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Sanctuary: The Complete Season 1

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Sanctuary: The Complete Season 1 in the USA - or Buy Sanctuary: The Complete Season 1 in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: E1 Entertainment CTD10667. 4 DVDs 567 minutes 13 episodes with extras. Price: GBP 9.99 (UK) if you know where to look. cast: Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunn, Emilie Ullerup and Christopher Heyerdahl.

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‘Sanctuary’ of the series title is the place of residence of the various abnormal people and creatures that Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) protects from the outside world or they from them. There are Sanctuary bases around the world so transporting them out of various countries is avoided. Considering so many of them are actually locked up, you do have to wonder at Magnus’ intentions, especially as she relishes doing autopsies so much.
The series started as a series of WebCam adventures on the Net and included as extras with this season one boxset before finance was secured for a thirteen episode run. This material was used for the opening three episodes and probably why so much CGI was used rather than live action for the remaining stories.

The audio commentary on the opening episode also focused far too much on what as real and what was CGI on the screen. We all know that a lot of what we see in films and TV shows is smoke and mirrors but this tended to come over as a little too much smug self-satisfying remarks. The only point that wasn’t covered was how could decent CGI, which it is actually, could be cheaper than real places considering it was used 70% of the time. I mean, other than the Sanctuary base, Old City is pretty much an every city that you would have thought it would have been cheaper to film real and leave the real exotica for CGI.
It’s a little disjointing with the second episode audio commentary which didn’t start with the recapping of the previous episode which would have made people nervous that the correct setting wasn’t working. Considering the first two episodes were supposed to be a ninety minute pilot, I did wonder why they still split them up.

I tended to come away from this series with mixed feelings, more so when writer Damian Kindler seemed not so sure as to where he was going with the stories. Whether that was to stay on budget or what to experiment with is hard to say. After all, on the other side of the pond, opening seasons of any show tend to play around with story elements to find what works more than we do in the UK. When it’s narrowed down to thirteen episodes, this is probably even more problematic. I’m also wondering having those witches in the third episode doing a share meant he’s been reading my ‘Psi-Kicks’ stories, especially when it also included killing people with a thought.

Actress Amanda Tapping switching hair colour, for the most part, and accent does divorce her from her other major role. Magnus’ past also looks a tad shady considering she was married to Jack the Ripper and even had a daughter by him…eventually. Maybe this is the century where she’s atoning for deeds. Chris Heyerdahl also does two contrasting parts as Druitt and Magnus’ chauffeur/butler. To complement this, Emilie Ullerup plays Magnus’ daughter, Ashley, is shares her mother’s more violent aspects. Quiet why she doesn’t understand that comes from her joint gene pool puzzles me. But then, I also tend to think Dana Whitcomb (actress Lynda Boyd) as head of the Cabal looks a little like Magnus as well. Will Zimmerman (actor Robin Dunn) is brought in as an everyman link for the viewer although I’m not entirely sure of that, largely because he has his own odd ability.

A couple of the episodes are derivative. The ‘Kush’ story might have been a bottle show, mostly to give the CGI folk a chance to catch up, but it was rather too much like the film of ‘The Thing’. ‘Nubbins’ was so blatantly Tribbles with attitude, acknowledged in the audio commentary, that it did make me wonder what was going through their heads. Like a lot of American TV shows, the first season tends to play a lot with seeing what works rather than having a firm grasp from the start.

‘The Five’ reveals more about Helen Magnus background and I presume the infusion of distilled vampire blood that granted her long life also darkened her hair. Oddly, the combination of three non-interlaced stories made for a good chemistry.

This injection of pure vampire blood appears to induce baldness with John Druitt, turned Nikola Tesla into a vampire and James Watson, prolonged life but a body need physical support to survive. It seems like a roulette wheel with whatever you end up with.
With the audio commentary with ‘Edward’, the production side were a bit puzzled where Amanda Tapping got the term ‘cheeky monkey’ from whereas it is an occasional term used over here. Amanda might have been born in Britain but I suspect she did her usual research to ensure her Magnus character sounded a bit more of a Brit.

‘Requiem’ is literally a bottle show or rather a submarine show bringing the cast down to two and liked a lot by the crew. It’s a shame really that the plot feels like a distilled ‘X-Files’ story but is on par with powerful moments.

Other than audio commentaries for all the episodes, as noted earlier the most significant extras are the original WebCams extending over two hours as the original pilot for the series. Combining this with the knowledge from watching the TV edition and audio commentary, there’s a lot more understanding of what was used in the opening two stories. Oddly, aspects of Bigfoot’s story thread is removed from the TV version. Interestingly, there isn’t an audio commentary for these two extras although I suspect it would have mirrored the TV version.

I’ve been critical of a lot of things about ‘Sanctuary’ but this doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to watch and see what they can do on a tight budget. Certainly, the likes of ‘The Folding Man’ and the two-parter ‘Revelations’ are excellent TV. I don’t think it found its feet yet but considering that there are two more seasons in the bag now, I suspect they’ve built up on this.

GF Willmetts

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