Sunday, October 05, 2008

Review: Sanctuary, Episode 1.1, “Sanctuary for All”

To be honest, I found the premiere episode lacking and a little disappointing. The premise sounds similar to Torchwood--a team with a mysterious leader and a secret base who deal with strange creatures and unexplained phenomena--but it's no Torchwood. It lacks the style and the originality of that show. That said, it offers some entertainment value, especially for fans of star Amanda Tapping like myself.

Sanctuary is the creation of former Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis staff writer Damian Kindler, and began life as a series of eight webisodes. While it was initially reported that the webisodes would be edited together to make the two hour premiere episode, instead it appears that the first four webisodes were re-written and re-shot, with much less use of CGI backgrounds and sets, to make this episode, which was directed by Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis veteran Martin Wood.

It's refreshing to see Tapping take on a full-time character other than Captain-turned-Major-turned-Colonel Samantha Carter, the character she's played on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis since 1997. She's well-suited to the role of mysterious team leader Dr. Helen Magnus, without making you think you're watching a Carter clone. My only complaint is the English accent she uses, which seems to come and go, and is shaky even at the best of times.

The cast also includes Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman, a brilliant forensic psychiatrist (this character reminds me of Stargate SG-1's Dr. Daniel Jackson); Emilie Ullerup as Dr. Magnus' daughter Ashley (this pretty young blonde woman with super fighting skills and a penchant for quips seems derivative of one Buffy Summers); Ryan Robbins as Henry, Dr. Magnus' assistant; and Christopher Heyerdahl (Todd the Wraith on Stargate Atlantis and Zor-El on Smallville) as a dangerous man who shares a past with Dr. Magnus. Guest stars in this episode include Stargate Atlantis' Kavan Smith and Battlestar Galactica's Kandyse McClure.

Verdict: Sanctuary is an adequate genre show, but no more than that at this point. It has the potential to put together an interesting mythology, but it's held back so far by a predictable story and under-developed characters. It's not a bad show, it just needs some work. Time will tell if it improves. The presence of Tapping is enough to keep me watching for now.

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