Danger Gal Friday: Dr. Helen Magnus

This week’s Danger Gal Friday is Dr. Helen Magnus portrayed by actress Amanda Tapping in the new science fiction series Sanctuary.

Dr Helen MagnusThere are so many fun things about Helen Magnus, I’m not sure where to start, except to say that Tapping has some great taste in choosing roles to play since she’s the first actress to have character be profiled more than once as a Danger Gal. Sanctuary is setting new precedents for the production and distribution of Science Fiction television. Most notably, the series is shot on a green screen with most of its complicated sets being CGI and that originally the show was distributed via the web only. The series, with Tapping as executive producer, has since been picked up by the SciFi Network. The premise is an interesting way to bridge the gap between the Paranormal and Science Fiction: that the world is full of “abnormals,” some of whom need protection and some of a dangerous few need captured.

Magnus is a 157-year old female doctor. Yeah, read that again. She was born in Victorian England when few women were allowed that kind of education. Sometimes I find it difficult to suspend my disbelief while watching this show (but mostly I do very much enjoy it), and this is one of those moments. I’d much rather have had Magnus actually obtain her medical degree on her own later in her life when it was much more possible than in Victorian England, due to her fabulous daddy who was the “most brilliant and controversial medical researcher of his day” in his Super Secret Lab. This situation just makes me think of the daughter of a king who has no son, so she gets the throne by default. It seems to be a much more elaborate explanation for her medical degree than is actually needed.

That being said, I like that Magnus is almost 200 years old and looks to be in her 40s. She’s the main protagonist, built and runs the Institute. She answers to no one. I like that she doesn’t micromanage her weapons expert and martial artist daughter (and future Danger Gal) Ashley. Though it relates to the show overall and not to her character, I like that Ashley is the smart muscle while Dr. Will Zimmerman is the emotional muscle.

In a recent From Inside the Box review Zap2It said:

Similarly, Helen is too detached, with her Mona Lisa smile promising, but never fulfilling, the need for warmth. She’s also rightfully mysterious. After all, she is revealed to be 157-years-old, so apparently there’s something about her that makes her one of those “abnormals” that she protects, but she is on occasion exasperating when she speaks in riddles or withholds vital information from Will. In addition, Tapping is at times a bit too reserved, perhaps which is why when Helen is upset or angry, she seems almost laughably melodramatic

I don’t see why it should be important that Magnus exhibit warmth, in fact, it think it would be quite out of character. She’s seen a lot, came of age in a time when emotions were expected to be kept in check, and she has a lot to protect Zimmerman both from and against. She needs to play her cards close, as Tapping herself notes in a Zap2It interview:

But when you watch everyone you’ve ever known grow old and die — all your lovers and your friends — I think that her heart is very well protected now because if it wasn’t, she would be heartbroken all the time.”

Fans of Stargate will notice a few familiar faces, especially in the SciFi Channel premiere: David Hewlett, Kavan Smith and Christopher Heyerdahl.