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Three Changelings

A trio of Founders

The Founders were a group of Changelings from the Gamma Quadrant, responsible for both the creation of the Dominion and all strategic decisions undertaken throughout its history. Though generally considered mythical by many Gamma Quadrant races, they remained, as of the late 24th century, the embodiment of the Dominion itself, and the ultimate reason for its existence. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", "The Search, Part I", "The Search, Part II")


See also: Dominion history

At one time, the Founders were a peaceful, curious race that explored the galaxy, possibly including L-S VI. (DS9: "The Alternate") Unfortunately, their overtures of peaceful cooperation were met with violent rejection and persecution. Many Gamma Quadrant races, including the Yaderans, had fables and mythical tales of Changelings, often depicting them as being a race they couldn't trust and had to fear. (DS9: "Shadowplay") As an adverse reaction to being hunted and rejected by the "solids," the Founders accepted the pejorative "Changeling" as their own and retreated to a rogue planet. They then determined that, in order to be safe, they had to set themselves the task of creating order from the chaos they saw around them.

The Founders viewed chaos as dangerous, as it would allow the persecution to arise once more. Therefore, they placed importance on order but this was an order that they controlled, for their benefit and only incidentally for the benefit of the "solids." They believed the fact that the solids had always represented a threat to them as the only justification they needed for their actions, and that what they themselves could control couldn't hurt them.

Once they consolidated their control, the Founders sent out a number of their kind across the galaxy, to learn more about any other solids. The two most notable of these lookouts were later known as Odo and Laas. The mission of the lookouts was to learn as much as possible about the solids in their area, and report back. (DS9: "The Search, Part II", "Chimera")

Although Odo is clearly established in canon as not a Founder himself, René Echevarria once referred to "the innate need for order" he always had as "this Founder instinct." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 492)

In the Gamma Quadrant, the Founders were represented by the Female Changeling. She often tried to seduce Odo back to the Great Link. (citation needededit)

As the leaders of the Dominion, the Founders led a vast Empire, with the assistance of two genetically engineered species: the Vorta, to whom they delegated the day-to-day work, and the Jem'Hadar, to whom they delegated most military matters. During the Dominion War, the Founders relied heavily on one Vorta in particular, Weyoun, whom they trusted more than any other "solid." Both the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar considered the Founders to be gods. This unwavering devotion to the Founders made the Dominion a formidable enemy. (DS9: "Hippocratic Oath", "Tears of the Prophets")

Background information Edit

Conceptual origins Edit

Not long after the three-pronged concept of the Dominion was invented, Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe started theorizing about the nature of the trinity's masterminds, the Founders. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 158) Wolfe recollected, "We talked about having a race called the Founders; we wouldn't know who they were, or what kind of creatures they were, for a long time. That would be a big mystery." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 13, pp. 56-57; Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 13, p. 12) Behr concurred that the writing staff of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine wanted the Founders to be somewhat "mysterious and aloof." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 168) Not much information about the Founders was included in a memo Wolfe wrote about the Dominion; as he later remembered, it clearly said of the Founders, "We don't know who they are. We'll never see them." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 13, pp. 56 & 57)

For a long time, Odo actor Rene Auberjonois had suspected that the civilization Odo belonged to would remain a mystery. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 54) However, one initial thought the DS9 writing staff had about the Founders was that they were actually a group of shape-shifters, of whom Odo was the once and future king. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 79) This notion was a private theory between Wolfe and Behr, which they conceived as a joke at about the start of DS9's second season. Noted Wolfe, "We figured we'd never see [the Founders] over the course of five years or whatever." Throughout the second season, the pair of writers joked about the idea of the Founders being revealed as shape-shifters. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 158) "We always said that with a laugh," Behr reminisced, "because we figured it would be too big a character thing to spring on both the audience and Rick [Berman] and Mike [Piller]." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 79) Behr clarified, "We never thought they'd go for it in a million years." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 158)

While being ridiculed and considered too radical by the DS9 staff writers, the twist of revealing the Founders as the same species as Odo was originally thought of as a revelation to be made at the end of DS9's series run, or at least as a season climax. "At the end of season seven we find the Founders [....] That's gonna be the end of the series," Ira Behr remembered thinking. The writers also imagined the group, at about the same point in the series, as being reunited with Odo and coming under his rulership, Odo serving as their rightful king. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 102)

Although the concept of the Founders was established in the second season finale "The Jem'Hadar", the writers hadn't yet made any firm decisions about precisely who the Founders were. During the hiatus between seasons two and three of DS9, Michael Piller called a production meeting and, thinking the writers would reject the idea straight away, he suggested that perhaps the Founders could indeed be Odo's people. (The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond, DS9 Season 3 DVD, Special Features) Recalled Behr, "Michael said, 'I've got a crazy idea. You're all going to think I'm nuts; what if the Founders turn out to be shape-shifters?'" (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 79) At the same time that day, Piller additionally proposed that the Founders were Odo's people, another idea he thought was "nuts." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 159) When Piller suggested these notions, Behr burst out laughing, he and the other staff writers having come up with exactly the same ideas but having expected them to be dismissed. (The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond, DS9 Season 3 DVD, Special Features) Behr continued, "We just cracked up, and Michael said, 'What's so funny?'" After Piller learned the other writers had been thinking along the same lines as him over the past several months, he and Behr took the idea of the Founders being Odo's people to Rick Berman, who agreed the concept was a good one. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 159) The writers also were certain, from early in the series, that they wanted the Founders to be reunited with Odo at the end of the show. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 89)

Subsequently, Rene Auberjonois was immediately informed about the idea of making the Founders actually Odo's race. "We had lunch with Rene Auberjonois to clue him in," stated Ira Behr, "and that's how it came down." Although the actor had originally become interested in playing Odo due to having been fascinated by the character's uncertainty about his origins, Auberjonois happily supported the plan of establishing who Odo's people were. "I must say," the actor admitted, "that I was and have been very satisfied with the solution they've come up with, which is something equally complex." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 79)

Robert Hewitt Wolfe observed a likeness between the Founders and the Roman Empire. "They would rather take over someplace without firing a shot, but they're going to take over," he said, pointing out the degree of similarity between the two powers. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 167) On the other hand, Ronald D. Moore stated that the Founders "are, in a metaphorical sense, Nazis." Ira Behr likewise posited that the Founders had "fascist [...] tendencies." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 234 & 354)

Episodic introductions Edit

In the script for DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", the Founders are implied as being the breeders of the Tosks, genetically engineering them to be gifts for the Hunters. [1]

There was a little uncertainty about precisely when to reveal the Founders as Odo's people. "[That] was actually something they were planning for a third season cliffhanger," recollected Ron Moore, who joined the series at the start of that season, "but Michael [Piller] said, 'Let's do this at the beginning [of Season 3].'" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 90) Moore thought the revelation, ultimately exposed in third season opener "The Search, Part I", was "a risk." He commented, "I think it was ultimately a good decision to just go for it, because now we can play all the [complex emotions and] things with Odo and his people out there who want him back." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 82)

The script for "The Search, Part I" describes the Founders thus; "Their faces have the same 'unfinished' look that Odo's does and they appear to wear simple tunics." [2] Ron Moore explained, "The Founders [...] modeled their look after Odo. They did this initially as a compliment and way of reaching out to their long-lost Changeling, and later they kept doing it as a dig and reminder to him of his own limitations." (AOL chat, 1997)

An illusory scenario created by the Founders in "The Search, Part II" indicated how powerful they could be. "If the Founders are capable of playing with us like that," reasoned Ira Behr, "how much worse could they be in reality? That was our intent, to show that these guys were so ahead of us that they were literally playing with us." Regarding the "The Search" two-parter, Robert Hewitt Wolfe remarked, "Taken as a whole, the episodes showed both sides of who the Founders are." Their interactions with Odo demonstrated the public face of the Founders, whereas their duping of crew members from the USS Defiant "showed their secret face, the dark truth," added Wolfe. He believed the implanted illusion was characteristic of how the Founders tended, like the Roman Empire, to prefer conquering other races without resorting to combat. "So the whole thing was a test for them," he stated. "'Can we take over by diplomacy? Can we offer a treaty, get our foot into the Alpha Quadrant and slowly absorb them through cultural imperialism?'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 167)

During development of Star Trek: Voyager, a Founder (referred to, in a summary of discussions that initiated the series, as "Soup Guy") was briefly considered as a main character of that series. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 177)

Establishing the Founders as capable of assuming a convincing humanoid form (first established in third season installment "Heart of Stone") facilitated later developments for the group. Explained René Echevarria, "It allowed us to set up the element of paranoia that would come into play later on [....] What's really interesting to me about the Founders is thinking that it's us, that it's you, it's Sisko, and containing the story." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp. 91 & 99)

Further developments Edit

Originally, the Founders were to have featured in a two-parter that would have ended DS9 Season 3 before concluding at the beginning of the series' fourth season. The plot would have involved "learning that shape-shifters were on Earth and had infiltrated the very heart of..." René Echevarria paused. "That was the cliff-hanger ending." When Paramount announced they didn't want a cliff-hanger to end the third season, the notion of nevertheless using the Founders remained. However, choosing what to do with them was an issue for the DS9 producers. They decided to keep the Founders-on-Earth storyline for the next season. They also chose to make the third season finale, ultimately entitled "The Adversary", about "shape-shifters running amok," in the words of Robert Wolfe, and structure it around the statement, "No Changeling has ever harmed another," which the writers had first established in "The Search, Part II". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 250 & 251)

Some production staffers approved of the Founders being established as omnipresent in "The Adversary". "It [....] represented an interesting way to use the changelings, making them more of a threat," Ira Behr remarked. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp. 80 & 99) Commented René Echevarria, "It also provides another opportunity for [...] setting up in the minds of our fans that this – the changelings – is an ongoing, very dangerous problem." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 99)

Ira Behr held the opinion that "deepening" the Founders and their relationship with Odo was an important aim for the writers to bear in mind for DS9 Season 4. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 115) During the show's third season, Behr and Ronald D. Moore had a discussion which determined how the Founders went on to be developed in the fourth season. This period in the evolution of the group was inspired by a statement in "The Die is Cast", when a Founder posing as a Romulan named Lovok comments, "After today, the only real threat to us from the Alpha Quadrant are the Klingons and the Federation. And I doubt that either of them will be a threat for much longer." Remembering the conversation, Behr related, "I said, 'You know, Ron, a really interesting way to continue the Founders threat is by causing a war between the Klingons and the Federation." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 28) Once season four of DS9 began, René Echevarria reported about the threat imposed by the Founders, "To a certain extent, it's felt in the fourth season. We've had a lot of internal debates about what this would mean [....] So it's something we'll keep alive but will be careful not to overdo." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 99)

In an early version of the two-parter "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost", the Founders played an important role. "The changelings come to Earth, infiltrate the populace, and cause near civil war within the Federation," reported Ronald D. Moore, recalling the story. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 298) As the narrative evolved from then on, though, the repercussions of the Founders' presence in the Alpha Quadrant were toned down, focusing on Earth in particular. "In the most basic sense, Founders on planet Earth was what we wanted to do," remembered Robert Hewitt Wolfe. The much-feared aliens could still be viewed as a metaphor for other groups in history, with Wolfe likening them to "the Communists" or the targets of "any number of other witch hunts in history." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, pp. 43 & 45)

Ira Behr could foresee, at this relatively early stage, the doom of the Founders, deciding to make it come about via their "rigidity." He elaborated, "They are so anal retentive, so paranoid, so set in their ways. Ultimately, that will be their downfall." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 300)

Ever since fourth season finale "Broken Link" was in its earliest form as a story pitch by freelance writer George Brozak, the Founders took Odo to be judged for committing what was, to them, an inconceivable criminal atrocity, Odo having killed another Changeling exactly a year beforehand, in "The Adversary". Ira Behr believed that the Founders' punishment of leaving Odo's face as it was, despite changing the rest of his body to become Human, was one of the writers' "many ways, both macro and micro, of making the Founders deliciously evil and calculatingly clever." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 353 & 354)

As was noted by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, a big revelation involving the Founders provided a cliffhanger ending to both the third and fourth seasons. "The third season was 'Oh, shit, they're everywhere,' and the fourth season is 'Oh shit, they're running the Klingon Empire and are going to start a war,'" Wolfe pointed out. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 121) For a long time, the writers planned to establish the Founders in such a way as they are depicted in the latter conclusion. "We felt it was an unfolding complication. We always felt the Founders were behind what was going on with the Klingons if nothing else than just because they were making the Klingons paranoid," Wolfe explained, "but we always wanted to show it may be more overt than that." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 70) After the Klingons having been reintroduced as antagonists in DS9 Season 4, resuming the focus on depicting the Founders as the show's main villains was important to DS9's writing staff. Ira Behr recalled, "We were moving back toward making the shape-shifters [...] our enemies." Hence, once a Founder was identified as misleading the Klingon Empire in fifth season's "Apocalypse Rising", the Founders were deliberately further concentrated on. "After doing 'Apocalypse Rising' to open the season, we knew we had to get the changelings back into the show," Behr emphasized. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 359 & 422)

Although the concept of Founders infiltrating Earth had been popular, the nature of the threat posed by the Founders was thereafter changed, because Earth wasn't seen as an appropriate setting for Deep Space Nine. As a result, their menace evolved to become, for instance, a Founder who had secretly replaced Dr. Bashir, as established in fifth season episode "In Purgatory's Shadow". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 422)

When DS9 Season 6 installment "His Way" was written, Ira Behr already knew that the series would end with the Founders being reunited with Odo. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 560) This influenced the writers to make the Founders unwell, firstly in DS9 Season 7 entry "Treachery, Faith and the Great River". Behr remembered that "giving the Founders an illness seemed to give" Odo a motive for returning to them and trying to save them. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 619) Meanwhile, Rene Auberjonois felt it was "inevitable" that the Founders would end up reunited with Odo and that "the Founders' paranoia, and their feeling that they need to destroy the Federation" would peacefully be put to an end by him. The actor also believed this was "the right thing." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 40)

Ira Behr believed that, by callously disregarding and underestimating the Cardassians during the Dominion War, the Founders were akin to those who underestimated the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War and Custer when he underestimated tribes of Native Americans at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Behr remarked about the Founders, "They're still not nice people." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 709)

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