October 9, 2009

TV Review | Sanctuary 2.1 – “End of Nights (Part One)”

Sanctuary (SPACE: network debut October 9, 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT; Syfy: second-season premiere October 9, 10:00 PM ET/9:00 PM CT) has trod a long road to get to basic cable in Canada.  It comes to SPACE this season from The Movie Network.  Tracing the show back to its source, Sanctuary originated as a web series.  Sanctuary is on Syfy in America, currently one of Canada’s best-known exports.

Hell, Sanctuary was even nominated for a technical Emmy this year.  At this point, star/executive producer Amanda Tapping can write her own ticket.  Diversifying from Stargate Atlantis will do that to you.

At first glance, Sanctuary is Torchwood with intelligent cryptids, or “Abnormals,” in place of aliens.  The 150-something Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) is a non-glib, female Jack Harkness.  Werewolves and vampires feature, since they’re kinda neat.

I don’t call Sanctuary an own-brand Torchwood, even though this is the first episode of Sanctuary I’ve seen.  Frankly, the show’s more Primeval than Torchwood.  Sanctuary needs LGBT themes to be even close to Torchwood.

The acting, as is so often the case in Canada, ranges from good to bad.  Agam Darshi is surprisingly tolerable as new girl Kate Freelander.  Christopher Heyerdahl is uneven as Abnormal jack-of-all-trades Bigfoot, yet excellent as space-time hopper/ex-serial killer John Druitt.

On the flip side, Jonathon Young annoys me in his recurring role as half-vampire/inventor/smart-ass Nikola Tesla.  Young is given a few one-liners and a flippant attitude, a character archetype played straight.  Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) and Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) are generic and uninteresting characters, even granting Foss’ werewolfism.  Compared to Magnus, Foss and Zimmerman seem like warm bodies attached to subplots.

Amanda Tapping’s British accent fluctuates over the course of “End of Nights (Part One).”  At the same time, Tapping is better than Torchwood‘s John Barrowman in that she’s more forceful and believable as the head of a clandestine organization.  They’re all business, no lesbian kissing down at The Sanctuary.

Sanctuary hovers around the upper echelon of SPACE’s offerings.  It’s better than Primeval, which is like saying that mild nausea is better than having your face run over by a motorcycle.  Sanctuary isn’t better than Rabbit Fall (there, I said it) or Watchmen: The Motion Comic, but it’s not bad.  It’s too easy for a show on SPACE to eclipse the heights of Total Recall 2070, Defying Gravity and Star Trek: Voyager.

The main problem with Sanctuary is that it’s no better than competent.  It’s a campy show that isn’t overly ambitious.  Sanctuary isn’t insultingly bad, like Tripping the Rift, but “End of Nights (Part One)” doesn’t make me want to check out Sanctuary‘s first season.

Sanctuary looks fairly cheap, with much Vancouver location shooting.  I actually prefer the unreal look of the CGI to the very real shots of darkened corridors, bannisters and dilapidated-looking buildings.  I tend not to care about a sci-fi show’s special effects unless they’re Adventures of Sinbad levels of inept, but Sanctuary looks chintzier than it actually is.

Sanctuary makes for a good time filler, but there’s not much to the show beyond this.  “End of Nights (Part One)” is all bla bla Cabal, bla bla Abnormals, plus a poorly-realized car chase.  I might watch another episode of the show to see if I’m missing something, but Sanctuary isn’t sucking me in at this time.

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