User ReviewsReview this title
For Amanda Tapping, this is a good move - she's not Sam Carter anymore, playing the enigmatic and potentially very sexy Helen Magnus, aided by her slightly stereotypical teen-angst-ed daughter Ashley, some gentle-monster beast and a newly inducted fish out of water type, Will.
The concept is nice, 'Sanctuary for all' - being 'all' are non-humans, (but it does come across that they're all sort of imprisoned anyway). There's a sort of 'Gothic Buffy' feel about the scenario and the circumstances, but minus the classic Whedon Buffy humour.
The production values aren't superior and it's obviously CGI, there are some sub-par blue/green screens going on in places...but you can forgive this for a decent enough premise and storyline. Knowing that this hasn't been funded by a studio and Tapping herself is an executive producer, one should actually give the production some credit.
Tapping is fairly good in this role - we see her move out of the clever and cute Samantha Carter and flex her acting muscles somewhat in the portrayal of an 18th century English woman. Her accent isn't flawless, but you can forgive this - I'm sure it would be explained away that Magnus has been living in the USA for some time. There is no explanation as to why she's in the USA - or if she even is in the USA - the location is not revealed, but one assumes it's in North America.
Other actors put in decent enough performances, but there's nothing outstanding. Character wise the weak link here is the character of Ashley. Far too stereotypical, hard and cold. One supposes that she is in some way meant to contrast her mother, but we've seen characters like this far too many times before...she needs some depth.
This will be compared to Buffy - the characters aren't immediately associated with the former series - but it's there in the design of the monsters - the characters are also somewhat similar - the blonde fighting machine(Ashley/Buffy), the clever researcher (Magnus/Will/Giles) and monsters that work for the 'good guys'.
This 'pilot' doesn't go that far and we need a whole season of this to make a judgement call really. Based on this pilot though, I am intrigued and would like to see more.
Of course, after watching the season premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel, I'm convinced that I might tune in next week for the second episode, just to see if my suspicions are correct in that the Sci-Fi Channel does have an ounce of credibility left when it comes to halfway decent entertainment.
"Sanctuary" is set in some large, perpetually dark would-be Gotham City, where Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) is a criminal profiler investigating a mysterious triple homicide in an apartment building. Using his skillful intuition, he suspects that something is amiss right away, that whatever killed these three people was not human. It turns out that his suspicions are correct: the killer, a 10-year-old Russian boy with a hideous snake-like appendage, had been adopted by the family and attacked them when he felt threatened.
Zimmerman is then recruited by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and her mercenary daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup) to come work with them at the "Sanctuary," a place that houses all manner of "ab-normals" (people and creatures that are the stuff of folklore, nightmares, and stories that were made up to scare little kids). As it turns out, many of these creatures have lived alongside us for years, with much of the human population not even aware of their existence, and any data that can be mined from them can possibly hold the key to mankind's future evolution, or destruction. Most of the ab-normals are benign, but there are a few out there that would like to use their abilities for destructive purposes.
"Sanctuary" does have the potential to be a rather entertaining piece of weekly viewing on the Sci-Fi Channel. I found it to be rather dark and gripping comic book-style entertainment, although I think the story and writing could use some polishing.
I'll just have to make sure that if I decide to turn in next week, that "Sanctuary" lives up to be the unique piece of strange Sci-Fi Channel programming it promises.
I especially enjoy the acting. Amanda Tapping, Christopher Heyerdahl, and Robin Dunne give great performances. I wouldn't be surprised if they were nominated for several acting awards.
Some of the episodes standout more than the others. "Edward", "The Five", "Requiem", and "Revelations" are episodes that capture the soul of the series. The stories are compelling. Besides being well planned and acted, these episodes give important background and pushed the story arch further.
The annoying daughter character is hard to care about, some of the monsters are just silly and there are weak computer graphics throughout - especially on the mermaid. This is a pass - Im afraid. Duff Buffy meets medicine woman.
Luckily she found a good new home. As she is involved as a producer, we can hope that she will do everything to prevent early cancellation.
The show itself, as I said, did not quite satisfy me in the beginning, but after say, four episodes, I got used to it. There are some enhancements, and some positive surprises. The biggest surprise is Christopher Heyerdahl, who plays the bad guy, turning into the good guy, and also the monster butler bigfoot. He is in all positions very convincing and obviously a good actor. We can see which potential he had as the Wraith Todd in Stargate Atlantis. Everyone who casted him here had a very good idea.
I must admit, that a big part of the show is simply childish, but it is made with much love and effort, and it is professional, fast and thrilling, given that the viewer will adapt to the completely impossible, not to say stupid, plot. It was interesting for me, seeing myself accepting all those monsters and vampires for watching a good ensemble. What I also felt is that here the people try to pass their enjoyment for doing their job to the audience. Production values seem not so high, but I never had any cheap impression.
Amanda Tapping is not that big Actor, but she has charisma, and she is holding the family together. Again, she is the good and honorable guy, here with some secrets behind, which aren't too ugly to blame her. I think, she could need a couple of real sins, maybe they will come up later in the show.
For now, I can recommend the show to everyone who likes solid acting, nice monsters and (mostly) sympathetic characters, all brought together with English manor atmosphere and sets, kindly broken by welcomed exceptions, like the humorous (but bloody) episode 10 of season two, where we meet one beautiful cylon from Battlestar Galactica. However, you must be generous, because the script writers aren't masters of quality control here.
After season two, ep. 07, and I had to lower my voting, because the spirit of the new is unfortunately gone. After the victory in the war against the Cabal, who attacked mostly ridiculous and silly, the authors and the characters have obviously a lack of ideas what to do. Routine has come to the team, and they became a little lazy. Tesla and John Druitt both disappeared with no further explanations, I don't like such unfilled holes, especially if they are essential. I hope they will do better in the future, otherwise they will not have one bright. Now, after ep. 10, there was finally the return of Tesla, which raised the fun immediately, esp. after a number of really boring and silly episodes. The episode with former SG-1 Tapping's Co-worker Michael Shanks was (for me) the worst.
The situation, atmosphere and flaws are very similar to the English Torchwood TV show. ie clandestine organisation operating outside the law responsible for dealing with bizarre beings/artifacts/events. So what was wrong with the writing? This is where it went south for me..
Magnus knows of a severe security threat to Sanctuary, and has implemented a force shield around it for protection from this individual.. a John Druitt. not only has she kept Druitt a secret from all her staff so that they know nothing about him.. she has even lied about the shields purpose .. effectively making her staff cannon fodder should this threat materialise. As the pilot progresses, her warrior daughter, Ashley, is ordered to stay in Sanctuary following some unexplained power surges... and of course as Magnus is tight lipped about the whole "huge threat thing" which she suspects.. Ashley disobeys and goes out to make an arms purchase anyway. While out she is basically beaten in a fight by "the threat".. Druitt... to be saved by the skin of her teeth by a well placed "taser like" shot courtesy her local arms dealer. Not phased at all by this near death experience she leaves the "very fast and strong" Druitt in the safe hands of the office admin assistant before Druitt is even subdued properly so she can, amazingly, "hit the showers". Entry to Sanctuary is not via a quarantine system either... it is apparently OK to wheel any captured organism thru the main corridors on a trolley before any threat assessment is made. And they also don't have to inform the boss about admitted/captured organisms either... maybe the next morning over coffee is alright... as its a family affair. Predictably Druitt gets the drop on the admin guy and eventually holds Ashley hostage while Helen is taking a bead on him. Well... warrior maiden can't think to grab Druitt's weapon hand or even to slant her head a few degrees to the side to let mom get a clearer shot... which is a mystery in itself as Druitt is at least 6'6" and towers by at least one head over Ashley anyway.. leaving Druitt's jubilant face completely in a clear line of fire. I really don't know how large a target would have to be for Magnus to take the shot.
Helen Magnus certainly has not learned a whole lot about managing Sanctuary in one hundred and something odd years.. and like Torchwood the staff are only barely prepared to follow orders. And like Torchwood there is no coherent explanation for how these incompetent people could have operated their organisation for so long in the manner shown. Its for younger folk or those with far greater skills than mine at suspending their disbelief.
The potential for future story lines is very good, and the acting is decent too, specifically by Amanda Tapping. While her Helen Magnus character retains a little bit of the scientist heart of her Stargate character, there's a much more mysterious and darker side to Magnus. In fact, Magnus is what Samantha Carter could have been in another time and place. It's a refreshing change. The other principles do an okay job. Emilie Ullerup's character starts out as a little too Buffy The Vampire Slayer-ish, with too much of a cautious-less teenage attitude at the beginning -- her character was established as being over 18, which doesn't jive with how she's portrayed -- but she showed a little more maturity at the end of the pilot. Having seen Ullerup in a bit part in Battlestar Galactica, she's more than capable of pushing her character to more grittier areas, which would provide a nice counterpoint to the other characters. Robin Dunne reminds me a little too much of Daniel Radcliffe. I'm half-expecting him to start reciting Hogwart incantations. At the end of the pilot, his character still seems to be a bit 2 dimensional.
The special effects were quite good for work that was done in front of a green screen. But ... I thought that the pilot episode suffered in one particular area: pacing. I'm not sure if it has to do with the editing or directing, or both, but the two hour premiere could have almost been cut down to an hour and a half. Some of the cuts were too slow, lingering on exposition scenes. Tighter pacing and quicker cuts would have made the pilot episode a lot better.
Minor nitpicking... There are two things I wish they would have taken care of. The first was the scene in the train tunnels where Ullerup's character was following the boy. Honestly, if I was wandering through a train tunnel, I'd immediately realize that someone was following me, especially someone with a flashlight. And also, it's kinda weird that two folks could just slip by a crime scene in the same tunnel without even being noticed. (Unless, of course, they used some Jedi mind tricks...) The second was the little side story regarding the police's prime suspect to the murders. For me, this was unresolved and I would have liked to have a resolution to it. I found it disappointing that the main characters would actually let an innocent man take the fall for something that was done by some of the "monsters". Perhaps this was part of the original script? I don't know, but it's unresolved. And considering the task that the main characters are facing, you'd think they'd at least have some sort of moral compass.
Overall, the show has a nice concept, but could benefit from better editing and directing. I'm going to keep watching the show for a few more episodes before I decide if I'm going to be watching this show after Stargate Atlantis.
Like her portrayal of Samantha Carter (Stargate SG1), to Helen Magnus she brings the perfect mix of strength, humour and vulnerability. But with Helen Magnus she takes it to a whole new level with a self confidence that you can't help but be drawn to. She's the coolest, smartest and most beautiful woman in the room and you desperately want to be her.
But it's not just Amanda that makes this series great. The supporting cast including Robin Dunne, Ryan Robbins, Christopher Heyerdahl and Jonathan Young all portray wonderfully relatable and flawed characters who all contribute to this dysfunctional but loving family dynamic.
Speaking of Jonathan Young, his performance as the sassy, irreverent, self-absorbed vampire Nikola Tesla (yeah THAT Nikola Tesla)is the highlight for me. Honestly if they had made a Season 5 of this series they should've put him in every episode.
The story structure, photography and directing is familiar for SG1 and SGA fans (with Martin Wood and Damian Kindler at the wheel).
Now I will say. Season 1 is a little hit and miss. The special effects and green screen work is clunky and the story lines are not the greatest.(With the notable exceptions being "Kush", "The Five" and "Requiem") But from Season 2 onwards it's bloody fantastic.
This internet series was made on next to nothing, and it still turned out this good..? It's no wonder Sci-Fi has picked up this gem. Fantastic premise, cutting edge production technology, established stars and fresh new faces...
Amanda Tapping totally re-invents herself as an eloquent British matriarch, complete with the full on accent, and a classy brunette look (befitting her new, more serious character). Stargate fans are gonna go bananas...
Robin Dunne is the heartthrob Hamlet of this strange group of heroes, and Emilie Ullerup is the sleek, sexy, leather-clad bad ass. Bad guy Chris Heyerdahl is awesome as Druitt, a nasty "Jack the Ripper" immortal who just can't seem to stop... Add to the mix a whole new level of strange creatures that go bump in the night, and you've got the recipe for a Sci-Fi, TV stew of epic proportions. Looking forward to seeing what they do with it next...
I would not be surprised if several of the actors receive awards for their acting. In addition, I expect to see several technical awards for the production of the show.
Christopher Heyerdahl plays a couple of characters that are very different from each other. From the first episode of season one to the last, you get to see his incredible range as an actor.
Most of the time when an actor or actress plays a role for a very long time, the way Amanda Tapping played Samantha Carter, it is can be difficult to remove that image from the audiences mind. In Sanctuary, Amanda Tapping proves yet again what a fine actress she is as Helen Magnus. She created a new entertaining character for her public to care about and support.
As I said, this concept sounded interesting and I was actually pretty excited to see the show for the first time. Perhaps this is one of those situations where I should have had lower expectations or none at all because from the first episode, this show just doesn't seem to get better than marginal at best for me.
One big thing for me is the character played by Amanda Tapping. It's not her character per say but rather the accent someone decided would be a good thing for her to have. Now, I have heard people disagree in a few different ways on this subject but in my opinion, Amanda's English accent just doesn't cut it. There are clearly times when she slips in and out of the accent and it just takes away from the character and the show in general. Also, it's really annoying to hear the constant wavering. I know that may sound like nitpicking but that kind of thing can really wear down on you!
Aside from the accent issue, the two main parts of Sanctuary that really make it a 4 out of 10 as opposed to an 8 out of 10 are acting and presentation.
I did enjoy the acting when it came to guess spots from actors such as Christopher Heyerdahl who plays not only John Druitt on occasion but also is a regular character as well when he plays Bigfoot. Jonathon Young as Nikolas Tesla was another acting positive note in the few episodes he was in. Unfortunately, the acting that comes from the actors playing the main characters just doesn't really sell the show to me. The main character of Helen Druitt is an interesting one as not everyone can live for over 150 years but unfortunately, either Amanda Tapping just doesn't seem suited for the character or the character itself is just not written well. I'm not sure if she is having trouble keeping the accent and trying to act at the same time and if that's the issue but she just doesn't come off to me as being very believable.
The rest of the cast is either a much more "put you to sleep" kind of character such as Dr. Zimmerman or an "I'm appealing to the 13-17 year old demographic" character such as Ashley Magnus. The buffy-esquire member of the troupe. Both of their characters are for a lack of a way to say it...boring and/or cliché.
Honestly...I think the main reason the acting isn't very believable is the fact almost all of Sanctuary is shot on a green screen! Having to not only constantly react to creatures and monsters who are supposedly trying to kill you who also happen to not be real, there are backgrounds and landscapes and buildings that you have to also remember to act as if they are also real.
It's like each episode is it's own, "let's hunt the creatures" and give them "Sanctuary" kind of thing where ironically, at times Dr Helen Magnus declares that all creatures deserve sanctuary, or something along those lines...then turns around and wastes a bunch of other "creatures"! Then she proceeds to actually give one of them an autopsy or dissection depending on how you look at it! So...I guess that guy wasn't eligible for a room at the Sanctuary! One of the main things with this show is the CGI and digital effects. Given the fact that Sanctuary is almost entirely shot on a green screen, one would think there would be a little more polish in the execution. I found that the creatures especially have a tendency to look fake and there just seems to be an over all unpolished look to the way the effects appear on screen.
Overall, this show isn't a complete disaster as there is a somewhat decent foundation for a good show in there somewhere...Perhaps Sanctuary will actually learn from it's first season mistakes and become a better, more entertaining show depending on how many seasons it will ultimately last. That would please me greatly as we really need better sci fi shows and if this show improved I would gladly watch it on a regular basis. Until then, I'll just have to cross Sanctuary off my DVR record list.
The program uses probably more CGI and green screen (CSO) than any I have seen in awhile. Some of it is very well done and in other places it looks like a scene from a PS3 game. However, the effects seem to add more than distract from the plots. Another bonus I liked was seeing SG-1 alumni pop up now and then like Michael Shanks (Dr. Jackson) or Gary Jones (Walter). My favorite line is when Gary Jones says. "I knew that British accent was fake."
Christopher Heyerdahl is brilliant in his roles as is Robin Dunne as Will. Another treat is seeing cast from Highlander such as Jim Byrnes and Peter Wingfield. Overall the casting is very good and believable. Most of the shows so far have had some substance but I do wonder how long that will last. Hopefully, it can find good writers and continue on!
Essentially there are three main characters, all of which believable, even Tapping's accent, and I'm saying that as a Brit. She's great as Magnus, not overdone, but sensitive, slightly badass and played right. She has a daughter, Ashley. She's instantly likable and Emelie Ullerup doesn't fall into the trap of making her the typical blond 'Yeah, uhuh I like totally, like, kick- ass. Isn't that cool!' character. Instead she's much better and thankfully without a teenage crisis. I'll get onto Robin Dunne's excellent Will in a sec.
Sanctuary is more than just the sum of its parts. It has a great grittiness to it, a real world, almost familiar environment. It's slightly dark, but optimistic at the same part. 30 minutes into the pilot and I really liked it. Will was believable, I even liked and sympathised with him. the way it was done felt like a feature, not really like an hour long weekly show. The whole actual Sanctuary concept wasn't done too fantastically. However I felt it wasn't perfect but it's taken me 2 more episodes to think that actually it's worth continuing to watch.
For Brits, its on ITV 4, mondays at 9. Or 8. Pretty sure it's 9, but check. if you don't have ITV 4, it's on their catch up thing on the site. For Americans it's on Hulu and Sci Fi's Rewind.
Have fun getting into it, looking forward to see where it goes.
There are two main kinds of SF - the one, where the plot, the idea and thus the dialogs plays the main part, and the second one - where you put some silly creatures, give lasers and/or superpowers, add some rain, maybe some super-weapons - and here you have the production like 'sanctuary'.
The acting is no more then average but considering tragic, predictable plot, and the scenery made from 'cheap SF template' - this production is a waste of time. I've expected some real sociological problems raised, some real discussion on unreal world, some effort put to create the idea convincing - and I was totally disappointed not finding any of those. that's the main reason I hate most of Marvell productions - by giving some super-powers which are totally in conflict with physics like f.ex. flying man, man-gum or man-stone or some other silly ideas driven from a children dream. It's not a SF - it's a fairy tale.
So if you like 'evening stories', which not necessarily brings any new idea and you don't like to really 'jump into' the world created - or telling shortly - if you are simply looking for a cheap amusement: this series is for you. But if you are looking for good story - don't waste your time.
Now, the show just seems to be missing something. Maybe, as another reviewer put it, the show needs to pick up the pace a bit. It is certainly thought provoking. I cannot say the show is bad, nor can I say that it is great. I'll close by saying that it is certainly worth a watch, probably need to view a few episodes before making any kind of decision either way.
I just can't get into it for some unknown reason.
I thought the first year of Torchwood was the worst thing. And this... wow. I figured, (or hoped, rather) being that it's from a few of the fellows who did Stargate, and with Amanda Tapping (who is adorable) that this might actually have some promise. Martin Wood is one of the best directors SG1 ever had.
So I've never seen this show.. the first episode they've sent over here to the UK is the 3rd episode of the second series, unless I've missed something. They're advertising this as "first chance to see the sci-fi show..." and I'm just gob-smacked trying to figure out how this show could have made more than one episode.
Like I said, I really like Amanda Tapping. She's so funny and so clever, I really do enjoy her. But... considering the fact that she was born in England and probably still has enough family she's got good access to an accent if necessary, her accent is quite terrible. Even if I'd never heard or seen Amanda with her Canadian accent, I'd know in an instant after a half a sentence that she was faking an accent.
I wish that were my only complaint.
What's more over, they have irritated me by continually referring to the 17 and 1800's as "the Middle Ages." That's kind of a bad start. I'm willing to overlook something like that provided that the rest of the show makes up for it.
I'm sad to say this is worse than Torchwood series 1. Now I watch Torchwood -- I don't understand why, myself -- but the first series was dreadful. The second series, whilst passable, still cannot delude me into thinking this is a quality show. We all have that one ridiculous show we watch and can't figure out why. It's like junk food TV. You don't expect much, so you can't be disappointed. So if this is worse then that it's very sad. What saves Torchwood is the camp smile of John Barrowman, and above all the ability to laugh at itself very occasionally. It's what saves Doctor Who, a series which is, regrettably, very often terrible in script, from being intolerable and making it delightful. It's like the main characters are laughing at how ridiculous the story is -- making it OK for you to do so as well and just sit back and enjoy it.
Without someone with the charisma of Barrowman to carry a show like this, this show just reminds me of how terrible sci-fi can be.
The premise is very clearly ripped off of Torchwood. The aliens are remarkably similar to the weevils on Torchwood. The acting is WORSE than Torchwood, and the writing, if possible, is even more elementary. The acting/writing/directing/special effects are about level in quality as those on the movie Idiocracy - without the intentional mediocrity and without the social statement.
I really like Amanda and was hoping this would be worth watching.
Unless something severe changes on this show? Don't waste your time.
The most interesting thing about the Sanctuary series the writers have managed to balance the sci-fi nature of the show with episodes that deal with the relationships of the characters to each other and to their world. In season two these relationships are expanded. The writers/producers/network have taken a lot of flack for killing off Ashley (Emilie Ullerup). Although at first I didn't like the character of Ashley, by the end of Season 1 she had grown on me. I liked the mother/daughter dynamic and I was very sorry to see Ashley go. However, her departure created a new dimension to the character of Magnus and the writers dealt with Ashley's death in a very realistic way. The addition of streetwise and morally ambiguous Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi) has brought yet another interesting facet to the series. So, although I would love to see them bring Ashley back, I hope that if they choose to do so they keep Kate as well.
The most enjoyable thing about this series is that it seems to be different from everything else on TV (even within the sci-fi genre). I'm looking forward to Season 3!