How Does Time Travel Work In Netflix's 'Travelers'? Things Get Pretty Complicated

Jeff Weddell Photography/Netflix

Despite being an often complicated endeavor, television seems to be in love with time travel. Even sci-fi and fantasy shows that aren't built around time-travel seem to jump at the opportunity to send their characters backwards and forwards in time. While adventures in time and space can often make for exciting adventures, the time travelers of the new Netflix co-production Travelers are less interested in fun and more interested in saving the world at any cost. With yet another television program throwing its hat in the time-travel ring, fans may wonder how time travel works in Travelers as opposed to other time-travel shows.

Ever since H.G. Wells' novel The Time Machine came out in 1885, it feels like every science fiction writer — in books, film, television, or other mediums — has tackled the question of "what would happen if we could travel through time?" Travelers explores this question in a unique way that brings issues of identity and true-self into the equation. The characters don't travel in some sort of time machine to try and save their desperately failing future — instead they travel through people, putting their consciousness into another body and effectively killing the person who was in there before.

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Yeah, the content in Travelers is about as gray as gray moral areas get. The titular travelers have devised a way to project themselves into the past, but the cost is effectively eliminating another human life. To try and do as little damage as possible, they've managed to devise a technology that allows them to pinpoint the exact location of someone as they are about to die — it's at that point they go back in time, and continue a life that was supposed to have ended. Although this, too, comes with some pretty unsavory side effects.

It's not entirely clear what is and isn't inherited from the host body to the traveler. It would appear that body is the same as the original person, but the brain is different. Marcy, for instance, was a woman with a severe learning disability for most of her life, but it seems that disability went away when she was taken over by a new person. Phillip, on the other hand, is a heroin addict whose physical addiction seems to be affecting the traveler using his body. There's no such thing as "simple" time travel when it comes to Travelers.

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The travelers won't just have to worry about trying to save the world, but they also need to ensure that they can pretend to be their original personalities so as to not raise suspicions. The travelers seem to have studied up on the present era, looking through personal records and social media history before downloading themselves into someone, but that can only get one so far. There are also plenty of other travelers from the future, but is there a chance someone could alter the future so severely that the technology to send someone back in time is never invented thus erasing the future people from history which means they never went back in time to inhabit the original people in the first place?

If Travelers' possible paradoxes have you curious, it might just be best to take a deep breath and let the show do all the heavy lifting instead of stressing yourself out over its specific brand of time-travel. It hits Netflix on Dec. 23.