If you were what my favorite time travel stories pre-2016< I would tell the following: Back to the Future because it is a perennial classic, the White Tulip episode of Fox’s Fringe, and Syfy’s short-lived Continuum (produced by Canada’s Showcase). All three of the stories hinged on this idea of trying to right a wrong in the past and subsequently discovering their are consequences for changing history, some minor and some major, all of them critical. Yet at the each of the story’s heart, the reason to watch was the beloved cast of characters.
As such post-2016, I can say with the utmost confidence that Netflix’s Travelers is currently my favorite time travel story I’ve seen on the streaming screen thus far and the first three episodes of its third season continues to cement its standing. If you need to be convinced, I recommend Season 2’s 17 Minutes which works as a standalone episode that captures the aesthetic, tone, and brilliance of the series without spoiling too much.
Created by Brad Wright, of Stargate‘s universes fame, Travelers follows a team of five operatives sent back to the twenty-first century in order to complete covert missions to surgically correct the horrible future centuries ahead. Caveat 1: they can only send their consciousness back. Caveat 2: the Director, head of the Travelers, can only send their consciousness into bodies of people who were surprised to die based off the public record’s time of death and GPS location. And finally, Caveat 3: Travelers have to assume the lives of their host and pretend nothing has changed.
Travelers span the globe, working in teams of five usually comprising of a leader, tactical specialist, engineer, medic, and historian. The series proper focuses on one such team. Eric McCormack, MacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Jared Abrahamson, and Reilly Dolman are the principle cast and their portrayal of their character is the true draw of an incredibly well-conceived sci-fi universe.
Each character, as the audience knows them, comes from a bleak future where food is scarce, environmental disaster have scarred the landscape, and society hinges on changing the past because everything is too far gone. Each character, as the world knows them, comes from drastically different walks of life: FBI special agent, single mom, high school athlete, heroin addict, ward of the state. There are an oddball team forced to live dual lives all in the name of the Protocols. Travelers is just as much a story about memory, perception, and experiences as it is about trying to save the world from itself.
Whereas season 1 focused on the general premise of the world and season 2 focused on flushing out the complex mythology of the world, the first three episodes of season are seemingly trying to find a middle ground between the two extremes. The core travelers are still dealing with the aftermath of the big bad of last season (who is still at large no less) and have to constantly worry about their personal connections rediscovering their alternate lives. The Director continues to thread the needle and alter the path slightly, but without any feedback loop it’s hard to know if the mission is working. Season 3 watches the team as their faith falters and they continue to persist in the name of a greater good, in hopes of a faint glimmer of a better tomorrow.
If you have time this holiday season, I recommend finding some time to binge Travelers. It is a brilliantly conceived show with a strong heart found that manages to succeed in both a macroscopic examination of the world juxtaposed against microscopic examination of its character. And if you’re a Destiny fan like myself, you may even spot an easter egg or two. It’s a show that captures your attention as you slowly deep drive into the vastness of the narrative it is attempting to weave.
Season 3 of Travelers premieres December 14, 2018, exclusively on Netflix.
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