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Star Trek 101: The Dominion

A rundown of the coalition of three species from the Gamma Quadrant: Founders, Vorta and Jem'Hadar.

Dominion Hierarchy featuring the Founders (Changelings), Vorta, Jem'Hadar, and the Karemma

While the Cardassian Union was the major threat at the start of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a far more looming threat existed just beyond the wormhole.

The first official interaction with the Dominion, witnessed firsthand by Benjamin Sisko and Quark, came about in the episode, "The Jem'Hadar," where the Dominion makes clear their displeasure of those from the Alpha Quadrant exploring and colonizing the Gamma Quadrant.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The culminating cataclysmic war would ravage the Alpha Quadrant, involving most of the major players in the region forming the Federation Alliance (United Federation of Planets, Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire), as they attempted to fend off the Dominion who recruited forces from the Cardassian Union, Breen Confederacy, and Son'a Command.

As Ruwon stated in "Visionary," "The Dominion represents one of the greatest threats to the Alpha Quadrant in the last century." Who and what exactly where the Dominion? Let's dive in!

The Dominion

The Dominion, a mighty planetary alliance of major political, economic, and military power in the Gamma Quadrant, is primarily a coalition of three species — the Founders, Vorta, and Jem'Hadar.

The Founders created the Dominion and laid out a strict hierarchy where they dispatched the Vorta as administrators to recruit others into the Dominion and commanded the Jem'Hadar armies, who eliminated species and planets of those who resisted membership. As such, the Dominion included "hundreds" of subjugated members who must uphold the Founders' vision of order.

The Founders

The Female Changeling and other Founders at the Great Link

A race of shapeshifters who established the Dominion thousands of years ago, the Founders are also known as Changelings. When the Founders first began exploring other worlds in the distant past, the various humanoid populations they encountered (the so-called “solids”) often feared and persecuted them. This led the Changelings to seek out a way to protect themselves, and thus the Dominion was born.

While they reign supreme and are perceived as gods by their Dominion subordinates, the Founders largely keep to themselves, preferring to combine their individual forms into the Great Link, an ocean-like entity where they commune and live in harmony. Even though the Founders wish for their Dominion to establish order throughout the Gamma Quadrant, they tend to stay out of political, military, and economic affairs, leaving those matters up to the Vorta and Jem’Hadar.

The Vorta

A captured Vorta, Eris, looks over her shoulder towards her left

Genetically-engineered to serve the Founders, the Vorta are skilled Dominion administrators who have been placed in charge of governing conquered sectors, maintaining the superpower’s infrastructure, organizing its vast fleet of warships, commanding Jem’Hadar soldiers, and supervising the Dominion’s day-to-day operations. Largely left to their own devices, certain Vorta occasionally get to consult with one of their “gods,” though these instances are quite rare.

When the Dominion expands into new territories, the Vorta present themselves as friendly diplomats, though their eye is always on furthering the Founders’ agenda. Often seen as expendable by the Founders, each Vorta’s DNA is nevertheless kept on file by the Dominion so that they can be cloned if they are killed in the line of duty... or if their predecessor is executed for failing to live up to the Changelings’ standards.

The Jem’Hadar

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -

Another genetically-engineered species created by the Founders, the Jem’Hadar were designed to be bred en masse and mature at a rapid pace. This process resulted in an almost unlimited supply of loyal, battle-hardened troops for the Dominion to call upon to fight its wars and operate its starships. Equipped with the ability to shroud, or cloak, themselves from their enemies, the Jem’Hadar did not eat, sleep, relax, or have sex, devoting all their efforts to fulfill the mantra that, “Victory is life.”

Despite this dedication, the Founders built a contingency plan into the Jem’Hadar’s genetic structure. Without ketracel-white, a drug that only the Dominion could supply, the Jem’Hadar would gradually descend into bouts of uncontrollable violence and eventually die. The Changeling strategy proved prescient, as the Jem’Hadar often showed contempt toward their Vorta overseers, who regularly utilized the ketracel-white to assert authority over the Jem’Hadar. Their intermittent disdain for one another aside, the Jem’Hadar and Vorta still strove to do the Founders’ bidding.

The Karemma

Ornithar, a male Karemma

As the superpower’s economic underlings, the Karemma are often used as intermediaries for other Gamma Quadrant species, such as the Dosi, to get in contact with the Dominion. The Karemma value quality merchandise and fair bargaining tactics, supplying everything from tulaberries to Jem’Hadar torpedoes.

On the other hand, since they are not cloned or bred with an allegiance to the Founders, the Karemma are known to seek out profit through unorthodox means, even going so far as to do business with the Dominion’s adversaries, including the Federation.

Uncertain Allies

With its enormous military and the ability to quickly replenish its forces, the Dominion has no need for allies in the Gamma Quadrant. However, once the Founders elected to send their troops through the Bajoran wormhole to establish a presence in the Alpha Quadrant, the Dominion allowed the Cardassian Union to become a member while still permitting Cardassia to operate its own fleet. The Dominion required a base of operations, and this was the least until the war was won, when the Dominion expected to subjugate Cardassia entirely.

Of course, the war did not proceed as planned, so the Dominion took their willingness to “partner” with other species a step further when they allied with the Breen Confederacy, another Alpha Quadrant power known for the environmental suits worn by its military. Ironically, the Breen’s unique relationship with the Dominion aggravated tensions between the Dominion and the Cardassians, ultimately causing an uprising which saw the Cardassian people join forces with the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans to defeat the Dominion.

Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.

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