BINGE-R #11: Travelers + Station Horizon

BINGE-R #11: Travelers + Station Horizon

 Body Snatcher: Eric McCormack (Grant MacLaren) in Netflix’s  Travelers

Body Snatcher: Eric McCormack (Grant MacLaren) in Netflix’s Travelers

TRAVELERS S1

Streaming Service: Netflix

Availability: All 12 episodes now streaming

There have already been several recent Netflix series, notably Sense8 and The OA, which have charted the mysterious interconnectedness of strangers. Those shows have a metaphysical edge, but the streaming service’s new release, Travelers, covers the same ground with straight-up science-fiction. As established by the first episode – and revealed in the show’s very tagline – survivors from the Earth’s precarious future are sent back to the present day, inhabiting the bodies of those on the cusp of death as vehicles for missions to change the future and save mankind [please insert your own joke about Donald Trump here].

The first episode is an extended set-up with a tidy final twist, and from there the plotting alternates between the five member cell’s mission and crises, and the issues that individual members have inherited via their new body – team historian Philip (Reilly Dolman) has a heroin addiction, while tactician Carly (Nesta Cooper) is now a young mother. These Freaky Friday situations start at the serious but often veer into the light-hearted, as the team’s leader Grant (Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack) discovers when he helps stop unstable anti-matter exploding and then goes home to meet his wife of 11 years, Kathryn (Leah Cairns). Yes, the characters are trying to avert humanity’s extinction, but the thought of sex with a stranger is still embarrassing.

The early episodes cut corners with alacrity, but the plotting does squeeze elegant touches from their subterfuge. Watch for the look of wonder on the face of Trevor (Jared Harrison), an engineer placed inside a high school sports bro, when he grasps an apple, or how sunlight beguiles a colleague. Those hints of the dystopic future might be enough to keep some watching, as morbid curiosity has launched more than a few binge sessions, but with its perpetual ticking clocks and handy technology, Travelers is for the hungry science-fiction fan and anyone who seriously can’t wait for that Will & Grace revival.

>> Bonus Binge: Netflix has all four seasons of Continuum, an increasingly intricate Canadian science-fiction series about anti-corporate terrorists and a law enforcement officer from 2077 continuing their battle in 2012.

 Easy Rider: Bernard Yerles (Joris) in SBS On Demand’s  Station Horizon

Easy Rider: Bernard Yerles (Joris) in SBS On Demand’s Station Horizon

STATION HORIZON S1

Streaming Service: SBS On Demand

Availability: All seven episodes now streaming

A Swiss oddity that recalls Northern Exposure and has a hint of Twin Peaks, Station Horizon presents the smooth surface of a comic drama with a wellspring of weirdness underneath. The show’s best trait is its unwillingness to acknowledge the latter, even as it seeps into the storylines. The set-up is boilerplate: after 25 years away – the last five in prison for either armed robbery or being way too ruggedly handsome for a middle-aged man – Joris Fragniere (Bernard Yerles) arrives back in his hometown of Horizonville to bring various community matters to the boil.

There’s a difference between being slow and deliberate, and Station Horizon is thankfully deliberate. With a Ry Cooder-like pedal steel guitar leading the score, Joris encounters family, friends and foes, and is soon helping his beleaguered brother Charly (Gaspard Boesch) fix up the family business, a rundown service station and motel, even though a local rival, Raymond (the wonderfully sleazy Roland Vouilloz), is acquiring land before a freeway is built. If that sounds like a western with a railway arriving, then the show makes the American link explicit with a motorbike posse, the pop of vintage neon, and a line dancing night. It's as if Horizonville is a lost Texan county.

Amusing as opposed to funny, Station Horizon is a balancing act. The permeated American culture feels oddly connected to the local traditions, and it doesn’t preclude modern concerns such as Elvis (Klaudio Hila), an illegal immigrant from Kosovo working as the local mechanic, or the frank looks he’s exchanging with Raymond’s son. It’s a show you have to tune into – if you’re not on Station Horizon’s frequency then it definitely won’t work for you. But it could just be the change of pace you need.

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