VORTA: Cultural Index

The Gamma Quadrant is a vastly unknown region
for Starfleet. Teeming with species and cultures, it is ripe for exploration, expansion, discovery
and trade. But as any in that sector of the galaxy will tell you, if you have any sort
of business in the Gamma Quadrant, you have business with the Do minion. The organisation
has arguably the galaxies mightiest military and a ruthless political and economic savviness
that rivals and often outclasses that of the other powers it meets.
The Dominion philosophy is one of control through subjugation, what you can control
cannot harm you. This mind-set was laid down by its very founders, the changelings (more
about them in a prior index video) and the majority of its power resides in two subservient
species, the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar. Hi, Ric here and this video has us looking
into the history and society of the Vorta. Persecuted and hunted throughout the stars,
the changeling species was hardened by the constant mistrust and hostility that greeted
their efforts of exploration and they were often backed into corners while fleeing from
hostiles. One such changeling in, times long forgotten, found its way to the Vorta homeworld,
a simple, pre industrial civilization of mostly unremarkable pre-humanoids. Some sources suggest
the planet Kurrill Prime as this homeworld. Taking pity on the wounded and desperate shapeshifter,
the proto-Vorta sheltered and hid the being from its pursuers.
Evading capture, the changeling made a note of this helpful species, to them, a seeming
rarity in the universe and promised that they would be rewarded for their loyalty and humble
aid. As time went on, the Dominion formed around the shapeshifters, themselves becoming
known as the Founders and they returned to the Vorta bringing them under their wing and
using their advanced understanding of genetics, elevated their minds evolved their bodies
to create a species that could act as their proxies.
However, ever fearful of betrayal, jaded as they had become by their experiences, they
limited the Vorta in many ways. First of all, they input deferential treatment into their
genome, a desire to please and serve the Founders so that they would be less inclined to resist
the will of their masters. They picked traits to imbue the species with, effective playing
god and selecting only traits that the Founders deemed necessary they have. As the Vorta were
to be the Founder’s proxies, so that the changelings could avoid interaction and therefore
risk when meeting others, the Vorta genome is custom built to excel in these areas.
On the surface, they appear humble, docile and friendly. They are eloquent, quick studies
and move with a natural grace. Their minds are always racing however, looking for advantages
in negotiation and probing for signs of weakness in their opponent and their kindly demeanour
covers their callous ability to disregard life on a whim. To many species, the Vorta
are erroneously assumed to be the head of the Dominion as these are the highest ranking
individuals that many races will interact with, just as the Founder’s intended.
To facilitate their strengths as the intermediaries for the Founders, the Vorta have excellent
hearing, above that of most humanoids, this ensures that any hushed whispers in meetings
are overheard and that they can eavesdrop on private conversations from afar to seek
an advantage. However, as most of their meetings are conducted face to face, within the confines
of a vessel and the like, the species has poor long-range eyesight having never evolved
naturally to require the ability to gaze far into the horizon.
They are immune to most illness and toxins, a trait added to their genetic makeup to prevent
them being assassinated during negotiations and likely also to allow them to safely visit
a number of climates. They also had a rather limited palette and taste but enjoyed eating
berries and nuts. This suggest that their sense of taste has simply been left unaltered
since their times as ape-like forest foragers as adapting it was deemed unnecessary by the
Founders. The Vorta however, ever sure that any decision made by the Founders is the correct
one, assumed that this was deliberate to remind them of their origins and how far the Dominion
had brought them. They lack and artistic sense of appreciation
too, which is an odd one as it suggests a lack of imagination and creativity. These
are traits that would heavily benefit shrewd negotiators acting on their own, however many
of their strategies and learned responses are imparted to them from the Founders. Again,
on the surface, this makes the Vorta look like they can formulate, scheme and plot with
the best of the strategists in the galaxy, but in reality most of their knowledge was
taught to them, not some natural wisdom. Not to say they’re completely creatively bankrupt
it’s just that in most cases, they defer to the Founder’s in matters of tactical
insight. These traits do vary in strength among the
Vorta, leading some to be preferred to undertake certain tasks. Some were even telekinetic
and could display mild to average psionic abilities. Over time, favoured Vorta had their
genome sampled and stored by the Founders so that they may be recreated after the original
had perished. It is unknown if this was part of the original plan the Founders had for
them, or something that became the norm over time, but by the 24th century it appears that
all Vorta were now bred this way, granting the Founders even greater control over their
creations despite possessing two genders. The founders viewed the Vorta as tools, nothing
more as they placed no value on any life unlike their own, especially “Solids” and this
was a truth that the Vorta accepted, again, having that acceptance and deference to the
Founders intrinsic to their existence. When a Vorta died often a clone was issued to replace
it, adopting the same name and affixing a number to its end to mark it as a separate
individual, which the clone was for while its nature would be identical, its nurture
may be slightly different. The reason I think that much of their diplomacy
and manipulative skills are genetic as opposed to being taught is that a cloned Vorta is
immediately capable of picking up where its previous iteration left off although it’s
unclear if their memories are able to be transferred too which would provide another solution.
One thing that the Vorta do still maintain is a sense of play. They do enjoy games and
can find entertainment in playing them. Either the founders deemed it a necessary trait that
the Vorta themselves be able to relax at times or that it was to grant them better insight
to other species. Or that playfulness is just something so intrinsic to sentient life you
cannot remove it without compromising the species mentality.
The fact that the species was elevated and tailored by the Founders into serving them
as a “reward” for their kindness became the central point in Vorta culture around
which everything else formed. They adopted a religion with the Founders as their Gods,
devoting their lives to serving them, spurred on by their genetic impulse. They give thanks
to the Founders, see the Dominion and its decrees as the right of their gods and all
who oppose it as blind, ignorant or just unworthy. It’s this core belief that allows them to
be so ruthlessly duplicitous and merciless with their actions. If their diplomatic efforts
fail, they have no qualms about sending in the Jem’Hadar to enact violence and so powerful
is their devotion to their Gods that on capture, they are expected to activate their own termination
implant to protect Dominion secrets. Each Vorta holds a position of power in the
Dominion hierarchy over the Jem’Hadar soldiers. The troops all answer to a “First”, the
most powerful and capable of the Jem’Hadar and that First has swears loyalty to that
Vorta. It should be noted however, that this fealty is because it is commanded by the Founders
and that the Jem’Hadar share the Vorta’s genetic deference for the changelings. They
possess no such inclination towards the Vorta themselves, leading to no small amount of
friction between the two species. They follow the Vorta because they are told to, not because
they want to. On top of this, another system of control
is entrusted to the Vorta, that of the dispersal of the Ketracel White a drug that the Jem’Hadar
need to survive. The Founder’s view of their subordinates is unsurprisingly passed down
the chain with many Vorta looking at their charges with the same expendability. Most
Vorta share the same values because of their environment, genetics and the fact that any
sufficiently deviant behaviour can see the Vorta killed and replaced by another clone.
If a line of clones continues to display undesirable traits, then the source genome can be eliminated
altogether. It has been observed that alongside their
positions as leaders, envoys and traders in the Dominion, they have been seen occupying
the scientific divisions of the construct operating as physicians, researchers and other
scientific capacities. This would be a natural fit for their analytical minds though their
limited creativity may pose a problem in any field.
The Vorta overall are a façade of a species and although elevated to one of the most quote
on quote “powerful” species in the galaxy, it came at a great cost. Just like their demeanour
and reassuring attitude, they are a front for the true will of the Dominion. Still,
individuality and personal quirks and beliefs are present throughout this culture, so they
have the potential to grow, just not under the rule of the Founders. A Vorta clone exhibits
mercy on an enemy of the Dominion? Replace it with one who will act. A Vorta find himself
questioning his loyalty? A defective clone, replace it. What could we have been? Replace
it. Why? Replace it. It’s not so much that the Vorta lack the
capacity to evolve a culture of their own to match the minds they were engineered to
have, it’s just they lack the opportunity. Who knows, maybe with the return of some benevolence
and compassion to the Great Link, the Founders will adopt a softer view and as such, hopefully
the Vorta will be free to seek their own path. All it takes is a ripple.
Thanks for watching this index on the Vorta of Star Trek. Almost everything we know of
the Vorta comes from primary sources which makes a nice change, some extra sources state
that the Vorta are unable to dream and that they do indeed pass on memories to their subsequent
clones, but I’m more interested to see where the species could go as their fate is very
much tied to the Dominion itself. So as Star Wars season is upon us, or at least
that’s what it feels like, I was thinking that we could bring the next index to a galaxy
far far away and look into the Mandalorians culture of warfare as depicted in canon, or
the Nightsisters or Dathomir, again drawinging on canon materials first and foremost. So
Votes are over on the community tab and until the next video and I’m sure which ever you
choose it will be the correct choice, oh most wise and magnanimous viewer. Thank you for
watching and I’ll see you next time! Goodbye!

  1. Weyoun was one of the best Star Trek villains ever. A beaurocratic servant willing to perform genocide in the name of stability for the Dominion. Jeffrey Combs was a fantastic actor.

  2. If they had the ability to clone a body and download its Consciousness into it, then why don't they take the consciousness of the Jem Hadar and put them in new bodies. You would have Warriors that are constantly learning and improving. I mean it's literally only one step away from Doomsday. All that's missing is their ability to negate the way they were killed last.

  3. So to keep a Vorta distracted, give him a Rubik's Cube and some cashews. That'll give you some time to figure out how he's trying to screw you over in the name of the Founders.

  4. Lack of aesthetics appreciation means having their minds focused on their duty over frivolous things like hobbies and art and forms of expression… they exist to serve the Founder's will. As for enjoying "games" in comparison… this facilitates not being boring and putting people at ease in how to host people and entertain them… something you wanna do if you are buttering people up, than controlling through Force (aka the Jem'Hadar).

  5. So we've seen Fighters (Jem Hadar) bureaucrats in the Vorta which makes me question if they have a zero grav builder/engineering species behind the scene

  6. Play is how we learn to interact with others so a species purpose built for interactivity would require a playful side.

  7. I'd just like to note that since the Vorta are clones, they have no sexual desires or drives of their own, but we can see from this female Vorta 2:42 That they do understand these concepts and know how to exploit them. She wears sexy makeup and jewels, wears a plunging top to show off her cleavage and pretty much flirts with Sisko to try and influence him.

  8. • I never really liked the Vorta; they were too milquetoast and blech. The best episode about Vorta was the one where they tried to exchange Keevan for Ishka. The Ferengi geniuses really botched that mission bad and almost lost Moogie. 🤦
    • 6:00 – "if the can reproduced naturally" – My brain hurts, You Have Been Rick. :-

  9. Personally I think the Vorta, much like the Jem'Hadaar will be allowed to become free from the genetic manipulations and rigid lifestyle that they had under dominion rule. I do not know however how long that would take, but definitely by the 26th century (ie 2500-2599) I imagine the Jem'Hadaar to basically be a Gamma quadrant Klingon society and the vorta to still have a negotiator kind of role, but not by force, this time by choice…

    OR I have another idea that is Odo causes the collapse of "peace" in the gamma quadrant resulting in a man hunt for every vorta so they end up fleeing to the alpha quadrant and become part of the UFP

  10. Definitely do the Mandalorians, but don’t draw from Disney’s Star Wars.

    The Expanded Universe fleshed them out far more so than Disney has done and, since Disney basically destroyed the entire franchise, their canon is something I would rather see rejected and forgotten than actually adhered to.

  11. About memory being transferred to clones, didn't the Vorta in "The Ship" mention that Weyoun told her about Sisko? Weyoun only met him one time at that point and was killed afterwards, so his next iteration must have retained some knowledge in order to be de-briefed.

  12. Lack of aesthetics could be to prevent Vorta from being compromised. Art and entertainment can be very subversive and influential. The Founders wouldn't want the Vorta to start appreciating art that has anti-authoritarian anti-war messages.

    Lack of aesthetics may also make Vorta immune to things like seduction.

  13. Rick,

    Great video on the Vorta. I really liked your commentary on why the species lacks artistic appreciation and how that would impact their culture.

    As for the vote, I'm picking the Nightsisters.

  14. While the Dominion was extremely powerful, I'd say either the Borg or the Voth had the strongest military in the Galaxy.

  15. There was this fanfic story I accepted in to my head cannon. It was about the first time the Vorta encountered the species that would become The Jem'Hadar and how The Vorta were the original soldiers of the Dominion. They were able to conquer the Jem'hadar due to superior tech but they of course took note of the species natural fighting capabilities and the founders altered them to serve just as they had the Vorta before. Thus the Vorta became the commanders of The Jem'hadar, but the Jem'hadar never forgot and thus the friction between the 2 species remains to this day.

  16. I think that the lack of creativity was described in DS9 specifically as having no sense of aesthetics. One can be creative with, say, science, tactics or negotiations, but still not have any artistic sense. And I think that's what the show was playing at.

  17. Nightsisters of Dathomir, they are one of the most interesting cultures in Star Wars but unless you dig into the E.U like a mynock on a rusted power converter you hear nothing about them.

  18. In many ways the Vorta are a tragic species. Their kindness was 'rewarded' by being turned into genetically engineered slaves.

  19. I feel the founders "neglected" creativity in the vorta, because "creativity" allows a being to question orders based on the idea that they may have a better way of doing things and this would be a no-no in a founder ruled world.

  20. I’m surprised that the Founders didn’t make a laborer species, something strong and with remarkable endurance but very pliable, pacifistic, and not giving much weight to complex thought beyond what they are told to do, being either humanoids like the other servant species or like the Shoggoths from HP Lovecraft (which I would theorize if they are a more fluid, polymorphic species to be the Founders attempt at cloning themselves or what happens if something adverse effects their lifecycle).
    Oh! Speaking of theories; I have theorized that the Changelings are originally from Fluidic Space, given how many similarities the Founders and 8472 seem to have in common, plus the more isolationist instincts from Solids of the former would seem far more justifiable then simple humaniod paranoia, seeing as 8472 was on the onset to be omnicidal.

  21. Actually, game playing teaches a simple version of game theory, in which a child learns social interaction and critical thinking via application of skills. We, as adults, typically don't see game playing in that manner, but it's there.

  22. In a story I was kicking around in my head, it was in fact the Vorta who hunted the changelings millennia ago and the changelings in a cruel irony twisted them to be subservient and told them the tale of the Vorts who showed a changeling kindness as a means of instilling them with a sense of humility. Upon learning the truth from an ancient being who was around at the time of the founders turning on solids the Vorta who is a part of the Starfleet mission begins to have something of a crisis of faith.

    I don;t think I'll ever end up writing this book. So I thought I may as well get it out there lol

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