There will be outline/story spoilers in this review, so be aware!
Bruce's First impression: If you're more action-centric, Sanctuary will drive you crazy waiting for it. If you are story driven and enjoy detailed development, you'll be fine. In the premiere, detailed story development seemed favored over action but if you're looking for full time continuity in the story line, you might also be disappointed.
Sanctuary's big claim to fame is that it is filmed mostly in front of a green screen. Sometimes you don't notice it and sometimes it's rather apparent. In the first 30 minutes we meet most of the different characters of the show, in one form or another.
We first meet Alexi (Cainan Wiebe) when police respond to a noise complaint. The police find him under a bed next to a dead body. The cops also end up dead because of an appendage that pops out and feeds on brains when Alexi is afraid. It's a side effect of radiation exposure from when he was in the Chernobyl region.
We meet Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensic psychologist who works for the police, and we are either seeing some inane talent or just the unique way his perceptions work when he surveys a crime scene. They haven't made that clear, but I suspect the latter.
Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), who's 157 years old, has been keeping track of Will since he was 8. They first intersect as adults when she hits him with her car while chasing Alexi. "Well this isn't how I hoped we'd first meet," she says, with an odd English accent.
We then meet Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), the hot blond. She's in pursuit of Alexi for Dr. Magnus. It turns out that Ashley is the daughter of Helen Magnus. Ashley Magnus has a tendency towards guns and has a 'tude that they portray well. I was rather annoyed with her glib traits while not accomplishing any of her jobs, despite being the action girl in all leather. See, there are some redeeming show features.
We then meet John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) who looks a little like the old black and white version of Dracula. When we first meet him, he's killing a prostitute after obtaining information about The Sanctuary. He turns out to be Ashley's father, and back in the day, he was Jack the Ripper. It's complicated. Something about Dr. Magnus' blood turned him into something and it has driven him to the point of wanting to kill.
After Dr. Magnus and Dr Zimmerman meet, she takes him to the Sanctuary. It's there that we meet Bigfoot. Yes, Bigfoot... but he's only about 6 feet tall, at best. Not very... big. Dr. Magnus pulled some bullets out of him and he stayed on as a staff member of The Sanctuary. It actually looks like the Geico caveman finally got a job!
The Sanctuary is a place where Dr. Magnus either keeps, or lets unique beings, creatures and monsters stay. Some, to be protected from mankind, others, to protect mankind from.
We don't meet Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) until an hour in. He's an employee of Dr. Magnus as the technical expert that keeps things running at The Sanctuary.
After we meet Alexi, for some reason, the cops pin the murders that Alexi commits on the downstairs neighbor, no explanation, except this twist seems to be used as a tool to demonstrate Dr. Zimmerman's ethical character. And I found the complete absence of names with some of the police force interesting. I'm thinking if you have no name, you might as well be wearing a red security shirt (classic Star Trek reference)!
After Magnus and Zimmerman meet, she takes him to The Sanctuary. The guided tour involves showing him some of the more unique residents and it borders on hokey as she explains each one and even apologizes for the behavior of one of them.
Yes, you read right earlier on. John Druitt learns where the super secret Sanctuary is through a street walker. Go figure that one!
Druitt confronts Ashley who went out after being told not to go out. During the confrontation, Ashley empties her gun trying to shoot the guy, even at point blank range. Though he's lightning fast, when she's out of ammo, she goes to plan B, which is trying to take him on, hand-to-hand. Yeesh.
Though they talk up how Dr. Magnus has collected the denizens of the Sanctuary, both Helen and Ashley seem extremely challenged in their encounters with Alexi, and then Druitt. Thus, I'm just not sure how they got this far along in their little project with regards to capturing some of these creatures.
Their little project is dedicted to tracking down, studying and protecting strange and terrifying creatures that secretly populate our world and live among us. She's discovered some process or additive for her blood that has helped her live this long.
Finally: The show has potential but now that the two hour premiere is over with, they aren't going to be able to pull off this detailed, slow plot development pace each week without boring us to the point of wanting to go out and mow the lawn. They need to pick up the pace and there is potential with the material they have available to them and what they've touched on in the premiere. Even if Magnus' capture methodologies were vaguely, well, actually, completely overlooked.
Right now, I'd be surprised if this webisode-to-TV series lasts past the first season, if that. They've slapped it in the Friday night time slot and moved Stargate: Atlantis back an hour to try and capitalize on the audience that will show up during that time frame.
Writing credits show Martin Wood and Damian Kindler, both with extensive experience scribing Stargate, so I was expecting something more. Not sure what, but more than this.
Come on, surprise me Sci-Fi. No, really. Try it sometime.