Posted by: Ken Brown | October 3, 2008


What grants the right to live? Is it one’s humanity, or something else? This is a question explored by the new SciFi series Sanctuary, which follows a forensic psychiatrist named Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) as he is introduced to a world of monsters that humanity would rather ignore or destroy. Leading him down the rabbit hole is Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), a 157 year old exobiologist who runs a “sanctuary for all” that offers protection for such “abnormals”—you know, mermaids, reptile men, 10 year olds with wicked snakes growing out of their sides….

Yeah, it’s all a bit cheesy, not to mention overloaded with CGI, but the premise is interesting enough for a geek like me, and the acting is pretty good. Plus, it’s based on a wildly popular series of webisodes, so you gotta give them credit for selling out seeking new avenues for original content. And I actually enjoyed the show, so there is that.

Besides the usual introductions—the misunderstood protagonist, the immortal doctor and her warrior-princess of a daughter, the naïve techy, the teleporting Jack the Ripper villain and, oh yeah, Big Foot (yes, Big Foot)—the premier raised some interesting questions about life and dignity. Faced with a bewildering array of evolutionary accidents and supernatural beings, Will has to decide whether he will let his own fear and revulsion prevent him from treating even such abnormals with decency and respect. This is particularly difficult for him once he faces the fact that his own mother was killed by just such a creature. In time, however, he discovers that many of these others are just as scared, loyal, thoughtful or selfless as any human, and when his own life is saved by one of these “abnormals,” he is forced to ask himself what really qualifies as a monster.

Perhaps the line between good and evil may not be as easy to see as we prefer. Perhaps it isn’t how human a person is that should matter. Perhaps even those society shuns deserve sanctuary and protection. And perhaps all of this might seem a bit more profound if the noble butler didn’t look like one of Geico’s cavemen. Ah well, I guess I’m still prejudiced after all….



  1. heh, i caught the first hour or so of this series. i remember thinking i should blog one of the comments made by the main female character who runs the sanctuary, something about how the world she lives in is “reality” – one that include things others think don’t consider. i like that concept, the idea that reality is bigger than many of us walk around with. maybe i’ll add this one to our DVR (which is already so full it’s busting, ack). good post, humor and all 🙂

  2. You raise a great point, Carmen! It reminds me of that line from Hamlet:

    “There are more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    As for the DVR, I feel your pain. We do seem to have a bumper crop of interesting TV Sci-Fi lately (not to mention the other shows I find myself caught up in). Maybe I should be glad LOST and BSG are on hiatus!

  3. I thought it was a good pilot. Amanda Tapping looks great with the long black hair and her English accent is terrific. I'll watch a few more to see if it comes up to Eureka,Stargate, Atlantis, & Farscape standards.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Stushie! I think as long as they don’t take themselves too seriously, the show could be pretty good. Stargate good anyway, if never Battlestar Galactica good…

  5. At some point “right” becomes “power” or v.v. In past times (the “when” depending on the “where”)there was the lack of sufficiently structured governments, laws and,by extension,the means to enforce “laws”. So what is a law without the means to enforce it? Just words I suppose. For example, who really “owned” land? Individuals and groups owned what could control. The use of violent force was common and necessary. This was neither right nor wrong, it just was what it was. Suppose a burgeoning population in one part of the world sailed to another part of the world to find an incredibly rich continent, very sparsley populated by disparate, warring, unorganized and uncivilized indigenous groups. You can’t exactly buy or lease the land as there are no laws, leaders, governments, institutions, etc. in which to operate. In that scenario it is nonsensical to ask what gives one the right to occupy and settle the land. It is simply earth. Power equals right. So, to answer the question of your post: “what gives one the right to live? Is it one’s humanity, or something else?” I suspect the most basic answer to that question is: your beating heart gives you the right to live. For as long as you can keep it beating. What gives a zebra the right to live on the plains of Africa among lions and hyenas? Does a zebra actually have the “right to live”?

  6. Majorsteve,
    You do raise a good point. I suppose we therefore need to ask to who or what will we grant rights. Obviously, in the wild, no one has any more rights than they can defend for themselves, but is not the progress of civilization marked by the degree to which we do not have to use force to maintain our life and dignity?

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