Is the dome in Under the Dome a sentient being?

The people trapped in Under the Dome's Chester's Mill can't break through the Dome surrounding their small town. They can't dig under the Dome, and they can't get much through the Dome. But could the Dome be more than a mere obstacle? Could the Dome itself be alive?

Along with other members of the press, we spoke to Under the Dome actors Rachelle Lefevre (Julia Shumway), Mike Vogel (Dale "Barbie" Barbara), and Dean Norris (Big Jim Rennie) during Comic-Con. They started off by talking a bit about how their characters change and grow over the course of the season:

Lefevre: In the beginning episodes, Julia is really—rightfully so, I think—consumed with her personal life and with getting answers there, and finding out the truth about what's closest to home and is obviously curious, like everyone else, about the Dome and wants to understand it, but is really sort of removed in a way. She really has her own demons to figure out and her own relationships to untangle. And then as the series goes on, she gets, not all answers, but some answers. And I think she has a shift in focus and starts to realize that they might be in here for quite a while and that civilization matters. And starts to become involved with the community as a whole and starts to realize she's not just a visitor in Chester's Mill and just hang out for six months. She's now home for good potentially, and starts to get more involved with the Dome and Chester's Mill as a whole.

Vogel: I think Barbie deals with some of the same issues of finding himself in this place under rather suspicious reasons initially. And after it becomes clear to him that there's no getting out of here right now, he has to find a way to function and exist within that. With that comes navigating some difficult waters with [motions toward Lefevre] her character and some of the actions he's engaged in there. But there's also some interesting relationships and scenarios that begin to reveal themselves with Big Jim and Junior. And I think things throughout the season, the lines just get a lot more clear for where everyone stands. And that action kind of picks up and heightens.

Initially the Dome is kind of like a device. It just seals a bunch of people in, and you think, "Oh, we're going to see a bunch of people in chaos and how they react." But as the episodes progress, you see the Dome takes on a life of its own. It becomes a huge part of the show.

Norris: Big Jim just sees the Dome as his opportunity to recognize his dictatorial ambitions. Some people sing in the shower; I think Big Jim recites Churchill speeches in the shower and hope one day he'd get his shot. The Dome came down and said, "Hey! There's nobody left!" I think he thinks he's doing something that's right for the town and at times, he does. He helps to save certain elements of the town, helps prevent certain crises, things like that. But at the end of the day, I think he's figuring out ways to consolidate his power. That's what he's all about.


But is the Dome a creature with its own agency? Those of us who have read Stephen King's original novel know how the explanation of the Dome plays out in the book, but we may soon get a hint of a self-aware Dome in the TV series:

Lefevre: My favorite moment Julia has with the Dome is actually the first time, and it's coming up—it's not too far away in terms of where we are in the airing of the show—is the first time that she is willing to entertain the idea that the Dome might be a sentient being. That it might actually—like that question, that first that first—

Vogel: Good word.

Lefevre: Thank you. My mom called right before and said, "Try to use the word 'sentient' in a sentence." But yeah, that first moment where she goes from the idea that this could be anything other than, there has to be a logical explanation and it's just a thing, no matter how confusing and how unanswerable her questions, it's just a thing. And then there's a moment in one of the episodes when she allows that moment of doubt, of going, "Is it possible that it is a sentient being? That it's impacting us, and influencing us, and that it might be here with a purpose?" I like that moment, because there's a shift in the rest of the series when she has that moment.

Vogel also explained that while the cast members know what's ahead in the episodes they've already filmed, they don't know how this series will end for the people of Chester's Mill. They get the scripts episode by episode, so the actors—and by extension their characters—have no sense of just how bad things will get in the town. Norris did add we'll soon get more background on Big Jim's relationship with Junior, and how it relates to Big Jim's deceased wife.

And, in a moment of silliness, the actors shared what it is like to act opposite the Dome:

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I honestly don't think it is. If I remember correctly in the book it was just a toy of sorts for alien children. I suppose it could be somewhat sentient, but I don't really think it needs to be, nor would it really progress the story in any meaningful way.