- “The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument with which we fight. The Council remains. The Slayers... change. It's been that way from the beginning.”
- ―Quentin Travers[src]
The Watchers Council was the governing institution of the Watchers and, up until 1999, Slayers as well. The Council maintained operatives throughout the world in their fight against vampires and demons.
The Watchers Council was descended from the Shadowmen, the creators of the First Slayer in prehistoric Africa. At some point, the Watchers made Great Britain their center of operations. Other offices were located in Munich, Switzerland, Rome, and Melbourne.
Following the destruction of the Council's headquarters at the hands of Caleb, some of its members remained active on their own. However, some of the Council's resources were absorbed by the Slayer Organization, while other items and information fell into the hands of Wolfram & Hart, as well as a mysterious organization of Cyborg Cells.
Following the destruction of Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang reformed the Council, subsequently merging with it to become the Slayer Organization, a global organization dedicated to the training of Slayers. However, when he asked Faith Lehane to assassinate Genevieve Savidge for him, Rupert Giles claimed that, for all intents and purposes, he was the Watchers Council. The Slayer Organization disbanded following the destruction of the Seed of Wonder.
By the 23rd century, whatever remnants of the Council that survived had reduced into a few insane zealots, one of whom set himself on fire in front of the new Slayer, Melaka Fray, to inform her of her calling. After briefly traveling to that time period during the Reckoning, Giles resolved to rebuild it with help from Andrew Wells to prevent the future he saw..
Despite their status as assisting the Slayer, over the years the Council had become increasingly arrogant and egocentric, believing themselves to be the supreme authority while the Slayers were just their tools.
The Watchers Council has been known to use ethically questionable methods to accomplish its goals. The Council employs a trio of operatives known as the Special Operations Team. This team is responsible for some of the more unsavory aspects of the Council's work, such as interrogations, smuggling, and, if necessary, assassinations. When Faith Lehane stakes and kills a human, the Special Ops Team was dispatched to retrieve the rogue Slayer, circumventing local and international authorities.
The Council is also known for placing its principles and perceived goals ahead of the well-being of the Slayer. A test known as the Tento di Cruciamentum involves suppressing the Slayer's natural abilities with a drug and pitting her against a particularly dangerous vampire on the Slayer's eighteenth birthday. When Giles defied the rules of the test and interfered in the Cruciamentum of his Slayer, Buffy Summers, he was dismissed from his position immediately. Later, when Angel was poisoned with the Killer of the Dead by Faith, and the cure was identified to be the blood of a Slayer, the Council refused to allow Wesley Wyndam-Pryce to disclose the cure to Buffy. The Council justified this as being against their policy of assisting vampires, despite Angel's soul. As a result, Buffy severed ties with the Council for over a year.
In 2001, representatives of the Council visited Sunnydale, California to discuss Glory. Using the information as both pretense and leverage, the Council conducted an extensive review of Buffy and the Scooby Gang. Eventually, Buffy realized that the review was a pretense to the Council inquiring as to whether she would be willing to work "for" them again. Buffy declared that the Council needed her to validate their existence more than she needed their help and defended the frequent assistance of her friends, as Slayers typically operate alone. Rupert Giles was reinstated as her Watcher, repairing the relationship until the destruction of the Council's headquarters two years later. Just prior to their destruction, the members of the Council finally conceded that their duty is to provide the Slayer with support rather than to command from afar with no regard for personal safety, though they were destroyed by Caleb before they could travel to Sunnydale to do so.
Watchers and their Slayers:
- Crowley, Bernard: Nikki Wood
- Fillworthe, Duncan
- Giles, Edna
- Giles, Rupert: Buffy Summers
- Post, Gwendolyn: Faith Lehane
- Jamison-Smythe, Merrick: Buffy Summers
- Sirk, Rutherford
- Travers, Quentin
- Wyndam-Pryce, Roger
- Wyndam-Pryce, Wesley: Faith Lehane
- Wells, Andrew
- Zabuto, Sam: Kendra Young
- Faith's Watcher: Faith Lehane
The following are not necessarily full Watchers, some of them are merely operatives on payroll:
- Mr. Giles
- Collins, Weatherby, and Smith - Watchers Council Special Operations Team
- Faith's nurse
Behind the scenes
- In the non-canon Angel novel Solitary Man, Angel Investigations encounter members of the Scholars, members of a branch of the Watcher's Council that separated from the main body long ago to take on a more active approach to fighting evil. While the Scholars retain a similar combat style to the Watchers as the man who developed the Watchers' fighting style joined the Scholars in the initial schism- to the extent that Gunn and Lorne realized there was a connection after fighting two Scholars and recognizing their fighting style as similar to Wesley's- the Scholars are more ruthless, acting to eliminate potential witnesses to supernatural activity where the Watchers would simply move on, although they were willing to work with Angel to help him stop Obregon, a particularly dangerous prisoner.