I would have loved "Sanctuary" when I was fifteen. I don´t intend that as a put down or a backhanded compliment. It´s a focused, mission-oriented show that stays firmly rooted in its well-delineated fantasy world. Each week the characters are faced with a new challenge or adventure, they solve it, and then move on to the next one. Though there are arcs that extend across the season, each episode (or two parter) is relatively self-contained so you don´t have to watch every minute like you did with "Lost" or "Heroes" or virtually every other cult-hit series these days to pick up all the clues and keep up with all the annoying twists. It´s not a show that builds up to one big mystery, but one that tells a different story each week and actually has an ending for each of them.
The basic premise: Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), who looks mighty fine for a 157 year old (or is it 159 now?), runs the Sanctuary which provides protection for "abnormals," creatures we would define either as mutations or supernatural beings. They live among us, but Magnus doesn´t want to hunt them down. She wants to protect them. Sanctuary for all. Also along for the ride in Season Four are the other supporting characters who have either been with the team from the start or were picked up along the way, including Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), con-artist turned do-gooder Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi), tech whiz Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) and actor Christopher Heyerdahl in his dual role as team member/Abnormal Bigfoot (yes, he is THE Bigfoot) and bad guy/Magnus' ex John Druitt.
"Sanctuary" is produced in Canada, and reassembles several of the team members from "Stargate: SG-1" and "Stargate: Atlantis" including Amanda Tapping and series creator Damian Kindler. The show is packed to the gills with special effects. Even the rooms are created digitally as the actors spend almost all their time standing in front of a green screen. No doubt it´s a remarkable logistical achievement, but it´s a sterile, artificial look that turns me off, and the effects can be wildly inconsistent from scene to scene. However, Kindler´s stated goal is to show the world that Canada can produce (science-fiction) TV with world-class production values, and he and visual effects director Lee Wilson have done so.
I admit that I have almost completely lost touch with the show now that Season Four is in the books, and my only lasting impression now after skimming through a few episodes is that Amanda Tapping is an absolute knockout. The 13-episode season (Season Three had expanded to 20 episodes) kicks off with a time travel episode as Magnus heads back to 1898 London to stop a man from changing history. The show returns to the present for another season of rescuing abnormals and struggling both against Homeland Security and the recently discovered Hollow Earthers. Nikola Tesla (Jonathon Young), perhaps the series' most popular guest character, returns for a few more episodes.
Other fans have also lost touch with “Sanctuary” as the ratings dropped significantly in Season Four. The SyFy Channel has not renewed the series for a fifth season and as things stand right now, “Sanctuary” has been canceled.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic high-def transfers are consistently excellent, providing sharp resolution and strong colors. The quality of the transfers is consistent with that of earlier season releases.
Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is crisp all around which, unfortunately, means perfect preservation of a theme song that should qualify as a weapon of torture. Option English SDH subtitles support the English audio.
As with Season Three, they have chosen to cut corners by piling two discs on top of each other in the same case. When you unfold this case, you might think there are only two discs, but there are two on each spindle. Whether this leads to potential scratching down the road remains to be seen. The first three discs include the episodes and commentary tracks by cast and crew for the following episodes: Ep. 2 “Uprising”, Ep. 9 “Chimera,” Ep. 11 “The Depths” and Ep. 12 “Sanctuary for None, Pt. 1.”
Disc Four includes the final episode of the season “Sanctuary for None, Pt. 2” along with a commentary track along with several other short extras. “Amanda Cam” follows Amanda Tapping through a typical day at work, waking up bleary-eyed at 4:30 and stumbling into the makeup room (13 min.) The disc also includes a Behind-the-Scenes feature about the episode “Tempus” (14 min.), a featurette on Robin Dunne's directorial debut on “Homecoming” (15 min.), a look at the making of their musical episode “Fugue” (20 min.), a Gag Reel (8 min.) and a collection of Deleted Scenes (21 min.)
“Sanctuary” was never quite my cup of tea due n large part to my distaste for heavy CGI effects, but the basic premise was a rich one that allowed the writers to explore many facets of the “Sanctuary” universe and presumably would have allowed room for much more. Unfortunately, Season Four is also the final season though you'll see no indication of that fact on this DVD set or in the extras (I have not listened to the commentaries, however). A four season run is pretty impressive, and Damian Kindler and his team have been working regularly for the better part of two decades and I wouldn't expect that run to stop now.