Travelers features an icky, insidiously clever form of going undercover: agents from 100 years in the future take up residence in people living in the present’s bodies. It makes things morally complicated. Like when a heroin junkie watches a man die from a heart attack and tearfully tells him that he knew it was coming.
Over the last week, I’ve watched the first five episodes of the new Netflix scifi drama and have been hooked by its depressing iteration of a well-worn genre trope. Travelers, which debuted last month, operates on a simple, familiar science-fiction premise: a team of people from the future jump back to our present to stop something terrible from happening. When FBI agent Grant McLaren (Eric McCormack) gets assigned to monitor suspicious activity on the deep web, he starts to track down people whose IP addresses are logged with the messages. Those people are a squad of Travelers and, right after he meets them, his own body gets taken over by their team leader. But the body-hopping aspect of their chronospatial displacement—moving into bodies of present-dwelling people right at the time of their deaths—is only the first morsel of a deliciously slippery moral slope.