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04 May 2004 @ 11:06 am
Fandoms I Have Loved 2: The Sentinel  
The Sentinel was my first television fandom, so it was also the first fandom I entered without even the vaguest clue about the canon. I’ve learned a lot of helpful tricks for moving smoothly into unfamiliar territory, but I didn’t know them then, so I experienced some confusion at first. And when I say “some confusion,” I mean “an enormous amount.” I didn’t understand anything – for a while, I actually had (embarrassing confession time) The Sentinel and The Professionals mixed up.

I got that sorted after a while, but it made for some very interesting reading in the interim. Also some very interesting questions. ("Is Blair the ex-mercenary?" "What part of England is Cascade supposed to be in?" And so on. Looking back, it was a remarkably pathetic time.)

Even now, what I don’t know about The Sentinel could fill however many episodes of the show there are, but I know what I like – it’s the stuff that kept me reading through what I think of as my Profentinel Period. And what I like about this fandom is its devotion to humor, to mild angst, and to shorter fiction with resolved plotlines. I like the dialog in the best stories - funny, bantering, with distinct voices for Jim and Blair. I like that the guys are often allowed to act like guys instead of like, you know, teen-aged girls wearing too much eye makeup at the weekly meeting of the Drama Club.

Most of all, I like this fandom’s premise – I mean, really, what giggling cabal of slashers and gay men thought of this show? The whole heightened senses thing sounds like a perfect lead in to porn, and I won’t even talk about the roommate thing or the Guide/Sentinel thing or the touching thing. This show might not have been all that great – actually, many sources suggest it pretty well sucked – but you’ve got to admit it was god’s gift to slashers.

And it was god's gift to me. Or possibly the devil's. Whichever. TS introduced me to the wonderful world of TV FF and showed me that I could read there, paving the way for any number of future FIHL. And it was a much-needed respite from angst-a-thons, web pages with black backgrounds and wonky fonts, and Pretty Pony Boys in Chains, so it will always have a place in my heart.

-Helpful Links for the TS Newbie-

If you don’t know the canon, you can fake it with:

The Nightowl’s Nest: The Sentinel Resource Guide. The formatting can be a little weird on this site, but the information is useful. The character bios in the resource section are quite handy for those unfamiliar with the show. You might also find Canon or Fanon? interesting. Or just amusing.

Becky’s Sentinel Episode Guides. This may be the single most-useful site for the totally unSentineled. Becky summarizes each episode, some in detail, and she describes the show’s background, premise, and stars.

Becky’s Sentinel Episode Transcripts. Please note that I am not advising you to go read every episode. These are mostly useful if you’re trying to find a particular canon quote or event, or if you’re reading a story that is heavily based on a particular episode.

Where to start with Sentinel fan fiction:

I’d suggest starting with first-time stories, partly because they really are the baseline story of the fandom, and partly because other kinds of stories tend to get too far into things that confuse the non-canon reader. So here’s a collection of first times for first-timers. Plus some pre-slash, just ‘cause I love you.

Where I Started: Solitary Creatures, by Aristide. This was the very first TS story I ever read, back when I didn’t know the difference between Jim/Blair and Bodie/Doyle. (And if that’s not enough of a humiliating admission, how’s this: I thought, for the first couple pages of this story, that the Teenagers From Outer Space were actual canon characters. Under that name. As in, you know: Teenagers From Outer Space played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, or whatever.) This story seems to be as good a place to start as any – you get a decent sense of who the characters are and there aren’t a lot of in-jokes or canon references to confuse you.

If You Like Your Beginnings a Little Less Porny: Sixteen Instinctive Behaviors, by Betty Plotnick. I know, I know, you’re asking yourself “is there anyone who likes things to be less porny?” Well, I’ve never actually seen such a creature, but I remain convinced of the possibility of one. And, really, even if you prefer to read under the NC-17 label, this is a good place to start because you get an excellent sense, not only of the characters, but also of the progression of their lives and their relationship. And that last is hard to get without watching the show.

If You'd Like to Begin at the Beginning: A Little Cheesecake, by Kass. (I mean, of course, the beginning of the canon; stories from the beginning of the fandom tend to be tough for the non-canon reader.) This one is set right after the pilot episode, so you get a sense of how they were way back when. Jim’s senses are all over the map, and he's responding to them with the grace and dignity of a rogue elephant on massive doses of PCP. And Blair's still got his own place and his own life. (And a Barbary ape, in case you wonder what sort of pet Jim's smelling on Blair in this one.)

If You’d Like to Start with Dinner and a Movie: A Long Time Looking, by Anna S., aka eliade. This story is a ramble through one night in the lives of Jim and Blair, set somewhere mid-canon. The best part of this one is the strong characterization – you really get to know the guys. These are my favorite versions of Jim and Blair, by the way. Jim's senses are mostly problem-free and he's ramped the Strong Silent Manly Man routine down a bit. Blair's Jim-management skills are phenomenal and he's settled into Jim's life but he hasn't lost his own. And they've not yet encountered all the drama of "Sentinel, Too" (also known as "the episode where Blair dies and comes back to life, causing the FF to slide into the metaphysical and the seriously angsty") and "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg" (also known as "the episode that ended the series in a very strange place"). Good times, Sentinel-style.
The 'Stute Fishnicebutnubbly on May 4th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC)
I just read the one your recced by Helen and am now all hooked and stuff, despite my total ignorance of canon. Thanks!
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 02:43 pm (UTC)
This is one canon you probably don't want to know, unless you plan to write in it. I've had people tell me "Must see Due South! Due South is godlike and wonderful!" I've never had anyone say anything to me about TS more positive than, "Huh. You mean you've never seen an episode and you still can read the FF? [wistful pause] Well, I think I get something extra out of the FF, so I guess I'm not sorry I watched it."

So, welcome to The Sentinel fandom - where ignorance of the canon is a good place to start.
Ardent: Fraser Brownardent_muses on May 4th, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC)
I've had people tell me "Must see Due South! Due South is godlike and wonderful!" I've never had anyone say anything to me about TS more positive than, "Huh. You mean you've never seen an episode and you still can read the FF? [wistful pause]

Hee! SO well put. :)

During my six-month soujourn in TS, I read a lot of the fiction and then, when I saw the show, I kind of went "huh?".
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 12:40 pm (UTC)
I assure you that the feeling is entirely mutual. How could I not adore someone with an icon reading "More porn, please?"
Raven: DSQUARED ad by meraveninthewind on May 4th, 2004 02:24 pm (UTC)
"Is Blair the ex-mercenary?" "What part of England is Cascade supposed to be in?"


For me, my entire period of slash reading was before I'd seen the show. I ended up buying bootleg DVDs, and I watched about half. I'll get through them all one day (my stack of DVDs and tapes to watch eventually is scarily high), but the truth is, TS canon is definitely not as good as say, that of due South.

Good recs, BTW. My warning to any newbie in this fandom is--there are qute a few really angsty stories out there. I also have had more trouble with the characterization of Blair than Jim. Overly Macho!Jim is just annoying--Girly!Blair is traumatizing.

tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 02:55 pm (UTC)
I hope that was a totally-supportive, everyone-makes-mistakes, wouldn't-dream-of-mocking-the-ignorant howl.

Actually, no. I hope it was a howl completely at my expense; I certainly howled a bit when I realized what I'd done.

Excellent warnings, let me say. The characterizations can indeed be bad, though I don't think I've ever encountered Girly!Blair (actually, I'm probably repressing the memory).

And, oh, god, how could I forget to warn them about angst? Some authors in this canon ramp the angst level up past "Anne Rice under a pseudonym," past "Victorian melodrama," past soap opera, and past 11, all the way up to "16-year-old suburban loner girls who write lots of unrhymed poetry and have just had their hearts broken for the first time."

Though, actually, there are places on the dial even higher than that. Early Professionals slash, for example, combines purple prose and extreme angst to create a writing style I like to call "bruise."

Huh. Maybe there is a reason (beyond my fundamental stupidity) that I got the two shows confused.
Raven: cute Stitch by mrquacklesraveninthewind on May 4th, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC)
It was purely a howl at the mental picture of Blair the hippie mercenary; I can just picture the mission statements. *G*

Angst is a matter of taste--I find that the real world offers all that I can handle, thank you kindly.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 06:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, come on - the mission statement wouldn't be that bad.

Mission: to bring respect and understanding of diverse cultures to dictators, tyrants, and other totally dogmatic and harsh people. To move with canine stealth through the rainforest and other challenging terrain, seeking rebels, victims of oppression, unusually tasty local cuisine, and works of erotic native art. To expand my horizons and discover new uses for aloe vera - possibly a number of new uses, if my Sentinel's horizons also expand to the right degree.

See? Perfectly normal mission statement. Oh, wait, you probably meant the other kind of mission statement. Can't help you there.

Oh, and I need to tell you that I love the Stitch icon. Adore it, even. (If I had icons, I'd have one of Stitch with the bra on his head, you know, from the end of the movie. And possibly a quote about falling with style and grace.)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 12:45 pm (UTC)
I have no icons because I am absolutely not a visual person (you should be able to tell that by just looking at the pathetically unpretty way my LJ is set up), and I am thus quite certain I would make very crappy icons. I tried browsing the icon communities, but none of them had that special something, and I gave up.

But I tell you this - if they'd had Stitch with a bra on his head, or any picture that went with my LJ's new motto ("Sex: the Universal Fandom," which raveninthewind identified as the proper motto for all us sicko multi-fandom types), or an obscene trophy that I could label "the Slashy Awards," I'd have taken it. It's just - pictures of umbrellas and actors I don't recognize and unicorns didn't really work for this LJ, you know?

I've actually considered making a black type, white background icon with no picture, just the slogan "Icon Loser." 'Cause I just know that's what everyone is thinking when they look at my total absence of nifty representational pictures.

(If you actually did make me some, especially anything on my icon wishlist, I would love you even more than I already do. Because I'd still be an Icon Loser, but you'd be covering for my deficiencies. I'd be a closeted Icon Loser!)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 07:00 pm (UTC)
I love you. I really, really love you. You're a beard for Icon Losers: now no one will know my dirty little secret.

And I totally love my new icon, too. You're welcome to use it, since it is, technically, yours, but I bet you won't be as proud of it as I am. No one could be.

Oooo! I have an icon!
Auburnauburnnothenna on May 4th, 2004 04:43 pm (UTC)
I'm still resisting this fandom, but don't hold out a lot of hope that my will power can triumph. When I do fall, kicking and screaming and whining, I'll have place to start now.

And say, The Professionals, is that about a couple of hookers? *g*
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 06:20 pm (UTC)
No, no, you're thinking of that Tom Cruise movie, The Color of Money, where he and Paul Newman play a pair of hustlers.

The Professionals is about a pair of contract killers from the wrong part of Sheffield who were sent to Las Vegas by a mysterious, shady boss, and then were unable to return to England for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture. In the episodes, they're usually given strange and challenging tasks, often involving the deadly attractive supernatural monsters that stalk the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas, and they carry them out with style, witty repartee, and a strong undercurrent of sexual tension.

You remember now, right?
Auburnauburnnothenna on May 4th, 2004 06:32 pm (UTC)

You're not serious, are you?

Though, if you are, give it to me, baby!

Forgive me, I'm still mulling over the 'snorting powdered Waterford crystal' thought, and wondering about shooting up China White made from real China.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 4th, 2004 08:14 pm (UTC)
Hee. I was going for a crystal meth reference, but China White made from real china is much better.* (And, hee, think of the conversations you'd have with the dealers: "You sure this is real? 'Cause I won't take that stuff that's made from colored china and then bleached, man; that shit'll fuck you up.")

And no, I wasn't serious about The Professionals, more's the pity. ('Cause, hell, if that was a real show, I'd damn well learn to watch television, or die trying.) My description is partly a pastiche and partly from my own fevered imagination.

(In case you don't know: the real Professionals were Brits who worked for an agency called CI5, a sort of English anti-terrorism organization. Bodie was an ex-merc and Doyle was an ex-cop with terrible hair; together, they fought crime.)

* Warning for any highly impressionable and terminally stupid people who have somehow got access to this page and learned how to read: do not put powdered tableware or decoratives into any part of your body. Ouchy ouchy.
Iphiginia Saberhagenfanofall on May 4th, 2004 09:27 pm (UTC)
I started watching The Sentinel because of the fic. I'm pretty sure that's backward. But I completely understand the people who write this stuff--how could you not? If I could write AT ALL this would be what I would write. They're so purty. But yeah. I didn't get a lot of it either, at the beginning.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)
I dunno. I think this TV show owes more to FF than any other show on the planet; have you ever encountered anyone who liked the show who didn't write or read FF? I haven't. But I've met a lot of people like you, who started watching the show after getting into the FF. Admittedly, this is a totally biased sample, since I'm talking about people I've met online, and I mostly hang around with fellow perverts online, but still.

So the people who made The Sentinel owe FF big time. Instead of a last episode that sort of destroyed one of the characters, they should've had a last episode with, at minimum, kissing. A way to thank the fans, you know?
Iphiginia Saberhagenfanofall on May 5th, 2004 01:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I completely agree. How could they not be? You're talking about a television show that has blooper reels where the two male leads kiss. Not in one instance, but in many instances. And, quite frankly, I was so not-surprised I was waiting for that episode (Golden Redux, or something).

But I love the way that fic has dealt with TSbyBS. The episode SUCKED BEYOND THE TELLING OF IT, but fic has made it all better!

Additionally? I don't really hang around WITH fellow perverts online (because I'm a serial lurker until recently), but hang NEAR them. Because they have the most fun. And the prettiest boys.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC)
Seriously? There's blooper reels where Jim and Blair kiss?

That settles it. TS may not have been the best show, but it's definitely the slashiest show of all time. (And FWIW, I pretend that TSbyBS never happened unless I'm reading post-TSbyBS FF; yet another advantage to not watching the show.)

And you're so right that it's best to hang with the pervy crowd. I want a bumper sticker that says "Perverts know how to have fun with pretty, pretty boys." Or, actually, I don't. An icon, maybe, but not a bumper sticker; I can just picture myself explaining that one to the next cop that pulls me over.
Iphiginia Saberhagenfanofall on May 5th, 2004 02:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, we HAVE to find people who will do that. Surely someone around here makes icons... :-)

And I will find that link for you. It's so...


I don't have words. It's just so...

I want them for my very own. But for each other.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 5th, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC)
I want them for my very own. But for each other.

Well, if that's not the perfect answer to the question "Why slash?" then I don't know what could be.
Iphiginia Saberhagenfanofall on May 6th, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC)
You should check your e-mail. I sent you a surprise.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 6th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC)
Got it. You are a wonderful human being. And this has been such a sucky day that I really needed something to brighten it. That was perfect. Thank you, thank you.
Iphiginia Saberhagenfanofall on May 6th, 2004 10:50 pm (UTC)
Aren't they PURTY? God. No, seriously. I about passed out the first time I saw them.

And by the way? Richard Burgi is SO FRIGGING HOT. And kinda cute, you know, when he grabs Garett Maggart's hand, and everything.

I'm glad I could brighten your day. I even got an opportunity to pimp your LJ on Fametracker this afternoon. [brushes hands together] My work here is done! :-)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 14th, 2004 07:02 pm (UTC)
Whoops. Missed this comment until now. Sorry!

I do indeed read Terry Pratchett. And I love him. Kind of. See, I really, really loved his earlier Discworld novels, and IMO the latest ones have been sort of hit-or-miss. So, while I do read Pratchett, my copy of The Truth is still a total virgin, sitting patiently on the shelf and waiting for me to gather my nerve.

His novel The Truth has a character that will snort anything powdered as long as it comes in small packages.

I had a lot of friends like this in high school. Sort of makes me all nostalgic. But only sort of. And, hey, that sounds like Pratchett might be doing OK in The Truth after all; perhaps it's time to face my fears and read The Truth. (Please, please, no "You can't handle The Truth!" jokes. My brain has already supplied me with all I can stand.)