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I just started watching Travelers, and I am confused as to why MacLaren died. They saved him from falling down the elevator shaft, therefore he should have lived. But moments later he died for no reason.

I assumed that it meant you can't go back in time to save someone's life, but that's the whole premise of the first episode, that they save loads of people from dying.

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Travellers is about saving people in the future not in the present by altering the course of history.

The people from the future can only do this safely and without unpredictable side-effects on the timeline if they don't "save" lives in the past. Their future technology actually does allow them to replace people who were not about to die, but they regard this as a moral problem and it is forbidden. But they can take over those lives if they were about to be eliminated from the timeline, hence the apparent paradox of "saving" McClaren. But they haven't actually saved McClaren at all, they have replaced him with a traveller.

Early in the series only people about to die get replaced. Obviously the whole point is to alter the timeline but the travellers are aiming not for minor alterations like saving a single, random life, but for big alterations that radically change the course of history.

One of their protocols actually forbids them from saving other lives as well even when they know someone is about to die (but not be replaced). This [minor spoiler alert] becomes a source of some dramatic tension in later episodes.

  • But in the first episode, they saved 11,000 people, so how does that fit in with not affecting the timeline? – NibblyPig Jan 15 '18 at 9:17
  • Their job is to make big changes to the timeline. But they want to avoid unnecessary side-effects (and they needs hosts for their travellers to inhabit so they can do the big missions). If they saved individuals, there would be no available hosts. – matt_black Jan 15 '18 at 11:24
  • So he didn't randomly die, they killed him by inhabiting him? That answers my question of why he appeared to randomly die. I thought the other people in the episode literally died and were then inhabited but thinking about it now perhaps they were about to die but were inhabited instead, preventing their death. That's the bit that confused me. So it removes the moral dilemma of killing them. Bingo. The timeline explanation doesn't make sense (it'll change anyway) but at least that does. – NibblyPig Jan 15 '18 at 12:06
  • @SLC Yes. The idea is to replace someone just before their recorded death. In one sense they killed him by inhabiting him, but if they had not done that he would be dead anyway. – matt_black Jan 15 '18 at 13:49
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MacLaren is a Traveler

Just like all the others, a person from the future came back and occupied his body at the exact second of his "historical time of death." We see this happen to each of the others in the team as well, but since their deaths were more immediate, we see the take over happen when they actually die.

Note that because MacLaren originally died from falling down an elevator shaft, he wouldn't have died until he hit the bottom, which means there was some "lag time" in between when the others intervened and stopped him from falling, and when he actually would have died. This is why the traveler arrives a few seconds after they "save him."

The purpose of the rule about not saving people is that if they save someone who should have died, that would alter the timeline. But saving someone like MacLaren because they intend to possess his body isn't really saving him, it's just keeping his body intact for the incoming traveler.

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