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Dominion War

In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Dominion War is a war between the Dominion, Cardassians and Breen on one side, and the Alpha Quadrant alliance of the United Federation of Planets, Klingon Empire, and the Romulans. The latter portion of the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine focused on this war.



In 2369 , the Cardassian occupation of the planet Bajor ended, the Cardassians having been driven off by various Bajoran resistance factions (they did not defeat the Cardassians, they just harassed the Cardassian forces so much that it wasn't worth the cost of occupation anymore; as Gul Dukat put it, it was a "political decision" to withdraw). These factions then formed a provisional government to oversee the rebuilding of the planet, which had been ecologically, culturally, and financially devastated by the occupation. One of its first official acts was to ask The United Federation of Planets for assistance in this monumental task.

The UFP responded by sending Commander Benjamin Sisko to take command of the space station Terok Nor, an orbital ore processing facility left behind by the Cardassians. This station was re-christened Deep Space Nine, and was to become a diplomatic and commercial center for Bajor. Sisko was tasked by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to do everything, short of violating the Federation's Prime Directive, to ensure that Bajor rebuilt itself enough to win entry into the Federation.

However, not long after the UFP's arrival, Sisko, along with science officer Jadzia Dax discovered a stable wormhole connecting Bajoran territory to the Gamma Quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy, nearly 70,000 light years away, a distance unattainable by any sentient race extant using conventional means. In order to protect Bajoran interests the station was moved from the orbit of Bajor to a point close to the Alpha Quadrant terminus of the wormhole.

It was also discovered that the wormhole is actually home to aliens known to the Bajorans as The Prophets – beings which exist in only one point in space (the wormhole) but all points in time, giving them a very non-linear view of the universe, where effect can precede cause. They, for unrevealed reasons, adopted Sisko as their emissary to the Bajoran people. Sisko didn't like this iconic role, especially since he was treated with religious reverence by the Bajoran people, but eventually learned to accept it, and use it from time to time to further the Federation's goal of helping Bajor to rebuild.

First Contact

Exploration of the Gamma Quadrant took place without major incident for nearly one year. However, on a seemingly routine trade mission by the Ferengi, Quark first heard whispers of the Dominion, which apparently was a union of civilizations similar to the Federation in its goals of mutual defense and trade practices. Quark, under the aegis of Grand Nagus Zek, was authorized to negotiate a trade agreement with the Dominion which was ultimately successful.

However, as races from the Alpha Quadrant began to colonize planets in the Gamma Quadrant and make their presence known to Gamma Quadrant species, disturbing reports about the Dominion began to emerge. The reports seemed to indicate that what the Dominion could not attain through trade would be taken by force. These reports were borne out in 2370 when a huge fleet of Skrreean ships appeared in the Alpha Quadrant, in search of a new homeworld after their old home had been utterly destroyed by Dominion forces.

USS Odyssey under attack
USS Odyssey under attack

Toward the end of 2370, Sisko, his son Jake, Quark, and Quark's nephew Nog were visiting an uninhabited Gamma Quadrant planet to do a planetary survey for a school project of Jake and Nog's. It was here that the Jem'Hadar, the Dominion's elite military forces were encountered, and Sisko and Quark were captured by these forces, along with a mysterious alien (later to be identified as a Vorta) named Eris. The Jem'Hadar then sent a representative to DS9 to inform the Alpha Quadrant that no further intrusions into Dominion space would be tolerated, and gave Major Kira Nerys a list of colonies and starships already destroyed for trespassing.

The UFP responded by sending a rescue team consisting of the USS Odyssey, a Galaxy class starship, and all three of DS9's runabouts. They managed to pull off the rescue (Eris included), but got into a fierce battle with Jem'Hadar ships, and the Odyssey was destroyed, with all hands lost when a Jem'Hadar ship made a kamikaze attack upon it. The remaining forces returned to the Alpha Quadrant, where it was discovered Eris was a spy, and Sisko's capture engineered by the Founders, the shadowy ruling class of The Dominion. Once discovered, Eris managed to escape DS9 using transporter technology seemingly far more advanced than Alpha Quadrant species had been able to develop. (Episode: "The Jem'Hadar")

Contact with the Founders

Early in 2371 Sisko returned to Earth for a Starfleet debriefing on the matter, returning to the space station commanding the USS Defiant, a prototype battle cruiser originally developed to fight the Borg, but modified with a Romulan cloaking device to enter the Gamma Quadrant on a peace mission to locate the Founders.

And find the Founders they did, discovering that they are the same race as Odo, DS9's shapeshifting chief of security. Despite a strong longing to return to his home, he found his people's philosophy – that what you can control cannot hurt you – abhorrent. After a short standoff between Federation and Dominion forces, Odo asked to be returned to the Alpha Quadrant with all Federation forces intact. The Founders, led by a character identified only as "the female shapeshifter" (played by Salome Jens), acquiesced to Odo's request, in the hopes that Odo will one day rejoin his people. (Episode: "The Search") This marked the beginning of a Cold War phase between the Federation and Dominion, with limited skirmishes between the two sides, and a steady buildup of military forces.

Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar attack on the Founder homeworld

Meanwhile, the other Alpha Quadrant powers were not sitting still in the face of the threat from The Dominion. The Obsidian Order, a covert Cardassian intelligence force led by Enabran Tain, allied themselves with the Tal Shiar, the Romulan equivalent of the Order. Together, they secretly built a modest fleet of 20 starships in the Orrias sector of Cardassian space, and launched a preemptive strike to destroy the Founders' homeworld, hoping that the Dominion would collapse with the loss of the Founders.

However, the Founders, using their shapeshifting abilities, had infiltrated both groups and actually encouraged the strike, the better to launch a surprise attack and in one stroke, wipe out both the Order and the Tal Shiar. The Romulan/Cardassian fleet managed to obliterate 30 percent of the planet's crust before realizing the planet was deserted, at which point a fleet of 150 Jem'Hadar fighters emerged from the surrounding nebula. The Dominion stunned the galaxy with this attack (which was likened to the Federation's defeat at Wolf 359), leaving only the UFP and the Klingon Empire as the remaining powers strong enough to stand up to the Dominion. (Episode: "The Die is Cast")

Founder infiltration and conflict with the Klingons

Late in 2371, it was learned that the Founders had infiltrated nearly every major power in the Alpha Quadrant, and the ensuing paranoia about who might or might not be a shapeshifter led to the Klingon invasion of Cardassian territory in 2372. With the fall of the Obsidian Order, the Cardassian citizenry had legitimately overthrown the militaristic government, putting a civilian based government in place. However, the Klingons didn't accept the sudden change in government, and suspected Dominion involvement. Their refusal to break off their invasion, even after it had been proven that the Dominion was not involved, led newly-promoted Captain Sisko to a military confrontation with the Klingons, as the Klingons, under Chancellor Gowron and General Martok attempted to seize DS9. The attack was repulsed – barely – but caused the Klingons to sever all diplomatic relations with the Federation, and to withdraw from the Khitomer Accords, essentially ending decades of peace between the UFP and the Klingon Empire. This seemed to further the Founders goal of destabilization of the Alpha Quadrant as a prelude to their own invasion. (Episode: "The Way of the Warrior")

The paranoia over shapeshifters continued throughout 2372, and certain Starfleet officers responded by trying to implement a coup d'état of the Federation after it was learned that shapeshifters had infiltrated Earth. This led to armed conflict between Starfleet vessels for the first time – since Khan Noonien Singh hijacked the USS Reliant – when Defiant and the USS Lakota exchanged fire. In the nick of time, Sisko was able to force Admiral Leyton to abandon his efforts to impose martial law on the Federation by convincing him to step down and face criminal charges. (Episode: "Paradise Lost")

Tensions between the UFP and the Klingon Empire continued to rise, and war broke out between the two in late 2372 over the Federation's refusal to recognize the Klingon's claim to the Archanis sector. However, the Empire could not effectively fight a war on two fronts, as the Cardassians, in mid-2373 and under the leadership of Gul Dukat (the former prefect of Terok Nor), officially became a member state of the Dominion. This gave the Founders a solid foothold in the Alpha Quadrant, and the Cardassians, who were nearly wiped out by the Klingon invasion, were able to drive the Klingons out of Cardassian space, inflicting heavy losses upon Klingon forces in doing so. With The Dominion now firmly entrenched in the Alpha Quadrant, the Klingon Empire re-affirmed the Khitomer Accords, ending the brief war between the Empire and the UFP. (Episode: "By Inferno's Light")

At some point in 2372, Dr. Julian Bashir of Deep Space Nine had been kidnapped and held in a Dominion prison. When Worf and Garak went to free Enabrin Tain, they discovered that the real Bashir had been on the prison for several weeks. However, the replacement on the station was so convincing that no one suspected that the Bashir on the station was really a Changeling infiltrator. The replacement sabotaged the efforts to close the wormhole, and was preparing to destroy the Bajoran sun to wipe out most of the military resistance to the Dominion. Eventually, a number of the prisoners staged a breakout. Bashir was able to get a message to Deep Space Nine, and the Defiant stopped the Changeling from carrying out his mission to destroy the Bajoran star system.

The Dominion now began sending massive fleets of ships through the wormhole to bolster their presence in the Alpha Quadrant, and to reinforce Cardassian positions. The Federation and Klingon Empire decided that this was an untenable situation, and built a field of space mines at the mouth of the wormhole on the Alpha Quadrant side that were self-replicating and fitted with Klingon cloaking devices. This effectively cut off the Dominion's supply lines to the Alpha Quadrant. However, Gul Dukat and his Dominion advisor, the Vorta Weyoun, considered this an act of war, and launched an attack on Deep Space Nine itself. This battle is generally accepted as the true beginning of the Dominion War. (Episode: "Call to Arms")

Full-Scale War

Dominion occupation of Deep Space Nine

Cardassian and Dominion forces launched their attack on Deep Space Nine to wrest control of the station from the Federation. As UFP and Klingon forces were at the time launching their own raids on several key Dominion shipyards, this attack was successful, and the UFP was forced to abandon the station. However, under advice from Captain Sisko, the Bajoran government had signed a treaty of non-aggression with the Dominion, and this allowed Bajoran forces to remain on the station. (episode: "Call to Arms") In 2374, while Dukat and Weyoun were trying to figure out a way to safely dismantle the minefield, Major Kira Nerys began her own resistance movement on the station, sowing discord between the Cardassians and Jem'Hadar on the station, particularly between Dukat's second-in-command Damar and Dominion forces. (episode: "Behind the Lines")

Battle of Bajor
Battle of Bajor

In the late spring of 2374, Sisko was able to convince the top brass in Starfleet that the key strategic point of the conflict would not be any one planet, but rather Deep Space Nine itself, so a fleet of about 601 starships, including the USS Defiant and Tewksbury, was assembled to re-take the station. However, Dominion forces outnumbered the Federation fleet by nearly 2-to-1, and Dukat was very close to dismantling the minefield. (Episode: "Favor the Bold") With nothing left to lose, the Federation launched its assault (known as the Battle of Bajor ), and with timely intervention by the Klingons, the Defiant was able to break through Dominion lines and make it to the wormhole just as the minefield was taken down. In a desperate attempt to delay the thousands of ships ready to pour through the wormhole, Sisko asked the Prophets to intervene. They did so by delaying the dominion spaceships in time while traversing the wormhole, effectively causing the Dominion reinforcements to simply disappear (it is yet unknown when these ships will exit the wormhole). With Cardassian morale broken, they abandoned the station, and the UFP once again took control. The Federation victory by deus ex machina cost Dukat his sanity, and Damar was put in his place as the Cardassian head of state, though he was much more a Dominion puppet than Dukat. (Episode: "Sacrifice of Angels")

After the recapture of DS9

Even with the Dominion wary of sending any more ships through the wormhole, the combined forces of the Klingon Empire and the UFP barely held their own. The Romulans had publicly declared their neutrality in the conflict and let Dominion ships fly through their territory to make attacks upon the other two major Alpha Quadrant powers. After Dominion forces invaded and captured Betazed, Sisko was convinced that the Klingon/UFP alliance would lose the Dominion War. Desperate, he connived with the assistance of Garak, the only Cardassian with permanent residence on DS9 (and former master spy for the Obsidian Order), to plant false evidence of a Dominion plot to assassinate the Romulan proconsul. The Romulan senator Vreenak was shown the "evidence" and he discovered it was false. Furious, Vreenak planned to return to Romulus to reveal the plot to the entire Alpha Quadrant, an act which would have destroyed any chance of an alliance with the Romulans. However, the Senator's shuttle exploded during its return trip and the blame was pointed at the Dominion. Sisko confronted Garak, who revealed that he had placed a bomb on board. Sisko decided he could live with that after the Romulans allied themselves with the Federation and Klingons because of the shuttle explosion. This alliance improved the prospects of victory immensely. (Episode: "In the Pale Moonlight")

Around the same time of the alliance with the Romulans, DS9's chief medical officer Julian Bashir was made aware of the existence of Section 31, a covert intelligence agency similar to the Obisidian Order, within the Federation. Section 31 seemed intensely interested in manipulating the war behind the scenes and tried to recruit Bashir into their ranks. Bashir refused, informed Sisko of Section 31's existence, and adopted a "wait and see" attitude. (episode: "Inquisition")

Battle of Chin'Toka
Battle of Chin'Toka

With the Romulans' assistance, the Alpha Quadrant Alliance took the strategic Chin'toka system from the Dominion in early 2375. DS9 science officer Jadzia Dax, however, was murdered by Gul Dukat during the battle. (episode: "Tears of the Prophets") The Dax symbiont however survived despite the death of its host body, and was joined with a new host to become Ezri Dax. Ezri was posted to DS9 as the station's counselor. (episode: "Afterimage")

Section 31 had also been busy; they infected Odo with a virus that he unknowingly communicated to the rest of the Founders by merging his form with that of the female shapeshifter's. The disease began to take its toll on the Founders in mid-2375, seriously damaging their ability to lead the war effort. (Episode: "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River") Gul Damar, too, grew increasingly frustrated with the seemingly stalemated war and his own position as a Dominion puppet. As Cardassian military losses mounted, he began to drink heavily and often criticized the Dominion's ability to prosecute the war successfully.

The Dominion's position became increasingly precarious, causing the female shapeshifter to form an alliance with the Breen, a relatively unknown space-faring species in the Alpha Quadrant. Their entry into the struggle temporarily turned the tide of the war back to the Dominion's favor. (Episode: "'Til Death Do Us Part") Breen vessels were equipped with a power draining weapon that rendered both UFP and Romulan vessels completely inert. Klingon vessels were largely unaffected; however, with nearly two-thirds of the Alliance's fleet unable to fight against the Breen, the Dominion stabilized its front lines and retook the Chin'toka system in a battle that destroyed the Defiant. Breen and Jem'Hadar forces also staged a blitzkrieg on Earth itself, destroying many Starfleet facilities as well as heavily damaging the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Episode: "The Changing Face of Evil")

The Klingons, now alone at the front, were instructed by Alliance commanders to hold their position while Alliance scientists tried to figure how to counter the Breen's energy-draining weapon. General Martok complied with these orders, but Klingon Chancellor Gowron began to fear that Martok's military prowess would eclipse his own. He stripped command of the war from Martok and assumed leadership himself while placing Martok in no-win battles. This threw the Alliance's lines into chaos. The situation reached a head when DS9's strategic operations officer, Worf, challenged Gowron's leadership in open council. Per Klingon tradition, this meant a duel to the death between the two. Worf killed Gowron in this fight, and the remaining council leaders crowned Worf the new Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. Worf, however, refused this honor, giving it instead to Martok. With the Klingon political landscape somewhat stabilized after decades of chaos, the war returned to near-stalemated conditions. (episodes: "When it Rains..." and "Tacking Into the Wind")

Final Assault and Fall of Cardassia

With the Dominion now giving more and more important military decisions, and even a few Cardassian colonies, to the Breen, Gul Damar, with the assistance of newly-promoted Colonel Kira Nerys and Garak, began his own underground resistance movement in an attempt to drive the Dominion out of Cardassian space. Damar was branded a rebel by the Dominion and went into hiding.

Around this time, Alliance scientists were finally able to find a way to defeat the Breen's special weapon, and it was decided that the Alliance was now in a position to take Cardassia itself, given that the Dominion was distracted by Damar's rebellion. The USS São Paulo was re-christened to become the second starship Defiant, with Sisko in command. A three-pronged strike led by Sisko, Chancellor Martok, and Admiral William Ross invaded Cardassian space in an all-or-nothing offensive. (Episode: "Dogs of War")

Damar's attempts at fomenting a popular uprising against the Dominion was wildly successful, finally causing the Dominion to destroy an entire Cardassian metropolis, killing about two million Cardassians. This atrocity caused most Cardassian fleet captains to switch sides, aiding the Alliance's invasion of Cardassian space.

The Founders, facing extinction themselves, abandoned all pretense of being anything but polymorphic supremacists bent on imposing their version of order on the entire galaxy. Thus, they swore they would not surrender, promising a scorched earth war wherein any territory the Alliance managed to take would be so badly damaged, and so many people killed that Alliance victory would hardly be worth the effort. When the female shapeshifter discovered the treachery of the Cardassian fleet, she ordered the Jem'Hadar to exterminate the entire Cardassian race. Thus while Alliance—and Cardassian—starships fought for control of Cardassia Prime from space, the planet itself was being devastated by Jem'Hadar shock troops on the ground. A Pyrrhic victory seemed inevitable for the Alliance, as nearly a billion Cardassian civilians were already dead. (Episode: "What You Leave Behind, Part I")

However, Julian Bashir and DS9's chief engineer Miles O'Brien had managed to take the cure for the Section 31 created Founder's disease from the mind of one of its operatives. (episode: "Extreme Measures") The cure was given to Odo, who then rushed to Cardassia Prime. In exchange for the Dominion's peaceful surrender, and the arrest of its Founder, Breen, and Vorta leaders for war crimes, the Alpha Quadrant Alliance allowed Odo to cure the Founders of their disease. A formal declaration of the cessation of hostilities was proclaimed in a ceremony aboard DS9, thus ending a conflict that had consumed nearly three-quarters of the galaxy for nearly seven years. (episode: "What You Leave Behind, Part II")

The Aftermath

The fallout from that war remains mostly undocumented. The political ramifications are immense, as nearly every major Alpha Quadrant power, from the Federation to the Ferengi, underwent a dramatic shift in power. While the actual death toll is not known, it is estimated that billions of people gave their lives in the struggle. In the end, only another visit to the time period will provide canonical answers to the many unresolved questions.

Jem'Hadar soldiers laid waste to Cardassia Prime, killing over 800 million Cardassians. That was in addition to the over seven million Cardassians who died fighting in the war. The damage to the planet was far worse than what the Cardassians did to Bajor. The long term implications to the Cardassians or their homeworld have not been revealed.

Odo returned to the Founders' homeworld. He did this to cure the other Founders of the Section 31 virus, and to teach them about the other races in the galaxy in an attempt to reform Founder society.

The ultimate fate of the Female Founder who had remained in the Alpha Quadrant to direct the war effort and then agreed to face trial is unknown. The penalties for war crimes have not been discussed in detail. One thing that is known for certain is that the Federation does not ordinarily practice capital punishment (excepting General Order VII, which prohibits entry to the Talos system).

The effect of the war on the Romulan Empire is still largely unknown. Factions of the military clearly did not like the alliance that the war brought between the Romulans, the Klingons, and the Federation. This may have been one of the reasons the Romulan military supported the assassination of the Romulan Senate by Shinzon. However, Romulan-Federation relations seem to be at a high point after the Reman crisis.

In the DS9 episode Inter Arma Enim Silent Lege, Section 31 agent Sloan predicted that of the four major powers of the Alpha Quadrant, the only two major powers strong enough to affect Quadrant-wide politics will be the Federation and the Romulans, the Cardassians having been crushed, and the Klingons having taken heavy battle damage and lacking the resources for a quick rebound. Positing a decade-long recovery for the Klingons, Sloan was meddling in Romulan internal affairs with the intent of making their post-war government more friendly to the Federation.

It is possible that the events of the Dominion War set the stage for the eventual entry of the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, and even the Dominion, into the Federation. The Enterprise episode Azati Prime suggested that Klingons had joined the Federation by the 26th century, while the Next Generation Episode Unification suggested the prospects of reconcilliation between Vulcans and Romulans.

Although not directly connected to the series, the Star Trek computer game Star Trek: Bridge Commander takes place shortly after the Dominion War and shows some of the would-be political implications of the war.

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Last updated: 08-29-2005 12:34:36
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46