Series / Travelers

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Troper, welcome to the XXIst century

Travelers is a Sci-Fi television series co-produced by Netflix and Showcase Television. It focuses on a team of five time travellers from the future, coming back to change history and avert the apocalyptic timeline in which they live. Through Mental Time Travel, the Travelers jump back and possess people who died in the original timeline, right before the historically recorded time of death; they take over the person's body and identity from that point forward.

The focal Traveler team consists of:

Things appear straight foward enough at first. With their planned mission being executed just fine (if improvising a little on the way) but as the plot thickens and knowledge of the future grows, so does the difficulty in changing it, as well as telling if the changes are for the better.

The show is notable for being created by Brad Wright and starring a not-quite Production Posse of several people who worked on Stargate SG-1 and its many spinoffs (the final episode being directed by none other than Amanda Tapping) sharing some of the writers, directors and producers. It is also surprisingly original in its execution of the sci-fi tropes, taking several already seen concepts (many of them already shown in Stargate-verse) and giving them unique new twists, or analyzing them from new perspectives.

A second season was greenlit in early February 2017 and began filming in March.


This show provides examples ofnote :

  • Action Girl: Just about every female Traveler, but Carly in particular.
  • Adorkable: David can't get through a phone call without rambling off topic.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Its not entirely clear how the dice fell but the Director in charge of the Travelers is an advanced AI.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Travelers have a (somewhat confusing) list of protocols meant to limit the unintentional changes they cause to the timeline.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Original Marcy's disability is described as a "congenital underdevelopment of her brain" which, despite being a meaningful diagnosis, could refer to any of dozens of disorders. Even after this, the Traveler who takes over possibly has something as well, since she's very surprised at David's reaction upon finding her performing minor surgery on herself, acting like this is perfectly normal.
  • Antimatter: The Van Huizen Corp. has produced a lot of it. The Travelers steal it to avoid a disaster and then use it as a power source for an explosively pumped X-ray laser.
  • Apocalypse How: Most of the human population was wiped out. Known factors include:
    • An arms race to develop antimatter weapons.
    • The impact of Helios-685.
  • Arcology: Shelter 41 seems to be this in the future.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Despite being set Next Sunday A.D., the Van Huizen Corp. has managed to make 10.3 grams of antimatter — which is literally billions of times the amount that could be produced by all the particle accelerators in the world even with years of work.
    • Surprisingly the explosion of 10.3 grams of antimatter — enough to make an explosion more than ten times the size of the one that leveled Hiroshima — only caused 11,000 deaths in the original timeline. In the revised version most of the energy is somehow absorbed by the Engineer's X-ray laser, limiting the damage.
  • Asshole Victim: After spending the entire first season causing problems for Carly and indirectly the rest of the team, domestic abuser Jeff apparently gets his comeuppance through his one decent act, shooting a Traveler who was trying to kill Carly only to have her abandon him to what looks like he just killed an innocent teenager.
    • However, it is uncertain whether he will actually be punished. It seems unlikely once they find out she murdered her family with pencils.
  • Bad Future: Humanity is headed for extinction and is completely dependent on The Director for survival.
    • It gets worse (maybe) after they change history. Shelter 41 was not destroyed so humanity has at least over 10,000 surviving members more. The catch is that those survivors are now actively working against The Director in a brutal civil war to depose him as head of the mission.
  • Bathos: In the middle of an antimatter recovery operation, Trevor bemoans Original Trevor's mother finding out that he missed a science test.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Trevor recognizes a name on the list of potential hosts and tries to prevent her death, even knowing that he's way out of line. Grace gets taken over later anyway.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: The Travelers see themselves as this.
  • Big Good: The Director. For a given value of "good," at least.
  • Blatant Lies: The Travelers use information from online databases to choose their hosts. However, some of those records end up being false. Marcy's mental disability is missed because Marcy's online profile is entirely made up as a wish-fulfillment exercise thought up by David. Philip's addiction is missed because his family arranged for the official records to state that he died using drugs for the first time rather than that he was a long-time junkie.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Subverted. The travelers seem to have this at first. However, as the plot progresses, they show themselves to be perfectly moral and reasonable people. The actions they take and rules they follow are simply made to ensure a change in the timeline that will save mankind (literally).
  • Brain Uploading: The method for sending Travelers back involves this to some degree. Trevor mentions being temporarily disembodied during an early experiment.
    • Another use for it is found as a way to reformat Marcy's brain with a modified version of her mind that won't cause conflicts.
  • Cool Old Guy: Trevor (see Really 700 Years Old below). In "Room 101", while the younger members of the team are showing varying degrees of distress and terror, Trevor plays The Gadfly, trolling his way through his interrogation, and doggedly repeating his cover story even though he clearly knows that his interrogator is aware it's false.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Protocol Two ("leave the future in the past") outright forbids Travelers from discussing the future, even among themselves. Because of this, most of what we find out about it is in the form of this trope.
  • Death of Personality: This is inflicted on everyone Travelers take over, though usually the host was going to die soon anyway.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: One man kills a number of cam girls when he bombs their building for revenge when they stop him contacting one he'd been obsessed with, claiming it's God's will. Pinnock later gets disgusted when the state cuts a deal to get him life with a chance of parole, rather than life without parole or death, thinking it's because they don't think such victims matter. It's actually because he's become a Traveler.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Zigzagged, and averted. David has this trope written all over him for Marcy. Although the situation is more complicated than "she's just not into him", between the brain damage, him being her state-appointed guardian, and her (apparently) erratic behaviour. In the end though, she actually considers dying a better alternative than living without memories of their time together.
  • Dying Race: Humanity has become this in the future, so much so that Traveler numbers are limited to four digits.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: None of the first four members of the team are met by earlier Travelers.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Subtle, but after making a particularly tough and risky choice (and going in blind, since they didn't really know what the mission objective was), MacLaren thanks the team for supporting him against all odds.
  • Functional Addict: Philip is one although only just barely. Since the team needs constant access to the information he has there is no time for him to try to get clean. The historical record missed this detail.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: On his first day, MacLaren is nonplussed to find that the coffee his wife serves him is laced with "cow's milk". He dumps that cup out, but he, and the others, presumably adjust, since they manage to keep up the Masquerade. Later, via a hallucination Philip is having, we get a look at what people eat in the future — a sort of grey porridge that looks deeply unappetising.
  • Future Imperfect: Only so much information about the past has survived into the future. Most of what they know was apparently mined from social media sites. Lack of detailed records also mean that they can't send people back to before the 21st century because they don't know exactly where they were.
  • Grand Theft Me: The Travelers use Mental Time Travel to get from their original bodies into the bodies of people who would have died in the history that the Travelers are coming back to change, at the point of death. The original mind dies screaming in agony. It's stated in "Aleksander" that prepubescent minds are the only ones malleable enough to survive Traveler possession without permanent damage and so they are sometimes briefly taken over to send messages.
    • It turns out that doing this at the moment of death is only a convention. In fact they execute a rogue Traveler by having his mind overwritten and later they overtake Grace Day by finding a GPS record of the call she made to 911 after her original time of death, and very far away from her original location.
  • Gaia's Lament: Subverted. While it is implied that earth in the future is a very unpleasant and harsh world to live in, environmental destruction was a consequence of several events only a few of which are the humans responsible, and not really the cause of the Bad Future. It is heavily implied, however, that earth is borderline inhabitable with no wildlife, and no drinkable natural water at all.
  • Heroic Blue Screen of Death: After successfully completing their final mission, and not disappearing due to a temporal paradox, they come to realize that they must live their host's lives indefinitely. They don't take it too well. It doesn't help that their hallucinating badly due to an antitoxin's side effects.
  • Heroic Suicide: Gleason attempts what seems like one from his perspective, trying to shoot himself so he is not taken over and forced to set a bomb off. It's actually powering a device which will save the world from disaster, but he doesn't know that. He's out of bullets though, so this fails.
  • Hitler's Time-Travel Exemption Act: The Director needs large amounts of detailed information in order to ensure only the changes they want will come to pass, a requirement not fulfilled until the 21st century.
  • Honor Before Reason: Philip.
    • In "Aleksander", he deceives the team into thinking that rescuing Aleksander, an abducted child, is a mission from the director, because he feels they have a moral responsibility to prevent avoidable, pointless deaths, in direct violation of the Protocol 3 temporal non-interference directive. Possibly subverted, in that a remark from Marcy implies Philip's judgement is impaired by Original Philip's heroin addiction.
    • For some reason the Traveler soldiers sent to protect the Engineer's laser obey Protocol Three even though lethal force couldn't possibly affect the timeline given that an antimatter explosion is about to vaporize the entire building.
  • Hypocrite: It comes with the territory given that these are moral people being forced to do immoral/amoral things in pursuit of a far greater good. The true hypocrisy may vary wildly depending on a lot of unknown factors but some particular points do get explicitly pointed out:
    • Trevor attempts to save the school counselor, both from her untimely death AND from being taken as host, due to her being one of the most kind and genuinely caring individuals in the series. She gets possessed anyway, and the Traveler chews him out on his interference and most importantly on the fact that Original!Trevor didn't deserve to die either, but he got possessed anyway so it's not like he's any different.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The timeline is remarkably resilient despite what the Travelers do. The data that Philip brought back is so reliable that when only three of five long-shot bets pays off, he gets concerned, because he know has proof that the timeline has changed, even if no one from the future told him, and even if he doesn't know how.
    • In fact by the end of the first season they have averted the impact of Helios and saved an estimated 91 million lives but the changes to the timeline are so subtle that Travelers from before and after the change still know each other and have the same basic relationships.
  • Indy Ploy: The team is forced to improvise their way out of a jam quite often. While their superiors usually understand when this is done out of need, they're not a fan of the team doing it out of any moral qualms. and going off-plan in general seems to be a big no-no.
  • Masquerade: Hundreds to thousands of Travelers have taken over the identities of people in the early 21st century.
  • Mental Time Travel: Travelers can be sent back this way but they must know the target individual's location with some amount of precision. This seems to be part of the reason they so often choose people about to die since the location of death would be in official records. The other reasons is that overwriting the original mind is a horrifyingly painful experience that effectively kills the host.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: MacLaren's wife understandably comes to this conclusion because he seems like a different person and is constantly lying to her. Ironically he actually is cheating on her with Carly (or perhaps he's cheating on Carly with her given that the relationship with Carly came first).
  • No Name Given: To an extent. The Travelers presumably had names prior to coming back, but they don't use them at any point, instead using the names of their hosts. This applies even in situations where they would have known each other's personal names (MacLaren and Carly are implied to have been a couple).
    • The only consistent label that we know Travelers use is "Traveler [number]". Philip, for example, is Traveler 3326. The number designates importance to some degree with lower numbers being more important.
    • A few very special individuals get a designation but even then not a name. We know that the antimatter pumped X-ray laser the Travelers have been building was designed by a Traveler called "The Engineer" by the others. The head of the organization is known as "The Director".
  • Noodle Implements: All we find out about the mission in "Room 101" is that it requires two full Traveler teams and a helicopter. Later we find out another detail: for some reason, the Faction wanted it to fail.
  • Not Himself: Travelers are fairly uniformly serious, intelligent, and competent. Meanwhile, to name a few, Original Marcy had a severe learning disability and couldn't live independently, Original Trevor was a high school sports star who liked cage fighting, and Original Philip was a young, directionless heroin addict. Philip didn't have a lot of friends, and Trevor has the excuse of a severe (in the original timeline, lethal) head injury, so they get off with a few odd looks, but Marcy attracts significant notice.
    • Subverted with Marcy, post mind reboot. She actually is herself, more or less, but her experience in the 21st century over season 1 has had such an effect on her that the team barely recognizes her.
    • Grace Day, the school counselor, is kind, warm, understanding and patient. Always going beyond the call of duty to help her students. Traveler 0027 is exactly the opposite, being a cold, heartless bitch with zero people skill and no intent of faking it, which makes sense as she is not a trained operative on a mission but a rogue agent improvising in order to save the Director.
  • The Nth Doctor: Casting only. MacLaren has a hallucination of Carly (Traveler 3465) in "Protocol 5". However, we only know it's her because she's got "3465" tattooed on her neck; she's played by Erika Walter, who looks completely different from Nesta Cooper, her regular actress. It's implied that this is what Traveler Carly actually looks like.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: The Travelers have a number of "Protocols" that they frequently chafe against and sometimes feel compelled to go against for moral or practical reasons. The ones mentioned on the show are:
  • Oracular Urchin: Messengers — ordinary children who are briefly possessed in order to pass on messages to Travelers. It's stated that only prepubescent minds can survive Traveler possession without damage.
  • Photographic Memory: While all Travelers are required to memorize mission-critical information, the team Historian has apparently been modified to be able to memorize incredibly vast amounts of information.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: When Marcy answers David's knock at the door naked in episode 1. Her rationale for doing so is unclear — it's unlikely to be simple cultural naiveté, given the Travelers' fairly comprehensive intel operation. Post reboot, in episode 12 she's at it again.
  • Poor Communication Kills: It takes until the end of "Aleksander" for the rest of the team to find out about Philip's heroin addiction. His impaired judgement and irascibility as a result of withdrawal are the catalyst for the events of the entire episode, and by extension several casualties and the near-exposure of the Traveler team.
  • Possession Burnout: Marcy suffers from epileptic seizures caused by her being accidentally placed in the body of a woman with a severe developmental disability. The brain apparently has trouble keeping up with the new mind.
  • Pragmatic Hero: The travelers' hat. They're here with noble goals and good intentions, but that doesn't mean that they're gonna save random people from dying even if it would be literally effortless. The pilot episode is pretty much one big example but Philip leaves his host's roommate to die of an overdose; Trevor saves Original MacLaren and patiently explains the premise of the plot — but that's only to keep him occupied until he gets possessed by Traveler MacLaren immediately after.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Trevor's host body is 17 but is described as being older than the rest of the team put together. He has also known The Engineer for at least 100 years.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Traveler leadership isn't exactly cuddly, but nor is it as cold and ruthless as one might expect from an organisation running such an over-elaborate, clockwork-precision master plan. It seems to understand that missions can not always be executed exactly as planned, and has shown a willingness to forgive teams occasionally breaking protocol for messy human reasons (though it certainly doesn't approve of such disobedience, it just doesn't seem to expect perfection), at one point even applying rare life-saving technology to save a Traveler who got injured going against a direct order to save himself. It also shows a commitment to basic morals by only taking over people who are about to die, even when breaking that rule would be more convenient. Having all that said, it always puts the mission first — but in fairness, it's perfectly upfront with that, to the point of making it Protocol One.
  • Sadistic Choice: Having finally admitted her feelings for David, Marcy is forced to choose: either die a slow and painful death, or live, by "rebooting" her consciousness and forgetting the entire events of season 1. In the end she makes her choice. Not that it matters because someone else chooses in her place.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Played straight and discussed. The travelers have no way of knowing if anything they do changes the future. This becomes a major plot point after they complete their mission and... nothing happens.
    • This trope is discussed later on as, through sheer coincidence, they realize that the timeline has changed significantly, yet no one from the future remembers the original timeline, and no one in the past knows about the new one
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The entire point of the Travelers' mission. They come from a Bad Future and are doing their best to avoid it.
    • In a lesser sense, the Travelers avoid the deaths (bodily at least) of MacLaren, Marcy, Carly, Philip and Trevor. It's yet to be seen whether this counts as setting things right.
  • Sense Freak: Travelers have absolutely no experience with the world as we know it so exposure to the full range of normal human sensation is extremely disorienting at first.
  • The Slow Path: There is no way back to the future for Travelers except this. This wasn't expected to be a problem given that they assumed a temporal paradox would wipe them all out if they succeeded.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: "Protocol 5" revolves around this. Having deflected Helios-685, the team believe they've cut off the timeline they came from, and will now be expected to live out the rest of their lives as the people they took over. Turns out, things have changed in the future, but not for the better, and their original plan is not as flawless as they used to believe, leaving them in uncertainty if following orders is the right course of action.
  • Suicide Mission: Some Traveler missions are this, though it seems to be rare and reserved for extremely important missions that justify the sacrifice. On a larger scale, the Grand Plan is this for the entire Traveler organisation, since it's believed that if they successfully avert the future they come from, they may cease to exist. Travelers have to officially swear to not let that possibility stop them from carrying out their mission. Later episodes imply that this is not in fact how it works.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Protocol 3 forbids killing anyone not designated by The Director. Unusually it also forbids saving anyone not designated.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: "Leave the future in the past." (Protocol 2)
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Due to "some pretty complicated reasons having to do with ripples in space-time" they can only send Travelers back in time as far as the most recent arrival. This prevents them from retrying any failed missions.
    • Moreover we learn in the final episode that deflecting Helios did alter the future but didn't affect the memories of Travelers sent back before the change was made. Since communication is so limited no one even noticed.
  • Transhuman: In "Room 101", Philip mentions having been "modified" to become a Traveler historian when he's injected with a drug that only works on historians, implying he might be this — although it's not clear how, given that only Travelers' minds are known to travel back.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: It becomes a common sight of travelers arriving and being marveled by how alive, green and beautiful the earth is, looking at roadside trees in amazement, tasting the most normal food ever, and wondering at living animals. Before what they think is the final mission, a critically important back up team arrives late because they stopped to look at a dog — apparently having never seen one before (it was a bear).
  • Tyop on the Cover: Averted. The show was co-produced by Netflix, an American company, hence the spelling.
  • Villanous Valour: Major Gleason is quite a brutal asshole, but dedicated to his mission. He guns down his own men when he see's them being taken over by ... something. When he realizes he's the only one left, he doesn't hesitate for a second to turn his gun on himself.
  • Wham Line: The season finale is basically one after the other but one of them stands out: Grace delivers one in the last episode which works on two levels — for the Travelers, it reveals that she's done something they had considered unthinkable, and for the audience, it reveals something previously unknown about the future the Travelers come from.
    Grace: I rebooted the Director.
    • Carly delivers one not only because it's unexpected to the audience but to the team as well because she's actually considering following through.
    Carly: So, orders are everything, right?.
    Anonymous Text message: Kill Traveler 3468.
  • Wham Shot: The season finale is basically a Wham Episode, but the last scene stands out. after going dark and getting put in the shit list of everyone both in the present and the future, the team's hideout is raided by none other than MacLaren's very own FBI partner. It works in-universe too, by the look on their faces, it appears to both of them that it was the last people they expected to find there.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Invoked by the team on MacLaren's wife, to uphold The Masquerade. More specifically, she's knocked out with a drug that as a side effect, creates hangover symptoms, and Phillip and Trevor set up a scene on the kitchen emptying bottles and spilling on the table. She doesn't buy it, though. Not because any particular detail on the deception, rather than she knows herself good enough to know she'd never drink that much.
  • You Are in Command Now: Not shown on screen, but Boyd, is later revealed that she's not only the leader of her team, but also the medic. When MacLaren asks how could she be given the duties of both roles, she explains the trope. It is implied that thishappens often
  • You Are Worth Hell: Having coming to terms to the fact that she's dying AND she is in love with David, Marcy is then presented with a possible cure for her condition. The catch is that she will forget everything that has happened in the present (basically the events of season 1). While she understands that this is the obvious course of action, she actually chooses to die rather than forgetting about David
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