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[[quoteright:292:[[ComicBook/CivilWar http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Uatu2.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:292:[-Don't mind me. I'm just here to spectate-].]]

->''"I observe and record. I do not interfere."''
-->-- '''Uatu''', ''ComicBook/FantasticFour'' #13...and many times after

A recurring character whose role is, well, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin to Watch]] and literally nothing else. Yet, strangely, instead of remaining ''completely'' passive it will probably give some advice to the hero and then disappear, or otherwise interfere in some small (but important) way to help the heroes triumph. Indeed, given the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect various observer effects]], if they were ''really'' doing their job, they shouldn't be detectable at all. Often explained by saying The Watcher has some rules which restrict it from taking action, and it will then regularly ignore this ObstructiveCodeOfConduct as much as it can...

Not to be confused with the MysteriousWatcher--who observes the characters from afar for their own purposes--though the two can certainly overlap. Also not to be confused with the person on the ''other'' side of the TV screen[=/=]FourthWall, nor the EvilOverlooker, which is a box art phenomenon.

Also see TheMentor and the MysteriousInformant. Frequently an AllPowerfulBystander. Normally a FantasticAnthropologist. Compare TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Bookman and Lavi in ''Manga/DGrayMan'' are supposed to be unbiased recorders of "the secret history." [[BecomingTheMask Supposed to be]]...
* [[spoiler: Mikuru Asahina]] from ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' is a {{Time Travel}}er who's assigned to watch over Haruhi to unlock the mystery about why it's now impossible to time-travel beyond a certain day.
* Osaragi from ''Manga/KaguyaSamaLoveIsWar'' doesn't actively participate in plots, but she does take notice of all the things going on with Iino, and the situation in middle school. Thankfully, this means she can see the good points of those who are shunned, like Iino and Ishigami.
* Meta Knight acts as the Mentor for ''VideoGame/{{Kirby}}'' in the [[Anime/KirbyOfTheStars anime]] adaptation, and tends to act this way rather a lot of the time, often serving as MrExposition. Although he and his henchmen do take the odd opportunity to display how badass they are on a regular basis, Meta Knight seems happy to leave the problem solving to Fumu and the ass kicking to Kirby.
* In ''Anime/MobileSuitZetaGundam'', BigBad Paptimus Scirocco would like people to ''think'' he is this, as evidenced by his CatchPhrase "I'm merely a witness to history", but the truth is he's just a very good player of XanatosSpeedChess and is content to make a move only when he has to.
* In ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'', Kyubey is the living embodiment of this trope. Despite being a ManipulativeBastard, his actions only indirectly influence the storyline, and he really cannot break the rules which are assigned to him (grant a wish to an up-and-coming MagicalGirl, ''no matter how weird it is''). Of course, this does not stop him from giving out WhamLine after WhamLine in almost every episode.
** He's also one of the few examples to employ this trope somewhat malevolently, being the absolute king of ExactWords and YouDidntAsk.
* In ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'', Bernkastel takes this role for the first two games, but once Beatrice indicates that she knows where Bern's loyalties lie, she takes a much more active role. It may or may not be the same Bernkastel as in ''Umineko'', but [[spoiler:Frederica Bernkastel is TheWatcher of the ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'' continuity, as she is the collective amalgamation of all past Rikas, and is responsible for plugging Rika into another kakera after Hanyuu invokes her power]].

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Uatu the Watcher, a Creator/MarvelComics character (introduced in ''Comicbook/FantasticFour'' #13) who lives on the moon, watches everything in every comic, and occasionally pontificates to the readership about it. He always loudly proclaimed "Yes, it is I the Watcher, who is always watching, but must not interfere", roughly every other sentence as if people were going to forget it. Which to be fair is probably a valid concern because quite notably, in spite of this expression, he almost always ended up interfering ''anyway''. A hilarious example of him actually not interfering comes when the ComicBook/RedHulk, who punched Uatu while on his VillainSue trip, appears about to die. Uatu shows up and tells him "[[SarcasmMode Sadly]] I am forbidden to intervene" and stands there so he can watch him get sucked into a black hole. This character is the TropeNamer.
** As Uatu is no doubt well aware, his mere ''presence'' is a degree of interference. Earth's heroes long ago learned that Uatu only shows up in person when something really big is about to happen, so just by allowing himself to be seen he gives them a passive warning without technically breaking the rules.
** In ''Comicbook/OriginalSin'' #0, new Nova Sam Alexander asks Iron Man and Captain America why Uatu watches everything. After a beat, Cap admits that they have no idea. Nova later learns that Uatu is looking for a world where his father (who was the cause of the Watchers' "no-interference" policy) was right.
** At the end of ''Original Sin'', [[spoiler:Nick Fury becomes Uatu's successor The Unseen, as punishment for his actions.]]
* From Franchise/TheDCU, ComicBook/ThePhantomStranger, is a little more proactive than most Watchers (in fact, he is, as he points out in the ''[[ComicBook/JLAAvengers JLA/Avengers]]'' crossover, a sometimes member of the league), but still fits the bill. [[ComicBook/TheSandman Destiny of the Endless]] is perhaps the DCU's purest example, although there are others as well.
** It helped that in some of his comic incarnations, the Phantom Stranger was an agent of the Lords of Order and it was his duty to intervene against cases where Chaos was involved.
* ComicBook/TheSpectre in ''ComicBook/KingdomCome'' acts like this. His job is to witness the coming (possible) apocalypse, not to interfere with it (only to punish the wicked should anyone be left after said apocalypse). Pastor Norman [=McKay=] who accompanies him fulfills the same role (having been chosen by The Spectre to accompany him in his observations). Norman however refuses inaction; telling The Spectre that this would be as evil as those who brought the whole situation to happen, and steps in to stop Franchise/{{Superman}}'s UnstoppableRage.
* ComicBook/TheNewUniverse from Marvel has The Witness, a character who dies as a result of the White Event, but continues to exist as an intangible ghost. He is drawn to places where people are manifesting paranormal powers, but can only watch what happens, unable to intervene in any way.
* Parodied in ''ComicBook/ThePro'' with The Viewer, who observes the world from a cloaked satellite and grants superpowers to the main character on a whim. His robot companion frequently calls him The Voyeur.

* Deep Throat in ''Film/AllThePresidentsMen'', as in RealLife.
* The Watchers make a brief cameo in ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxyVol2''. [[spoiler:Creator/StanLee is apparently a consultant. And they find him boring.]]
* Raiden in the first ''Film/MortalKombat'' film is a watcher; he gives advice to the heroes, but the other Elder Gods will not allow him to directly interfere. In the second movie, ''Film/MortalKombatAnnihilation'', he gives up his godhood so he can take a more direct hand.

* In Creator/CJCherryh's ''Literature/{{Cyteen}}'' and ''Regenesis'', this role is played by the first Ariane Emory to the second Ariane Emory by way of the messages she left in Base One.
* In Creator/TeresaEdgerton's ''Literature/{{Celydonn}}'' books, Dame Ceinwen often plays this role - she considers it part of the responsibility of having great power that she must not interfere too much.
* In the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' novels, both [[TheGrimReaper Death]] and Lu-Tze of the History Monks are constrained by rules that prevent them interfering with history, although both bend these rules considerably in certain circumstances.
** They both at least have ''something'' to do in the world, whereas their meddling is sometimes provoked by actions of Auditors, who are truly supposed to do nothing at all but observe and register.
* Creator/TerryPratchett's other work, ''Literature/{{Strata}}'' has people who stay in [[HumanPopsicle cryostasis]] on a orbiting satellite and are only woken to record big developments on a planet below. The job literally takes thousands of years.
* Astinus of the ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}}'' novels is TheWatcher of Krynn. Rumoured to be the god Gilean (the God of the Book, of course) in human form, he's the only man on the planet who, according to Raistlin's time vision, is ''not'' dying. He spends all of his time recording the events of the world in (generally) unbroken sittings. This is even to the extent that he'll be writing things like ''On this morning, Caramon entered my office--'' before turning to the visitor. He has also unintentionally interfered in events -- mostly through TimeTravel, when a protagonist obtained and brought back to the present [[TimelineAlteringMacGuffin one of his books from the future]]. On that day there was only one recording in his book: ''On this day of Overwatch Rising, Caramon of Solace brought me a volume of Astinus's Chronicles. A book that I will never write.''
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'': [=StarClan=] take this attitude toward the living characters, believing that interfering directly with the physical world would make the living cats their "playthings". This hasn't stopped them from occasionally making their will ''very'' clear, such as when [[spoiler:they cause lightning to strike a specific tree, causing it to fall over and create a handy bridge to an important island, while simultaneously killing off a traitorous warrior attempting to usurp [=WindClan=]'s leadership.]]
** Actually, [[spoiler:there is no concrete proof that [=StarClan=] was responsible for the lightning strike. Some of the characters ''assume'' it was a message from [=StarClan=], but [=StarClan=] never takes responisbility for it, and for all we know it could have been a freak lightning strike]]. It's more likely that [=StarClan=] wasn't responsible because they've never done anything that drastic before.
* ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': The Ellimist claims to be this at first. Later, it is revealed that although both he and his evil counterpart Crayak would love to be more proactive, they tie each other's cosmic hands. Every time we see one of them do something, the other has agreed behind the scenes to let them do it as a part of a compromise, because otherwise they could cancel each other out endlessly. The trick to making progress in their "game", for the Ellimist, is hoping that the Animorphs will have the right reaction to the limited help or information he is able to give them, and/or that Crayak won't realize the true significance of a "move".
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'': This is the role of anyone viewing a memory in a Pensieve. Simultaneous viewers can still interact with each other.
* Invoked in the ''Watchers'' series by Peter Lerangis. It was a [[CutShort six book series]] based on observers (who act like the ChessMaster). It mainly focused on the Watchers' interference with ordinary teenagers who got caught up in weird situations involving MindUploading / CreepyTwins, being TrappedInThePast, CloningBlues, stuck on an island of ElderlyImmortal or (even worse) GroundHogDayLoop... The TagLine was "They see what we can't see."

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Future Hiro took on this role in ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' when he told Peter to "save the cheerleader," and again when he told his past self how to stop the bomb.
* The Watchers from ''Series/{{Highlander}}'' are prototypical, being members of an organization who observed the conflict between immortals but were sworn to remain apart from it. And just like Uatu they're really really bad at that second part.
** The series actually deconstruct the idea of an organisation charged with observing a hidden world- while some take it very seriously, most treat it like any other nine-til-five job. They have pensions and even vacation time; in one episode Joe reveals to Duncan that they don't know who beheaded a recently killed Immortal, because that Immortal's watcher took some time off for his sister's wedding.
** The Watcher assigned to the oldest known immortal Methos [[spoiler:is actually Methos himself, hiding in plain sight.]] Duncan discovers the truth when he meets the Watcher for the first time [[spoiler:and his "an Immortal is near" sense is triggered.]]
* Parodied heavily with the "Observers" of ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000''.
* The Ancients in ''Series/{{Stargate}}''. And if we say they don't interfere, ''[[NeglectfulPrecursors we mean it]]''. The number of times Ancients interfered in the plot can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and every time, the individual who did so was genuinely punished by the rest. On two occasions an Ancient has evaded punishment by sacrificing all their powers and becoming human, then using just their superior ''knowledge'' to interfere.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'' has several people in Watcher-like roles (often emissaries of the PowersThatBe, or those within the Powers That Be but secretly working against them, e.g. Mr. X).
* The Watchers of ''Series/GhostWhisperer'', who annoy Melinda with their inability to give straight answers.
* ''Series/{{Medium}}'': Allison's dead father-in-law fits the trope. He also annoys Allison by not giving straight answers ''and'' inflating the danger of what will happen just to be on the safe side or teach a lesson.
* ''Series/{{Fringe}}'': The Observer and his organization are a group of bald men with advanced technology and almost no emotions (or taste buds) who observe major events in history, but seem to be showing up more and more frequently in the present day (OnceAnEpisode, to be exact). Their purpose is unknown; they may be time travelers, immortals, or interdimensional police. They do sometimes interfere by communicating with the main characters in order to [[spoiler:prevent the two universes from destroying each other]], but they justify it as righting previous errors.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The Time Lords. Again, while they were officially supposed to never interfere, a lot of them were ''really'' bad at it. Notably, their doctrine of noninterference was largely self-imposed; they made that decision in the first place because they're almost all ''horribly corrupt'', and the doctrine is basically there to keep them from screwing up and/or conquering everything else.
** Played straight with The Watcher from "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS18E7Logopolis Logopolis]]", who watched the Doctor and his companions throughout the serial, and was revealed to be [[spoiler: a manifestation of the Fourth Doctor, which {{Foreshadow}}s his regeneration into the Fifth Doctor.]]
* On ''Series/{{Buffy|the Vampire Slayer}}'', Angel shows up in the early episodes only to offer Buffy cryptic messages about upcoming threats. Despite their name, Giles and the other members of the Council of Watchers act more like {{Mentors}}, and occasionally fight demons themselves.
** Played straight(er) in [[Film/BuffyTheVampireSlayer the movie]], where there was only ONE Immortal Watcher, who has trained TheChosenOne's for centuries. [[spoiler: He was allowed to do so by the BigBad, so that the BigBad would have some entertainment every now and again. Of course, TheWatcher DOES intervene to save Buffy's life, and shortly afterwards dies for it.]]
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' has the Men of Letters, a secret society dedicated to studying the monsters and magic of the world but never directly interfering themselves (they have Hunters to do that for them). We learn in their first appearance that John Winchester's entire family were members, which is what led to his father's death pre-series, before John could learn of their existence.
* Season 5 of ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' features the Chronicoms, a race of alien androids sent to observe life on Earth but never interfere, [[GodzillaThreshold unless it's to prevent an extinction-level event]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/DeusEx'', this role is played by different characters throughout the game.
** Initially, TheWatcher is Alex Jacobson, the computer guy at UNATCO; he drops out after the La Guardia mission.
** Daedalus takes over the role at the beginning of the Majestic-12 sequence.
* The G-Man from the ''VideoGame/HalfLife'' series. Although he might also be considered the SufficientlyAdvancedAlien as well. Then again, as time goes on, it appears that he's becoming less and less of a Watcher, especially [[spoiler: after the death of Eli. "Prepare for unforeseen consequences", indeed.]]
* Gaspar from ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger''.
* [[spoiler: Sanae Hanekoma]] from ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'', whose purpose it is to actually watch over the Game as a whole.
* The mysterious narrator/[[spoiler: the Lord of the castle]] in ''VideoGame/KnightsInTheNightmare'' is one. He implies that the entire world [[spoiler: was created as an experiment into human nature]].
* Teo and Lippti from ''VideoGame/RadiantHistoria'', though they are allowed to give the hero advice from time to time.
** Specifically, Teo and Lippti are permitted to tell Stocke anything they like, they just can't see any possible timelines until he's already created them with a decision, and thus can only coach him on where he went wrong. The one thing they are absolutely forbidden to do is [[spoiler:reveal or even imply ''anything'' about the goals and identity of the Black Chronicle wielder to the holder of the White Chronicle. This frustrates Stocke's efforts, but they later reveal it also protected him, since it works both ways. When they break this rule, they can only provide oblique and obscure clues, and it causes them excruciating pain.]]
* Philemon from the [[VideoGame/{{Persona}} first]] [[VideoGame/{{Persona 2}} two]] ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'' games is mostly this, limiting his direct actions to giving the heroes the power to summon avatars of their inner psyche and [[spoiler:pressing the ResetButton when his EvilCounterpart manages to destroy the world]]. In subsequent games in the series, he simply lets his servant Igor do all the work.
* Many simulation games have the player as this, to some extent. Some simply have the player input variables at the start and leave you to simply watch whatever you put into motion.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}'' series, the Keepers act like this for the most part, although they will get involved if the situation demands it. Since they are undisputed masters of stealth, even when they do get involved nobody realizes it, and very few outside their organization are aware that they even exist. Deconstructed in the third game, when the Keepers -- more specifically, their Glyphs -- are the problem. A rogue Keeper who became a twisted immortal monster through her abuse of Glyphs is the BigBad, and the leader of the Keepers spends the entire game hampering Garret's progress before finally accepting that the Keepers have become too attached to the power of the Glyphs. [[spoiler:Right before the Hag kills him]], he tells Garret to activate the Final Glyph [[spoiler:which ends the power of the Glyphs and with it the Keeper organization. At the very end of the game Garrett is the last true Keeper. Which is rather ironic since he spent most of his life rejecting that calling.]]
* ''Videogame/HyruleWarriors'': Cia, the Guardian of Time, was originally a straight example of this as she observed the various timelines of the Legend of Zelda series. Things started to go wrong as she became more and more enamored with The Hero as she observed the heroic deeds of his various incarnations, and became more and more envious of the various Zeldas. [[spoiler:After being egged on by Ganondorf's corrupting influence]], Cia abandoned her duty and raised an army to invade Hyrule to get rid of Zelda and take the Hero for herself.
* An "Onlooker" in ''Franchise/BlazBlue'' is supposed to observe and not (directly) interfere. Their power to "observe" things (i.e acknowledging the existence and happenstance of things, which - due to quantum theories - has multiple applications) is far greater than anyone else, but if they decide to interfere, they'll steadily lose their power bit by bit. Rachel Alucard is one of those Onlookers; she's also one of the "players" in the verse's CosmicChessGame who moves others (particularly the hero, Ragna) to help her protect the world from the villains. As the games' story continue, however, she'd been forced to interfere a couple of times just to ensure her victory, and as of the fourth game she's steadily losing her powers. Another Onlooker is [[spoiler:Amane Nishiki]], who later succeeds Rachel's job of watching over and protecting the world.

* ''Webcomic/{{Concerned}}'' referred to this behavior as a "G-Peep."
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' has Doc Scratch. The audience does eventually learn that he has an agenda of his own, but he brings about this agenda by contacting a few people and giving them advice to nudge them in the right direction.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Gubaru from the web fiction serial ''Literature/DimensionHeroes'' often watches the progress of the Dimensional Guardians via his base tucked away in a pocket dimension, occasionally contacting them via their Guardian Bands to offer advice.
* Virgil in ''WebVideo/Lonelygirl15''. He's not the only "watcher" in the series, but he's the only example of "The Watcher".
* ''WebAnimation/{{Dreamscape}}'': Eleenin relies on her allies and fairies to fight, because she doesn't have any offensive prowess of her own. Although its because she believes in ThePowerOfFriendship, not because she's a DirtyCoward.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' characters: The Observants who follow Uatu's example and watch, but never act; and Clockwork who watches and acts when he [[OmniscientMoralityLicense feels the need to]].
* ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'':
** Parodied: The Galactic Inquisitor insists he's only there to observe but his presence is so loud and burdensome he just keeps getting in the way. Unique in that he didn't try to ''intentionally'' interfere (though his presence was certainly obtrusive enough to count as interference) and everyone else just tried to ignore him.
** Subverted in that[[spoiler:, according to the alien disguised as Rusty's dad, when he was done with his evaluation he would have destroyed the earth.]]
* Cuber, the spinner of "graybles" in ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'', functions as a watcher, albeit one from the future.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' had an example of this in the episode "Helter Shelter", where the Simpsons participate in a reality show where they are reduced to late 19th century living, and the producers enforce ratings stunts to keep the show interesting. When the Simpsons ask the show's creator if they can have lunch with the crew, he claims, "We're not allowed to interfere with the reality of the show." This is after the crew deliberately uprooted the house and sent it down a river.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein portrayed Deep Throat this way in their book ''All the President's Men'', and the movie follows suit. Understandable, as Nixon was known to [[YouHaveFailedMe fire anyone who he even thought was against him]]; indeed, Woodward and Bernstein were so certain their contact would be killed they made it clear they would not reveal his identity until after he died. (Although Deep Throat, AKA W. Mark Felt, beat them to it.)