Sanctuary’s fourth season premiere, Tempus, finds Dr. Helen Magnus stuck in Victorian London trying to prevent Adam Worth from saving his daughter’s life and changing history. No pressure!
One of the more entertaining Q&A of each new season is the Amanda Tapping/Robin Dunne Q&A for Sanctuary [Syfy, Friday, 10/9C]. Both are smart funny and quite capable of taking a riff and going completely sideways with it. Sure, they can [and do] deliver the goods on what’s happening this season [musical episode!] in a more or less normal manner, but then there are those moments…
It has gotten to the point that some of the interviewers on any given call actually enable their tendency toward silliness – usually with great results, like this time out. So, without further ado, The Amanda Tapping/Robin Dunne Traveling Comedy Revue! [Seriously, these guys are funny!]
Sanctuary [Syfy, Fridays, 10/9C] had one of the more definitive cliffhangers in television – when last we saw Dr. Helen Magnus and her team, they were dead!
Sanctuary, Syfy’s series that blends SF and fantasy in a unique way, has been picked up for a fourth season. Details follow the jump.
Last season, Sanctuary [Syfy, Fridays, 10/9C] made the movie from webisodes to full blown television series – impressing a lot of people along the way. Its first season ended with a cliffhanger that was a real mindblower: the discovery that Helen Magnus’ daughter, Ashley, had been turned into a superweapon under the control [and through the scientific tinkering] of The Cabal. Worse, they’d taken five absolutely normal human beings and turned them into similar weapons.
Season Two begins pretty much where Season One left off – and the gloves are off!
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call Q&A session with Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne of Sanctuary [Syfy, Friday, 10/9C], the first regular series to shot predominantly in CG. The first season ended in a particularly lovely cliffhanger and I was among those who was allowed to screen the second season premiere – a two-part exercise in bold adventure and sacrifice – which made the Q&A session even more fun than usual [plus, Rapping and Dunne are genial and witty in and of themselves…].
Also taking part in the session were: Jamie Ruby [Media Blvd], Julia Diddy [Pop Culture Zoo], Michael Simpson [Cinema Spy], Troy Rogers [deadbolt.com], and Beth Ann Henderson [NiceGirlsTV.com].
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...].
With the announcement that Sanctuary [Sci-Fi, Fridays, 10/9C] has been renewed for a second season, perhaps those who those who don’t like to commit to a new series for fear it’ll be cancelled will now give TV’s first green screen series a chance. Two upcoming episodes are good examples of the kind of quirky quality that series is developing.
Quick refresher courser: Dr. Helen Magnus [Amanda Tapping], a one hundred fifty-seven-year old scientist has established Sanctuary – a home for “abnormals” [creatures benign and otherwise that are not of the perceived normalcy – mermaids, a missing link, children with unusual fear reflexes]. She provides homes – or cages if necessary – for these beings. She is aided by her daughter, Ashley [Emilie Ullerup], forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Will Zimmerman [Robin Dunne] and tech wizard, Henry Foss [Ryan Robins] .
In this week’s ep, The Five, Magnus’ lecture to an underground group in Rome, on abnormals, leads to a meeting with Nikola Tesla [Jonathon Young] who warns her of an impending assassination attempt. Tesla has a few secrets, himself – the only one I can telegraph is that he sleeps during the day.
The episode is fast paced and smart, but has its moments of emotional truth that support the action. We get to see Magnus’ ability to improvise – and the rest of her team show initiative in the way they aid her from their home base. The CG sets and effects are improving and now have much more weight than early on. Even Tapping’s wobbly English accent is much more consistent.
On December 5th, Drs. Magnus and Zimmerman take a mini-sub to investigate the slaughter of a clan of mer-people and find an abnormal unlike any they’ve ever seen. Requiem is a bottle show – a one-set episode – and as such, relies on tour de force acting by Tapping and Zimmerman. Both actors are called on to run through a gamut of emotions in a situation where an unseen menace seems to be influencing their behavior.
Based on these two episodes, Sanctuary is deserving of its renewal and an even larger audience.
Final Grade: B+
It’s been a few weeks since I last posted something here. Frankly, I’ve been really busy playing an inordinate amount of Rock Band 2 and working on the upcoming EclipseMagazine.com book, “Tell Us Who You Are – The EclipseMagazine.com Interviews.” The book will be out in time for your Holiday shopping pleasure. Enough with the cheap plug, I was invited to attend Sci-Fi Channel’s 2nd annual Digital Press Tour last weekend. At first, I was a bit skeptical and didn’t particularly want to attend. I mean the shows they were promoting were pretty much all reality programming and Amanda Tapping’s new sci-fi show Sanctuary. So it wasn’t like I was actually visiting a set and I’m not a particular fan of reality television; I generally avoid them like the plague. The only reality show I watch on a semi-regular basis is American Idol. But I must say after this weekend, I’m going to be logging some serious time with all of Sci-Fi’s fall lineup – starting with Ghost Hunters and Sci-Fi’s newest game show The Chase.
Last weekend’s event was held in Denver Colorado at the historic Stanley Hotel. This hotel is rumored to be haunted and is the place that provided the inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining. He spent a few months in Room 217 writing the book and staring at ghosts. The Jack Nicolas film wasn’t shot here, but King’s TV Mini-Series was. It’s a weirdly old world hotel where walking in you can almost imagine that ghosts actually do make this place home. The place has this weird otherworldly vibe to it. When I was outside taking pictures (see the Gallery) it did feel freaky.
The Sci Fi Channel’s new series, Sanctuary [Fridays, 9/8C] is adapted from the internet series of the same name. It revolves around Dr. Helen Magnus and her “sanctuary for all.”
Dr. Will Zimmerman [Robin Dunne] is a mess. A forensic psychologist, he’s lost his job with the FBI and now plies his trade with a police force that pays no attention to his theories and opinions. When he attempts to help the police investigate a triple homicide – including two police officers – he begins an adventure that will clear up mysteries that have tormented him since he was eight years old, even as he encounters new mysteries that will change the way he thinks, acts and maybe even dreams.
Who is Dr. Helen Magnus [Amanda Tapping]? Who is the blonde Valkyrie [Emilie Ullerup] on the motorcycle? And who is the tall, bald, sinister apparition [Christopher Heyerdahl] who can seemingly move faster than bullets? And what do they have to do with a scared ten-year old boy of Slavic ancestry? And what is Magnus’ semi-simian chauffeur, anyway?
Sanctuary’s two-hour premiere, Sanctuary For All, answers these questions and leads into a series that explores the concept that every creature from folklore and mythology is real. The physical Sanctuary is the place where Magnus and her team provide safety for those creatures who seek refuge, and confinement for those whose predatory natures threaten humanity.
Shot almost completely in CGI [only the cast and essential props are live action], Sanctuary has a unique look [think classic Universal horror mixed with urban cop show] and an equally unique feel. The premiere introduces the aforementioned characters plus a tall humanoid who might well be the so-called Missing Link. The ten-year old boy fits right in as a genetic mutation from Chechnya.
The script is solid, if not inspiring, and intriguing – especially since it gives us enough answers to make us wonder just how many more questions are out there waiting to be answered. The acting is, for the most part, adequate. Tapping’s English accent may wobble from time to time, but emotionally, she’s spot on. Dunne makes Zimmerman, who is almost a Daniel Jackson clone, seem fresh and different. There’s even a cameo from Battlestar Galactica alumnus Kandyse McClure as Zimmerman’s ex – just to emphasize how damaged he is.
The keyword here is potential. The premiere lays out an intriguing premise and gives us sufficient background to make us feel like we can relate that that specific world. It may be a bit stilted, but it manages to convey its concepts relatively clearly, and the cast of characters is an odd mix or near-immortal, exuberant youth, damaged professional and surly/quirky tech master. The mix of science and myth works, for the most part – and so does Sanctuary.
Final Grade: B-
The news came out, this week, that Stargate Atlantis was being cancelled in favor of one or two annual direct-to-DVD movies – the first one to wrap up the series’ final storyline – and where have we heard that one before? Still, the puzzling thing is that the series is being cancelled after its ratings rose this summer – which makes as much sense as the little pig in the straw house moving into his brother’s brick one and having the middle pig take it down with a bulldozer in a fit of envy.
The main reason we’ve been given is that making the series in Vancouver, British Columbia is getting to be too expensive, though I humbly suggest that if the series was being produced in the U.S., its rising ratings would pretty much preclude such a move. So, why then, would MGM and the Atlantis production team go in this direction?
After a quick run through the season’s first six episodes, it’s certainly not because of any loss of quality – a potential reason that was rendered unlikely by the way that more people are watching, on a regular basis. With the franchise maintaining its usual high level of quality – of the six episodes, only Ghost in the Machine – which was hampered by Torri Higginson’s decision to not return] was less than a B effort – the rest ranged from A [The Daedalus Variations] to B- [The Seed]. Certainly, the show’s writing, production, direction, effects and performances have been as good as usual.
The answer is given, and quite clearly, in the press release for the upcoming series, Stargate Universe. In it, Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper are quoted as saying, “In ‘Universe,’ we plan to keep those elements that have made the franchise a success, such as adventure and humour, while breaking new ground in the relationships between mostly young and desperate explorers, thrust together and far from home. Above all, we believe the Stargate self remains an enduring icon with infinite potential as a jumping off point for telling stories.”
It’s the “let’s get a cast of younger, more kick-ass military and civilians – nothing wrong with kick-ass civilizations – and punch up our numbers in the 18-24 demo… and the ‘tween demo.” After all, nobody’s watching the old fogies on Atlantis except, well, more people than did last year – thereby punching a bit of a hole in the typical variety of network thinking.
What’s the big plus, here? It’s that the mainstays of the Stargate creative team remain aboard – even though they aren’t the young pups they were when they convinced Richard Dean Anderson into signing up. Happily, unlike the creative teams of other series, they get to space out their writing in such a way that they are still capable of writing engaging and entertaining episodes – unlike the Star Trek duo of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who were completely out of touch with their audience by the time season two of Enterprise came around [not to mention that ghastly series finale].
Stargate has survived big changes in the past. When Michael Shanks left, Corin Nemec stepped in and the show rolled on [and a lot of fans wouldn’t have minded if Nemec had stayed on]; Richard Dean Anderson left – for perfectly good reasons – and was replaced by Ben Browder, whose character injected a fresh enthusiasm to the series that almost made up for the introduction of the Ori. Claudia Black came aboard the SG-1 franchise at the same and her charming thief/con artist fit in – after awhile…
Then there were the changes on Atlantis, where a first-season regular departed after getting a buzz from Wraith venom; Dr. Elizabeth Weir, the leader of the Atlantis Expedition, became a Replicator and was replaced by Col. Samantha Carter – whose successes while in command got her moved out and fussy, protocol-happy Richard Woolsey took over [and discovered that protocol is pretty much just another word in the Pegasus Galaxy].
Throughout the changes – not to mention some of the best humorous eps on any SF series – the quality of the Stargate shows has been kept well above average. Now we’re going to be getting a series that features a younger cast that is stranded even farther away than the Pegasus Galaxy. The chances are that its creative team will be looking for fresh ideas – or at least, fresh spins on ideas – and that it will be worth watching.
It’s just too bad that Atlantis has to suffer cancellation because of it. And that idea for finishing off the final season cliffhanger with a direct-to-DVD movie? Still little more than an blatant cash grab.