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As a captain in Special Forces (the Army's elite Rangers), James Ellison (Richard Burgi) was the sole survivor of a helicopter crash during a covert mission to Peru. Assigned to enlist locals to help fight rebel forces, he spent 18 months in the jungle with the Chopec. During this time, he developed the heightened senses of a sentinel, a description later described by anthropologist Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart) as a tribal watchman chosen because of a genetic advantage to protect and defend the tribe.
After his rescue from the jungle, Ellison suppressed almost all memory of his hyper-active senses and returned to civilian life as a police officer in Cascade, Washington. Five years later, a period of isolation while on a prolonged stakeout brought his senses to the fore again. Afraid he might be going insane, he seeks medical help to determine if his strange sensory spikes are caused by an illness. At the hospital, anthropology grad student Blair Sandburg approaches him. In Jim Ellison, he may realize a life-long dream -- the study of a modern-day sentinel.
Together, they form an uneasy relationship -- Jim will get help controlling his sentinel abilities, while Blair will gain a study subject for his doctoral dissertation. Their vastly different backgrounds and personalities form the foundation of each week's episode. Eventually, a unique and extremely strong friendship is forged.
Keeping their secret, but frequently bewildered by Jim's senses, is Captain Simon Banks (Bruce A. Young), head of the Major Crime unit of which Jim is a member. He paves the way for Blair to join the unit as an "observer," ostensibly to study the police as a "closed society," but in reality so he can observe and help Jim control his hyper-senses.
Cast of Characters:
Name: James Ellison
OCCUPATION: Detective, Major Crime, Cascade, Washington, PD
BACKGROUND: Special Forces
CURRENT PROBLEM: ... And/or blessing: He is a Sentinel, a rare, modern specimen of a human with all five senses enhanced to an abnormally high level.
A tough-as-nails cop, complete with attitude, military haircut, and a penchant for white socks, he's a good detective, dedicated and tenacious, with a temper that has become legendary. He prefers to work alone. Estranged from his father, William, for many years, they have begun a tentative reconciliation. He also has a brother, Steven, with whom he had no contact for many years until fate thrust them together during a case. His mother, Grace, is mentioned but never seen, and he has a cousin, Rucker Ellison, who works for the U.S. Coast Guard. Whether Grace is alive or dead is open to canon interpretation. Jim is a difficult man to get close to. He is a master of repression, presenting a cool facade to the world and hiding his emotions behind a stoic reserve, a reserve that led to eventual divorce from his first and only wife, Carolyn Plummer. Carolyn was head of the Technical Services branch of the Cascade PD, but she has since moved to San Francisco. He enjoys order and control in his world, but both are in short supply once Blair Sandburg invades his comfortable, insular lifestyle.
Name: Blair Sandburg
OCCUPATION: Your basic grad student, complete with scruffy clothes, heavy books, and glasses. He's the picture of a studious, dedicated, heavy thinker. But looks can be deceiving....
FIELD of STUDY: Sentinels
BACKGROUND: A childhood spent in counter-culture communes and on the road with his flower child mom, a true 60's disciple. Very bright and aggressive, he was admitted to the university at an early age on a scholarship.
LIFE TIME GOAL: To find a real Sentinel
Blair, a gifted doctoral candidate currently working on his dissertation on sentinels, is the antithesis of Ellison. Bright, energetic, out-going, and friendly, his life has been filled with academic studies and anthropological research. He thrives on chaos, his stamina and intelligence often involving him in several pursuits at once. More than three years of working with Ellison has given him maturity and an awareness of the darker side of humanity. Inventive in times of crisis, he loathes weapons but has used them and doesn't appear totally averse to shooting someone (the episode Night Train was the closest he came to actually having to shoot someone, and although he displayed a normal reluctance, he was prepared to do so in defense of himself and others). The only child of 60's flower-child Naomi, Blair seldom stayed long enough in any one place to put down roots. In Ellison, he has found much more than a subject for study: he has found a best friend, a home, and a sense of purpose. It's not long before he realizes helping and studying a sentinel objectively is impossible -- he's also helping a friend and learning to become half of a very special partnership.
In the final episode of the UPN series, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg, a well-meaning Naomi sends his dissertation to a publisher. When Jim's abilities become public, his ability to do his job is compromised, so Blair makes the ultimate sacrifice and denounces his research as a fraud. Forced out of the University, his life in shambles, the end of the episode has him being offered a position as a detective with Major Crime.
Name: Simon Banks
Able to chomp on a cigar, growl at stubborn sentinels, and keep the brass at bay, he looks and acts like a true authority figure.
OCCUPATION: Captain of Major Crime
ONGOING PROBLEM: Having a Sentinel detective in his ranks who needs the help of Blair Sandburg to control the use of his senses.
Simon is a reluctant passenger on the wild roller coaster ride that describes the partnership of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg. They quickly become his best detective team, but he has trouble comprehending just what it is either of them does -- he doesn't want to know! He is divorced from Joan and has a son, Daryl, who was almost eighteen when the series ended its UPN run. He's a career cop who grew up in Washington State in a town in or near the mountains a few hours from Cascade.
Inspector Megan Connor
(Anna Galvan), an Australian cop, finagled her way into a law-enforcement exchange program so she could pursue a felon to Cascade. Early on, she suspects Jim's abilities are the result of ESP, a misconception neither Jim nor Blair sees fit to discourage. Later, she learns the truth and keeps their secret until the final episode, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg, when the world learns of Jim Ellison's abilities. A self-reliant, kick-butt detective, she is relentless in her pursuit of justice and the truth.
Captain Joel Taggart
(Ken Earl) was originally head of the Bomb Squad until circumstances forced him to return to detective investigation. It's unclear if he kept his rank when he joined Major Crime. Dogged rather than imaginative, he is sometimes partnered with Jim. A sweet tooth keeps him in a constant battle with his waistline. He has a definite soft spot for Blair, and a strong friendship has developed between the two men.
Detective Henri Brown
(Henri Brown) is young and upbeat. He calls Blair "Hairboy" without any malice, and is the bullpen's prime instigator of practical jokes. He is partnered with Rafe.
(Ryf Van Rij) is Henri's partner. Handsome and frequently teased for his GQ manner of dressing, poor Rafe was never given a first name by TPTB, so we've chosen Ray in honor of his real name (pronounced 'Rafe van Ray').
It is doubtful that these detectives believe Blair's press conference admission of fraud concerning his dissertation. Megan, of course, had previously learned of Jim's abilities, while Taggart has had his suspicions for some time. Henri and Rafe know Blair too well to think he'd perpetrate such a fraud. They all understand Blair's motive in renouncing his research is to protect Jim.
There's never a dull moment with The Sentinel. It has generous doses of humor, action, and fantasy. The program deals well with the value of friendship, the burden of being different, and the weight of responsibility... not to mention the appearance of the black panther, Jim's spirit guide.
The UPN series ran for 65 episodes, and currently airs in syndication on the SciFi Channel. Check out the Sentenel Ad Group website for current days and times.
(Overview compiled by Mackie and Sis. Photos by Steffi.)
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This page last updated 1/9/01.