Travelers looks like it’s going to be a great show, full of intrigue, tension, and strong characters. In some ways, that it’s so great, is ironic.
It’s ironic because the show (on Netflix in the US and Showcase in Canada) has a bright future, which is a stark contrast to the future of its characters.
If Travelers is unfamiliar to you, the premise is simple: the future of our world is bleak. Hundreds of years from now the last surviving humans have developed the ability to project their consciousness back through time, allowing them to assume the lives of seemingly random people.
Armed with only a knowledge of history, and an archive of social media profiles, these “Travelers” conduct operations to change our present and prevent their future.
It was actually social media that inspired creator Brad Wright (of Stargate fame) to develop the show. “Everything we put out there is a permanent record of who we are, but it’s not who we actually are, it’s who we want people to see,” said Wright at Fan Expo, in Toronto.
The show begins slowly, methodically introducing each Traveler’s host, one at a time.
It doesn’t even get to the revelation that the minds now inhabiting these hosts are from the future until the very end of the episode.
Travelers does not spoon feed the audience the plot, instead letting its story move deliberately toward this revelation.
It’s a risk; they jeopardize their audience’s attention if they don’t provide enough information. It’s counter to the way most network shows operate, giving the viewer more than enough answers; even to questions they may not have thought to ask yet.
But make no mistake: Travelers is not a network show. It’s very much tailored to a modern audience who, more often than not, consume their television in binges. So you can expect more questions than answers; at least at first.
“We’re holding back huge chunks of information,” said Wright. “And we’re including bits of information that won’t pay off ’til much, much later. In fact we introduce some information that doesn’t get addressed until 1-12 (the twelfth episode of the first season, also the season finale).”
Wright credits Netflix and Showcase for allowing him the freedom to work in this way, and if the entire season fulfills the promise of the pilot episode, their faith in his vision will be rewarded with strong viewership and a great program.
Travelers sheds the time travel trope by keeping the characters in the one place time travel shows never go: right now. “Unlike other time travel shows, we don’t go anywhere,” said Eric McCormack, star of Travelers, famous for his groundbreaking portrayal of Will in Will and Grace. “We have come here, it takes place now. We are the invaders and we are here to stay.”
It remains to be seen how the show will reconcile the Travelers’ future knowledge and mission assignments with the present day in Episode 2 and beyond (This writer has only seen Episode 1) but that will be a big component of whether or not the show will succeed: how do the writers install a real risk of failure into a group that knows exactly how the events of the present unfold.
If the creative team can do that effectively Travelers should do well.
When asked what he hoped the audience would take from the first episode of the show the affable McCormack joked, “an intense desire to see the second episode of the show.”
Travelers premieres October 17th on Showcase in Canada and Netflix in the United States.