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The Sentinel
From left to right: Simon Banks (Bruce A. Young), Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi), and Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart)
Created by
Written by
Theme music composerJames Newton Howard
ComposerSteve Porcaro
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes65 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
ProducerGail Morgan Hickman
Running timeapprox. 45 mins
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseMarch 20, 1996 (1996-03-20) –
May 24, 1999 (1999-05-24)

The Sentinel is an action crime drama series that aired on UPN in the United States from March 20, 1996, to May 24, 1999. It premiered on March 20, 1996, and ran for 65 episodes over four seasons. The series later re-aired on Syfy.

Plot overview

Main article: List of The Sentinel episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110March 20, 1996 (1996-03-20)July 17, 1996 (1996-07-17)
224September 4, 1996 (1996-09-04)May 21, 1997 (1997-05-21)
323September 10, 1997 (1997-09-10)May 20, 1998 (1998-05-20)
48February 1, 1999 (1999-02-01)May 24, 1999 (1999-05-24)

Jim Ellison was a US Army Ranger who spent 18 months in the Peruvian jungle after the rest of his unit was killed. He developed hyperacute senses from surviving in the wild, but repressed them when he returned to civilization. His sensory abilities re-manifested five years later, while conducting an extended stakeout in the forest as a detective in the Major Crimes Unit of the Cascade, Washington, police department. He went to a hospital for an examination where he met Blair Sandburg, an anthropologist from Rainier University, whom Ellison initially mistook for a physician. Upon hearing Ellison's story, Sandburg declares that Ellison is a "Sentinel": in ancient tribes, Sentinels used their enhanced senses to protect their village. For Jim, Cascade is his village. Blair had been studying Sentinel mythology for years. While he found many individuals with one or two hyperactive senses, he had never before found a person with all five senses enhanced, a "true" Sentinel.

Blair helps Jim control his senses and joins Jim as a police observer. Their unlikely partnership works, and together they fight crime in the streets of Cascade. The only person aside from Sandburg who knows Jim's secret is his captain and friend, Simon Banks.


Jim initially doesn't believe Blair's explanation about his senses. At their second meeting, Jim throws Blair against a wall and calls him a "neo-hippie, witch-doctor punk." Nevertheless, Jim's senses pose a huge problem, as demonstrated when Blair has to shove Jim and himself under an oncoming garbage truck to save Jim from a zone-out. Jim later introduces Blair to Simon Banks, the chief of Major Crimes, and secures Blair a ninety-day observer's pass to help with his senses. The excuse they give is that Blair is Jim's kid cousin, whom he is helping get his doctorate by allowing him to study the police force so he can write a dissertation on the "thin blue line" and the closed society of the police force.

Soon after, Blair's warehouse apartment is blown up by the drug lab next door, and Jim invites Blair to stay with him at his loft apartment at 852 Prospect Ave., apartment 307. Blair temporarily brings Larry the Ape, the subject of a short-term sociology study. Although the arrangement is only meant to last a week, Blair stays for years.

Seasons 1–3

On the job, Jim constantly reminds his wayward "partner" to stay in the truck, although Blair rarely listens. Also, Blair is often the victim of kidnapping and abuse by various criminals. Blair also steadily serves to complete Jim's paperwork and soothe Jim's temper. The other detectives at Major Crimes think of him fondly, and Blair has many nicknames: "Chief" from Jim, "Hairboy" from Rafe and Henri, and "Sandy" from Megan Connor.

Season 4

At the end of season three, Blair meets a new sentinel, Ms Alex Barnes (Jeri Ryan), and agrees to help her with her senses. Jim has a "nightmare" (actually a vision) about killing Blair, and is haunted by apparent hallucinations (actually more visions) of Barnes' spirit animal, a spotted panther. At this point, Blair has not informed Jim about the new Sentinel in town, leaving Jim confused about the Sentinel instincts he's experiencing. Uncertain about the situation, Jim throws Blair out of the loft. Subsequently, Alex attacks Blair and kills him. Following Blair's pronouncement of death, Jim employs the power of his animal spirit to bring Blair back to life. Despite this, Jim is haunted by spirit visions of Alex and struggles with a strange attraction to her, leading to a kiss between them in front of Blair. Eventually, Jim regains control over his Sentinel urges. Alex, now left catatonic due to experimenting with a drug meant to enhance her Sentinel abilities, is confined to a mental institution, and Blair returns to the loft.

The last episode of the series, "'The Sentinel' by Blair Sandburg", shows Blair finally finishing his dissertation. He's promised to allow Jim to read the paper before he turns it in, but unfortunately, his mother shows up at the loft, snoops on his computer, and emails the document to Sid Graham, a big-shot publisher in New York. Sid releases snippets of Blair's Sentinel paper to the press and the general public, who then hound Jim and Blair. To repair his relationship with his friend and fix his wrongdoing, Blair rejects a three-million-dollar publishing contract at a press conference where he declares his dissertation fraudulent, thus destroying his academic career. At the end of this last episode, Jim and Simon offer Blair a place in Major Crimes as a police officer should he choose to accept it.





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Jim Ellison

Jim Ellison was born with hyperactive senses. During his childhood, he had a friend, Bud who helped him with said senses. Unfortunately, Bud was murdered at some point, one of many cases of trauma in his childhood. His mother also left, leaving him to live with his extremely wealthy father, William Ellison, and his brother, Steven Ellison. Jim's relationship with both characters is notably strained, and leads to both the repression of his senses and his joining the Army.

While in the Army, Jim achieves the rank of captain in the US Army Rangers/Special Forces, working covert ops. His last mission (for 7th group special forces - ODA 731) takes him and his team of seven to Peru to stop a drug-smuggling campaign. Unfortunately, his ranking officer was corrupt and set him and his men up for failure. His helicopter crashes, killing his seven men and leaving him wounded. He is taken in by the Chopec, an elusive and secretive tribe in Peru, and learns to control his senses for the tribe's betterment under the tutelage of Incacha, the tribe's shaman, who calls Jim "Enqueri" ("Sentinel"). The following year, when a satellite photo shows seven tombstones at the helicopter's crash site instead of just a pile of scrap metal, the US Army sends in a team to find the sole survivor of the crash and bring him back home.

During the series, in flashbacks of Jim's military time, his various military awards and badges were shown on his military uniform. For example, in Season 2 Episode 15 "Secrets", Jim's Silver Star medal is shown. Additionally in the pilot, Jim is shown to be wearing a Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Breast Badge on his uniform. In Season 4 Episode 4 "Dead End on Blank Street", Jim is also shown to be wearing a Combat Medic Breast Badge.

When Jim returns to Cascade, Washington, he represses the memories of his time in Peru. Nevertheless, his instincts as a Sentinel remain, leading him to "serve and protect" his "tribe", the residents of Cascade, by joining the police force. Eventually assigned to Vice, he is mentored by Jack Pendergrast, who helps Jim tame his temper and his rebellious attitude. Jim later marries Carolyn Plummer, another detective on the force. Jack then dies, and Carolyn and Jim divorce.

After a solitary week-long stakeout in a remote woodland location, Jim's senses begin to re-emerge, focusing primarily on his sight and hearing. Upon his return to the city, his enhanced senses fully manifest, causing disorientation, stress, and a drugged feeling. He can perceive sights, sounds, and smells beyond ordinary human capability, has an aversion to flavorful foods, and experiences discomfort with any slightly coarse materials. Jim opts to check himself into a hospital, where he encounters Blair Sandburg posing as Doctor McCoy (as indicated on the stolen lab coat he wears) or Doctor McKay (as he pronounces it).

During the series, Jim falls in love with a handful of women but most of them end up dying in his arms. Several of Jim's old friends from the Army and police force also end up dead during the course of the show.


Jim's hyperacute senses allow him to perceive things undetectable by normal humans. He can see perfectly in low light situations and with superb acuity at long distances, hear sounds at extremely low volume or beyond the normal range of human hearing, and sense what others cannot via taste, touch and smell; he declares himself "a walking forensic lab". Jim's powers have a drawback: if he concentrates too strongly on one sense, he may become oblivious to his immediate surroundings. Part of Blair's job is preventing this, and protecting Jim when he is focusing. As a Sentinel Jim has several powers:

Blair Sandburg

Blair Sandburg is the genius son of Naomi Sandburg, an absolute flower child. In his youth, he was all about free love and the hippie spirit, and has yet to stop. Blair had little to no stability in his youth, always moving from home to home and never settling, but that was also what spawned his love of anthropology.

When Blair was sixteen, he moved to Cascade, Washington to begin his studies. An anthropology major, his advisor was Eli Stoddard, a major expert in the field. As he quickly moved through his education, he took many trips on grants to various parts of the globe. When he finally decided to get his doctorate, he became a teaching fellow. The topic of his dissertation was the Sentinel. This was brought about by a monograph by Sir Richard Francis Burton that described both the sentinels and their roles in their respective tribes, and their partners, accurately named by one villain: guides.

At twenty-six, Blair has an "office" in the basement at Rainier, and an $850 a month, 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) warehouse apartment.

During the course of the show, Blair has several girlfriends, sometimes dating more than one woman at a time. One of his ex-girlfriends works at Cascade General, which is how he met Jim in the first place: she told him a man with complaints about all five of his senses had recently been admitted.

In Jim's visions, Blair's spirit animal is a grey wolf.


The Sentinel was canceled after 3 seasons by UPN, with the last episode being a big cliffhanger with Blair's life in the balance. An intense fan campaign convinced UPN to give the series a season of eight episodes to end the series properly.

International broadcast

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Outside the United States, the series has been broadcast by the following stations under the following names:

Country Name Translation Station
Bolivia El centinela The Sentinel Bolivision
Czech Republic Ochránce Sentinel TV Nova
Estonia Tunnimees The Watchman TV6
Finland Vartija The Sentinel Nelonen and MTV3 Scifi
France The Sentinel M6
Germany Der Sentinel – Im Auge des Jägers The Sentinel – In the Eye of the Hunter Pro 7
Greece Άγρυπνος Φρουρός Sleepless Sentinel Mega Channel
Hungary Sentinel – Az Őrszem The Sentinel TV 2
Israel סנטינל Sentinel [1] AXN Israel
Italy Sentinel Rai Due
Latvia Sentinels The Sentinel LNT
Mexico El Centinela The Sentinel XHGC-TDT
Netherlands The Sentinel Veronica
Norway TV 2
Philippines The Sentinel ABC 5
Poland Gliniarz z dżungli Cop from the jungle AXN
Portugal A Sentinela The Sentinel SIC
Romania Pericol iminent Imminent danger Antena 1
South Africa The Sentinel SABC 3
Spain Sentinel
El Centinela
The Sentinel
Antena 3
Sci Fi Channel
Sweden Spejaren The Scout TV4, TV4 Science Fiction
Switzerland The Sentinel TSI1
United Arab Emirates The Sentinel Showtime Arabia
Turkey The Sentinel aTV
United Kingdom The Sentinel Sci Fi Channel and Zone Thriller
Venezuela El Centinela The Sentinel Radio Caracas Televisión

Home media

On April 18, 2006, CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) released "The Complete First Season" of The Sentinel on DVD in Region 1. As of 2015, this release has been discontinued and is out of print.

On May 5, 2015, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1 and plan to release The Sentinel on DVD before the end of calendar year 2015.[2]

On September 1, 2015, it was announced that Visual Entertainment will release The Sentinel – The Complete Series on DVD on September 22, 2015.[3]


  1. ^ Transliterated
  2. ^ "The Sentinel DVD news: DVD Plans for the Sentinel |". Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  3. ^ "We Now Have a Specific Street Date for 'The Complete Series' Set!" Archived 2015-09-04 at the Wayback Machine