Observers were evolved humans from one possible future of mankind. In an attempt to study their evolution, they used their time period's technology, which allowed them to travel through time and space. Because of that technology, they existed quite literally "outside" of time. In their own future, the world is damaged beyond repair and unsustainable. Their endgame was to rise to a position of totalitarian power in the past, which they assumed in 2015.
Appearance and Personality
All Observers wear black suits, usually accompanied by black fedoras. Other common traits are their pale skin, their baldness, and missing eyebrows.
They are stoic, calm, and monotone and have a way of talking that can be considered strange for normal humans. While observing, they occasionally write in small notebooks by using an unknown language. Like other humans, they need to eat, but they prefer extremely flavored foods.
Observers are humans that were created in 2167. Scientists in Oslo, Norway, were experimenting with the human brain in that year. They discovered that they could drastically enhance human intelligence and rational thinking, albeit by overwriting the region's of the brain used for emotional processing. Over many years, humans enhanced in this manner, the Observers, populated the Earth. ("The Boy Must Live")
Observers were grown in tanks by using the DNA of designated donors, making females and sexual reproduction unnecessary. Progenies were grown at accelerated rates. However, every so often, progenies would become mutated. Those anomalies had their aging process halted and were scheduled for extermination. ("The Boy Must Live")
By the year 2609, the Observers, having lacked the necessary emotional intelligence to control their advancements, ruined the planet. To rectify this, a plan was put into place that involved going back in time and taking the planet from modern-day humans.
The Observers in the year 2609 sent a team of 12 scientists, code-named after each month, to study their beginnings and observe primitive humanity. ("The Boy Must Live") Originally, the Observers had evolved from a probable future stemming from the alternate universe. After September's intervention on the night Walternate was about to discover the cure for Peter, September had to take action to ensure that events played out as they were intended so that the future where the Observers originate from still took place. This caused a chain of events that would destroy both universes, and so Walter in the year 2021 created a machine known as the Vacuum that would unify both universes and rectify the mistake he had made in 1985. He then sent this through a wormhole into the past before the two universes diverged into separate futures, which would culminate into the timeline that begins season 1. ("The End of All Things") ("The Day We Died")
During the Observers' expedition to study history, their proximity to primitive humans caused emotions to develop. Although all 12 Observers experienced this, they agreed to never speak of it to their colleagues in the future. However, September's unique involvement caused him to experience additional emotional development, leading him to retrieve his biological descendant from the future and hide him in the past in order to save him from termination. ("An Enemy of Fate")
Their appearances increased at an alarming rate after the first events of the Pattern. Phillip Broyles disclosed to Agent Olivia Dunham that the FBI had been tracking the Observers for quite some time. ("The Arrival") He explains that a team had been tracking one particular Observer (September) for over a year. The team nicknamed him the Observer, suggesting they were not aware of the existence of multiple Observers at that time. He had been seen at countless Pattern-related events, the one gaining Olivia's attention being his tracking of the Beacon. The Observer enlisted Walter's help to protect the Beacon from John Mosley. ("The Arrival") When a child that resembled an Observer was found, September and the child seemed upset as the car taking the child to an adoptive family drove away. ("Inner Child") The Observer was also tracked by Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic, who were aware of the increasing frequency of his appearances. Nina suggested it had happened once before, but she gave no indication of what events transpired as a result. ("The Road Not Taken") Just before David Robert Jones opened a doorway to the other universe, September came to Walter's lab and told him, "It is time." Walter left immediately with the Observer, who took him to Walter's old beach house, where Walter obtained a device that would close a portal to the other universe, preventing Jones from crossing over. ("The Road Not Taken") ("There's More Than One of Everything")
After a series of attacks that he perpetrated, Raymond Gordon confessed to attempting to kill couriers. ("Fracture") Those couriers delivered briefcases full of information to the Observers. One such case was delivered to September and contained photographs of Walter Bishop. Gordon claimed that the Observers were here to exterminate the universe. ("Fracture") Later, August intervened in the death of Christine Hollis. He was supposed to rectify his mistake, but Christine lived—causing her to become important. At the end of those events, September and December observed Olivia, claiming things would soon get very hard for her. ("August")
September brought Bobby Joyce forward in time to speak with his father. Doing so was part of an elaborate experiment designed to see whether Walter would be willing to let Peter go. That chain of events prevented Walter from dying by drinking poisoned milk. The milk was instead drunk by Peter, whom Walter saved. If Walter had drunk the milk, no one would have been able to save him. ("The Firefly")
After Peter Bishop's disappearance, December tasked September with the job of ensuring that Peter stayed erased because echoes of Peter still existed. September later constructed a device to erase Peter completely but decided at the last moment not to use it. ("Neither Here Nor There")
Later, Peter reappears naked in Reiden Lake in the present, while September watches. ("Subject 9") When the Fringe Division takes Peter in for questioning, they reveal that they have no knowledge of the Observers in this timeline, and Peter determines the key difference in the timeline is that September did not rescue Walter and Peter from drowning in the Reiden Lake in 1985, and while Walter survived, Peter did not. ("Novation")
Olivia aided Peter in his journey to the Other Side and awaits his return in the Orpheum Theatre. While waiting, she is met by September, who is suffering from a gunshot wound. He warns Olivia that he has seen all possible futures and that she dies in all of them. Olivia decides to take him to a hospital, turns to get her coat, and finds September has vanished. ("Back to Where You've Never Been")
September lost a device when he did not save Peter in 1985 in the new timeline. It was recovered by Neil Chung, who saw the future and killed people in a way that he considered merciful. The device was retrieved by March and December, who at that point realize that Peter Bishop has returned and that September had not followed his orders to ensure Peter's full removal from time. They all look for September, so he can explain why he had not followed his orders. ("Making Angels")
Rise to Power
In 2015, the Observers seized control, supposedly made possible by the studies of the scientists. ("Letters of Transit") Their future world in 2609 was damaged beyond repair, so they returned to earlier times to enforce a dictatorial style of rule over the world. They struck down upon civilians, who were later termed "natives." The Fringe Division was restructured to police the Natives after a failed uprising. A secret branch of Fringe Division began forming a resistance group, including Etta and Simon, who began searching for the former Fringe Team members encased in amber.
In the year 2036, the Observers maintained supreme control of Earth. They paved over Central Park in New York and created machines that pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere to adjust it to levels similar to those in 2609. The return of the Fringe Team marked a significant turning point in the Observer overlords' plans. The Fringe Team joined the resistance and became empowered and more motivated after Windmark murdered Henrietta. Several close run-ins ended with the insurgents escaping, leaving the Observers reeling from the attacks as the Fringe Division began implementing Walter's Plan.
In 2036, the Fringe team returned to implement Walter's Plan. The plan required Michael, an anomalous Observer whose mutation allowed him the enhanced intelligence of his kin without destroying his capacity for emotion, to be sent forward in time to the year 2167 when the beginnings of what would eventually become the Observers came about. He would show these scientists that they did not need to sacrifice emotion to evolve the Observers—that there had to be another way. The time machine was created by Walter, Olivia, Peter, Astrid, and September/Donald. After September was shot and killed, Walter took Michael to 2167 himself, sacrificing his life with his son for the betterment of the world. The plan succeeded, reset time, and prevented the invasion. It is never specified whether the Observers were completely averted or if new Observers were created in Michael's image and given emotion.
Abilities and Technology
Observer abilities are due mostly to futuristic technology. An implant in the back of the head aids their abilities. An implant can be given to anyone through making an incision. The implant then makes its way into the body, allowing that person to exhibit Observer-like abilities, which include enhanced vision, teleportation, and calculative precognition. The technology begins to form new ridges in the brain to enhance rational thinking, referred to as "controlled evolution", consequently destroying emotion centers and with it a person's sense of humanity. That loss of feeling relates to both emotions and senses such as taste. After an unspecified amount of time, the changes to the brain become permanent. However, some Observers, such as August and September, are shown to have emotion or at least an inkling of it. As later seen with September, the effects of the implant might be reversible through an experimental de-evolution procedure developed by the Observers. Observers have been seen with seemingly vintage binoculars, but in reality, they are extremely high-tech.
Observers also have access to a strange communication device, almost like a cell phone. The phone displays The Circles
and has strange symbols to type with. Finally, another piece of technology the Observers are known to be associated with is the Beacon. September was tracking the Beacon's arrival, which according to him was on time, as well as its departure. The Beacon serves as a way for removed Observers to return to the Universe. How or why that is possible is still unknown.
September fashioned a device that would erase the remaining fragments of Peter Bishop from time by using machine parts found at a local pawn shop.
Aside from the confirmed Observers, other characters could possibly be Observers, the first being John Mosley. He also was bald, but not nearly as emotionless, and had eyebrows. Mosley was in pursuit of the Beacon, which September was committed to track and ensure the safety of. Mosley has been called "the Rogue" by the show's production team. When asked whether we would see more rogue Observers "a.k.a. John Mosley", the producers only stated that the audience would soon learn exactly what a rogue Observer is, leading many fans to speculate that Mosley is perhaps a rogue Observer. The Child was later found by a demolition company. He was bald and seemed to be particularly in-tune with emotions, especially agent
Olivia Dunham's. Later on, when the child was taken away to an adoptive family, the car was driven past September, who looked concerned. The Child seemed to take notice and turned around in his seat to watch him until he was out of sight. The Child was confirmed to be a Child Observer in 2036 when the Fringe team discovered a pocket universe that Walter designed to keep him safe in.
In 2036, Peter Bishop implanted Observer technology into his head. He began to use the abilities granted to him to fight the Observers and avenge Henrietta's death. However, in his lapse of judgment, Peter failed to fully think through the consequences. He began to slowly lose touch with his humanity, his voice slowly became monotone, and clumps of his hair started to fall out. Peter eventually removed the implant after being convinced by Olivia that Etta was always with them in spirit. Her love persuaded him to keep in touch with his humanity and find another way to put an end to the Observers. He removed the implant before the effects became permanent.
- Couriers: Couriers transport information to Observers via a briefcase.
- Assassins: Assassins such as Donald Long rectify the most extreme cases of adjustment. For Christine Hollis, who should have died on an airplane, Long attempted to murder her and correct the natural course of events.
- Loyalists: Loyalists defected to the Observers in 2015. They are branded with the Observers' language on their cheeks and enforce laws.
- 1770: Boston Massacre
- 1793: Execution of Marie Antoinette
- 1914: Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand
- 1985: Walternate's Discovery of a cure for Peter and later at Bishop Dynamic
- 1987: Arrival of the Beacon at Quantico
- 1988: Olivia Dunham's attempted murder of her stepfather, Randall
- 1989: Loma Prieta/San Francisco earthquake
- 2008–2011: 64 Fringe Division–related events
- 2011–2012: Disappearance of Peter Bishop and 21 Fringe Division–related events
- 2015: Observations cease; infiltration occurs