Third-episode verdict: Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In Canada: Mondays, 9pm ET, Showcase
In the UK: Acquired by Netflix

So I have to admit to really rather enjoying Travelers, Canada’s latest piece of world-beating science-fiction in which a group of time travelers from the future project their souls back into the bodies of people dying in the present day, so that they can prevent a terrible disaster from happening. They possess the skills, they know what they’ve got to do – what they don’t know is what their ‘hosts’ lives were like before they died.

The first episode was a nice, edgy but still humorous piece of work that introduced us to the team’s old hosts, before introducing in less detail the team themselves. Episode two then gave us more of an introduction to the team members and the types of missions they’d go on.

I thought that would be the pattern laid down for the rest of the series, but what became clearer in the third episode is that the show may essentially bea spy show with a bunch of sleeper agents waking up from their normal lives to undertake secret missions, but it’s also as much about relationships and character as anything else. As well as continuing to focus on the different lives of the hosts to demonstrate how much detail there is that can get overlooked and what patterns of behaviour are expected of us, it also looked at the psychological impact of knowing how the future will turn out and who will live, who will die, how and when. Could you stand back and let others perish, knowing all you had to do was say “Don’t go left there for another minute” and they could live?

What saves the show from being a gloomy, self-important piece of sci-fi is a combination of the performances and the characters. Eric McCormack of Will and Grace is cast against type as an FBI agent, and his character manages to give the show a much needed sense of humour. MacKenzie Porter’s closed performance makes her formerly learning disabled host come smart doctor a source of intrigue, while Reilly Dolman’s douchebag school quarterback turned kind engineer gives the show heart and gentility. 

But there are jokes, too. No show that can use pre-pubescent children as temporal radio transmitters can take itself too seriously.

Travelers is a thoughtful, but often action-packed piece of science-fiction with feeling that isn’t that bothered with saving the future – there are dozens of other ‘travelers’ around the world so maybe they’ll do it. Instead, it’s more concerned with people. It could do with fixing a few plotholes and making its crack team of spies just a little bit better at blending in, but its focus on the little things in life is welcome in a genre so focused on the intellectual and the abstract.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE’s prediction: Should run for a good few seasons



  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.