made for the purpose); books remain in physical format, but there is a computer system which accesses information (although it isn't shown whether this merely catalogues and organizes the books, or if any of the information has been digitized—presumably not, or the characters wouldn't have to go look at the actual books, and this may actually have been done in-universe to prevent the trope from coming true); and it is never shown what kind of software or disk technology is used for said computers.
    • On the other hand, Aphos speaks at one point of feeding all the information from the library into their data banks so the Users can access it, and Ms. Bookhart's only response is that doesn't seem possible when the Users' computers are at the base, which implies (and Aphos doesn't contradict her) that there are no portable User computers or data storage units that can handle how much is in the library. If this could be worked around, it's further implied there would be no issues in the Users accessing Earth's knowledge—unsurprising for a tech-savvy people like themselves, although it's not revealed just how the compatibility issues would be gotten around. Would they record all the information from the books and computers verbally through their headbands? Do they have a way to scan the books and computer banks? One would hope so, since as Ms. Bookhart herself says, books don't last forever.
  • Nonindicative Name: Upon first glance, the Users sounds like the name for a dangerous, invading race (one which uses up resources, or uses people as tools/slaves), but it turns out to actually mean people who make use of technology for its proper ends. The meaning is made clear when contrasted with the Wipers who simply reject and destroy technology.
  • No-Paper Future: For the Users anyway; Ms. Bookhart is determined to prevent this for humans via the library. The attitude Aphos has toward these "primitive" means of preserving and passing on information, his sister pointing out that books provide a permanent means of doing so that doesn't disappear, and Ms. Bookhart noting that books don't last forever all make the show rather eerily prophetic of the current dying out of physical books and bookstores in favor of computer and digital technology...and the attitudes of many modern technophiles vs. those of old-schoolers trying to make sure past methods (or records) aren't lost.
  • Oh, My Gods!: "Thank Alpha Centauri you're safe!"
  • Only One Name: While it may be understandable since she is the librarian in charge and the others are only her assistants, all the library assistants are known only by their first name, Ms. Bookhart only by her last name. In fact her first name is never given.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: They really tried but...User graphics are not up to par.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Aphos has something of this attitude toward libraries and other 'antiquated' forms of preserving and passing on knowledge; he and the other Users also disparage the superstitions of the Wipers. Interestingly, when they study the books on mythology and learn that myths, even when no longer believed in, are still useful and have value, they take this seriously, nor do they disparage religion in general. And by the end of the series, when they find out one of their old myths seemed to have a basis in fact, they admit that ignoring such things may be to their society's detriment.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Users. They don't have any weapons, merely "the power of the mind". And an old forgotten talisman that can protect them. Oddly, however, they apparently still have military ranks, judging by Colonel Holon.
  • Photographic Memory: Users have this when it comes to numbers.
  • Plot Device:
    • Volume 3 of the History of Wipers on Earth; it starts off seeming like just a MacGuffin, its mysterious absence being the reason for Ms. Bookhart to go out in the bookmobile and get trapped when it breaks down, but it turns out to have been found by the Users and taken to their base...and then when they find out the answer to the riddle is in its pages, they have to figure out a way past the Wipers' shield to retrieve it.
    • Also, the ruby talisman which the kids' grandmother just happens to have with her.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Of the bookmobile. Seems to just be a Contrived Coincidence, though it's entirely possible the Universal Being made it happen.
    Ms. Bookhart: Oh no, this can't be!
  • Previously on…: Every episode after the first recounts the events of the previous at the start as given in voiceover narration—by the Universal Being, of course.
  • Product Placement: The movie on clouds the kids watch is shown in the card catalogue to have been produced by Mississippi ETV, the same company which created the series. Also, in a cross with Creator Provincialism, when Ms. Bookhart is showing Aphos the different kinds of maps, the camera lingers inexplicably over Mississippi on the political one.
  • Race Against the Clock: The kids, Ms. Bookhart, and Colonel Holon must decipher the message, then use it to find a way to defeat the Wipers and bring down their shield, before the User base is starved into death or submission; additionally, near the end they must also reach the hologram site by another route before the Wiper army attacks the base.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: As are libraries and research.
  • Red Herring: When Ms. Bookhart goes to find the missing book, she discovers a Wiper in the home of the man who had it, tearing apart and burning books. First impressions would make the viewer think the missing book was one of them.
  • Rip Van Winkle / Slept Through the Apocalypse: The Universal Being puts Ms. Bookhart to sleep for a hundred years, apparently because he knew she would be needed to help save the day in the future. Comes complete with Sleeping Beauty imagery, when the User kids find her bookmobile overgrown with plants while she sleeps peacefully inside.
  • Science Fantasy: Aliens invading from other star systems, (pseudo) advanced technology and weaponry, computers, space travel...and Universal Beings who appear out of nowhere, put people to sleep, dispense cryptic riddles, and tell people to read out of a book as if it were a wizard's spell book to break said sleep spell...and it works. And from the fact that not only the technology-savvy Users but the future human librarian seems to accept his presence and abilities without trouble, such beings and their powers must be known and accepted in this setting.
  • Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords: The film camera Ms. Bookhart gives to Holon to film their hologram is called the "SuperRobomatic". And the gauge on the controls of the Wipers' magnetic field generator says it's manufactured by, of all things, the "Futurecraft" company.
  • Serious Business: You can't get much more serious than being told that victory and the survival of a species depends entirely on the Dewey Decimal System. A bit justified by the nature of the information they needed to win and how they could find it.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: To a degree, everyone except the Wipers seems to speak this way in the future, but this is especially true of the Universal Being whose diction and vocabulary are so complex and archaic that even the Spock Speaking Users have to use a dictionary to translate much of what he says. This is notable because they already have headbands that act as a Universal Translator, and yet they still can't understand his high-flown speech.
  • Shout-Out / Historical In-Joke: It seems quite clear that the mythological story of the Wipers' defeat in Alpha Centauri which the kids and Ms. Bookhart have to recreate is based on or inspired by the World War I story of the Angels of Mons. The fact they are making a fake holographic version to frighten the Wipers and rally the Users' morale seems like an interesting commentary on the veracity of the story itself, although in-universe no proof is ever provided one way or another about the truth of the original battle's events.
  • Ship Tease: Between Ms. Bookhart and Holon, of all people. Complete with hilariously awkward tender moments while she is teaching him how to use the video camera (which he somehow manages to point at her chest while stating it's "amazing"). At the end she only states there's a "beautiful friendship" between humans and Users, but...
  • The Siege: Courtesy of a magnetic shield that is intended to starve the Users, although near the end the Wipers also plan to actually attack the base.
  • Single Specimen Species: The mysterious mentor who appears to Ms. Bookhart and the kids calls himself a Universal Being, implying there are others like him, and he also uses the plural when identifying himself ("wizards of wonder are the keepers of knowledge"). But since no others are ever seen it's not clear if this is true, or if there is only ever one Universal Being at a time to oversee the Universe and its knowledge (or whatever he does); it may be significant that Abakas calls him the Universal Being.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: To an extreme and symbolic degree—the Wipers are slovenly, dirty, dumb and crude redneck stereotypes who hate technology (except for weapons), while the Users are immaculately well-dressed, technology-loving pacifists who are intelligent, well-spoken, extremely fastidious (note Aphos's reaction to the dust Ms. Bookhart blows off the book cover, Varian's reaction to Abakas getting dirty when she finds the bookmobile, and Holon's reaction to the thought of eating wild, non-processed food), and rather egotistical toward anyone or thing they consider primitive or beneath them.
  • Small Reference Pools: Averted—aside from the Historical In-Joke mentioned above, the book which starts off the whole series, wakes Ms. Bookhart, and provides the basic structure for the myth they use to defeat the Wipers is one by the children's author Edith Nesbit—very little known today and probably not very well known to kids at the time the series was made, either. This may have been intentional, to get kids interested in new books and authors they'd never heard of.
  • Space Clothes: Both future humans and Users dress this way.
  • Spock Speak: The Users all speak this way. Since they have headbands which act as a Universal Translator, one can assume this is either a Translation Convention to show the audience how intelligent the Users are, or that even in their native language they speak this way. Noticeably, when they are confronted by something new and amazing outside their experience, they are often either made speechless or are forced into haltingly using simpler language to describe it.
  • Spooky Silent Library: When the kids and Ms. Bookhart first come to it, thanks to an earthquake and a hundred years of cobwebs and dust.
  • Stop Having Fun Guy: Aphos, at least at first, especially toward his sister's enthusiasm about Earth's "primitive" ways.
  • Teleporter Accident: One of these somehow happens to the Wipers in the end when, frightened by the vision in the sky, they allow their magnetic shield to be left untended and it implodes, creating a dematerialization vortex.
  • Theme Naming: The Users, being technophiles, have many names which are scientific in nature: Tesla, Abakas (abacus), Varian(t), Chroma, Pixel... Interestingly, the family descended from Wipers who performed a Heel–Face Turn has the last name Byte, implying that interbreeding with humans has not only culled out any conquering and destructive tendencies in them, but given them education so that they have an appreciation of science, learning, and knowledge (aside from, obviously, the ability to read at all).
  • Time Capsule: The library vault is intended to be one of these for all of humanity's knowledge. Once she's put to sleep by the Universal Being, Ms. Bookhart and her bookmobile act as one as well.
  • Title Drop: "From this moment you shall begin/Passing the years ten times ten. Sleep now in this place, appointed since all thought began/There is a wise and wondrous plan of tomes and talismans."
  • Universal Translator: The Users' headbands, which also act as recording devices to play back conversations.
  • Video Phone: The Users have these.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: A number of things are repeated far more often than they should be, and in two cases (the second episode and the final one) a message from the Universal Being is replayed a scant few minutes after it was just heard. The last episode (amusingly enough called "Final Report") also includes an encapsulation of everything learned throughout the series, starting with the simplest information from the earliest episodes, although this effect would be lessened when it was first televised rather than seen back-to-back.
  • Walking the Earth: Happens to Colonel Holon for most of the series, after he escapes the communications array attack and has to hike to the library. Seeing him interact with horses, firewood, and wild watermelons is...amusing.
  • The Watcher: The Universal Being. While it isn't clear if Universal Being is his race, his title, or a magical role, he states he "weaves time and space" and is a "wizard of wonder" and "keeper of knowledge"; this suggests much more of a guidance and interference role than the trope usually implies, and he does act as The Mentor as well—although see his In the End, You Are on Your Own attitude, which could be as much due to Watcher-type rules as him wanting the kids to learn and apply their lessons on their own.
  • We Will Use Lasers in the Future: And it's even an important plot point—but used for holographic technology, not as a weapon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the first episode, Ms. Bookhart goes out in her bookmobile to find the missing volume of History of Wipers on Earth, in the home of a man who had borrowed it because his family was descended from Wipers (and specifically, the author of that very book); when she gets there, she finds a Wiper ransacking the house and tearing apart/burning books, and flees. In the next episode, the Users inexplicably have the missing book among the Earth artifacts they've recovered. While Ms. Bookhart learns this from Aphos, and the book is eventually recovered from the base by Abakas so they can use it to defeat the Wipers, it is never explained whether the Users found it at the man's house (Aphos only vaguely refers to "ruins" where it was found), or recovered it in some other fashion. Or for that matter how it survived after a hundred years, since it was not protected from the elements in the library and the Wipers certainly wouldn't have tried to preserve it.
  • What Year Is It?: Once Ms. Bookhart wakes up, naturally.
  • Wiki Walk: Referenced when, while reading the Edith Nesbit book, Abakas is inspired to go learn about ancient Egypt, and after doing so comments on how much amazing information there is on human society, and that she never would have looked into it if she hadn't been inspired to do so by the fiction book.
  • Wrong Name Outburst: Variation—at one point early in the research, Ms. Bookhart is so intent on the map she's studying that she accidentally calls Abakas by the name of her library assistant, Dundee. When she realizes what she did, she is naturally deeply saddened, since Dundee is now long dead.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Wiper leader's favorite pastime for getting rid of his incompetent followers is apparently executing them in a "magnetic chamber", a vague enough punishment that, when combined with his minions' obvious fear, it comes across as surprisingly disturbing for a kids' show.
  • Zeerust: The teleporter technology looks like something right out of Star Trek: The Original Series or Space: 1999. Meanwhile, the computers all have incredibly large screens and colored buttons (even after the 100-year time jump), the Users have processed rations, the future human society still uses physical books and a card catalogue, and let's not even get started on the Wipers' weapons.