Back in 2007, Sanctuary began life as a series of eight webisodes released one at a time over the Internet. I was among those who purchased the hi-def versions of these 15-20 minute shows and was drawn into the world of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis), a seemingly ageless scientist and researcher investigating the monsters or "abnormals" in the real world and helping them survive and learn to live somewhat normal lives or capturing and studying them if they're too violent to help.
The success of the webisodes led Syfy (formerly the SciFi Channel) to give the series' producers the green light to create a 13-episode season to air in 2008. These episodes expanded on the world of the webisodes in some significant ways, but kept fans entertained (including myself) and intrigued enough that a second season will begin airing in October 2009. And from the sneak peek, it looks like there are some serious changes afoot for the Sanctuary team.
The world of Sanctuary is definitely a dark one, with Magnus' actual sanctuaries providing homes for many different strange, wonderful, and often bizarre species. In some ways, the series is like the BBC's Torchwood, with a slightly different bent. Where the Torchwood group protects the world against alien invasions, the Sanctuary team provides a buffer between the regular world where we live and the realm of abnormals. Sometimes they help people against the Abnormals, but they always have the best interests of this other world at heart.
Among the crew helping Magnus are Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensic psychiatrist with a sense for detail similar to Sherlock Holmes; Magnus' daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), a monster hunter extraordinaire with a knack for finding trouble; Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins), the group's computer and weapons geek who also happens to be an Abnormal himself; Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), Magnus' butler, chauffeur, and bodyguard; and John Druitt (also Heyerdahl), Magnus' former love interest who can teleport across time and space and may have been Jack the Ripper in an earlier time.
Towards the end of the first season, the Sanctuary team discovered that they are not the only group to have an interest in the world of the Abnormals. Whereas Sanctuary tries to do what's best for the Abnormals, The Cabal is only interested in learning how better to destroy them so they can save mankind. We also met a few more members of the original five brilliant minds who have survived the last 150 years – including Nikola Tesla and Dr. James Watson (of Sherlock Holmes fame).
Though the 13 episodes of this first televised season of Sanctuary provided some amazing stories and it's great to catch up, I have to say it's the extras on this four-DVD set that really made it worthwhile. I was hooked on the webisodes when they were released on the Internet — but I hadn't seen them in 2007. So when you go back to the beginning, you can see the difference in quality between the initial mini-episodes to where they ended the season is impressive.
Beyond the webisodes, there are episode audio commentaries from cast and crew, bloopers, and a sneak peek at season two. But it was the behind the scenes featurettes — "Welcome to the Sanctuary," "Sanctuary Residents," and "Sanctuary Visual Effects" — that really showed the dedication of these talented people. Tapping, Dunne, Ullerup, Heyerdahl, Robbins are the faces we know through the episodes, but behind the scenes are others we never see. Damian Kindler created the show many years before he showed the script around and it spawned one of the most intriguing fantasy worlds on television today.
With season two of Sanctuary on the horizon in October 2009, this is a great time to catch up on what happened in season one with the Sanctuary: The Complete First Season set. Start at the beginning and work your way to the cliffhanger at the end, for we can only hope some answers are forthcoming in the season premiere! Check out Sanctuary: The Complete First Season at your favorite retailer when it's released on September 15, 2009.