During the first three seasons of Fringe, the Observers are mainly just there, observing. It slowly transpires that some of them have played a more active role.

Then, suddenly, starting with S4E19 and continued in S5,

they're invaders. The Observers we saw in the first three seasons, were just a science team, exploring.

Was that planned from the start? Or was it just a possibility created by the writers?

As Pinkner said in an interview:

Pinkner: Oh, yeah. We purposefully plant seeds along the way and sometimes we know exactly how they're going to pay off. Other times we know that they will pay off, but not necessarily when or how. And we've said we sort of want to world-build. It's a way to make the show feel like it takes place in a world and it's not just episodic.

So was this just the outcome of the planted seeds, or was this something that had been planned from the start?

  • Pure speculation on my part, but it felt like they were planned to be the "bad guys" from the start, just the exact details probably weren't fleshed out towards later seasons.
    – Chahk
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 20:59
  • 2
    Then again, the ratings were falling, so perhaps they tried to do something drastic to turn it around.
    – SQB
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 21:32
  • I don't see how we're going to find any evidence more compelling, either way, than an explicit statement/bald-faced lie from one of the co-creators.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


An interview with Michael Cerveris who plays the Observer called September, reveals that

The Observer is a work in progress.

The role started as a one-shot deal for Cerveris, but quickly became a running gag. Then the show runners decided to make him a full-fledged character, beginning with the season-one episode "The Arrival." Along the way, Cerveris has made it up as he goes. "I wasn't told, because I don't think they knew at the time, whether I was a good guy, a bad guy, human, alien, other-dimensional," Cerveris said. "I just kind of felt my way through it with the first directors and input, obviously, from the writers in the scripts that we had. Even things like wardrobe, they weren't given extremely big instructions, so we kind of worked things out together and just found something we all thought was interesting and iconic and went with that."

SyFy Wire, "All is revealed about Fringe's bald alien-like Observer" (Thursday, October 15, 2009 - 10:00am)

So apparently, the Observer wasn't even planned as being a recurring character at all, until they got under way with the first season. They were very much "planted seeds".

Of course, this doesn't tell us when their final role in the series did crystallise, but it's clear it wasn't at the beginning.

Also, in "A Farewell to Fringe", an extra on the season 5 DVD, supervising producer Graham Roland says

Joel [Wyman, writer for much of the final season] had told us that if there is a season 5, that it would take place in the year 2036.

Which sounds as if that hadn't been known before.

  • 2
    +1 In my (probably unjustified) opinion, most stuff in Fringe was made up on the fly by the writers, as opposed to preplanned. You can see them changing gears, characters and storylines as they decide what works and what doesn't. To Fringe's merit, it manages to be a surprisingly captivating show, despite all its warts and inconsistencies. I miss it :(
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:33

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