Netflix launched a new series today called TRAVELERS. Set in the present day, it involves a group of people from the future who travel (of course) back in time to inhabit the recently deceased’s bodies. They say they have come back to save humanity, and since they are the protagonists and aren’t just killing people, it makes sense to believe them. But they are very mysterious about their mission, so it’s hard to know exactly what is true in this world.
The central cast is made up of six players. Three of them aren’t great. Carly (Nesta Cooper, Heroes Reborn) is a mother whose baby daddy is an abusive drunk. Trevor (Jared Abrahamson, Awkward.) is a high school student who prefers fighting to school work. Philip (Reilly Dolman, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”) is a drug addict living in a crack house. None of these characters prove all that interesting, and none of the performances are very memorable. The future people chose poorly with these three, any of whom could be taken out at any time and it wouldn’t hurt the show.
However, the first woman we see, Marcy (MacKenzie Porter, Hell on Wheels), is far more interesting. Mentally disabled, Marcy is ‘cured’ over night when her body is taken, which not only shows us some of the rules of TRAVELERS, but also the limits of the heroes. While Marcy is not someone who makes a huge impact on the world prior to this event, her caring social worker, David (Patrick Gilmore, SGU Stargate Universe), helps flesh her out, and she is given an interesting plot line. Whenever the focus shifted to the others, I kept wishing for Marcy to return.
Finishing off the sextet is the investigator who starts looking into the strange things surrounding these people, Grant MacLaren (Eric McCormack, Will & Grace, Perception). I admit, I thought I had Grant figured out just a couple of minutes into TRAVELERS, and I found the character relatively boring. However, a twist late in the premiere ratchets up his importance and role, which immediately improves both the show and his part in it.
Screeners were not made available for this one, so I’ve only seen the pilot, but the impression that I get is that it will be pretty standard, mid-level sci-fi fare. There is a larger story that seems interesting, but it also looks like a lot of the twelve episodes will probably be mainly self-contained stories, at least going by Wikipedia synopsis. The mystery feels forced, and the way the characters present it, I’m not even sure the writers knew where it was going at the start. For instance, Marcy says she can’t explain what she’s doing to David, but then seems to understand exactly what she’s doing later, which makes her seem less trustworthy than the rest of the episode paints her to be. This unevenness weakens the overall production.
There is hope, though. This is a joint production with a Canadian studio, and it seems to be somewhat in the vein of fellow Northern series Continuum. Continuum was never the best show on the air, but it was intriguing science fiction, better than a lot of shows, even if it wasn’t must-see. If TRAVELERS only reaches the level of Continuum, I’d be pretty satisfied, as I enjoyed that one quite a bit.
The problem it faces is that we are nearing peak television, with more than four hundred scripted series premiering in the United States this year. Being middle of the pack used to be good enough, but it’s not any more. TRAVELERS will likely have some very adoring fans, the people that this hits the sweet spot for, but it lacks the type of appeal that would pull it out of the typical genre fare, so it’s not likely to get beyond that, or make any lasting impression. Which could likely lead to a short run.
TRAVELERS’ entire first season is available now on Netflix.