The Sentinel

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Fandom
Name: The Sentinel
Abbreviation(s): TS
Creator: Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo
Date(s): 1996-1999
Medium: television series
Country of Origin: US
External Links: IMDB

EpGuides
852 Prospect

running black cat
Seen on nearly every TS fan site during the late 1990s. (Hit "escape" to freeze the image.)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Contents

The Sentinel is an American television show from the late 1990s. In the west-coast city of Cascade, Jim Ellison is a cop with super-heightened senses. Blair Sandburg is an anthropology student who can teach Jim how to use those senses to his advantage.

Together, they fight crime! (and live together)

The show is generally considered to be a fairly classic buddy cop fandom, though one with extra added science-fictional and/or mystical canon.

Characters

Cascade

The pilot episode originally set the show in Seattle, Washington, a reference that was replaced with the fictional city of Cascade when Seattle city leaders were afraid of the possible negative publicity and requested that a fictional name be substituted. However, the reference to the Seattle Sonics remains in the pilot episode -- leading some fans to place Cascade in or near the Seattle area. The city is referred to as "the most dangerous city in America" by Captain Banks in that first episode.

The Fandom

A fan in 2006 writes:
It goes without saying that “The Sentinel” offers up endless possibilities for fic writers. The show is, after all, many things all at the same time: a cop show; a buddy show; a sci-fi show where spirit guides, hallucinations, Shamanism, and heightened senses all have their place; a show where New Age gets familiar, and conservative archetypes get less stodgy; and multi-culturalism is completely subtle and pervasive. There can be hush-hush spy-types stories because of Jim’s Special Ops past, and there can be stories that play on the social structure and dynamics found in academia because of Blair. To say nothing of the secondary characters, who are so integral to this universe that mention of them crops up in almost any story. Central, of course, to the show, and to most of the fics out there, are stories that feature Jim and Blair, Sentinel and Guide; two guys, who on the surface, seem to be complete opposites, but underneath it all, turn out to have enough similarities to find common ground together, and really need each other. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s enough UST and touching and grabbing on screen to give rise to a fandom capable of writing stories that can ignite panties across America “Partners” by Josephine Darcy is an amazing story that manages to do the near-impossible: bring in just about every single aspect there is to “The Sentinel” – it’s a cop story; a bizarre case story; a Blair, the anthropology expert story; a 'Sentinel being possessive of his Guide' story; and a story showcasing the second bananas – and filters it all through a fine, mesh sieve of canon and fanon (i.e., Blair being a magnet for trouble in Cascade, which, as we know, is the most dangerous city in America, etc.). It’s laugh out loud funny, to boot, and contains one of the hottest and most hilarious first-time scenes out there! [1]

In 2011, another fan explains:

While Highlander: The Series was the show that introduced me to slash, The Sentinel was the one that introduced me to fandom. The Sentinel was huge, central and well-organized with its archive and the mailing lists (Senad) and (SXF) and in its heyday reeled in pretty much everybody. Its most dedicated and prolific authors are now BNFs one encounters sooner or later in a variety of other fandoms. It also introduced a lot of additional fannish features such as unofficial continuations of the show in form of virtual seasons, themed e-zines, writer critique (the disputed Prospect-L) and generally provided a structured online environment in which newcomers felt quickly welcomed. In contrast the show itself was not much to write home about with its mediocre writing, harebrained plots, superficial dialogue and "babes of the week". Nonetheless, the two main characters, Jim and Blair, had an undeniable rapport that jumped off the screen and intrigued its female audience, largely thanks to their actors who were well aware of the homoerotic subtext and jokingly played up to it in the show's bloopers. The buff, self-contained cop and the "hippy witchdoctor punk" anthropologist managed to transcend their archetypes and invited the creation of what is today still the internet's largest slash fandom. [2]

Fan Fiction

While there are many Sentinel print zines, this is a fandom that was also born online.

The first fanfic posted online in the fandom, Sacrifice, was posted July 1996 by Laura Schomberg. [3]

The first season of TS resulted in mainly upbeat stories, matching the tone of the show. One major exception was the slash story The BS Factor by Jen Riddler, which was posted toward the end of the season and which had a much darker tone, and ended on a horrifying note. The reaction on Senad was immediate and shocked, not just because of the story itself, but because Jen had woven it seamlessly into canon, making what at the time were logical assumptions about the characters as they had been seen to date. The story was a plausible explanation for everything that had happened in first season.

As The Sentinel fandom hit its peak before the advent of Livejournal-based fandom and the popularization of RPS, there is almost no real-person-based fiction in the fandom, with the exception of the mostly unserious Garrettverse.

See Category:Sentinel Fanfiction for articles on Fanlore about individual stories.

The Sentinel Loft Library is a website listing of Sentinel zines, that provides publisher and content information as well as zine reviews. Gen zines are listed here and slash fanzines are listed here. [4]

Print Zines

Sentinel Online Fandom

Jim and Blair on the gen zine, Knitted Souls #3

The fandom is split between gen and slash, for the most part amicably; while some gen lists (such as Cascade Times) have strict no-slash policies, a lot of fans are bi-fictional -- possibly because a lot of what was called genfic in Sentinel fandom would have been read as g-rated slash in other fandoms. The earliest Sentinel non-fiction discussion list, Sentries, had a no-slash policy and forbade adult discussion posts with more than a PG-13 rating in the common fandom setup of the time to keep both adult and slash content contained in separate, usually age restricted, forums.

The now-defunct Guide Posts gen archive included het fic in among its 3,000 stories, but there was no category for it, and how many stories, it's hard to say now. Most of the fic and vids in the fandom is generally focused on Jim and Blair in some fashion, and while canon put them with different women throughout the course of the show, the relationships tended to end in failure. As a result, there's remarkably little het fiction; as of October 2008, the 852 Prospect adult-fiction archive search engine returned only 119 stories containing m/f pairings, out of 6,437 total stories.[5] The introduction of Megan as a regular on the show resulted in a small following for both Blair/Megan and Jim/Megan, and pages like this specialty archive for stories with Megan.[6]

As a fandom of the 1990s, Sentinel is most active on mailing lists, although it also has a small, active livejournal presence. The fandom also has a long zine tradition, although fewer zines are being published now than in the fandom's heyday.

The original TS mailing list was Senfic [2], for both gen fiction and discussion.

Another early list was The Raft, a list for "in depth discussions on all sorts of subjects related to The Sentinel -- the characters, the "subtext" of the episodes, series trends, the science and history of the show, fandom and fanfic". [7] It was moderated by Ursula and Kaz, and existed until 1999, when it was succeeded by the Rainier list on Onelist, created by Nightowl in October 1999 until she discontinued it in May 2002, because there was little discussion anymore and the list traffic mostly announcements. However, even before Rainier had been not very active.[8]

Nightowl's Nest has been an important resource website since 1997, that collected both show and fandom information in a central location. Often referenced in discussions was its "Canon? or Fanon?" page for example.

Fan Clubs and Charity Auctions

Sentinel fans, particularly superfan Bert Hayling, also established the The Official Richard Burgi Fan Club.

A fannish charity auction, Moonridge, supports the Moonridge Wildlife Park in Garett Maggart's name. Additionally, a scholarship in anthropology was established by fans at the University of British Columbia, where the show shot the university scenes.

Christmas CD

front cover of the CD
back cover of the CD [1]

Additionally, two fans, Lois Balzer and Cathy Mayo, helped organize a Christmas CD where the cast and some of the crew of the Sentinel sang holiday songs.

Cons

In terms of conventions, there were two types: the "official" for-profit conventions that had actors and writers as guests and the more traditional fan-run convention with fan produced panels and activities. Senticon was one of these fan-run conventions and ran from 2000-2006, although in later years the convention organizers broadened the convention's focus in an attempt to attract and retain membership. More informal 'gatherings' were held in which fans would meet at a pre-arranged hotel and rent a party suite. These were also called 'bashes" or 'relax-a-cons". "Weekends with The Nightowl" was one example of a 'relax-a-con where fans met in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada (where the Sentinel TV show was produced) from 1999-2003. Go here and here for more details on the Sentinel Relax-a-Cons.

Gen fandom

cover of the gen zine Bonds of Friendship

Gen fandom as a whole tends to focus in on the friendship and other canon aspects of the characters. There is a subset of the fandom where Jim and Blair are seen as "brothers". It also includes any traditional relationships the characters may have or develop, i.e. a long-term romance with a female character.

One of the influential series in TS gen fandom are the alternate universes created by Susan Foster, in which Dark Sentinels, Dark Guides, and a Guide Development Project (GDP) exist -- and in which Sentinels and Guides are not only known, but studied, controlled, and in some cases, feared due to the presumed/documented primal nature of Sentinels and Guides. The concept of a reality in which Sentinels and Guides are known has since become a staple of the fandom in both gen and slash.

Sentinel gen fandom also became semi-infamous for the proliferation of smarm.

Slash fandom

cover of the slash zine Come to Your Senses #28

When a small group of slash fans on Senfic grew too large for the side email loop they'd been using among themselves, two members started up a new slash mailing list, Senad [3], in late 1996. It was originally for discussion and fic, but by February 1997, there was enough fiction to merit a separate fic list, and on February 16, 1997, Senad's listowner (James Walkswithwind) launched SXF [4], a companion over-18 list that accepted both het and slash erotica [9].

By 2000, Senad had been handed over to Ann Teitelbaum and developed a list culture that, in many people's opinions, stifled fic discussion (other than praise), and the pressure cooker that resulted caused the nearly simultaneous creation of two new slash-focused lists, both allowing critical discussion of fanfic, albeit to different degrees: SaFicDic [5] and Prospect-L [6].

This was more fraught than it might sound. At the time, fandoms tended to congregate around one main discussion list (or two, one gen/het and one slash). New lists were generally small and very focused -- on a character, a pairing, a kink, crossovers, etc. -- and generally served as additions to the main list, rather than replacements. Splitting off a main list -- or two -- from Senad was effectively splitting the slash fandom, and there were a lot of arguments both leading up to and after the split about that as well as about fic discussion.

Tropes and Sentinel-Specific Glossary Terms

Sentinel fandom developed its own tropes and glossary terms, some of them variations on familiar fanfic themes. See also: The Sentinel Fandom Glossary.

  • Blair's Compromised Lungs
  • Blair's Father
  • Blair's Hair
  • Blair's Heartbeat
  • Blairbabe
  • Blairscent
  • Blessed Protector
  • Guide Voice
  • Sentinel and Guide - Note the capital letters. In Sentinel and Guide fic, the terms aren't just descriptions, they're an almost mystical calling, with Jim and Blair destined to find each other and be together. Sometimes they're the only Sentinel and Guide; sometimes it's a societal institution. When it's institutionalized, one is usually higher-class than the other, who may be little more than a slave. The trope appears in both gen and slash fiction, and may or may not include a soul bond. The role of "Guide" stems from episode 7 of the first season, when Blair is referred to as Jim's guide.[10] This trope has become a popular fusion one in other fandoms.
  • Sentinel and Guides are Known, closely related to the above, has also widely spread to other fandoms.
  • Canonical Soulbonding via spirit animals
    Spirit animals This one has its roots in the show. Canonically, both Jim and Blair have spirit animals (a black panther and a wolf, respectively). Fanfic plays with that, and with the soul-bonded nature of the pair (again based in canon -- canonically, their spirit animals merged while Jim was saving Blair's life). This is often another soul bond trope.
  • Post-TSbyBS (The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg, the series finale) the finale introduced some massive changes to the characters' lives, massive enough that many fans weren't sure how the characters could move forward. So they wrote fanfic. Lots and lots of fanfic.
  • Historical AUs
  • The Sandburg Zone - a phrase used to denote the amazing confluence of strange happenings that occur when Blair Sandburg is around -- a kind of shorthand method of saying Murphy's Law applies
  • Elves-- Blair Sandburg was frequently written as an elf.
  • Bestiality Due to the above-referenced spirit animals, bestiality fics became a part of the fandom, although still relatively rare.
  • Shapeshifting Canon has the spirit animals shapeshifting into human form. Some fans extended this to Jim and Blair.
  • Domestic discipline (DD) This isn't specific to TS fandom, but it was the first place a lot of fans came across it. It's almost always gen, and consists of a story where one of the men (usually Jim) decides that the other one (usually Blair) isn't capable of running his own life properly, and begins making decisions for him. This is with the second man's consent, in a negotiated situation where the first man has the right to punish the second man for "infractions" of the agreed-upon rules. The stories are based on a RL lifestyle (where, most often, a woman obeys a man who tells her how she should be behaving, and "corrects" her if she fails to live up to his expectations). Despite DD fans' protests that the trope is not a sexual one, and that it has nothing to do with BDSM, it's rare to find a story where the punishment is, say, writing lines; most often in TS fanfic, it's spanking.
In a June 2001 update, the Cascade Library site stated in reference to DD:
the Library has chosen to no longer archive stories involving domestic discipline or corporal punishment. For the Library's purposes, domestic discipline/corporal punishment includes relationships involving physical punishment or discipline (spankings, etc.) between two adult characters.[11]

On the Web

Personal websites for fanfic and small multi-author archives were common in the late 1990s when Sentinel fandom was in its heyday. Here are some collections of links:

See also The Sentinel/Fansites for a longer list of Sentinel fansites and GeoCities/Fansites for a list of Sentinel fansites specifically hosted on GeoCities.

Warnings

cover of the zine, I'm Not Cutting My Hair

As Senad developed a list culture that tried to keep from offending anyone, Sentinel slash fiction developed a growing list of warnings. The trend peaked in late 1999 or early 2000, when during a Senad discussion about warnings -- with many people suggesting things that should be warned for -- one fan asked that people warn for stories where Blair cuts his hair, which she personally found traumatic. The idea was quickly shouted down and the fan withdrew her request, but it was such an extreme one that word spread out to other fandoms, cementing Sentinel fandom's reputation at the time as the most-warned-for fandom ever.

Awards

Virtual Seasons

"The Sentinel" fandom has six virtual seasons, more than any other show.

Gen

Slash

Fanart

Traditionally, Sentinel fanart has focused on story illustration, with a few artists such as Jean Kluge also creating art for sale.

(we need more art stuff here)

Vids

Sentinel fans have been vidding since first season, but most of the vids are still offline, available only on tape or dvd.

GloRug Productions made three VHS collections of Sentinel vids in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The Media Cannibals have many famous Sentinel vids, including The Man Song and Hippie Boy.

A surprising, more recent vid was Possession by Remi d'Brebant; after premiering at Escapade in 2002, it was featured in Vividcon's "Breaking the Rules" and "Experimental" vidshows, among others, for its use of still shots combined with video, creating what some fans at the Escapade Vid Review panel called a "video painting"[12]. It also used a song, "Possession", that was strongly associated with another fandom, due South[12].

Archives

The original gen archive was Guide Posts, which closed down in 2002 when the archivist moved on from the fandom.

The secondary gen archive, Cascade Library, started up in 1999 and is still actively adding stories.

The original slash archive started up in 1996. After a long period of inactivity, a backup/interim archive, 852 Prospect, was started, and eventually became the primary adult (accepting both slash and het) archive when server issues took down the defunct original. It has changed hands and moved servers a few times since then, but is still active and accepting submissions. In May 2012, 852 Prospect and the Archive of Our Own jointly announced that 852 would be moving to the AO3 later that year as an active collection to keep it stable, since the standalone archive was difficult to maintain under its old code. [13]

In July 2008 Artifact Storage Room 3 opened. It is an all-inclusive archive, accepting gen, het and slash stories.

Some current archives:

Multifandom archives hosting Sentinel fic:

LJ Communities

Because many fans used to mailing lists were initially wary of LJ and its growing popularity in fandom, and because the activity and popularity of Sentinel fandom itself was waning by the time LJ became one of the fannish online centers, there isn't as big a Sentinel fandom presence on LJ as it used to be on mailing lists.

The earliest (?) popular Sentinel LJ community was Sentinel Thursday, a weekly flashfiction challenge community, founded in July 2003 by Terri and Mouse.[14]

Fan Campaign: Support Our Sentinel

Support Our Sentinel (SOS) was a coordinated fannish effort conducted in late 1997 through June 1998 via mailing lists and a SOS website to save the show from permanent cancellation after the third season, which had ended on a cliff-hanger. Ads were placed in industry magazines such as Variety and TV Guide with financing from fans to help garner continued interest in the show, which had been one of UPN's highest rated shows, both in the US and internationally. Fans with websites were urged to put SOS banners on their sites, linking back to the SOS website.

The show suffered from a lack of promotion and badly targeted ads which failed to promote its strengths or its sci-fi/fantasy angle. SOS outlined a detailed plan for fans, set up a mailing list, raised funds, placed ads and successfully convinced UPN to air a fourth season -- for which SOS promptly thanked them in ads in the same forums as the previous efforts.

VHS Tapes and Tape Circles

Episodes: During the heyday of TS fandom, 1996-1999, when the show was still running, the only way to get back episodes of the show was fan-made VHS cassettes; several fans would send you the back episodes for the cost of tape and shipping.

Bloopers: The Sentinel had a particularly famous blooper reel, which was also distributed via fannish tape circle. These bloopers featured not only many hilarious outtakes by all cast members, but was particularly known for its slashy vibe. The two main actors near-kissed and flirted a lot, often breaking up laughing during the show's homoerotic scenes or making the show's subtext into text. For instance, in one notable outtake from "Dead Drop," in which Blair and others are trapped in a sabotaged elevator, Richard Burgi abandons his script to ask, "Blair, honey? Is that you? I don't care about the others, let them all die, crushed like little ants, but are you okay?"[15]

button worn by fans attending Couvercon in 1998

Con tapes: Fans circulated VHS footage of the Sentinel Con 1998 and CouverCon 1999 tapes, which contain including hilarious question-and-answer sessions with Richard Burgi and Garett Maggart as well as auctions where the actors auctioned off props (Blair's vest from Switchman, Jim's badge, etc.) for charity. See MegaRed's Sentinel Con 98 Footage.

CPAC Tape -- A ~2 hour Canadian documentary about producing a TV show was made using The Sentinel crew, sets and actors during the production of Foreign Exchange (3rd season). Most of the crew, Danny Bilson, Richard Burgi, Garett Maggart, Bruce A. Young, and Anna Galvin are interviewed.

The Loft Tape: This was a pimping tool, made by slash fans, that edited together all the scenes where Jim and Blair were at home in the loft onto one tape, cutting out the rest of the show.

Meta

  • Body, "'The opportunities for confusion in fanfic are boundless. It was as I was reading the Cosmo quiz that the solution came to me... So, here, without further ado, is the answer to all my, and I hope your, Sentinel fanfic problems." [16]
  • Just Wondering; WebCite, 2005 post by caarianna in which many fans explain what they like, and don't like, about the show and its fiction

References

  1. a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  2. the sentinel fan fiction: recommendations by allaire mikháil, January 2012; reference link
  3. [post to Cascade Times Yahoo!Groups list dated November 13, 2008)
  4. accessed April 24, 2010; site was temporarily offline due to problems with hackers in early 2010.
  5. Search results choosing the warning "m/f" on 852 Prospect, accessed October 10, 2008.
  6. Megan's Room. Last updated 14 August 2002. (Accessed 11 November 2008)
  7. Wayback machine link to the list page (Accessed 31 October 2008)
  8. Wayback machine link to the Rainier's Onelist page (Accessed 31 October 2008)
  9. Saved copy of the original email, accessed August 27, 2008
  10. Episode Transcript for Rogue. Accessed November 15, 2008.
  11. Cascade Library - Site Information. Updated March 21 2008. Accessed October 13, 2008.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Email sent to the Vidder mailing list, March 3, 2002. Accessed October 15, 2008.
  13. Announcement on 852's front page, AO3 announcement post with more details. Both accessed July 8, 2012.
  14. Sentinel Thursday community profile (Accessed 31 October 2001)
  15. See Sentinel Bloopers on Youtube, clip posted by rodneyscat. (Accessed 15 August 2009)
  16. WebCite
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