Star Trek’s Greatest Villains Finally Return, And They’re Winning

In this week's episode of Star Trek: Picard, the Dominion's Changelings return and they're once again working against the Federation.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

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A Changeling reveals itself in “Seventeen Seconds” – Star Trek: Picard, S3 E3

In the third episode of Star Trek: Picard‘s final season, The Dominion finally returns and so far they seem to have the old TNG heroes on the ropes. We still don’t know what connection the ruthless Vadic (Amanda Plummer) has to The Dominion, but by the end of this week’s episode, “Seventeen Seconds,” 2 characters are revealed to be the shape-shifting Changelings, including one who has been aboard the USS Titan since the season premiere.

Chad Lindberg as Ensign Foster in “Seventeen Seconds” – Star Trek: Picard, S3 E3

The first Star Trek character in the series fans no doubt begin suspecting was a Dominion spy is Ensign Foster. About three-quarters of the way through the episode, Foster attacks Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers), and during the fight Jack lands a punch to the ensign’s face which causes it to morph, blur, and eventually settle into its original appearance. The moment no doubt reminded plenty of fans of the Changelings, but since the visual effects that created the Changelings looked a lot different in the nineties, it wasn’t certain.

Chad Lindberg as Ensign Foster, and getting punched by Jack Crusher (Ed Speleer) in “Seventeen Seconds” – Star Trek: Picard, S3 E3

But anyone doubting that Star Trek: Picard had brought back the Dominion had that uncertainty squashed a few scenes later, set on the planet M’Talas Prime, where Worf (Michael Dorn) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) interrogate Rikka (Thomas Dekker). At first Raffi is convinced Rikka is suffering from narcotics withdrawal and uses this against him, waving a drug in front of his face. But after Rikka’s face begins to change, Worf recognizes it and confirms our suspicions with, “Tell me, how long have you been away from The Great Link?”

star trek dominion
Thomas Dekker as Rikka in “Seventeen Seconds” – Star Trek: Picard, S3 E3
star trek dominion
Rikka’s face morphing as his Changeling identity is revealed in “Seventeen Seconds” – Star Trek: Picard, S3 E3

Introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Dominion waged a cold war against the Federation for years before the cold war turned hot at the end of DS9‘s 5th season, as remembered by Memory Alpha. At the head of The Dominion were the Changelings — also known as the Founders — a race of liquid beings who saw all “solids” as threats and decided the only way to ensure their own safety was to either dominate or eradicate all solid forms of intelligent life. They genetically engineered other races like the militaristic Jem’Hadar and the silver-tongued Vorta for most of their dealings with non-Dominion forces, but with the ability to take the shape of whatever or whomever they chose, the Changelings took espionage into their own hands.

Changelings can only remain solid for so long, however, before reverting to their natural liquid state. In the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard, Worf realizes it isn’t drug withdrawal that’s making Rikka suffer, but the Dominion Founder’s need to revert to liquid.

Worf also reveals that at some point after the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo (René Auberjonois) contacted him to inform him that while the Dominion had made peace with the Federation and its allies, some of the Changelings split from the Great Link to once more wage war on the solids. Presumably the Rikka and Foster Changelings are some of the latter Founders.

There are still long lists of unanswered questions about what’s going on in Star Trek: Picard, but the return of the Dominion is a welcome one. In spite of the cataclysmic events of DS9, until now they seem to have been all but ignored in the rest of the franchise. A Changeling appears briefly Season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery, but that’s hundreds of years in the future and the character doesn’t seem to have any specific anti-Federation designs.