Travelers: Netflix Joins the Time Travel Game (Review)

Promotional picture for Travelers

2016 is definitely the year of time travel. NBC’s Timeless is all about jumping from time to time, and trying to keep things from changing too much.  Netflix offered up Stranger Things, a series less about time travel than it was about parallel universes, “The upside down,” (shudder).

(Hulu actually beat Netflix to time travel as a theme when they produced the Stephen King time travel series 11.22.63.)

Netflix has joined the time travel brigade with Travelers. Show creator Brad Wright has given us a different sort of travel in this series. With a background very heavily involved with science fiction – Stargate and horror/thriller – Outer Limits, it is not surprising that Wright has his travelers taking over the nearly newly deceased. 

The premiere episode reveals that these visitors from the future inhabit people who are just about to die. They then take over the human host and carry on with their mission.

It all feels a little like Richard Laymon’s 1996 horror story Body Rides with a touch of Stephen King’s mode of travel (between worlds) in both King’s Dark Tower series and The Talisman, his collaborative effort with Peter Straub,  and their follow up tale Black House.

In the first episode, we are taken up to the actual point of death of a number of individuals who have no connection.  As they die, there is a discernable high pitched hum and the person dying screams while clutching their head.

They then become the time traveler.

There is, they say, a catastrophic event looming on the not so distant horizon.  We learn this when the affable  FBI Special Agent Grant Maclaren finds the group on the roof of a highrise. As he approaches the travelers, he is taken over by the final member of this time tripping group.

The entire first episode sets up each character as they become inhabited by the visitors from the future.  One has an abusive cop partner, the lawman actually kills her, allowing the traveler to enter.

Another is a mentally challenged young woman who spent her formative years in an institution that specialized in abuse. A drug addict and a bare knuckle fighter are also part of the group.

The FBI agent is the last to join.

Travelers also feels a tad like Twelve Monkeys, with its plot of saving the world from decimating its population. It is even slightly reminiscent of the 1992 David Twohy film Timescape, aka, Grand Tour: Disaster in Time. The latter film deals with visitors from the future who want a front row seat to catastrophic events.

Netflix slipped this series in rather quietly, perhaps they feared an unwarranted comparison to the NBC offering, and it aired its final episode on 23 December.  The most familiar face in the show is that of former Will and Grace star Eric McCormack, who plays Special Agent Maclaren. 

The main players are, for the most part, well journeyed performers with an impressive amount of credits. While not as familiar to American audiences, Travelers is a Canadian production, the acting is tight and enables the viewer to get caught up in the story quickly.

Wright’s tale of time travelers seeking to save the world is not as odd as The OA or as history and pop culture oriented as 11.22.63. It is, however, interesting. A slightly different take on time travel.

This is not about not altering the timeline, it could care less about the butterfly effect, Travelers want to change the past to save the future.  It is still streaming on Netflix. Go and check it out and see what you think.

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Author: Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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