In the universe of Star Trek, will the Dominion eventually become the galaxy’s dominant power? An empire of many races all controlled by a secretive and shadowy group of shapeshifters, the Dominion may well be the most interesting of all the Federation’s adversaries, and perhaps with even more potential for galactic hegemony than the much more prominent cybernetic hive mind that is the Borg.
The Dominion exists to protect the Founders, changelings who in their early years as a spacefaring people suffered discrimination, persecution, prejudice, and violence from myriad other races. Consider that the Founders, in their natural liquid state, can and often do “link” with each other, sharing ideas, sensations, thoughts, and memories, memories that would include the traumas of persecution.
After accumulating so much of that most memorable kind of experience, they would become like a whole race with complex PTSD; long have I puzzled over how I sympathize so much with how the Female Changeling feels in Deep Space Nine, and recently I found out it’s because I have almost all the symptoms of CPTSD. Yikes.
A conjectural History of the Changelings
Much of the persecution they suffer would have been purely by virtue of being shapeshifters. Odo, an orphaned member of their race, suffers a lot of bigotry, and that’s before anyone in his orbit even knows about Founders or the Dominion. I suspect a lot more of it was caused by the Founders’ way of life, the philosophy they hold dear to their hearts, that “to become a thing is to know a thing. To assume its form is to begin to understand its existence”.
This innate drive likely inspired them to explore the galaxy by observing, mimicking, and infiltrating the people, objects, and places that aroused their curiosity, not intending to do any harm but rather to learn, but naturally this inspired mistrust, suspicion, and hatred when they were found out. Possibly the Founders had difficulty understanding why the “solids” would have a problem with that, inspiring further alienation.
Eventually they isolated themselves from the broader galaxy to protect themselves, but in the fullness of time they willed themselves to rise up and take power over their own destiny, establishing the Dominion to control the solids, and ensure no one could ever threaten them again: “what you can control, can’t hurt you”, as the Female Changeling put it.
Thoughts on the Dominion
Interestingly, the level of control they exert in their Gamma Quadrant stronghold seems to be light-handed; the member races don’t even have much contact with the Dominion, and virtually none with the Founders; once in a blue moon they’re given orders they have to obey without question, but otherwise they’re pretty much left alone, perhaps while enjoying benefits from their membership. The fascism in space vibe comes from the Dominion’s treatment of Cardassia, but I get the impression they were extremely inexperienced at handling an occupied population, suggesting that wasn’t something the Dominion normally did.
Probably they didn’t have to do it before; I’m guessing the Dominion is located in a more remote part of the galaxy, and likely is the unchallenged hegemon over a large section of space. Gunboat diplomacy would be all they’d need. In the Alpha Quadrant a more aggressive strategy, prompted by the opening of the Bajoran wormhole into their region, proved ineffective. Though only by dint of the wormhole being closed to reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant early in the war; the Federation and its allies only had to fight a small subsection of the Dominion’s military, and even then they would have lost were it not for the Cardassian uprising.
As for the Founders’ villainy, I’d argue all their stories of being hunted by other races for what they were are true, and that the Dominion is justified by the solid threat. After all, what’s the first reaction by the Alpha Quadrant powers to learning about the Dominion’s existence and that it’s led by shapeshifters? An attempt to genocide the Founders by laying waste to their homeworld, that’s what! Somehow I doubt they would have reacted that way to an empire led by their fellow solids. Later in Deep Space Nine we see Section 31, with the tacit approval of the Federation, attempt to genocide the Founders a second time (in just a few years…) via a virus, using Odo as a carrier no less! Again, somehow I doubt they would have done that to their fellow solids.
After the end of Deep Space Nine the Dominion is merely beat back to the Gamma Quadrant, and no doubt keeps chugging along as well as ever. The Dominion is steadily expanding, and it seems unlikely the Founders will change their attitudes much after nearly suffering extinction at the hands of the solids. Which leads me to wonder what will happen over the longer haul.
The Dominion versus the Borg
If the Dominion keeps expanding they will no doubt meet the also-expanding Borg collective. Some fans assume the Borg are the most advanced power in the galaxy (barring god-like entities like the Q), and while they’re not wrong, the Dominion have crucial advantages in any conflict. For one, the Founders are liquid; if the Borg try to inject their nanoprobes into them they’d just gather them to one part of their bodies and drip them out, unharmed by the attack. The Founders are as unassimilable as Species 8472.
The Vorta and Jem’Hadar, the races the Founders genetically engineered to run the Dominion for them, are in principle vulnerable to assimilation, but at least the Vorta have termination implants; if given an order to commit suicide rather than be assimilated they’d gladly obey. Most likely the Jem’Hadar have a similar protocol, as do the Dominion’s ships. And the Founders would have no compunction about sacrificing however many men and materiel it would take to neutralize the Borg.
What the Borg cannot assimilate, they cannot understand, so they’d be at a distinct disadvantage. The Founders’ ability to shapeshift might also prove fatal to the Borg. It’s entirely possible Founders could assume the form of Borg drones and infiltrate the collective itself (the Founders can replicate technology, like combadges and even warp ships…). Indeed, I speculate there may already be a few Founders plugged into Borg alcoves in the Delta Quadrant, observing and learning as they go, the collective oblivious to them.
In Star Trek’s Future, we’ll all serve the Founders
If the Founders prove that resistant against the Borg, then there’s really nothing else that can stop the Dominion from eventually ruling the galaxy if they play their cards right. Now that’s an interesting thought.
Having considered the big picture, it seems to me like life is good if you’re a Founder, barring the psychological peculiarities and the once-in-a-blue-moon genocidal attacks from the inferior solids. Must be an intoxicating ability to have, to become anything, to explore all the frontiers of existence with your own natural abilities, communing with everyone else in the Great Link, being timeless and never aging. No wonder their Vorta and Jem’Hadar servants thought they were gods. There are many “superior” races, such as the Q, I’d rather be, but on the mundane plane of existence nobody beats the Changelings.