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In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 6, Episode 20 ("The Chase"), we find out some genetic components were seeded throughout the Alpha Quadrant by an ancient race of beings, known in canon as "ancient humanoids". The holographic message which is played depicts a being which looks strikingly similar to the Founders / Changelings who rule the Gamma Quadrant's Dominion in Deep Space Nine. In fact, the voice was so similar I had to look up the actress and sure enough Salome Jens played both roles.

If memory serves, the ancient alien in "The Chase" said they knew they would not survive forever and seeded the genetic material to leave a legacy. There was no hint the race was actually dying and could have continued for a very long time after the seeding took place. They would have had plenty of time to spread into other quadrants.

In DS9, the female changeling explained their race had once been like the solids but that they'd evolved. It seems they were responsible for the rapid evolution of the Vorta from tree-dwelling mammals to their position with the founders. They also seem to have been responsible for engineering the Jem'Hadar to be reliant on Ketracel White.

Has this link been addressed and I've just missed it? I'm curious if the actress was a purposeful choice or merely a coincidence. I know many instances where an actor played unrelated parts in more than one series (and in DS9 I saw a lot of repeats in the same series!)

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I think it's just an unfortunate instance of actor recycling - rather common in TV-land - though there may have been an EU retcon... – HorusKol Feb 3 '12 at 21:40
More than just the recycling, the species similarity was uncanny. Same eyes, head, body form (obviously). The only thing different was the spots. – Erik Noren Feb 3 '12 at 21:57
Interesting thought: Odo was the only changeling in DS9 for two seasons, and then they decided to make Odo's race the Founders. They made Jens' character in DS9 to look like a female Odo - of course, her body shape and basic face wouldn't vary between the two, and maybe they chose her for the DS9 role because she was a match for a female Auberjonois? Also, IIRC, the precursor hologram did not have hair. – HorusKol Feb 4 '12 at 2:10
You're right, she didn't have hair. I can understand the choice of the female being made to look like Odo from a practical standpoint but in-universe the shifter's human form was recognized by the Vorta before Odo would have met them. And there was an episode where another seedling found Odo independently and I believe he had similar facial characteristics though he resembled his adoptive race more. That would suggest the race had that characteristic more intrinsic than just a failure to master detail, yes? – Erik Noren Feb 4 '12 at 5:08
IIRC, the reason Odo looked like he did was because he wasn't good at faces. It was never said on screen, but I always got the feeling that the other Changelings took a similar "featureless" appearance (when not impersonating someone) in deference to that. – geewhiz Jan 17 '15 at 22:35
up vote 15 down vote accepted

I think this was an unfortunate coincidence. The Progenitor was made to look plain and underformed so that all the bumpy-headed, multicolored humanoid descendants could plausibly have been specializations of the original form. In DS9 there was full scale war against the Founders. It doesn't make sense that these Progenitors would go to war with the same beings they created thousands or even millions of years ago. For one thing, the war would be very one-sided, with the Progenitors killing us all with some unimaginable weapon before we even realized there was a war on.

Also, we have seen other changelings that seem to be unrelated to the changelings of ST:DS9. What are we to make of them? In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, we see a changeling presumably in the employ of those who wanted to see the Federation and the Klingons slug it out in a final war. In the TNG episode "The Dauphin" we see more changelings, but apparently so underdeveloped technically that they need to bum a ride on a Federation starship.

It seems more likely to me that the changeling adaptation was stumbled upon again and again by different aliens as a survival trait, just as we see various forms of mimicry used to survive by Earth based life.

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Well reasoned. I can't fault any of the logic as much as I was hoping for some reference to a deliberate casting choice. I suppose the choice for Odo's form could have been reached independently as a sign he hadn't gotten the hang of detail just as the Progenitor could have been made to be intentionally generic. – Erik Noren Feb 4 '12 at 5:04
+1 for "bum a ride" – DVK-in-exile Feb 6 '12 at 3:25
"It doesn't make sense that these Progenitors would go to war with the same beings they created thousands or even millions of years ago." - Have you watched Prometheus? ;) – O. R. Mapper Mar 5 '15 at 14:08
@O.R.Mapper LOL, good point. – Kyle Jones Mar 5 '15 at 16:03

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