What do you get when you cross X-Men with Primeval and add in a healthy dose of Indiana Jones? You get Sanctuary, an offbeat, charming, but largely forgettable show about a network of philanthropic scientists out to save mythical beasts from a world that hates and fears them, and, sometimes, to save the world from them.
I never watched the first season, so I came into season two cold. It took me a while to warm up to the concept because the first couple of episodes involved wrapping up events set off in the finale of season one. It wasn’t until episode four that I got a real handle on what the show was about and began enjoying it. In general, I found that I enjoyed the little done-in-one episodes more than the ones that dealt more with the show’s backstory or mythology. I’m not sure if this is because of my unfamiliarity with the series or if the done-in-ones appealed to me more, but regardless, there was enough here to keep me entertained for thirteen episodes.
The general plot goes like this: Dr. Helen Magnus (played by Stargate: SG1‘s Amanda Tapping) co-created the Sanctuary network—a group of safe houses designed to protect and preserve creatures the general public considers imaginary. These “abnormals,” as they are referred, can possess tremendous power, and there are organizations and individuals out there that would use them for their own gain.
In a sense, Dr. Magnus is an abnormal as well, gifted with an unusually long lifespan. Among her companions are her former husband, a vampire who also happens to be Jack the Ripper, a nerdy werewolf tech guy, a psychiatrist, a thief, a bigfoot, and a vampire Nikola Tesla, who straddles the line between ally and foe. Although this is an ensemble cast, Magnus is really the star and the show’s focal point. Thankfully, Tapping has the screen presence to pull this off, and it’s largely due to her that the show works at all.
At times the show can stray into goofy territory, such as episode four: “Hero,” where the Sanctuary members encounter an abnormal dressed like a superhero and possessing Superman-like abilities. That episode was fun, if a bit silly, but other episodes were quite good, such as “Fragments,” where the Sanctuary crew must figure out what happened when an “ordinarily docile abnormal” attacks one of their scientists. That episode played out more like a police procedural, and the mix of cop drama and the supernatural made for an interesting dynamic.
If I have one pet peeve about Sanctuary it’s with their portrayal of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian physicist, inventor, and bane of Thomas Edison. Played by Jonathan Young, Tesla is a spiky-haired, faux Eurotrash alcoholic that speaks with an American accent and has a penchant for world domination. If this had been an original character instead of an historical person, I probably would like the character, but Young’s portrayal is so off from what I know of the historical Tesla that it’s grating. David Bowie’s performance in The Prestige was much more faithful, in my humble opinion.
The Tesla character doesn’t break the show for me by any means—it just irritates me like a piece of food caught between my teeth. Overall, Sanctuary was an enjoyable show, but for some reason it never went beyond that. I didn’t hate the show, but I have no interest in watching any other episodes, either. There’s no one plot point or character or concept flaw I can point out to explain my reaction: this is just one of those occasions where a show just didn’t click with me.
Each episode is presented Widescreen 1080p High Definition in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The audio is English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio/5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles for the hearing impaired. The episodes looked and sounded just fine with no problems other than a slight fluctuation in the volume during action scenes.
There are plenty of bonus features here, most of which are pretty standard. The cast and crew do seem to really like each other and enjoy working on the show, which I always like seeing, and one of the featurettes concerns the Sanctuary foundation, a charity organization that helps children around the world.
Audio commentary on all 13 episodes with cast and crew
Multiple Making-of Featurettes
Anatomy of an Episode
Robin Dunne Video Diaries
Sanctuary Goes to Comic Con
Bloopers and Outtakes
Even though I really didn’t connect with the series, it’s not bad. People looking for some fun, often light-hearted fantasy should check out this show. Recommended.
BBC presents Sanctuary: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Christopher Heyerdahl, Ryan Robbins, and Agam Darshi. Running time: 585 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: June 15, 2010.