Other than their


abilities — which can be considered an advantage in some areas (just as superior strength for Klingons or better reasoning skills for Vulcans) but which I fail to accept as the only reason for their supremacy — is there any canon reason or explanation given about what specifically makes


so powerful as to rule an empire so large and also to be willing to start a war against the Federation?

Whilst being a

changeling and capable of incredible feats, Odo

could be handed his ass back by all different sort of races and technologies (and was on several occasions).

Is there any explanation of how or why they get to rule the Dominion?

  • 7
    If I remember correctly, Odo has not the full capabilities of a changeling, because he was raised by humans. On the other hand, if you see how good the changelings are in infiltration (and replacing the ruler of the enemy) this could lead to rule such a large empire.
    – Hothie
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:31
  • 7
    I think the clue is in the name... Founders
    – Liath
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:31
  • 1
    “also to be willing to start a war against the Federation” — plus the Romulans and the Klingons! Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:40
  • Title is still sort of spoilery Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 19:26

3 Answers 3


The primary reasons for the founders creating the dominion, and its rise to power in the Gamma quadrant seems to be a combination of three main factors: superior long-term strategy, the infiltration capabilities of the changelings, and superior technology, particularly in genetics.

Long-term Strategy

We hear multiple stories about changelings suffering persecution in their past. The very term "changeling" was a pejorative term used by solids in the Gamma quadrant. As a result, the founders created the dominion to bring order to the Gamma quadrant and protect themselves:

Female Shapeshifter: Ironic, isn't it? The hunted now control the destinies of hundreds of other races.

Odo: But... why control anyone?

Female Shapeshifter: Because what you can control, can't hurt you.

Odo: How do you justify the deaths of so many people?

Female Shapeshifter: The Solids have always been a threat to us. That's the only justification we need.

Although we do not know precisely the life span of a changeling, we can surmise that it is quite long. First, the female changeling tells Odo, "You are a changeling, you are timeless," which could indicate the changelings are immortal. However, a more concrete minimum lifespan is established in "Children of Time" (Season 5, Ep. 22) in which the Defiant is sent 200 years in the past, and the present day crew meets the descendants of the survivors. Since Odo is still alive, and was already 200 when the incident took place, this would suggest Odo could live to at least 400.

This extended life span was combined with a belief that the solids needed to be controlled at all costs. This affords the changelings the opportunity and perspective to make long term strategic decisions that other races might overlook, have insufficient interest in making, or lack the ruthlessness to implement. In "Statistical Probabilities" (Season 6, Ep. 9), we get the following assessment from Jack,

Yes, yes. That's a typical Dominion strategy -- they offer to give up something valuable to hide the fact that they want something even more valuable in the long term.

Even Odo's presence in the Alpha quadrant owes to the long-term planning of the founders. He was sent out with a group of 100 infants, who, according to memory alpha

...were a group of one hundred newly-formed Changelings that the Founders sent out in order to gather information and explore. The Founders did not expect any to return until the late-27th century.

They were intelligence gathering with an eye to eventually encountering being from the Alpha quadrant in 300 years.

Changeling Capabilities

Odo's shapeshifting skills are less developed than other changelings. Other changelings are able to perfectly impersonate many races. They manage to get changelings inside Starfleet headquarters, they have a changeling impersonating General Martok for 2 years, they replace Doctor Bashir for 7 weeks without the Deep Space Nine crew realizing, they infiltrate the Romulan Tal Shiar. Not only are their shapeshifting abilities impressive, but their ability to respond as the person they are imitating must be excellent as well. Impersonating Doctor Bashir for a considerable length of time without raising the suspicions of a crew that is specifically looking for changelings would be no easy task.

We can see the power of this infiltration strategy in the Alpha quadrant over the course of only a few years. They manage to set the Klingons and Federation to war without firing a shot, and lead the Romulan Tal Shiar and Cardassian Obsidian Order into an ambush, effectively eliminating them before the fighting in the Alpha quadrant begins. Imagine this sort of capacity played out over centuries or millennia in the Gamma quadrant.

Also, in terms of battle, we never really see what the changelings are capable of. Odo certainly gets defeated, but Odo has a different morality than the other changelings and wouldn't indiscriminately kill solids. The other changelings have no such compunction. Although we don't see specifically what they might do, we meet Lars in "Chimera" (Season 7, Ep. 14), who is able to change into both fog and a fire. That sort of capability would make them very hard to defeat in combat.

Superior Technology

Although the Dominion contains many races and species, it is largely run by genetically engineered slave races in the Vorta, and the Jem Hadar.

The Jem'Hadar are cloned on a mass scale with a development cycle that lasts only days to weeks ("The Abandoned", Season 3, Ep. 6). This provides an almost unlimited supply of soldiers, genetically engineered to be completely subservient to the founders, and to be fighting/killing machines. They are a formidable fighting force armed with impressive technology.

The Vorta are certainly less impressive than the Jem'Hadar, but are extremely loyal to the founders, and are able to deal with many situations diplomatically, eliminating the need for the Dominion to waste resources unnecessarily.

Beyond the genetic manipulation technology they must possess, their shield and weapons systems are at least comparable (and at the beginning superior) to Starfleet. This would likely make them the most technologically advanced race in the Gamma quadrant.

  • 1
    Well, they did fire a few shots themselves to eliminate the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order (I mean, technically it was the Jem'Hadar, but since they're the main soldiers of the Dominion, I think that counts). Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 17:22
  • 1
    @soong Good point! They definitely fired plenty of shots. Though they had set it up so it was little more than target practice for the Jem'Hadar by that point. Thanks, should be corrected now.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 17:24
  • In terms of evidence of combat capabilities, Lars faces a pair of Klingons. One tries to stab him uselessly, and then he kills the other using a melee weapon he shifts into. This demonstrates that hand-to-hand combat is basically a guaranteed loss for a solid against any changeling willing to exercise their full capabilities. The real question, then, is how energy weapons would fair against them.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 1:20

The Founders are called such for the very reason that they "founded", or started, The Dominion.

Centuries ago, the race we know as The Founders travelled the stars. Because of their shape-changing nature, however, they were often met with suspicion or outright hatred. They eventually decided that the only way to protect themselves from the chaos of "solids" was to form an empire dedicated to imposing order on the galaxy. And thus was born The Dominion.

Since The Founders themselves had no interest in actually running The Dominion or in leaving their homeworld and The Great Link, they genetically engineered two races to do so for them. The Vorta, originally a primate species, were enhanced and made the administrators of the new empire. The Jem'Hadar, a reptilian species, were engineered to be the soldiers of the empire. Both races were instilled with a natural impulse to worship The Founders as gods.

Neither the Vorta nor the Jem'Hadar would even conceive of over-throwing The Founders to lead The Dominion. And other races - those which may aspire to rule - would never be able to overcome the existing Jem'Hadar forces. Thus The Founders stay in power.


The main aspect of their supremacy (over the Dominion) is based on their ability and willingness to genetically manipulate various less-evolved species they've come into contact with, turning them into pliable slave races that they've then used to dominate their near-neighbours. It seems that they're also not above offering genetically manipulated humanoids to other races in order to secure their loyalty.

We see some of the more obvious examples throughout the show:

  • The Jem Hadar - Cloned in their billions, genetically predisposed to worship the Founders, enhanced with organic tech and kept in check with a biophysical addiction to a substance only available to the Founders. These troops are evidently used to take control of vast swathes of territory.

  • The Vorta - Cloned in their thousands, genetically predisposed to worship the Founders, highly intelligent and capable administrators that are evidently used to control the Jem Hadar as well as negotiating with client races.

  • The Tosk - Genetically manipulated to act as a prey-species for the amusement of other 'solids' and (according to an interview in the DS9 Companion) given to the Hunters as a gift by the Vorta in honour of their joining the Dominion.

Other factors that have allowed them to become powerful include;

  • Their extreme intelligence
  • That they're essentially immortal
  • A paranoid desire to dominate their neighbours
  • The ability (and willingness) to dramatically weaken their opponents by impersonating their leaders. This then allows them to
  • Turn their enemies against each other, causing wars and civil wars.

We also know that although the Founders themselves show poor scientific knowledge (invariably getting other species such as the Vorta and the Cardassians to operate their tech), they're more than willing to allow their proxies to use very high tech solutions when the need arises such as large near-invulnerable ships, personal cloaks, shaped force-fields.

They also appear to have little truck with civilised codes of conduct in war, using a mixture of torture, WMD, subterfuge (subspace mines, etc) and overkill in order to intimidate their opponents.

  • 3
    Tosk weren't created by or served the dominion. Also the race who hunted them for sport specifically engineered them for the task rather than alter an exisiting species (one of his pursuers said as much in Captive Pursuit, the only episode any Tosk appeared in and an whole seaon before anyone heard of Founders or the Dominion).
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:32
  • 2
    “We also know that although the Founders themselves have poor scientific knowledge” — do they? Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:43
  • 1
    @Richard: well, we almost never see Ned Stark fighting. That doesn’t mean he can’t. Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 17:03
  • 2
    @Richard : The Founders also have exclusively Vorta doctors working on a cure for the morphogenic virus (re: Founders and science).
    – Praxis
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 23:08
  • 1
    @Praxis - FWIW, one of the doomsday scenarios regarding AI is for the AI to "outsmart" us by thinking very very long term even though they are not measurably smarter than humanity from an IQ Test perspective. -- The connection here being that the Founders don't need to be obviously more capable than the races they rule, only wiser over the long term.
    – user23715
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 23:19

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