In case you weren’t aware, Sanctuary is the only ever television programme to be filmed almost entirely on a green screen, which means the characters are superimposed onto CGI sets instead of standing on ones made of chipboard and shiny paint. Not only that, but it was originally produced, back in 2007, to air exclusively online. That’s some fancy, expensive speculating. Apparently, it paid off because SyFy picked up Sanctuary (a show about a gothic pile refuge for mutants) after only eight webisodes and polished it up for TV. It’s held on for three series, though this is the first to be shown on Watch (Tuesdays 9pm).
The Sanctuary is not, as you might imagine, a place where beasts with two backs, three heads and a tentacle book in for a foot rub and a colonic. It was set up as a secure home for “Abnormals”. Everyone, from mermaids and Yetis to bog creatures and persons with a face on both sides of their head, are welcome. The US wing of this institution for societal rejects is run by 158-year-old Dr Helen Magnus (Stargate SG-1’s Amanda Tapping) and her hesitant protégé, psychologist Dr Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne). They jostle and clash over cases but, ultimately, work well together.
As we signed off from series two, the world--or at least parts of Asia--faced flooding and mass death. That’s because a giant angry spidery thing called Big Bertha (with a more aesthetically pleasing Indian goddess constituent known as Kali) was working up a fearsome Tsunami from its tropical island base. It was left to the Sanctuary crew to turn the situation around and clear the way for (we hope) some more compelling plotlines.
Including this series opener, Bertha/Kali will have swallowed up three whole instalments, and none have worked well. Whenever Sanctuary tries to supersize storylines they come off as overblown and empty. The better episodes stand alone, as was always the case with The X-Files, which (along with X Men) Sanctuary borrows from heavily.
This show can be fun and does offer up some exciting beasts but it’s only very average sci-fi, made slower and less appealing by clumsy dialogue and bland casting. And because this episode is mostly concerned with cleaning house after the cliffhanger double bill last season, it’s hard to tell whether the new series will produce any monster storylines.