Sanctuary-Season 1 (2008)

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Released 9-Sep-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-All episodes
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 587:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Martin Wood
Brenton Spencer
S.A. Adelson
Peter DeLuise
Tricon Film & Televi
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Amanda Tapping
Robin Dunne
Emilie Ullerup
Ryan Robbins
Christopher Heyerdahl
Case 4-Way Cross-Dual
RPI ? Music Ian Browne
Joel Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Although I greatly enjoy Science Fiction (both Movies and TV shows) I was completely unaware of this show before I saw it in a local distributors upcoming release list. The show first kicked off as 8 webisodes in 2007. Those 8 webisodes were then reshot and recut to form the first three episodes of this television series which showed on the Scifi channel in the US in late 2008. A second series is in the works and will probably be shown later this year in the US. This show was shown locally on Foxtel recently. The show came to my attention because of one episode being included on the local distributor's promotional disc a couple of months ago. Intrigued by the show's premise and its links to the Stargate shows, I was keen to review the whole series.

    The basic premise of the show is that the world is full of 'abnormals' who need to be protected from humanity and a place has been set up to house and protect them, called The Sanctuary, hence the name of the show, Sanctuary. The owner and leader of this 'private research facility' (as they describe themselves to anyone nosy) is Dr Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping who was Sam Carter from the Stargate universe). She is 157 years old but looks as young as Amanda Tapping (40ish) and is dedicated to her work of protecting and studying these abnormals. The abnormals are not aliens but rather are humans with special powers (sort of like X-Men without the flashy costumes) or bigger, uglier animals or insects (more like the stuff coming through the anomalies in Primeval.). They tend to quite often be things from mythology. Magnus is very enigmatic and not necessarily completely moral. This makes her an interesting and hard to read character rather than the usual obvious goodie. Explaining how Magnus comes to be 157 years old and in this line of work would give away too much of what happens over the course of these episodes. It is great to see Amanda Tapping playing a quite different character to Sam Carter. There is no particular setting the show is set in although it is obviously the US. Some episodes occur in other parts of the world such as the Himalayas and the bottom of the ocean. The Sanctuary also has braches all over the world for example in London & New Delhi. They have an ongoing enemy in a group known as 'The Cabal' who want to exploit abnormals for their own benefit.

    The show has been likened strongly to Torchwood. It certainly shares some traits with Torchwood, however there is enough difference to allow it to stand on its own. Torchwood is definitely the better show, however this one is worth watching. I would actually describe it as a mixture of Torchwood, X-Men, Primeval and CSI.

    Details of the character's pasts are revealed slowly during the season. The other recurring characters are:

    From a production quality perspective, this show relies a lot on CGI with most of the scenes being acted on green screen with the background filled in later by computer. Unfortunately, some of these look very unrealistic, while some are of better quality. This is especially true in the first few episodes whereas later in the season CGI is used more judiciously. The overall feel of the production design is very gothic suiting the newly dark haired Amanda Tapping and her tougher, darker character (compared to Sam Carter). The earlier episodes also contain some bizarre procedural anomalies and some dodgy dialogue. The series finds its feet more in the second half which hopefully will continue into season 2. The show is shot using the new RED ultra HD cameras, which unfortunately has not translated to a great video transfer on this set (more on this below).

    This four disc set contains 13 episodes, if you count the first double episode as 2. The first two episodes have been cut together here but you can see a very brief glimpse of the opening frame of the credits where the break should have been. The episodes are all quite different which is certainly a positive in this sort of series offering a wide variety of situations for the team to address. The show was created by Damian Kindler, who was a writer/producer on the Stargate shows. Martin Wood and other Stargate alumni direct most of the episodes.

    In summary this is a good, without being great, entry into what is becoming a long line of science fiction shows being made in Vancouver.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is somewhat disappointing.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which I would guess is the original aspect ratio or close to it. It is 16x9 enhanced widescreen.The case of my copy says that the video is NTSC, however it is definitely PAL. Beyond Home Entrainment have confirmed that the case is being reprinted to show PAL. This is an NTSC to PAL conversion rather than a PAL transfer from the source. This is a shame and is probably responsible for a number of the issues with this transfer.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp in the foreground but quite undefined in the backgrounds. The sharpness was also affected by motion blur. Shadow detail was decent but never great, not assisted by the dark, gothic colour scheme. There was also some occasional light grain and macro-blocking especially in backgrounds.

    The colour was well rendered but not vibrant which is a reflection of the dark colour scheme.

    Other artefacts include significant amounts of edge enhancement and some noticeable aliasing even when upscaled to 1080p.

    There are no subtitles.

    The layer changes are very noticeable, causing bad pauses.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is also somewhat disappointing.

    This DVDs contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s plus commentaries with the same technical specification.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to understand, although some lines of dialogue were hard to understand. Subtitles would have been very useful.

    The music consists of a theme by Joel Goldsmith plus incidental score by Ian Browne. The theme is quite good and memorable and the incidental music adds excitement.

    The surround speakers added some atmosphere when payed using Dolby ProLogic II.

    The subwoofer was used for music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Lots of commentaries plus a featurette.


    The menu features an introduction, motion and music. Scene selection is available.


    The discs are packaged in a four disc plastic box (the size of a normal amaray) which is housed in a cardboard slipcover featuring raised pictures.


    Commentaries are available for all episodes featuring a number of different people involved in the production (see detail below). They tend to be jokey and somewhat self-congratulatory but also contain worthwhile information about the show, locations, green screen work and much more. The details of who is on each track is as follows

  1. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)
  2. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)
  3. Sam Egan (Writer), Emilie Ullerup (Actress) & James Head (Director)
  4. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)
  5. Sam Egan (Writer), Emilie Ullerup (Actress) & Peter DeLuise (Director)
  6. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)
  7. Ryan Robbins (Actor), Sam Egan (Writer) & Brett Spencer (Director)
  8. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)
  9. Ryan Robbins (Actor), Sam Egan (Writer) & Brett Spencer (Director)
  10. Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer), Steve Adelson (Director of episode) & Matty Finnochio (Actor)
  11. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor)
  12. Martin Wood (Director), Amanda Tapping (Actor) & Damian Kindler (Creator/Writer)

Making of (16:53) 

    Decent quality featurette which covers the series development, webisodes, CGI, creatures, characters, green screen acting and the use of the RED cameras. A bit self-congratulatory but interesting.


R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this show is significantly superior to the local release. The Region 1 includes the following in addition to the features of our local release.


    A interesting and good quality entrant to the Science Fiction television genre.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is also disappointing.

    Some quality extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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