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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, 2012 at 21:40
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    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, 2012 at 21:57
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    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, 2012 at 2:10
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    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, 2012 at 5:08
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    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, 2015 at 22:35

2 Answers 2

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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, 2012 at 5:04
  • "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? ;) Mar 5, 2015 at 14:08
  • @O.R.Mapper LOL, good point.
    – Kyle Jones
    Mar 5, 2015 at 16:03
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    Not just similar makeup - the same actress, Salome Jens, portrayed both the Progenitor and one of the Founders in DS9.
    – RobertF
    Aug 16, 2017 at 17:24
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    Kyle Jones> 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. Sure it does; countless aeons have passed; things change, people change, memories fade, priorities change, desires change.
    – Synetech
    Aug 28, 2020 at 22:53
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Looks like it was addressed in a couple of novels; Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Dominion: Olympus Descending.

There is actually a connection, it looks as if the Founders had first hand knowledge of their own creators. This is interesting, because all the other races did not know anything about the progenitors until the DNA mystery.

The other thing that is important to know is that the progenitors did not create the other races. They just put some of their DNA into the life forms that they found on the planets they journeyed to... But, in the case of the Founders, the story goes that they were created by the progenitors first hand.

It is conceivable that the progenitors created them as an upgrade to their own physiology by using their own DNA as the template. It would fit in with them using fragments of their DNA to imprint parts of them selves in many races in the alpha quadrant as we see in The Chase. It would also give a clue as to why the progenitors and the Founders look so similar, and have similar genetic technology.

Another thing that can be said is that a lot of time had passed since the progenitors made the recording seen in The Chase, by the time of the Dominion war. We also know from DS9 that the Founders had many bad experiences with solids and that's why they changed their approach towards dealing with them. So is it possible that over time these beings became resentful...

The last thing is that the Founders do think that they are gods. They may indeed be the very people that created their shapeshifter form, as well as imbuing the galaxy with sentience.

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    I like this explanation. I prefer a connection to "it's just coincidence" because in addition to using the same actor, they specifically made the changelings look a lot like the progenitor which at best makes it sloppy, but at worst, overlooks the fact that the progenitors and changelings are both pretty profound and unusual species compared to others.
    – Synetech
    Aug 28, 2020 at 22:55
  • Just a note, @Synetech - the makeup for Odo was created before the figure at the end of The Chase. This was Season 6 of TNG, and Deep Space Nine was already well underway when this episode was made. It would be a HUGE mistake on the part of the designers and makeup artists if they made the progenitor figure look just like Odo by accident.
    – TomXP411
    Nov 20, 2020 at 8:48
  • Just a correction, the female progenitor in The Chase episode mentions that they seeded the primordial oceans of the planets they encounter. So is not that they implanted their DNA on the animal species of primitive planets, no, they actually introduce their DNA on the (presumibly lifeless at the time) primordial oceans. That should had happened at least 4 billion yeats ago.
    – Daniel
    Apr 29, 2021 at 20:57
  • The issue I have with this theory is that the humanoid forms assumed by Changlings were never their true forms. In Odo's case, his humanoid form was likely his attempt to mimic the appearance of Dr. Mora Pol. So it seems tenuous at best to attribute any particular significance to a resemblance between that assumed form, and the actual form of the ancient humanoids. Had Odo been found by Klingons or Andorians rather than Bajorans, the humanoid form he assumed would almost certainly have looked very different. Apr 29, 2021 at 21:35

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