Sanctuary is a science fiction show that postulates that the creatures of legend, myth and nightmare really exist – that “here be monsters” is not hyperbole. It’s an ambitious series, technically, being shot with the RED camera [the current top of the line digital camera] against a great deal of green screen – in the manner of Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City – though not in black & white.
The series follows Dr. Helen Magnus [Amanda Tapping], her daughter, Ashley [Emilie Ullerup]and forensic psychologist Will Zimmerman [Robin Dunne] as they seek out and help – or imprison [depending on their nature] – abnormals. Abnormals are evolutionary splits from humanity and come in a wide range of types, from mermaids and vampires, to shapeshifters and Bigfoot [Dr. Magnus’ butler, and also played by Heyerdahl…].
The series, which is not only the first to be mostly CG but also the first to be adapted from a web series, is a sci-fi adventure series that is smart, scary and thoroughly engaging. In various episodes we meet John Druitt [Christopher Heyerdahl], the actual Jack the Ripper; Nikola Tesla [Jonathan Young], inventor extraordinaire – and vampire; Sir James Watson [Peter Wingfield], apparently ageless and the man on whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes, and many others.
The first season established the most important characters – regulars and recurring – as well as stabling the existence and purpose of Sanctuary, the actual edifice wherein Magnus allows abnormals to live, or imprisons those whose natures make them dangerous. We meet such legendary creatures as the Fata Morgana – the three witches created by Morgan LeFey; a boy who has been mutated by the radiation at Chernobyl; thieves who can literally fold up and slip through any cracks to steal, or evade capture, most importantly, the existence of The Five and The Cabal.
The Five include Magnus, Druitt, Watson, Tesla and the original Invisible Man and are charged with keeping an important secret. The Cabal is a group that is working toward destroying abnormals in order to maintain humanity at the top of the evolutionary ladder.
Given its subject matter, it would have been easy for Sanctuary to be a dark, depressing and dystopic series. However, because it comes from Damian Kindler and stars Amanda Tapping, both alumni of the Stargate Franchise, it has an unexpectedly sly sense of humor and works really well as an adventure series with an edge.
With the first season now available on DVD, I expect that season two will be even more intriguing and exciting – especially when I consider the events of the first season cliffhanger [it’s a doozy!].
Features include: Audio Commentaries by Cast and Crew [for all thirteen eps]; Three Featurettes – Welcome to Sanctuary, Sanctuary Residents, and Sanctuary Visual Effects; Sanctuary: The Original Webisodes; Bloopers; Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery, and Season Two Sneak Peek.
Grade: Sanctuary: The Complete First Season – B+
Grade: Features – A+
Final Grade: A-