This is Showcase / Netflix’s entry to the genre. Premiering soon on Netflix, now airing on Showcase in Canada.
I’M THE DOCTOR
Imagine what someone would make of your life based on nothing but your Facebook page. What would they have right? What would they miss?
Now imagine someone has to navigate your life – as you – with nothing to go on but your Facebook page.
And that’s life as a Traveler.
So you’re a Traveler. You come from a post-apocalyptic future – but hey, you’ve got a time machine! Great, you can go into the past and stop the apocalypse. But there’s a catch:
- The time machine only sends your mind into the past.
- It only works if you can jump into a person from the past who’s about to die (these people are called “hosts.”)
- The hope is that you’ll stop your host’s historically recorded time of death right before it happens. (I mean, happened. I think.) At which point, the host’s mind is gone and yours takes over.
If you haven’t seen Doctor Who: Now you know why “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” is the category title.*
BIGGER ON THE INSIDE
Travelers uses the ol’ “show, don’t tell” to explain its premise, which gets me on its good side right away.** In the first four scenes, the main characters jump into their hosts as there’s a ticking clock on the screen marked “Recorded Time Of Death.” One “jump” happens right before an attempted sexual assault, another interrupts a “domestic dispute” about to go very, very badly for the ex-wife. So sometimes, these jumps-in – with the victim being replaced with an experienced fighter – are very satisfying.
But the real drama here isn’t the whole “save the world” plot (in fact, the whole “save the world” plot is glacially paced). The fun is in watching the Travelers adjust to their hosts’ lives – especially since there’s been a few mistakes in the host selection process. For example, their tech genius is stuck in the body of a junkie.
These things happen when the future only has old social media posts and the odd obituary to go on. There are some things that might be a BIG part of someone’s life that don’t merit public social media postings – like an enthusiasm for heroin.
SMALLER ON THE OUTSIDE
Travelers will live or die by its actors. If you don’t like watching all their little character beats and moments, you’re gonna lose interest pretty quickly. And unless you’re a big fan of Vancouver-filmed sci-fi, you’re not gonna see many familiar faces. The most well-known actor here is Eric McCormack (Will & Grace).**
And I’m gonna admit – I had to go back and watch the opening sequence again just to see how the whole time-travel dealie worked. (I’ll also admit that I may have been a bit distracted with current events and bourbon when I watched the pilot the first time.)
This is character-driven lower-budget sci-fi in the best sense. It’s not aiming for big ratings in a comfy network timeslot, it’s aiming for a small audience of binge-watchers. And yes, binge-watching recommended on this one, it’ll help with the slow pacing.
*Really, seriously, if you’ve gotten two parts into some teeny website’s opinion articles about new time-travel shows and you haven’t watched Doctor Who… I’m wondering if you’re a unicorn or something.
**This is a good exercise for when you’re trying out a new show: is the pilot showing you who these people are and what their world is like… or do they have someone telling you? If you’re watching a pilot where one character starts explaining who all the other characters are, well… I hope you don’t like that TV show, ’cause it’s DOOMED. The producers stopped giving a shit before they even started filming.
***If you are a big fan of Vancouver-filmed sci-fi, you’re gonna be going “hey it’s that guy from that thing” every five minutes. And then you might go over to Eric McCormack’s Imdb page and realize he’s done a ton of things since Will & Grace that you’ve never seen or completely forgotten about.
Damn, Eric. You do good work, I think you need a better agent.