One of the few things that bothers me about the Dominion arc in Deep Space Nine is the Jem'Hadar. I enjoy the concept but I don't understand why they would be genetically addicted to Ketracel White (or anything else for that matter).

There are some obvious problems

  • When they run out, the Jem'Hadar go ballistic and kill everything in sight uncontrollably.

  • With the Gamma Quadrant and the supply of White cut off, Starfleet's first move was to go after 'White' production in the Alpha Quadrant. The Dominion may as well have put signs up saying "this is our weak spot."

  • In Hippocratic Oath, Bashir and O'Brien meet a Jem'Hadar who was decanted without the addiction. As soon as a Jem'Hadar realizes that he doesn't need the White, he realizes he doesn't have to do what his Vorta tells him and it goes downhill from there.

Since The Dominion has already proven that it is capable of breeding loyal and obedient servants (The Vorta) then why would they use an addiction that would open them up to such obvious liabilities instead of simply breeding the qualities they wanted into their soldiers?

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    The example in Hippocratic Oath a direct answer to this question: The addiction is used to keep them loyal. The one who was not addicted was a rare genetic anomaly, so it's not really a liability.
    – Izkata
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 5:20
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    “Ignoring the social implications (which can be hard to do with DS9, especially Avery Brooks, sometimes)” — eh? Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 11:02
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    The Vorta were uplifted from just-barely-sentience and bred/genetically manipulated for a very long time. The Jem'Hadar are a relatively recent creation.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 14:13
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    The Dominion may as well have put signs up saying "this is our weak spot." Of course, the engineering of the Jem'Hadar occurred long before the Dominion even knew about the wormhole to the alpha quadrant.
    – user11521
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 15:59
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    @JoeL: It was said onscreen that the Dominion was approximately 2,000 years old. If what the Vorta are right about being "enhanced" prior to the Dominion's founding and the Jem'Hadar were created after that enhancement or after the founding itself, then the Jem'Hadar would be young compared to the Vorta. You can't say "recent" though without a timeframe to go by. The Jem'Hadar could have been created 2,000 years ago which would make them older than the Federation by a lot and even older than the Klingon Empire which hardly makes them recent.
    – geewhiz
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 16:03

5 Answers 5


The Ketracel White is used to keep the Jem Hadar loyal to the founders as well as functioning as their sole source of food and drink. In the event that they become disloyal to the Founders (something that's apparently a rather more common occurrence than the Founders would like the Federation to believe) they can simply withdraw access to the substance and they'll all die.

BASHIR: I know that the Jem'Hadar have been genetically engineered by the Dominion to be addicted to what you call ketracel-white. And that by controlling the supply of the drug, the Founders maintain control over you.

GORAN'AGAR: The Vorta. They are the ones who control the drug. They are the ones we came here to escape.

BASHIR: Escape? You're trying to leave the Dominion?

DS9 : Hippocratic Oath


SISKO: Couldn't the Founders just order them to surrender? From what I know, the Jem'Hadar have been genetically conditioned to obey them.

WEYOUN: The Founders' ability to control the Jem'Hadar has been somewhat overstated. Otherwise we never would have had to addict them to the white.

SISKO: Sounds like the Dominion isn't quite as stable as you'd like us to believe.

DS9: To the Death

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    Has anyone considered the fact that, based on these quotes, it might not have been the Founders that created the addiction, but rather the Vorta?
    – Moo
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 14:13
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    @moo - Both the Vorta and the Jem'hadar are the products of genetic manipulation. It's possible (albeit highly unlikely) that the Jem'hadar were loyal to the Vorta first and were then co-opted by the Founders. I fail to see why you'd think that though.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:25
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    I'm not saying the Jem'hadar were ever loyal to the Vorta at all, but given that the Founders seem to use the Vorta to run the Dominion at arms length, surely that also probably involves managing the Jem'hadar force, including updating the genetic code used to create them. Perhaps at some point in the past, the Vorta decided they had had enough of rampaging, hard to control soldiers, so they did something about it, especially as they were more likely to suffer as a result of uncontrolled Jem'hadar than the Founders were. It would be within their scope of being the Founders facilitators...
    – Moo
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:50
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    @moo - Ah, I see. That's wandering into the realms of fan-fiction though
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 17:13

While Richard's answer is excellent, it overlooks one central point in Geewhiz's note.

"When they run out, the Jem'Hadar go ballistic and kill everything in sight uncontrollably."

This is not actually a disadvantage, if accommodated or planned for. Jem'Hadar have an incredibly short lifetime (see DS9: To the Death) and mature very quickly, going from infant to Fighting size in a matter of weeks (see DS9: The Abandoned). Given this accelerated life, if a company is compromised from white withdrawal the following strategic points become important:

  • The company will self-destruct in a short time frame (DS9: Rocks and Shoals)
  • If members of the company are able to survive white withdrawal, they will have trouble subverting others (DS9: Hippocratic Oath)
  • The company can be materially replaced quickly. (DS9: The Abandoned)
  • Direct intervention by a Founder can probably accommodate the situation (Any DS9 showing Founder-Jem'Hadar Contact).
  • The second, third and fourth items may be combined for an effective, if heartless solution to an insurrection

Given the Founders view all species as subservient, and have a very long term view of strategy, it does not seem that this apparent liability would be viewed as such by them.

  • Maybe the Jem'Hadars' concept of honor plays into this, too? We were shown on some occasions that they adhere to an honor codex that requires killing members of the own team under certain circumstances. When parts of a group of Jem'Hadar start becoming disloyal, it seems conceivable some members of the group may feel compelled to act as a "kill switch" for the entire group for reasons of honor, thereby accelerating point 1. Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 23:56

breeding a loyal dog is not as easy as breeding an attack dog

fighters have to have the ability to think for themselves in tactical situations, an individual who thinks for himself can choose to disobey his master.

short answer they couldnt do it because breeding a loyal race would remove that races ability to think tactically and a soldier who cant think tactically is worthless


Think of it this way.

  1. You need my mother's lasagna to live.
  2. Without it you will die
  3. You live a long ways away from me
  4. You don't like my representative that tells you what to do
  5. I send the lasagna to him

Now despite you not liking the person I put in charge you need to obey him or you will die, because I only send the lasagna to him.

It ensures obedience to a chain of command especially when the top of the chain can't be everywhere.

The founders are few compared to the empire they control and those they subjugate, the vorta clones act as administrative and command authority, the jem'hadar as foot soldiers. The white keeps the jem'hadar obedient to the volta and maintains the chain of command.

We see examples of how distance from the head authority can lead to strayful alliegences in our own history. The smaller Christian faiths came from the catholic church but were the result of being thousands of miles from Rome and the Vatican, of course bishops and cardinals would visit these outlying parishes but as soon as they were gone the local leader would do things to benefit himself rather than the central authority.

In modern times large religious organizations have local authorities in place to keep all parishes/wards in line with the central message and global communications allow for a control that was lacking hundreds of years ago.

The dominion is tens of thousands of square light years so a system has to be put in place to maintain control. The vorta arr also by their nature easier to genetically keep obedient because they are not imbued with agression. Think when are you least in control of yourself, when you are angry, so the Jem'hadar even with genetic modifications to be obedient could act out in agression and then lead to a spiral of becoming uncontrollable. Solution forget about the wayward soldier and it will die because your people control what it needs to live.


The Vorta weren't just loyal to the founders, they revered the founders as gods. No need for a "safety switch" like a Ketracel White dependency. They don't factor into the logic behind the need to do so for the Jem'Hadar - bred to be the ultimate soldiers above all else, a safety switch is a necessity to ensure loyalty. And they really weren't exactly loyal to the founders so much as to the Vorta - the source of their Ketracel White.

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    The Jem'Hadar considered the Founders divine as well. They were just further removed from them for the most part. According to the Memory Alpha article: "Although the Jem'Hadar worshipped the Founders as gods, the vast majority of the Jem'Hadar had never actually seen a Founder, and some doubted that they even existed." en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Jem%27Hadar That and the quote in Richard's answer indicates the problem is keeping the Jem'Hadar obedient to the Vorta.
    – geewhiz
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 15:42

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