Background Information: It is my intention to post this both on my usual TS venue and to attempt to get posting on--or at least a link to--a MSW fanfiction site.  Accordingly, I cannot assume that all readers will be familiar with both shows.  If you are familiar with either or both show(s), skip the background material. 

 

The Sentinel, which was never widely popular, although it attracted a cadre of fiercely loyal and devoted fans, aired on UPN in the late 1990s; set in the mythical city of Cascade, Washington (which we are to imagine is on the east coast of the Puget Sound, north of Seattle and south of Bellingham), it concerned a police detective gifted or cursed with unusual abilities. 

 

Perhaps you have read about people working in the cosmetics industry who can take one whiff of a perfume and tell you exactly what essences are in it, or people working in the food and beverage industry who can take a sip of coffee or tea or wine and tell you all about where the beans or leaves or grapes came from and how they were processed.   James Joseph Ellison, commonly known as Jim, has all five senses similarly enhanced; he had the enhancements as a child, repressed them, and then had them re-emerge in his mid-thirties.  As you may imagine, he thought he was loosing his mind.  Paprika tasted like habeñeros; the softest cotton was like burlap--and all other senses were similarly out of control.

 

Blair Jacob Sandburg[1][1], a graduate student in Behavioral & Social Sciences (Anthropology, minor in Psychology, strong background in Archaeology and History) at the mythical Rainier University (the University of British Columbia was used for the location shots) had read early accounts of people with similarly enhanced senses; in ancient times, according to his sources (especially Sir Richard Burton, more commonly known as the translator of the Kama Sutra) they were called 'Sentinels' and acted as protectors of their tribes, using their enhanced senses to track game, warn of attacks by neighboring tribes, predict storms and earthquakes--whatever was necessary. [2][2]

 

Reasoning that, if there was a factual basis in these accounts, there was no reason why those abilities should have died out and, accordingly, such people should surely still exist, he set out to find one.  He had so far found people with one or two enhanced senses, and even a few with three or four--but up to the beginning of the series, nobody with all five. 

 

Having learned of Jim's problems through a nurse he'd been dating, he inveigles Jim to visit his office at the University; Jim is skeptical at first, but realizes that Blair knows what he is talking about.  They decide to reveal to Jim's boss, Capt. Simon Banks, what is happening. 

 

Together, the three of them cook up a cover story that Blair wants to study the social dynamics of a modern police force, doing a comparison with those of ancient warrior brotherhoods; this gives Blair an excuse to ride along with Jim and hang around the police station.  Although technically only an  'Observer', and later a 'Consultant', he soon starts functioning as a full member of the Major Crime Unit.  He teaches Jim biofeedback and self-hypnosis techniques to help him control his senses, keeping him from being overwhelmed by the hubbub of modern urban life, while being able to use them when needed to locate clues, track suspects, and otherwise help in his work; he also learns enough about police work to suggest applications of Jim's senses.  Jim becomes, essentially, a live forensics lab.  Blair also learns that Criminology is not that far from Anthropology, and that much of his theoretical knowledge of the latter has applications to police work.

 

Although very different from one another[3][3], and in spite of some frictions, Jim and Blair become close friends.  When Blair is left homeless because of an explosion and fire, he comes to stay with Jim 'just for a week'--but for one reason or another he never leaves.

 

The series ended when Blair's interfering yenta of a mother, Naomi, sends a draft of his dissertation to a publisher--without telling Blair about it.  Blair has not gotten around to removing Jim's name from the document, and when the publisher--against Blair's specific request--releases parts of it, the resulting publicity made it impossible for Jim to do his work. 

 

Not knowing what else to do, but mindful of the ethical scientist's first obligation when working with a human subject--that the subject's welfare is paramount--Blair calls a press conference and claims that the document is a fraud, that he made it all up, that James Ellison is not a Sentinel, and that so far as he has been able to prove there are no Sentinels any more, if there ever were.  He is forced to leave the University, but Simon pulls some strings and tells him that if he is willing to go through the Police Academy, he can go straight into Major Crime as Jim's permanent official partner.  Thus the series ends. [4][4] 

 

The show was basically a 'buddy-cop' action/adventure show--full of car chases, explosions, gun battles, and beautiful women with mysterious and unsavory pasts; however, it also had strong elements of science fiction/fantasy and even some of comedy.

 

Garrett Maggart played Blair Sandburg; Richard Burgi played Jim Ellison.

 

Murder, She Wrote was a very successful show, running from 1984 to 1996.  Angela Lansbury, widely acclaimed for her work on both the musical and straight stage, as well as several well-regarded film roles (see http://members.aol.com/sherryberry88/angelabio.html), played Jessica Fletcher, a retired English teacher enjoying a second career as a mystery writer. 

 

Although living and working in the mythical Maine fishing port of Cabot Cove (based on Boothbay Harbor, ME), she also traveled extensively, both on business (promoting and/or researching her books) and for pleasure (visiting a seemingly endless network of relatives and friends).  Later she divided her time between Cabot Cove and New York City, where she taught Creative Writing and/or Criminology at 'Manhattan University' (a thinly disguised NYU). 

 

Whether she stayed home or traveled, murder followed her.  Cabot Cove seemed to have a higher murder rate per capita than New York, Los Angeles, or Miami.  Jessica is able to apply her theoretical knowledge, gained from researching her books, to these murders.  The police regard her as either an interfering old harpy or as a welcome unofficial assistant, as the plot may require.

 

The show was fodder for jokes by comedians and jibes from critics, but it was very popular, and remains so in reruns today.  It provided not only a chance for young actors to start their careers, but also a venue for guest appearances by stars of earlier generations--many who had appeared with Ms. Lansbury before, on stage or screen.

 

The Sentinel, having aspects of drama, action, comedy and science fiction, has strong crossover potential, and has been crossed in fanfiction with many shows.  If you are interested in other TS fanfiction, I invite you to look on www.skeeter63.org/tslibrary.

 

Murder, She Wrote, because Jessica travels so much and because Cabot Cove seems to be such a popular tourist destination, would also seem to have good crossover potential, but none of the MSW fanfiction I have seen so far has been a crossover.  (If you know of other crossovers, please tell me!)  So far as I know, nobody has crossed these two before.  For other MSW fanfiction, please look on http://jesmaine.tripod.com/index.definitiveMSW.html.

 

The name ‘Jacob’ is fanon; I’m not sure who introduced it, but it has been so widely adoped in fanfiction that a story which uses another name seems decidedly odd.

[5][2] The Burton book referred to in the story, The Sentinels of Paraguay is fictional.

[6][3] Each of them is everything the other has been brought up to dislike and distrust.

[7][4] My fanfiction series ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, for those who haven’t read the others, takes up after the show ends; Blair has decided to join the police force, but to use his middle name ‘Jacob’ professionally—hence the title.

 



[1][1] The name ‘Jacob’ is fanon; I’m not sure who introduced it, but it has been so widely adoped in fanfiction that a story which uses another name seems decidedly odd.

[2][2] The Burton book referred to in the story, The Sentinels of Paraguay is fictional.

[3][3] Each of them is everything the other has been brought up to dislike and distrust.

[4][4] My fanfiction series ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, for those who haven’t read the others, takes up after the show ends; Blair has decided to join the police force, but to use his middle name ‘Jacob’ professionally—hence the title.