The Founders were a group of Changelings from the Gamma Quadrant responsible for both the creation of the Dominion and all strategic decisions undertaken throughout its history. Though generally considered mythical by many Gamma Quadrant races, they remained, as of the late 24th century, the embodiment of the Dominion itself, and the ultimate reason for its existence. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", "The Search, Part I", "The Search, Part II")
At one time the Founders were a peaceful, curious race that explored the galaxy, possibly including L-S VI. (DS9: "The Alternate") Unfortunately, their overtures of peaceful cooperation were met with violent rejection and persecution. Many Gamma Quadrant races, including the Yaderans had fables and mythical tales of Changelings, often depicting them as being a race who they can't trust and must fear. (DS9: "Shadowplay") As an adverse reaction to being hunted and rejected, they accepted the pejorative Changeling as their own and retreated to a rogue planet. They then determined that, in order to be safe, they must set themselves the task of creating order from the chaos they saw around them.
- What you can control can't hurt you. - Founder (DS9: "The Search, Part II")
- The solids have always been a threat to us; that's the only justification we need. - Founder (DS9: "The Search, Part II")
Chaos was dangerous as it would allow the persecution to arise once more. Therefore they must have order but this was an order that they controlled, for their benefit and only incidentally for the benefit of the "solids."
Once they consolidated their control they sent out a number of their kind across the galaxy to learn more about any other solids. The two most notable of these lookouts were later known as Odo and Laas. The mission of the lookouts was to learn as much as possible about the solids in their area, and report back. (DS9: "The Search, Part II", "Chimera")
- See also: Dominion history
As the leaders of the Dominion, the Founders lead a vast Empire, with the assistance of two genetically-engineered species, the Vorta, to whom they delegated the day-to-day work, and the Jem'Hadar, to whom they delegated most military matters. During the Dominion War, the Founders relied heavily on one Vorta in particular, Weyoun, whom they trusted more than any other "solid". Both species considered the Founders to be gods. Their unwavering devotion made the Dominion a formidable enemy. (DS9: "Hippocratic Oath", "Tears of the Prophets")
Although the concept of the Founders had been established in the DS9 second season finale "The Jem'Hadar", the writers hadn't made any firm decisions about precisely who the Founders were. During the hiatus between seasons two and three, Michael Piller called a production meeting and, thinking the writers would reject the idea straight away, he suggested that perhaps the Founders could be Odo's people. When Piller suggested this, Ira Steven Behr burst out laughing, as he and the other staff writers had come up with the exact same idea, but they hadn't thought that Piller would accept the proposal so they hadn't pitched it to him. (The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond, DS9 Season 3 DVD, Special Features)
During development of Star Trek: Voyager, a Founder (referred to in a summary of discussions that initiated the series as "Soup Guy") was briefly considered as a main character of that series. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 177)