The Founders were a race of "changelings" that originated from the Gamma Quadrant in the Star Trek franchise. Appearing prominently in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Founders were the ruling body of the aggressive interstellar empire known as the Dominion.
Changeling biology is unlike any other form of life in the galaxy. They have no specific solid form as most carbon-based life does and their natural form appears to be nothing more than a copper-coloured gelatinous mass. Changelings are entirely fluidic in this form, though they are capable of assuming other forms at will, hence their name. They are able to morph into just about anything: inanimate objects such as rocks or trees, animals and even sentient beings such as humans. In some cases, changelings have demonstrated the ability to morph into gaseous elements and even fire.
Changelings cannot maintain any chosen form indefinitely and must return to their natural gelatinous state every 16-18 hours. If a changeling does not return to its natural state, its morphogenic matrix will destabilize. In the case of a changeling assuming a humanoid form, its features will begin to flake and crumble like drying clay. Sometimes it appears that the changeling slowly melts rather than crumbles.
Changelings are capable of separating small portions of their bodily mass. Any part of a changeling that is separated from its main body is no longer manipulated by the changeling's consciousness and will become inert, reverting to a gelatinous mass.
Ancient history Edit
The beings who would become known as "changelings" were not always as they are. Eons ago, they were monoformic like most of the galaxy's life-forms, confined to a single shape. How exactly they evolved into their metamorphic state remains a mystery.
Changelings were once a curious race and had dedicated themselves to exploring the galaxy. However, wherever they went, they found themselves persecuted by "solids" (their name for non-shapeshifters) who deeply resented and mistrusted them. Frequently hunted and killed by these aggressors, the changelings adopted an isolationist policy and hid themselves away, though they remained curious about other forms of life and feared that eventually other races would become aware of them and seek them out.
Over time, the changeling race came to view the universe as inherently chaotic and that that chaos would eventually be their downfall unless they instilled order among the solids. To this end, they approached less-advanced races and interfered with their social development, coerscing them into accepting the changelings as godlike beings.
Founding the Dominion Edit
The Dominion was founded around the 4th century, with the changelings - referred to as the Founders by their subservients - acting as its absolute rulers. For centuries, the Founders had been met with violence and mistrust by the solids, and now they were determined to ensure that no one would threaten them again. For that, they themselves would enforce their will upon the rest of the universe. In order to do this, the Founders relied on the Jem'Hadar, a genetically engineered race of warriors programmed to be utterly obedient to their changeling creators who they viewed as gods.
Over the centuries, the Dominion built up a vast military empire across the Gamma Quadrant. Thousands of planets fell under their influence and any races that resisted were systematically destroyed as a warning to all others that dared to consider defying the will of the Founders.
In order to gather intelligence on other potentially threatening races, the Founders sent a hundred infant changelings into space to explore. It was genetically coded into these infants for them to return later and share what they had learned.
The Alpha Quadrant Edit
In 2370, the Dominion became aware of multiple violations of its borders. These incursions were being carried out by various alien explorers and traders from the Alpha Quadrant who had arrived in the Gamma Quadrant through the recently-discovered Bajoran Wormhole. The Dominion did not care that these outsiders were unaware that they were trespassing in claimed space and responded by either capturing or destroying any Alpha Quadrant vessels they encountered.
As the disappearance of starships continued, the Dominion also made formal first contact with the United Federation of Planets, claiming responsibility for the disappearing ships and the destruction of the Bajoran colony of New Bajor in the Gamma Quadrant. Months following their first contact with the Jem'Hadar, Starfleet organised a stealth operation into Dominion space in order to seek out the Founders. Odo, changeling security chief of Starbase Deep Space 9, was present on the mission. During the mission, he found himself feeling inexplicably drawn to a particular region of space: the Omarion Nebula. When the USS Defiant was attacked by Jem'Hadar, Odo escaped aboard a shuttlecraft with Bajoran Militia officer Major Kira Nerys in tow. Together, they headed to the Omarion Nebula where they discovered a rogue planet within.
Odo and Kira landed on the planet where they were met by changelings like Odo. Odo had discovered his long-lost people and learned of his origins and heritage; however, he also discovered that his people were the Founders of the Dominion and that they were holding the crew of the Defiant captive. Odo demanded the release of his crewmates and the Female Changeling allowed them to leave, but warned that they would not be so generous in the future.
For the next three years, a cold war was fought between the Dominion and the various powers of the Alpha Quadrant. The Founders sent changeling operatives into the Alpha Quadrant to infiltrate the highest echelons of government, using their shapeshifting abilities to assume the identities of key political and military figures in an effort to weaken these powers and leave them unable to defend themselves for when the Dominion inevitably invaded. During this time, changelings infiltrated the Romulan Tal Shiar, the Klingon Empire, even Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, increasing paranoia and mistrust among these societies and sparking conflicts between them. By the time the Dominion launched their invasion, the Romulan Star Empire's military was still in the process of rebuilding following a failed attack on the Founders' homeworld, the Klingons had stretched their resources fighting against the Cardassians and the Federation, Starfleet had been spread thin following a recent invasion of Earth by the Borg and the Cardassian Union had been crippled fighting with the Klingons and dealing with uprisings within their own borders.
Prior to their entry into the Alpha Quadrant in 2373, the Dominion had entered into negotiations with Cardassia Prime. The Cardassian Union desparately required aid to rebuild their shattered empire, aid that the Dominion offered in exchange for a foothold in Cardassian space. In the months that followed, Dominion convoys regularly emerged from the Bajoran wormhole headed for Cardassia, building a tremendous military presence that threatened to dwarf the combined fleets of the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. This continued until late 2373 when Starfleet mined the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole, a maneuver that the Dominion declared as an act of war, thus officially beginning hostilities.
The Dominion War Edit
From late 2373 to late 2375, the Dominion fought a brutal war against the combined forces of the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire, with their goal being the utter domination of the Alpha Quadrant. For the first five months of the conflict, the Federation Alliance was kept on the defensive due to the overwhelming number of Dominion forces and their rapid replenishment. The tide of the war turned when the Federation took back their captured starbase Deep Space 9 and prevented Dominion reinforcements arriving from the Gamma Quadrant (thanks to the intervention of non-corporeal entities that resided within the wormhole).
During the war, the Founders became afflicted with a virus that attacked their morphogenic matrix. The entire race became infected following Odo's brief joining with the Great Link in 2372, a year before hostilities broke out. Odo himself had been secretly infected with the virus by Section 31, a secret division of Starfleet that was dedicated to protecting the Federation by whatever means necessary. With the Founders dying, the Dominion battled ever more aggressively, though they also had to contend with dissent behind the lines. The Cardassians were beginning to express dissatisfaction with their status under Dominion rule, which eventually led to a full-scale uprising. The Federation Alliance took advantage of this and sent operatives behind enemy lines to aid the Cardassian Union with disrupting the Dominion from within.
In late 2375, the Dominion War was brought to end when the Federation Alliance launched a full-scale invasion of Cardassia. With their planetbound facilities being sabotaged and the Cardassian fleet turning against them, the Dominion was well and truly cornered, but they refused to surrender. However, Odo, having been cured of Section 31's morphogenic virus, offered to link with the Female Changeling, passing the cure onto her. This gesture allowed the Founder to see that not all solids were as aggressive and destructive as her people had long believed and she ordered her forces to stand down. The Dominion War had been brought to an end at last, but ensure lasting peace, Odo returned to the Great Link, curing his people of their disease and helping to ease their distrust of solids by sharing his experiences with them.
The changelings' society is known as the Great Link. It is the intermingling of many changelings in their natural liquid form, and provides meaning for the changelings' existence.
The Link was effectively the "capital" of the Dominion. For millennia, the Link was located on a rogue planet inside the Omarion Nebula, until it was discovered by Odo and the crew of the USS Defiant in 2371. Later that year, the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order launched a joint assault on the Founders' homeworld, intending to wipe out the Founders and destroy the Dominion. However, the entire attack was actually a plot to weaken the Cardassians and the Romulans – the Founders had already evacuated their planet, and a fleet of Jem'Hadar attack ships was waiting to annihilate the invaders.
In 2372, the Founders forced Odo to return to the Great Link (on the new Founders' homeworld) for judgment after he killed a fellow changeling. As punishment for his crime, Odo's shapeshifting abilities were taken away, and he was given human form.
Unknown to the Founders at the time, Odo's temporary joining with the Link had infected all of the changelings with a morphogenic virus that began to inhibit their natural shapeshifting abilities, slowly killing them. A cure was brought back by Odo in 2375, who singlehandedly cured the entire Great Link. After curing his people, Odo decided to stay with the Link.