Friday, 6 March 2015

Serial offender - "Spellbinder" (1995 CITV)

Yeah, changing tack slightly from the norm, heres a series that aired on CITV.

"Spellbinder" was a 1995 Sci-Fantasy serial (26 Episodes) made as a co-production between the Australian children's film foundation (many of whose shows were a staple of kids TV in the UK during the 90s) an Polish broadcaster Telewizja Polska.

The series doesn't really star anyone you've ever heard of, although the parts shot in the "Spellbinder World" (all scenes of which were shot in Poland) star some famous names associated with Polish TV and films, The Australian scenes though (our world)  don't contain anyone of any real note, unless you count actress Heather Mitchell, who had a small part in the film "Muriels Wedding".

The story involves Paul, a teenage boy with a penchant for amateur science falling through a portal into a parallel dimension, created when a prank involving a lodestone outcrop and some high voltage cable goes a bit wrong.
The world he ends up in is ruled by an elite known as the "Spellbinders", people who use their fantastic powers to rule over the people of their land by fear, especially through the use of their "flying ships" and their power suits, which allow them to hurl bolts of energy at will.
At first, Paul thinks he has somehow travelled back through time, however when he sees the Spelbinders powers he recognises them for what they are...scientists who misrepresent their crude understanding of science as magic.
His adventures bring him into conflict with the spellbinder Ashka and her sycophantic apprentice Gryvon, who want to use Pauls knowledge of science (which, even though he only has a basic understanding of it, is actually more advanced than theirs in many ways) to help them create crude gunpowder weapons so she can conquer the world etc.
Over the course of the series it becomes apparent that the Spellbinders are not as evil as Paul and his native friend Rianna thought they were, so Paul helps them to put a stop to Ashkas evil plans.
About half way through the series, Paul manages to return home, only to have Ashka follow him and then try to use the science of our world to build an improved version of the power suit (which can now fly and is not susceptible to being shorted out by getting wet) and to acquire weapons to use back in her own world.
As it turns out, the "Spellbinder world" was once much more advanced than our own, but at some point in the past, a terrible disaster (implied to be a massive nuclear accident) sent the world into darkness, thus the spellbinders that survived decided to withhold their knowledge from the other survivors, but over time their own knowledge is diminished, tot he point at which they are now no longer capable of manufacturing new machines. To hide this, a series of laws are enforced which forbid the common people from inventing anything new or pursuing knowledge.

The story is nothing new, but, I have yet to see anything else with a similar premise and definite steampunk leanings appear on TV.
One other thing I like about this series is that many of the science concepts used are actually real science, and explained as such in a way that is educational and entertaining, even the parts that are science fiction are based somewhat on theoretical science, mostly the application of magnetic fields.
Oddly, even though CITV began airing this show in the summer of 1995, they only showed the first 13 episodes, meaning the series never aired in full in the UK, thus the only means of seeing the series in its entirety is via bootleg methods.

A second series, named "Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord" followed in 1997. Although this second series is along the same lines as the first, the only returning characters were Ashka and Gryvon, and documented the discovery of a third alternate dimension, which resembles a high tech version of ancient china.

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