Monday, October 06, 2008


Okay, so the SciFi Channel's new series Sanctuary has premiered. I finally got around to catching it.

Speaking as a fan and writer of this skiffy stuff, I feel I should address it here, and offer my opinion:

Thus far, I am unimpressed.

For those of you who haven't seen it, the show concerns a kind of jail/mental institution for sentient beings other than garden variety humans, including aliens, genetic mutants, and -- apparently upcoming -- witches. Run by a mysterious woman doctor who looks much younger than she actually is, plus her daughter, and a couple of oddball supporting players, the sanctuary in the title is a mostly CGI setting that looks like a cross between a German castle and the Bat Cave.

The story as I saw it, using the high-concept of movies to nail it down, seems to be equal parts of Men in Black, Escape from Alcatraz, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Kolchak, the Night Stalker.

The opening episode involves recruiting a reluctant new guy, (who is a Daniel Jackson clone from Star Gate) to become part of the team. There is a mysterious kick-ass bald headed bad guy who can not only move like the Flash and teleport, but who was formerly Jack the Ripper and kept alive by infusions of blood supplied by his ex-, who happens to be the immortal doctor running the place.

All these people have dark histories, some of which is revealed, some merely hinted at for later revelation.

There's a kid who has an appendage growing out of his torso that sucks brains and has a mind of its own. Until he takes his shirt off, that skinny tentacle snaking out of his clothes looks like an, um, lesser-sized appendage that men all have, and is -- probably unintentionally -- hilarious.

Everything but the kitchen sink is here. Maybe it will become a guilty pleasure, but so far, neither the EFX, the acting, nor the story have overwhelmed me.

I have the feeling that it is going to turn into a monster-of-the-week show, and if they don't so something about the angst and talking heads, destined for the chopping block.

(Plus, very time I think of the title, I hear the voice of Charles Laughton as the hunchback of Notre Dame saying "Sanctuary!" as the mob chases him to the church ...)

You'd think the folks at SciFi Channel would have a better handle on science fiction and fantasy than they have demonstrated to date. So far, the crown seems to be held by Eureka, which is harmless and kind of entertaining, but -- c'mon Where is Firefly when we need it?


Don Weiss said...

I only caught glimpses of the show - the wife likes it.
I was reminded of Hellboy and Abe (when I saw the mermaid).

Bobbe Edmonds said...

SciFi Channel has consistently maintained a level of mediocrity that belies the once-promising network it started out as. It seems for every good show they produce (not steal or acquire) they literally crap out another 30. I remember Steve Barnes telling me that he had written an episode for the old Friday the 13th t.v. series (of which, I was an avid fan) but they rejected it because the producer said his script was "too meaningful" and would make the audience think the show was actually about something.

Yeah, it didn't work so well for Rod Serling either, huh?

Friggin' Hollywood

Sean said...

Maintained a level of mediocrity? They actually celebrate it (had an article in WIRED a couple years ago where they were proud of their "lame-ass monster of the week" movie they *pioneered*).

Basically they are becoming sci-fi-re-run and / bad pilot that wasnt picked up tv.

The first season of The Invisible Man wasnt bad, and they tried with the Dresden files but the execution was off.

aww who am I kidding, they suck (lets do another season of Scare Tactics and Ghost Hunters!)

Bobbe Edmonds said...

I used to LOVE the Invisible Man...Was pissed they didn't develop it more. I do not, for the life of me, my wife and yet-to-be-conceived children understand WHY in God's name Ghost-fucking-hunters is going on it's 4th or 5th season. To me, it's something I skim past enroute to the History Channel.

All that money wasted on crap...They really could have brought Firefly back, or hired real writers...something. Earthsea was horrible. Manticore pissed me off. Damn, I know we went on strike to earn .06 cents more for gas, but you could at least try.

While I'm on this soapbox, I can't stand the marathon-style programming either. Science Fiction has arguably the largest source of material to draw from in the history of literature, the Jehovah's Witnesses don't even come close. There's really no excuse for it.

I bought cable several years ago solely for the Sci Fi channel. Dune was premiering, and Battlestar Galactica was coming out in a few months. The Invisible Man was still on.

I won't go into how betrayed I felt over Dune, and the gay Saudarkar baker's hats (goddammit!) and although Children of Dune was well done, it's a small blip on the bleak radar.


I had such hopes...I was in love once...

Bobbe Edmonds said...

And Flash Gordon!! Fucking FLASH GORDON!!!



Okay, I'm hitting the Chimay now...

Oregonbean said...

My wife and I used to look forward to watching the Dresden Files. I hadn't read the books yet and we really enjoyed it. The SciFi channel got rid of the Dresden Files and kept Flash Gordon. No accounting for taste or sense. Especially now with the major networks succeeding with shows like Hero's and Fringe. Those are the types of shows SciFi channel should do, not cheesy after school specials. Anthony

Steve Perry said...

Hardcore SF fans have always hated the term 'sci fi," which was coined by Forry Ackerman, who was among the hardest of the hardcore fans. (Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the guy who owned one of the Gort suits from The Day the Earth Stood Still, among a museum of other stuff.)

To them, sci fi mean really bad science fiction, talking Godzilla-class.

Seems the SciFi Channel has taken that to heart. Yeah, there was Battlestar Galactica, and a couple of other bright lights 'midst the gloom -- plus some guilty pleasures, Star Gate, The Dresden Files, and even Eureka -- but given the wealth good stuff around, you have to wonder who these people are. Why didn't Heroes -- fantasy, not SF -- or Life on Mars, or that short-lived time-tripper series land at SciFi?

Harlan Ellison's output alone would keep them in high cotton for years.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

I'm still pissed about "Masters of Science Fiction" premiering on ABC of all places. It would have killed on SciFi. I had to find out about it in the DVD rack at Wal-Mart. And they canceled the show after only a couple of episodes?

Somebody give me a budget. I'll give you a SciFi network.

The lineup this Fall:

1:"Khadaji: Confederate Matador"
2:"The Harlan Ellison Hour"
3:"The Despicable Pages: Tales from the Necronomicon"
5: "SciFi's best amateur submissions"
6: "The Millennium Man"
7: "The Vortex"
8: "Star Risk, LTD"
9: "Doctor Who"
10: "The Martian Chronicles" (New stories)

jks9199 said...

Let's be real about something.

SciFi Channel doesn't have a fantastic budget. It doesn't help when they shoot their wad on poor ideas or crappy execution of good ideas.

Why's Ghost Hunters still on? 'Cause it's pretty cheap to film, and people watch it. Why do they buy the pilots that didn't make it even to airing as pilots? Same thing; they're cheap. They're already filmed, and often whoever bankrolled 'em is happy to get anything back for their investment. Why do they do the all-day marathons until you're sick of seeing what was a good series (let alone nauseated by the bad ones!)? They bought 'em, and they're relatively cheap to keep running 'em.

Want better stuff? Get enough people to pay up...

Personally... Sanctuary was interesting. It could be good. Or it could go to crap. Unfortunately, track record suggests going to crap. It's definitely populated by plenty of stock characters... and why on Earth do we have to have people doing accents all the time?

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"SciFi Channel doesn't have a fantastic budget. It doesn't help when they shoot their wad on poor ideas or crappy execution of good ideas."

I agree, however, you don't get better funding by producing three year's worth of dreck instead of one year of great entertainment.

The Twilight Zone wasn't exactly funded through the roof either, but look what great writing and some imagination with a hubcap can do.

Steve Perry said...

Okay, I gave it one more episode. I have now wished it into the cornfield.

Too bad it is that bad. Making True Blood look better by comparison ...