Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

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"Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"
Fringe episode
Fringe 3x4 Electric Sheep.jpg
Thomas Jerome Newton (Roché) bleeds out mercury after receiving a suicide pill from Fauxlivia (Torv).
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 4
Directed by Kenneth Fink
Written by David Wilcox
Matthew Pitts
Production code3X6104
Original air dateOctober 14, 2010
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
"The Plateau"
"Amber 31422"
Fringe (season 3)
List of Fringe episodes

"Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" is the fourth episode of the third season of the American science fiction drama television series Fringe , and the 47th episode overall. The first half of the third season alternated entire episodes between the parallel universe (the "Other Side") and the prime universe ("Our Side"). "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" took place in the prime universe, and involved several shapeshifters, including Thomas Jerome Newton (Sebastian Roché), who is eventually captured. Meanwhile, Fauxlivia (Anna Torv) attempts to maintain her cover and minimize the damage.

<i>Fringe</i> (season 3) season of television series

The third season of the American science fiction television series Fringe began airing on the Fox network on September 23, 2010, and concluded on May 6, 2011. Twenty-two episodes long, the season was produced by Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, and its showrunners were Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman. Lead actors Anna Torv, John Noble, and Joshua Jackson reprised their roles as FBI agent Olivia Dunham and the father-son duo Walter and Peter Bishop. Previous series regulars Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, and Blair Brown also returned, along with recurring guest stars Kirk Acevedo, Seth Gabel, and Ryan McDonald.

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. It often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.

Drama Artwork intended for performance, formal type of literature

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics —the earliest work of dramatic theory.


The episode was written by David Wilcox and Matthew Pitts, while Kenneth Fink served as director for the hour. It first aired on October 14, 2010 in the United States to an estimated 5.22 million viewers. It received mostly positive reviews, as many critics praised the plot's focus on the shapeshifters.

David Wilcox is a television writer and producer

Matthew Pitts is an American television writer.

Kenneth Fink is an American television director and television producer of several television series. Prior to directing, Fink was a television documentary-segment producer. He has directed many episodes of several series including: Dawson's Creek, Oz, Nash Bridges, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Millennium, Fringe, Revenge, Nikita, Arrow and Quantico.


In the prime universe, U.S. senator James Van Horn (Gerard Plunkett), who has been reviewing the Fringe division's activities, is hospitalized following a car accident. While in the hospital, Thomas Jerome Newton (Sebastian Roché) arrives and shoots him in the face, then escapes. The Fringe team discover that Van Horn was a shapeshifter. Walter (John Noble) finds that the body is still alive to some degree through a second "brain" on his back, and hopes to use Van Horn's wife Patricia (Shannon Cochran) to try to awaken it and study the shapeshifter more.

Sebastian Roché French actor

Sebastian Charles Edward Roché is a Scottish-French actor and screenwriter. He is known for his roles as Kurt Mendel in Odyssey 5, Jerry Jacks in General Hospital, Thomas Jerome Newton in Fringe, Balthazar in Supernatural, Mikael in both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, and Reichsminister Martin Heusmann in The Man in the High Castle.

Shapeshifting The ability to physically transform through an inherent ability, divine intervention or magic

In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shapeshifting is the ability to physically transform through an inherently superhuman ability, divine intervention, demonic manipulation, or magic. The idea of shapeshifting is in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest extant literature and epic poems such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad. The concept remains a common trope in modern fantasy, children's literature and popular culture.

John Noble Australian actor and director

John Noble is an Australian actor and theatre director of more than 80 plays. He is best known for his roles as Dr. Walter Bishop in the US Fox science fiction television series Fringe, and Henry Parrish in the Fox action-horror series Sleepy Hollow. His most high-profile film role was as Denethor in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also provided the voice of the DC Comics supervillain Scarecrow in the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight, where his character served as the main antagonist. In 2015, he joined the main cast of the television series Elementary as Sherlock Holmes's father. He was also cast as a doctor in the Australian TV series All Saints. In 2012, Noble was diagnosed with osteoporosis. His charity, Noble Bones, helps to raise awareness for the disease.

Fauxlivia (Anna Torv), still posing as the prime universe's Olivia (Torv), informs Newton of this development. Newton contacts a second shapeshifter, Ray (Marcus Giamatti), to infiltrate the secured location where Van Horn's body is being held to remove the data disc that Walter will ultimately find. Ray regrets the possibility of having to leave his current identity, a police officer with a wife and son. Meanwhile, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Fauxlivia discover that Van Horn has acquired a number of records on the personnel of the Fringe team, and likely has used the information to aid the parallel universe's Walternate (Noble).

Anna Torv Australian actress

Anna Torv is an Australian actress known for her roles as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on television series Fringe (2008–2013), for which she was nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 2011, and as Dr. Wendy Carr in Netflix's Mindhunter (2017–present).

Marcus Bartlett Giamatti is an American actor, best known for being a regular member of the cast of the CBS drama series Judging Amy.

Joshua Jackson Canadian actor

Joshua Browning Jackson is an American-Canadian actor. He is known for his starring role as Pacey Witter in the teen drama series Dawson's Creek (1998–2003), Peter Bishop in the science fiction series Fringe (2008–2013), Cole Lockhart in the drama series The Affair (2014–18), and Mickey Joseph in the drama miniseries When They See Us (2019).

At the secured facility, Fauxlivia is able to clear Peter, Astrid (Jasika Nicole) and Walter from the lab in order to allow Ray access to the lab. Ray continues to avoid shifting to a new body. Walter returns to the lab to confirm a theory and is interrupted by Ray. Ray successfully removes the data device, knocks out Walter, and flees to give it to Newton. When Ray requests to be able to return to his family, Newton kills him near his home, but by this time, the Fringe division has identified Ray and have converged on his address. On spotting Newton, they engage in a car chase, eventually damaging Newton's car. Fauxlivia recovers Van Horn's data disc from Newton and hides it before taking Newton into custody.

Jasika Nicole American actress

Jasika Nicole Pruitt, known professionally as Jasika Nicole, is an American actress and illustrator from Birmingham, Alabama. She is known for her role as Agent Astrid Farnsworth on the Fox series Fringe.

Sometime later, Fauxlivia visits Newton in a high-security prison, and passes him the equivalent of a suicide pill that causes him to self-destruct and bleed out mercury. Fauxlivia realizes Peter has become suspicious of her actions, and sleeps with him to draw away his attention.

Suicide pill Method of suicide.

A suicide pill is a pill, capsule, ampoule, or tablet containing a fatally poisonous substance that one ingests deliberately in order to quickly commit suicide. Military and espionage organizations have provided their agents in danger of being captured by the enemy with suicide pills and devices which can be used in order to avoid an imminent and far more unpleasant death, and/or to ensure that they cannot be interrogated and forced to disclose secret information. As a result, lethal pills have important psychological value to persons carrying out missions with a high risk of capture and interrogation.


"In this episode, our team discovers that Walternate's shapeshifters' reach is further than they had first thought. After she loses an important ally, Fauxlivia is forced to question how far she is willing to go to ensure her mission is a success."

— Executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman describing the episode in an email [1]

The episode was co-written by co-executive producer David Wilcox and J.J. Abrams' assistant, Matthew Pitts. [2] CSI: Crime Scene Investigation veteran Kenneth Fink served as director, [3] his only Fringe credit to date. [4] In an interview with Entertainment Weekly , executive producer Jeff Pinkner explained the role of the shapeshifters in the two universes, "The shapeshifters are Walternate's 'soldiers.' Part organic, part mechanical — they 'bleed' mercury — and are able to take the shape of any human that they kill. Walternate sent them here years ago (they were able to cross universes safely because they're not human) to act as sleeper agents". [1]

"Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" featured the second appearance of guest actor Gerard Plunkett as Senator Van Horn, as well as the first appearance of Marcus Giamatti as a shapeshifter. [3] It was the last episode with guest star Sebastian Roché (who played the villain Thomas Jerome Newton). [5] Despite his character's death, executive producer J. H. Wyman hinted in a later Twitter post that Roché may return. [6]

As with other Fringe episodes, [7] [8] Fox released a science lesson plan in collaboration with Science Olympiad for grade school children, focusing on the science seen in "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?", with the intention of having "students learn about memory, which is the ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences." [9]

Cultural references

The episode title "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep" refers to the Philip K. Dick science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , which was later adapted into the film Blade Runner . [3] [5] [10] The novel dealt with what it means to be human, exploring how faking an emotion long enough can actually develop into real feelings, much like in the episode where two shapeshifters first pretended but then developed feelings for their victims' families. [11] While Peter is drinking in a bar, science fiction movie The Invisible Boy is playing on a television in the background, with the character Robby the Robot visible. [12] During the episode, Walter makes two requests in order to provide "brain stimulation" to the deceased Senator Van Horn: a portrait of former president George W. Bush, and a copy of Hump Magazine. [5] [11] [12]



"Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" was watched by 5.22 million viewers in the United States, with 3.2/5 share among all households and a 2/5 share for viewers aged 18–49. [13] SFScope reviewer Sarah Stegall commented that because of the show's low ratings "it is almost at the point where it would be a top-rated show on cable; but these are not good numbers for broadcast TV." [3] Time shifted viewing increased the episode's ratings by 45 percent among adults, resulting in a rise from 2.0 to 2.9. [14]


The episode received mostly positive reviews. Andrew Hanson from the Los Angeles Times thought the episode continued the series' season three "hot streak", but wished the promo had not spoiled Senator Van Horn being a shapeshifter. Hanson also did not fully buy into the Peter-Fauxlivia relationship, as he expected Peter to realize something different about her. [10] Noel Murray from The A.V. Club loved the shapeshifter focus of the episode and graded it an A-, explaining it was a "very strong episode" that "brings back one of my favorite Fringe concepts: those crazy super-powered shapeshifters". [15] MTV's Josh Wigler also enjoyed the shapeshifter plot, and wrote that "the latest episode of Fringe marks four fantastic installments in a row, instantly establishing season three as having the strongest opening act of any other previous year in the science fiction series. Fringe has reinvented itself by drastically altering just one ingredient in the show's successful format — namely, the true identity of Olivia Dunham — to create something wholly new and amazing". [2] Television Without Pity gave the episode an A-. [12]

Entertainment Weekly 's Ken Tucker enjoyed the episode, writing that "this week's Fringe contained everything I love about the show, from LSD to the great villain Thomas Jerome Newton. [The episode] didn't use its Philip K. Dick-shifted title as a coy joke — it really was about the dreams of shapeshifters, dreams and hopes which took a variety of forms". [5] Open Salon praised Torv's performance this season, and thought it was a "very thought-provoking episode, with some major implications for Peter and Olivia's relationship moving forward". [11] Alex Zalben of UGO Networks, however, called the episode the "first clunker of the season" because despite approving of the plot and the acting, the "writing was uniformly obvious, stilted and kind of terrible... there were more head-slappingly stupid moments than I could count". [16] SFScope's Sarah Stegall noted similarities to the film Blade Runner , and predicted that the consummation of their relationship would cause Peter to discover Fauxlivia's true identity. [3]


  1. 1 2 Jensen, Jeff (2010-10-14). "On The 'Fringe': Exclusive new teases about tonight's return-of-the-shapeshifters episode!". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  2. 1 2 Wigler, Josh (2010-10-14). "'Fringe' Recap: Episode 3.04, 'Do Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep'". MTV . Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Stegall, Sarah (2010-10-15). "True Natures—Fringe's "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"". SFScope. Archived from the original on 2010-11-28. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  4. "Ken Fink: Credits". TV Guide . Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Tucker, Ken (2010-10-15). "'Fringe' recap: Shapeshifters, LSD, love, death, and lies". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  6. Jeffrey, Morgan (2010-03-03). "'Fringe' exec hints at villain return". Digital Spy . Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  7. "TV Show "Fringe" on Fox Partners with Science Olympiad". Science Olympiad . Retrieved 2011-07-19.
  8. Holbrook, Damian (2010-11-11). "Fringe Unveils Science Sites". TV Guide . Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  9. "The Science of Fringe: Exploring Memory" (PDF). Fox Broadcasting Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
  10. 1 2 Hanson, Andrew (2010-10-15). "'Fringe' recap: Don't eat my pudding". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  11. 1 2 3 "Fringe Recap E 3.4 Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?". Open Salon. 2010-10-15. Archived from the original on 2011-02-19. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  12. 1 2 3 MacEachern, Dan (2010-10-14). "Robots Need Love Too. They Want to Be Loved by You". Television Without Pity . Archived from the original on 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  13. Gorman, Bill (October 15, 2010). "Thursday Finals: The Big Bang Theory, $#*!, 30 Rock, The Office, Outsourced, Grey's Anatomy, Fringe All Adjusted Up". TV By The Numbers. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  14. Gorman, Bill (2010-11-01). "Live+7 DVR Ratings: Grey's Anatomy, Fringe, The Mentalist Top Week's Rankings". TV By The Numbers . Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  15. Murray, Noel (2010-10-14). "Do Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep?". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  16. Zalben, Alex (2010-10-15). "Latest Episode of Fringe Is a Piece of Shift". UGO Networks. Archived from the original on 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2011-02-04.