Travelers is a Netflix original from Canada’s Showcase. It’s a sci-fi tale about consciousness travel from a distant future back to the 21st Century. The purpose – the mission – is to save the world and all the people in it from the horrible future.
The five travelers we get to know best are a team. When a traveler comes back to the 21st Century, their consciousness steps into the life of a host body. The transfer happens at the exact second the host would normally have died.
Eric McCormack plays FBI agent Grant MacLaren, the team leader. MacKenzie Porter is Marcy, the medical expert on the team. Before a traveler took over her body, Marcy was mentally deficient. Her limited brain capacity causes problems for the doctor trying to use her body. Nesta Cooper plays Carly. Carly is a young mom with an abusive cop (J. Alex Brinson) for a baby daddy. He doesn’t take well to the new assertive Carly.
Jared Abrahamson plays Trevor, a high school kid. He’s in trouble with his parents and with the school most of the time. The one person who cares about Trevor is Grace Day (Jennifer Spence), the guidance counselor. Reilly Dolman plays Phillip. He accidentally gets inserted into a host who is addicted to heroin. Inconvenient, that.
Normal characters who are important to the story include David (Patrick Gilmore), Marcy’s social worker. David and Marcy love each other. David is ethically bound by his status as her social worker not to act on his feelings. Leah Cairns plays Grant MacLaren’s wife Kat. MacLaren’s FBI partner is Walt (Arnold Pinnock). Various guest stars come and go, depending on the story of the moment.
As the episodes progress, you realize that more and more of the characters you meet are actually travelers. I soon wondered how many people from the 21st Century were genuinely what they seemed.
The science and technology to transfer a person’s consciousness into someone from a different time is never discussed. There’s an important anti-matter device that saves the world, but that isn’t explained either. Having a believable scientific base for the stories to sit on isn’t as important as character development in Travelers. I can’t help but compare that with Orphan Black, a series where the science is real and immediate and challenging to the present.
What do you do when you have an all-important mission to save lives, to save the world, and you must deal with lonely wives, abusive fathers, demanding teachers, a drug addiction, and falling in love with someone from the 21st Century? The way the team works together to solve their team mission and help each other with individual problems is the crux of Travelers. Violence became an option.At one point, the team thinks their mission is completed. Each of them is stunned by the need to decide what to do with their time in the host body if there is no mission. They don’t know how to deal with individual choice, with a future based on their own skills and interests.
For most of season 1, I was happy Travelers wasn’t violent. The travelers operate under a set of protocols, one of which is not to hurt anyone. But after the crisis they went through when they felt unmoored by lack of a mission, the protocols were often discarded. Violence became an option. In other words, the team became more like their 21st Century host bodies.
The Director, a mysterious entity who assigns missions and picks travelers, gave the team a new mission. The relief was immediate. The team was back in operation. Yet each changed by that glimpse into making their own decisions. Through the second half of the season, that new-found independence asserts itself.
The acting was excellent from this large cast. It needed to be excellent. The props, artifacts, and technological gizmos looked hokey and cheap. If the actors hadn’t done a good job with the material, this series might have been a disaster.
One scene bothered me. Back where they came from MacLaren and Carly were in a relationship. Here in the 21st Century, they still get between the sheets from time to time. One night MacLaren decides to have sex with his wife Kat. But we don’t see Kat all the time. Part of the time we see an androgynous character (sorry, no luck finding the actor in IMDB) who must be what the consciousness in Carly looks like. But we see MacLaren as he is here the entire time. We should have seen the androgynous character when MacLaren was with Carly, not with Kat. And why didn’t we see a real MacLaren?
Why mix up this visual stew in the first place, when it didn’t clarify? It merely befuddled. It reminded me of a scene in Lost Girl with Dyson, Lauren and Bo all more or less in bed at the same time. That one irritated me, too. This confusion about who one is actually screwing isn’t a Canadian thing, is it?
Travelers was interesting in spite of its flaws. Plot twists and surprises, character growth and a spectacular cliff hanger at the end of season 1 kept the pace moving.
Season 1 has 12 episodes, 3 directed by women: Helen Shaver and Amanda Tapping. Brad Wright created the series and wrote on every episode. There were 5 women writers on the 11 person writing staff.