There have been several TV shows involving time travel in the last few years. Travelers (streaming on Netflix and airing on Canada’s Showcase) manages to put its own spin on things while dealing with the plot issues inherent to this type of show. I thought it was mostly successful though flawed.
Seriously, if you haven’t watched the whole season don’t read further since there are significant events in the last couple of episodes.
The show follows a team as they carry out missions in the present to change the post-apocalyptic future they came from. The first twist in Travelers is that it’s not people traveling through time, it’s their consciousness being sent to take over human bodies in the present. The idea has been used in other works with the invading minds being the antagonists. This time they are the protagonists, which raises an ethical issue right away since the Traveler overwrites the original person when it takes over a host body. This is rationalized by taking over bodies just before they are supposed to die (and preventing the death) so in that sense the Travelers are not stealing someone’s life.
Time travel shows usually have to deal with the consequences of messing with the timeline. While I’m still firmly in the “don’t kill Hitler” side of things, I’ll admit the Travelers had a good reason to try to change things. But of course things don’t go smoothly and there are unintended consequences. The Travelers succeeded in diverting Helios 685 but if anything, things are worse in the future now. Instead of humans united under the Director (who we learn in the finale isn’t a person but an AI) there is at least one faction opposed to the Director’s plan.
The episode where the asteroid is diverted shows the Director breaking its own rules. The mission is considered important enough that the Director sends back Travelers into Major Gleason’s team and finally the Major himself (effectively killing all of them). And this is after several Travelers were killed because they were following Protocol 3 (don’t take a life; don’t save a life) by not killing Gleason and his men.
Perhaps the most uneven part of the show to me is how the Travelers live their host bodies’ lives. I get that because of the constraints of the time travel procedure (a healthy host whose death can be prevented at the last minute and whose time & place of death are known) limits the pool of hosts but I still have issues.
Carly is particularly annoying. On the one hand she hooks up with her future lover MacLaren (violating Protocol 2 and causing problems for both of them) while on the other hand she has become overly attached to a baby that several team members point out isn’t even hers. Carly could focus more time on her Traveler duties if she gave up sole custody of the baby (I’m not a parent so I may be a bit cold and harsh about this). Trevor is seriously failing doing a Peter Parker balancing act being a high school student and a Traveler.
Meanwhile Marcy and Philip are dealing with issues arising from faulty knowledge in the future where in theory both hosts were well suited. Philip has to deal with his host’s unexpected heroin addiction. While his host’s lack of connection is an asset for his Traveler duties his isolation takes a toll in other ways (all work and no play makes Philip go off-mission). Marcy has the most tragic story in a brain damaged body that can’t handle the new mind and is dying as a result. Her brain issue gets fixed but at a price. Marcy has been rebooted without the memories of her previous time in the present. Without those memories she is acting very differently and I want to see where the show goes with that.
Team members have on multiple occasions violated the Protocols they’re all sworn to follow with mixed results. The one with the most positive outcome was. MacLaren’s unauthorized contact with a fellow Traveler team leader in the body of a local cop. That Traveler helped with Marcy and later chose not to kill MacLaren when ordered to (I’m pretty sure she was wearing a vest when MacLaren shot her in the chest but we’ll have to wait until next season to find out for certain).
- How many Travelers are there? MacLaren is Traveler 3468. We know there were a lot of misfires early on but that still potentially leaves a lot of Travelers running around.
- What happened to Delaney (the antimatter scientist)? She knows about Travelers. No one mentioned Delaney getting her memory suppressed so I’m not assuming it happened.
- I was poking around and found a list of the Protocols on the Showcase site. I don’t think Protocol 4 - do not reproduce - has been mentioned yet. Who on MacLaren’s team do you think will violate this one?
There’s no word yet if there will be a second season but with everything that happened in the finale I really want to see more. I know I haven’t covered everything so feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts?