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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")

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, 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.

What you can control can't hurt you. - Founder (DS9: "The Search, Part II")
The solids have always been a threat to us; that's the only justification we need. - Founder (DS9: "The Search, Part II")

The Founders viewed chaos as dangerous, as it would allow the persecution to arise once more. Therefore, they must have order but this was an order that they controlled, for their benefit and only incidentally for the benefit of the "solids."

Once they consolidated their control, they 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")

See also: Dominion history

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 lead 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

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)

One thought the DS9 writing staff had was that the Founders 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 the 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)

Subsequently, Odo actor 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. "I must say," he 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." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 234)

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)

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 shape-shifter 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) Once that season 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)

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