22 July 2017 | fung0
Consider the Source
I tuned in to Travelers with low expectations. Time travel has rarely made for compelling television. Often, it's just an excuse for moving to a new historical setting each week. (Even Doctor Who stopped doing pure time travel after the first few years and started emphasizing the "relative dimension in space.") Travelers sounded particularly dreary: people from the future taking over humans in the present. Oh, great, a time travel story that lets us glimpse the wonders of... the present.
And yet, Travelers defied all these expectations and turned out to be one of the freshest bits of SF on TV.
It's not a special-effects-heavy show. Instead, it focuses on squeezing every drop of juice out of the slightly off-kilter premise. For a start, "taking over" present-day human hosts kills them. So there's a massive built-in moral dilemma. And it's worked out with painstaking logic. Time travelers try to pick people who were about to die anyway - but this too presents problems. The time travelers need to remain undiscovered, which means seamlessly picking up the threads of their hosts' lives. Time travelers may have motivations of their own, which need to be dealt with in the present. It all meshes beautifully.
I won't give away much more, other than to say each episode expands and twists the basic premise in a new and clever way. The acting is uniformly solid, and the characters are likable in spite of their sometimes glaring faults. The mix of characters has the feel of a really great ensemble, a group you'd really like to follow for a while.
What I didn't realize at first was that Travelers was created by some of the key members of the former Stargate TV team. Of course, two of that show's best writers, Mallozzi and Mullie, are masterminding the entertaining space opera Dark Matter. Meanwhile, Travelers is being put together by former Stargate writer and producer Brad Wright, with directing work by Stargate alumni Martin Wood and Andy Mikita. While Dark Matter is more light-hearted, Travelers carries on the harder-edged side of the Stargate tradition, without losing that show's uncanny addictiveness and entertainment value.
Even if you're not a Stargate fan, you should definitely give Travelers a chance. It's a show that really knows what it's doing. It knows how to tell stories that are morally deep, intellectually clever and emotionally satisfying, all at the same time. We've seen some really good SF on TV lately, but Travelers is the one show that I'm most excited to see more of. A LOT more, hopefully.