Initially dismissed as a “Torchwood” rip-off, Canada’s “Sanctuary” is actually every bit that British show’s equal … and maybe even better. What that means is intriguing science fiction with wide accessibility, good humor and a tremendous amount of fun “ sci-fi for people who don’t typically warm to the genre. Its first season is now out on a four-disc set, which you’ll tear through in no time and then count down the days until its second season’s October premiere.
The lovely Amanda Tapping (“Stargate SG-1″) stars as Dr. Helen Magnus, a beautiful researcher who’s actually 157 years old. She runs the titular Sanctuary, which is scary way of saying “safe haven for monsters,” which actually exist, although they prefer the term “abnormals.” Seriously “ Bigfoot is the place’s butler.
With the help of her super-hot daughter, Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), she rounds creatures up, and in the pilot, they recruit the skeptical Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensics cop with a special power of his own, to their monster-hunting fold. In their adventures, they encounter mischievous, Tribble-like Nubbins; a criminal who can squeeze his body through impossible openings; a time-traveling Nikola Tesla; and the evil organization The Cabal, which will appear to play an even bigger role in season two.
The crux of the show lie in the Helen/Ashley/Will relationship; these are great characters, smart and sexy in their own way. And while the series is largely green-screened, it doesn’t overwhelm the stories, which adhere to the beast-of-the-week formula of similar shows from “The X-Files” to “Warehouse 13.” The special effects are above-average for TV, mostly seamless, and deserving of their Emmy nomination.
Special attention must be made of truly special features, including the original webisodes from which the eventual series was spurred. Behind-the-scenes bits are perfunctory, but diverting. All in all, in presentation and packaging, this is one excellent release, put together with care by E1 Entertainment. After just this and “The Hunger,” E1 has quickly become a stamp of quality for television releases.