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It's Official: 'Sanctuary' Is Closed

Syfy has finally announced the show's cancellation after months of limbo


Amanda Tapping as Helen Magnus

Amanda Tapping as Dr. Helen Magnus in Sanctuary.

Carole Segal/Syfy

The last episode ran in December. It's been off the radar since then. Syfy's upfronts have come and gone without even a passing notice of the show, and the last Syfy press release to even mention it was last August's roundup of Fall programming. Haven has even been shifted into its slot -- and yet Syfy has taken until now to admit that there will be no fifth season of Sanctuary.

This is not how you treat Amanda Tapping, Damian Kindler, and Martin Wood.

Visionary Story and Production

Sanctuary, which was created by Kindler as a remarkable web-series leveraging his experience on the production teams for Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, debuted as a full-blown TV show in 2008 with Tapping, star of both those Stargate series, in the lead and Wood, a towering figure among Stargate directors, as a key creative force. The premise was interesting -- Tapping played Magnus, an older-than-she-looked master of a fortified high-tech castle that provided protection to abnormal metahumans in a slightly dystopian, 12-minutes-into-the-future setting. Along the way, Sanctuary broached heady sci-fi questions about evolution, both natural and man-made.

The production itself was innovative: a great deal of the show was set to be recorded using green screen, including some recurring "sets," resulting in a Vancouver-shot series that was not choc-a-bloc with the same rainy suburban streets and Stanley Park's towering conifers seen in a score of other genre shows from X-Files to, well, Stargate Atlantis.

Delayed Announcement

But while its CGI effects gained due respect -- and an Emmy nomination -- Sanctuary never rated very highly in Syfy's priorities. Last year, while the show was working hard to build itself larger and stronger on the aftermath of its Hollow Earth storyline, Syfy was promoting everything else. "Powerful Mondays" got big publicity, matched only by the constant promotion for its high-profit unscripted series and prestige miniseries, while Sanctuary got parked on Fridays after wrestling with a level of promotion than can only be called shameful--despite steady and reliable, if not stellar, ratings performance (season 4 averaged over a million viewers per episode).

In the five months since the end of season 4, broadcast without fanfare on Dec. 30, Sanctuary has been twisting in the wind. Syfy, for some reason, was not moved to say anything one way or the other about Sanctuary's fate. Finally this week Mark Stern came out and stated the obvious: Syfy wasn't going to bother with any more Sanctuary.

"We're honored to have been part of this incredible series," Mark Stern, president of Syfy Original Content and co-head of Universal Cable Productions, said in a statement. "In addition to garnering unmatched devotion by fans worldwide, Sanctuary was a bona fide trailblazer, setting new standards with its highly innovative production techniques -- including pioneering green screen and RED camera technology -- and Emmy-nominated visual effects. It's been an amazing ride and we look forward to our next project with Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood and Damian Kindler."

Love and Support

The cast and crew were cognizant of the role that fans played in encouraging the show and helping it to grow.

Kindler, Tapping and Wood issued a joint reaction: "We couldn't be prouder of the four seasons we made on Sanctuary. We are very grateful for the opportunity and must acknowledge the wonderful work from our cast and crew, the support from our studio, the Beedie Group-who have been with us right from the start, the networks who worked so hard with us each week, and most of all the fans … we owe so much to the fans."

Amanda Tapping followed the news with a tweet to the fans: "To all the fans of @SanctuarySeries we love and adore you. Thank you for the love and support. Now to the long dark tea time of my soul" -- a nice reference to Douglas Adams's view of the wearing nature of extended lives like Magnus's. (Hmmm. Tapping as Dirk Gently -- now that would be bizarre.) The tweet closed with a frowning emoticon.

Cast and Crew Reactions

In his own tweet, Kindler hinted that the expectation of cancellation has been kicking around the offices for a while. "Now that it's official, thank you fans and viewers of @SanctuarySeries for the most incredible 4 years of my life. Solemn bow to you all."

"Thanks to all the cast and crew of #Sanctuary for 4 great years," tweeted writer Alan McCullough. "And even bigger thanks to the fans!"

Other cast and crew also offered valedictor tweets thanking the fans and the creators, including Agam Darshi (Kate Freelander), who offered "big thanks to the Sanctuary team and to Syfy for embracing me and creating more of what TV needs: A strong kick ass female character."

Ryan Robbins, who played Henry Foss (a nice case of a good recurring character promoted to regular) and who was also a Stargate/Sanctuary veteran, told fans that Sanctuary "was truly a life-changing experience for me. You were all very much a part of that." And Robin Dunne (Will Zimmerman) echoed that, saying, "you gave us a great life. See you on the next one."

Tapping Past and Future

Tapping, Kindler, and Wood are sci-fi nobility after their yeoman work on the Stargate franchise and this series, both of which made possible a lot of what Syfy and other networks do on the cheap with CGI instead of sets and props. For them to have been neglected like this and allowed ultimately to die on the vine is just shabby and unpleasant.

When I first met Amanda Tapping, at the 2008 upfronts for what was then the Sci Fi Channel, I asked Amanda Tapping if she'd ever manage to star in a show that wasn't on that network (she was there to promote Sanctuary, her third Sci Fi series, where she'd been every year since SG-1 jumped from Showtime in 2002). Her response was to laugh and say, "Sci Fi pretty much owns my ass." After the way you've been treated, it's high time to take it someplace else.

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