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Rediscovering 'Sanctuary'

"Let’s just say that I’m someone who’s chosen to embrace the full spectrum of our reality. There are things in this city—in this world—that no one wants to admit are real."

--Dr. Helen Magnus, Sanctuary
Over the summer, I experienced the wonders of watching television online—and one of the series I caught up on was Sanctuary, a SyFy series (the second season of which begins this Friday) about 157 year old Dr. Helen Magnus and her colleagues who operate the Sanctuary, an organization that seeks out “abnormals” (non-human creatures) to learn from, offer refuge or (in the more dangerous cases) contain. Heh, as Ken put it last year on his blog, “it’s a bit cheesy” but I was intrigued by the series’ theme that reality is much bigger and contains much greater wonders (and horrors) than we generally perceive—and that’s a theme that often brings God-talk into these open spaces.

Last fall, the series fell by the wayside in the wake of all the other television shows we were watching, but in the waning summer season I caught up (I watched them commercial-free at no cost on Netflix Instant--and no, I'm not getting paid for that statement). Ken pegs the series' weaknesses fairly well, but the series has its moments, too.

I must admit I find it interesting how more than one episode uses unique forms or structures to tell its story. Like the Cloverfield-esque “Instinct,” which had me jumping out of my skin and yelping like a teenage girl (which I probably haven’t done watching a television show or movie since I was that age, heh). I have an aversion to arachnoid or insect-like things to begin with, so this non-human abnormal literally made my skin crawl. But the beauty of the episode (besides the fact that it guest-starred Rekha Sharma, who played Tory Foster on Battlestar Galactica) was that the creature was on the screen for only seconds—in fact, the above picture was the only clear shot you ever get. The creep factor was that you knew it was out there in the dark, but you couldn’t see it. Shudder.

And then there’s “Requiem”: the whole episode takes place on a tiny submarine with Magnus and Zimmerman being the only two characters in the entire episode; and while the episode stretched thin at some points, it ultimately carried itself. Similarly, “Kush” takes place almost entirely in one place as well—the shell of an airplane that has crashed in the Himalyas—and is rather reminiscent of an Agatha-Christie-like murder mystery (with a definite sci-fi flavor). Heh, then there’s “Nubbins,” which takes a really nasty little twist on tribbles.

Also, I found myself appreciating some of the themes the series touches on as well. In addition to the idea that there is a much larger and magnificent reality about us than we comprehend, I also resonated with the theme of redemption in the story thread concerning John Druitt, who’s as old as Magnus but has sustained so much brain damage using his powers that he became a twisted killer—in fact, he was the original Jack the Ripper. But when he is tortured and almost killed by the rogue and vampiric Tesla, Druitt's insanity is reversed. But with the return of his sanity also comes his conscience, and he’s faced with the reality of the horrible acts he’s committed. Actor Christopher Heyerdahl—who also plays Bigfoot in the series (don’t ask)—makes believable Druitt’s struggle with his remorse and struggle to find ways to atone for all the pain and hurt he’s caused. And even though some of the characters choose to believe and forgive him, as in real life, it’s a struggle to earn back their trust.

Now, even with all these innovative aspirations and God-talking themes, I know this series is no Emmy-winning piece of art (yet, at least). It may even have more weaknesses than strengths. But, I must admit, it’s earned a place on my DVR (or at least on my Hulu subscriptions).

(Images: SyFy)


Beth said…
I admit to enjoying this series as well, though the submarine ep. was probably my least favorite. The last submarine story that really worked for me was Das Boot (can't do umlauts in this interface!) Not great art, but the cast has good chemistry, and Amanda Tapping seems much more interesting as Magnus than she ever did in her Stargate role--but I've tried to watch various Stargates and they're all equally boring. Maybe Robert Carlyle can save Stargate: Universe...