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Travelers and Van Helsing. (Spoilers)

Posted February 9, 2017 into Telly by John Birmingham

I've been following two new shows on Netflix the last couple of weeks. Travelers and Van Helsing. Travelers is the smarter of the two, with a stronger cast and deeper script. It also seems to have more money, given it's clear advantage in production values. But I still enjoy both.

Spoilers follow. (Although mostly conceptual rather than narrative).

Travelers is a simple premise, a reworked cliche of people coming back from the future to prevent bad shit happening. That could be tedious in unskilled hands but it pays off with interest here if you're willing to ignore a couple of difficulties.

The tweak in Travelers is the way they move backwards. Unlike Smith and Cady they don't just conveniently jump into an era. Instead only the conscious mind can travel, and it can only insert itself into the mind/body of another human being, completely overwriting the personality, memories, and life of the previous occupant. For this reason the travelers take over the bodies of people about to die.

The pilot provides a series of WTF mystery moments as this process repeats itself again and again until you figure out what's happening. Things have gone horribly wrong in the far future and it seems all of the dwindling resources of mankind have been devoted to the Traveler program, to sending not just individuals back in time, but whole teams to carry out missions which will change the future and presumably Grandfather Paradox away all the bad mojo.

It could just devolve into a mission of the week series, but it doesn't. One of things that's hooked me is the prosaic difficulties the travelers have taking over the lives of people from hundreds of years in their past. Much of the drama comes not from the purely kinetic adventures, but from the lies they're forced to live and the compromises demanded of them.

It's great. Give it a look.

Van Helsing is different again. Based on a graphic novel it's more gloriously B-Movie inspired, although not as batshit B-grade as, say, Z Nation. A volcanic eruption which blots out the sun allows vampires to come out of the shadows and establish themselves at the top of the food chain. This could set up a standard Walking Dead rip off, except for the eponymous female lead: Vanessa Helsing, a woman bitten and killed in the early moments of the vampire uprising, but one who doesn't turn because of a pre-existing blood disease. Instead she becomes a sort of Buffy/Typhoid Mary imbued with vampire-killing physical skills and, more importantly, blood which is toxic to the biters. It turns them back into humans.

The first couple of eps are a bit wobbly, the acting a little wooden and even splintery, but by about six episodes in, the writers and actors have settled into their roles and it all accelerates nicely. It helps to remember that the source material is a graphic novel and that you should suspend your disbelief just that little bit harder.

But again, it's great escapist fun and well worth bingeing a couple of eps to get into.

12 Responses to ‘Travelers and Van Helsing. (Spoilers)’

Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted February 9, 2017
Adding them to the list now,

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon reckons...

Posted February 9, 2017
I was looking at Van Helsing but it made it towards the bottom of the list because it looked so cheesy - only so much time and i'm way behind on other stuff. It has been bumped up the list based on recommendation. Travellers i haven't even got around to noticing yet. Hell, i'm still watching Dirk Gently i'm that far behind.

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted February 9, 2017
Yes, I enjoyed Travelers more than I expected. Action, SF concepts, but with more attention than usual to relatable human drama/melodrama about relationships and, dare I say it, feelings. I liked it.

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Aaron Campagnone reckons...

Posted February 9, 2017
Spoiler for Van Helsing (minor)

Did anyone follow it until the bitter end.....really really poor twists (Mohamed) and silly silly character choices (doc). I think it started strong and then ran out of ideas and just threw the kitchen sink at the plot!!

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted February 10, 2017
Have you seen Westworld yet? I want to like it but it has been a slow slog for me.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 10, 2017
My mother loves that show! I've been meaning to buy it on iTunes because I don't subscribe to the only streamer here.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 10, 2017
Westworld was incredible, you'll love it

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 11, 2017
I find it a bit frustrating, though I love the scenes with Anthony Hopkins and Jeffery Wright (who starred in Ride with the Devil and played Felix in the Daniel Craig Bond movies). However, I do get a bit tired of Ed Harris, an actor I like, with a character I should like, going on about, "The Maze is all that matters now."

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted February 12, 2017
I found it to be one of those shows were so much stuff like "the Maze is all that matters now" only makes sense in the final episode, where all the disparate threads you've been following either get tied up, or enough other threads get tied up to give you an insight into a particular thread. A colleague watched the whole thing again last week and said that so much of it made more sense the second time around, when he knew where it was going.

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Miss Maudy has opinions thus...

Posted February 10, 2017
I've just finished Travelers, and I really enjoyed it. A lot more than I was expecting - proper story and all that and not just drama of the week. I'm hoping for a second series sooner rather than later. I'm watching Riverdale and The Expanse at the moment.

ntwinter ducks in to say...

Posted March 3, 2017
I absolutely loved The Expanse. Very 'true' feeling sci-fi - gritty and down to earth with very believable concepts and characters. Hanging out for season 2!
I'm also 80% through Travelers and found it very entertaining, though I did inwardly groan at the addict character with thoughts of some predictable paths they would take.
If I had to choose I would go The Expanse with a clear win.

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Gutz is gonna tell you...

Posted February 10, 2017
+4000 for Travellers.
I thought Eric McCormack needed to find a role far removed from Will & Grace and this is a good fit. I like the little things where they experience every day things that do not exist tine the future. Oh and MacKenzie Porter is Hawwwt!

Van Helsing? its a car crash you cannot help to watch on the off chance it gets better? C'mon it can't get worse!
Z Nation has the silly Zed shtick market locked down, so it does now leave many avenues to go down. Er if they go time traveling zombies? I will drop it like nuclear waste!

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