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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Complete First Season


Starring: Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Emilie Ullerup, Ryan Robbins and Christopher Heyerdahl
E1 Entertainment
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 12 October 2009

In the middle of investigating a multiple murder, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman is approached by Dr. Helen Magnus with an offer to join her in a very secretive project. Having devoted her life to the study of cutting edge medicine and science, Helen has the proof that the creatures of everyone's childhood nightmares do exist, contained within the walls of the Sanctuary, where she houses, protects and learns from the extraordinary and paranormal creatures that inhabit our world. Initially sceptical and a little apprehensive, Will agrees to join the Sanctuary team and, along with Helen, her fearless daughter Ashley, technical genius Henry Foss and Helen's "man-Friday", a former patient and real-life Bigfoot, begins the amazing and often dangerous task of tracking down the strange and often terrifying creatures that secretly share our world...

Sanctuary is a pretty impressive Canadian sci-fi series that stars Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1) as Dr. Helen Magnus. In fact this series draws quite a lot of creative talent from the Stargate pool. Firstly, the show's creator and executive producer, Damian Kindler, was a writer and supervising producer on Stargate; Martin Wood (Sanctuary's executive producer / writer) was a director / co-producer on Stargate; and Amanda Tapping (who played Samantha Carter of Stargate) is the show's executive producer as well as main star.

The series also employs the service of a number of Stargate actors. Christopher Heyerdahl (who most people will remember for playing the Wraith Todd in Stargate) appears in the show as both John Druitt and Bigfoot; Peter Wingfield (who played Tanith in Stargate) appears in the semi-regular role of James Watson; Kavan Smith (Stargate's Major Evan Lorne) stars as Joe Kavanaugh; David Nykl (Stargate's Dr. Radek Zelenka) appears as Strickland; and Chuck Campbell (Stargate's Chuck the Technician) appears as Two-Faced Guy. In addition, David Hewlett (Stargate's Dr. Rodney McKay) appears in the first webisode as Larry Tolson. There also many other Stargate guest stars who pop up in these episodes.

Those expecting this to be a rather watered down extension of Stargate are in for a pleasant surprise. Sanctuary stands up rather well on its own two feet. In fact thanks to dark hair and an English accent, you'll hardly think of Tapping as her previous character - she is instantly Magnus the second she sets foot on the screen. This is a testament to not only Tapping's acting, but also Martin Wood's fine direction.

As well as the very notable Stargate connections there's also the obvious link to Torchwood here too; as both show's main characters work for the police force and join secret organisations after spotting something odd during an investigation and decide to follow it on their own time. This results in them coming into contact with a secret organisation and having a whole new world opened to them. This works well, as the viewer is introduced to the Sanctuary at the same time as Will - helping to make explanations and revelations feel more natural.

On occasion the computer visual effects are not as fantastic as they could have been, but in other aspects they surpass what you'll be expecting. For example, I really didn't notice that most of the show's sets were filmed almost entirely on green screen.

The acting is also another area where things don't always go quite so smoothly. The most noticeable example is the very ambitious episode Instinct. Here, in a Cloverfield-esque filming style, we follow the action from the point of view of a weather reporter and her cameraman as they think they are on the trail of the scoop of their lives. While a fantastic episode (mainly as it lets us see much more closely how the team work together to capture a creature - and for the feeling that comes across that you're actually there) the acting of the weather girl and her cameraman are not quite as good as they could have been. The cameraman's rantings are particularly annoying and I didn't really believe they were anything other than actors. But otherwise this is a great episode.

On balance this show attempts (and manages to pull off) to do a lot of things that most show's wouldn't venture towards until at least their third or fourth season. Again, Instinct is a good example, but also Requiem starts with an event that we see one way, and then skips back in time so that when we come full circle we view that event differently. Also, the ongoing "The Five" story arc is interesting and something that will no doubt be unravelled a little more in the show's second season.

Extras include three Making of Featurettes (Welcome to the Sanctuary (5 min, 12 sec); The Sanctuary Residents (5 min, 39 sec) and The Visual Effects of Sanctuary (5 min, 22 sec)); audio commentaries with cast and crew on each episode; Sanctuary: The Original Webisodes (these 8 x 15 min episodes are split into two episodes (1 hr, 08 min, 34 sec and 1 hr, 01 min, 26 sec) with introductions by Amanda Tapping); Bloopers (3 min, 31 sec); Behind the Scenes Gallery; and Sneak Peak for Season 2 (56 sec).

While a little over priced when you consider that you're paying £40 for just over half the number of episodes of half a season of any other show - and that the last season of Stargate Atlantis was £60 for a full season - Sanctuary is certainly a show that's worth adding to your DVD collection.


Darren Rea

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