Examining trends in fanfiction.
In 1996, there was a four-season Canadian television show called The Sentinel. A crime show, it followed Jim Ellison, a former US Army Ranger who finds out he’s got enhanced senses. The show followed Jim and his friend and occasional “guide” through what, since this is 90’s Canadian television, was likely action crime adventures with inexplicable homoerotic subtext.
In 2020, there are 63 pages of Sentinel alternative universe fanfiction on Archive of Our Own. Likely many of these pieces are not related to the original television show, but rather on the very strong fanon that has emerged related to the show. The existence of Sentinels – beings who have one to five powerful senses – is one of the only things that holds true from the Sentinel TV show to the fanon. Sentinel AU has become another variation to the Soulmate AU trope, with Sentinel’s constantly on the lookout for their one true Guide.
[pullquote]Likely many of these pieces are not related to the original television show, but rather on the very strong fanon that has emerged related to the show.[/pullquote]
In fanon, Sentinel’s run the risk of getting too in their head when they “zone” into one of their five senses. Guides, their counterparts, are the only beings capable of bringing them out of a zone. Sentinels power is usually tied to how many senses that they have that are strengthened – an element they pulled from the television show – with five guide Sentinels viewed as being the strongest. As a trope it bears a lot of functional resemblance to the Alpha/Omega pairings where one of the halves of the pairing is perceived as stronger (Alpha and Sentinel) and one side is seen as being weaker, more emotional (Omega and Guide). In unsurprising news these also tend to line up frequently with common gender roles as well (Alpha is to Sentinel is to male). Sentinel AU’s also frequently have some element of bureaucracy, which is a feature that was added in fanon, where there’s a principal organization that controls and regulates Sentinels and Guides.
Despite only running for four seasons on Canadian television, Sentinel has now moved far past its fandom and has taken over a small section of Archive of Our Own. Presumably, this is what the creators wanted for their little homoerotic crime drama.
Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.