We, the last unbroken remnants
Vow to undo the errors of our ascendants
To make the Earth whole
The lost unlost
At peril of our own birth.
It is this oath that sets the premise for my pick for this week’s Binge Worthy. ‘Travelers’ originally aired on Showcase in Canada for two seasons, with the first episode premiering in October 2016. The low rating the show faded the hope for a third season. But that was until Netflix decided to renew the series exclusively under the streaming service.
There are lots of time-travel movies and shows out there, and sometimes, these story lines can feel a little redundant. But I promise you – ‘Travelers’ is an exemption. It has a different, a real unique approach to how the characters time travel.
So now, you’re 21st traveler 094856 and I welcome you to this journey. I hope you complete your mission to save humanity.
Set hundreds of years in the future, technological advancements already enable human consciousness to be sent back to a different time and take residence in the bodies of adults at the moment of their natural, historic deaths. Volunteers from this unseen distant future train to become these metaphysical “travelers” and return to the “21st century” in tactical teams of five seemingly regular people to undertake covert missions that might course-correct, in small or large ways, humanity’s future.
I know some of you might see a plot hole here and wonder why the travelers go back to the 21st century instead of going further to fix more of humanity’s issues. Here’s a quick explanation: All time travelers can only go back as far as the age of computers, as wireless data transmission must be available in order to upload the traveler into their new host.
So, who’s running the programme? What is this new technology of time-travelling called?
T.E.L.L. (time, elevation, longitude, latitude) allows the traveler to take a host body that is soon-to-be dead. Throughout the show, we focus on the one main tactical team. But there are already thousands of travelers taking the task and journeying back to the 21st century.
Once their consciousness are sent back in time and transferred to the body of present-day individuals, the traveler takes complete control of the host permanently as the original brain has been completely overwritten and the original person’s consciousness no longer exists. The transfer requires the exact location of the target, and this is made possible by GPS and smartphones.
To ensure that the mission, which are all dictated by a Director, is not compromised and no one in the 21st century gets a hint that ‘future’ people are invading the present day, travelers follow strict protocols.
Protocol 1: The mission comes first.
Protocol 2: Never jeopardise your cover.
Protocol 3: Don’t take a life; don’t save a life, unless otherwise directed. Do not interfere.
Protocol 4: Do not reproduce.
Protocol 5: In the absence of direction, maintain your host’s life.
Protocol 6: Do not communicate with other known travelers outside of your team unless sanctioned by the Director.
How do travelers know what to say and do? Well, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all your favourite social media platforms serve as data basis and storage. Apparently, in the centuries to come, all our hashtags and pictures will paint a picture for a spy from the future to take over our lives. And as you might expect it, that’s as risky and frightening as it sounds. Fake profiles, secret problems and missing information all plague the travelers’ immediate arrival in the present-day, and gives the series a fascinating new subtext to explore.
The team has a wide variety of 21st century humans that we, viewers, will engage with. There’s a high school athlete Trevor Holden (Jared Abrahamson), who is the youngest body but the oldest from their time. There’s a library janitor and mentally disabled Marcy Warton (MacKenzie Porter), recreational drug user and group historian Philip Pearson (Reilly Dolman), stay-at-home mom Carly Shannon (Nesta Cooper), FBI special agent Grant MacLaren (Eric McCormack).
Sadly, the viewer is never shown the future they come from, but the actors use subtle cues to indicate just how foreign the present Earth is compared to what’s assumed to be the post-nuclear holocaust they come from.
When they are not on a mission, they are tasked to live as unremarkable a life as possible in the body of their hosts. Agents have to deal with bodies that are not in good shape or in the throes of heroin withdrawal like Philip Pearson.
While they have records, we soon find out that a person doesn’t always die the way history has it. This circumstances create undue challenges to living out the normal life the travelers are supposed to live.
Aside from Philip Pearson, one of the best example of historic research that has gone wrong is the body of Marcy Warton, the host body with a serious congenital brain defect. Marcy is severely mentally handicapped and can hardly read – an unlikely host of a traveler who is a surgical doctor with tactical weapons training in the ‘future’ time. Her automatic jump in intelligence and ability do not go unnoticed by her doctor and social worker. The changes in her created wreaks of all sorts of havoc with those close to her. But because her social worker is so involved in her life, he becomes a protagonist and ally, adding a new interesting dimension to the storyline.
If all of these are not complicated enough, the tactical team led by Grant MacLaren is not the only team sent back to save humanity. Several others have the same mission. This has its own set of challenges and complications as each action successfully completed by other teams changes the future. And once the future changes, the history that is known to the other teams becomes less and less relevant.
So now, what’s going to happen to MacLaren’s team and to the other travelers? What happens to the history, present and the future? Let the series’ two seasons give you the answers to the confusions probably forming in your head right now.
Traveler 094856, enjoy your host body this weekend and find out which team completes the mission. Revel in the metaphysical escape offered by Travelers on Netflix. And let’s all cross our fingers Season 3 will be released sooner.