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Headscratchers / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Vorta and Jem'Hadar

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     Jem'Hadar Tactics 
  • Why do the Jem'Hadar decloak before attacking instead of staying invisible? Even if they can't fire or attack for some reason whilst invisible they could all take positions so everyone ready to fire before decloaking all at once and firing. Rocks and Shoals suggest cloaks works even at extreme close range and some ambushes in that episode suggest that Jem'Hadar they can move whilst cloaked. This could be pretty cool if done, new ways of writing do not necessarily have to be developed as tropes already exist for fighting an invisible opponent (think predator). Imagine an episode with Sisko fighting a Jem'Hadar not through a Napoleonic charge but by setting traps (such as log falls, pit falls, landmines or even a jury rigged bear trap type device) in a forest or in a building and trying to outwit it by using tricks we've seen in movies such as puddles of water to reveal footprints and fire extinguishers to reveal their outline or even listening for footsteps and filling a key corridor with weapons fire. This can work with groups of Jem'Hadar too, the Predator reboot had a group of humans vs many Predators. How badass would the Jem'Hadar seem then and how badass would Sisko be fighting them?
    • I wonder what the Federation's position is on exploding a Jem'Hadar's head with a bear trap? :\, on the other hand this is Sisko we're talking about.
    • Maybe they don't find it honorable to fight without giving their enemies a semblance of a chance to fight back.
      • The Jem'Hadar are not Klingons or Hirogen. They do not fight with honor or to some sort of code. And no, the odd nice one we see here and there are not the majority.
      • Jem'Hadar who reach age twenty are called "honored elders", so the concept of honor is at least known to them. The final Jem'Hadar Worf fought in the prison camp recognized Worf's honor in refusing to give up the fight and therefore told his master that he lost. Other Jem'Hadar have killed the Vorta or refused their commands if the Vorta were being dishonorable or not following the "way of things". They are not mindless robots and they do have at least some small amount of personal honor.
    • It's once mentioned that the Jem'Hadar can loose their ability to cloak (they use the word 'shroud') when they're suffering form Ketracel-white withdraw. This seems to imply their ability to shroud themselves is a biological function, rather than a technological one. Maybe their bodies can't handle the strain of cloaking and combat at the same time. You'd think that if this were the case, though, Jem'Hadar military doctrine would heavily emphasize tactics that minimize close-in combat.
      • Such tactics are for armies that care about the survival of their troops, which the Dominion and especially the Founders do not. The Jem'Hadar are a weapon of terror, not one of skill or tactics,they an brute force their way through any situation with the implied message that there's always more where they came from.
    • There's always the assumption that firing a weapon disrupts their shroud enough that it becomes useless to try.

     Me Vorta, me no like art! 
A lot is made of the fact that the Vorta species were uplifted by the Founders and genetically sculpted to be their ambassadors and administrators. Some of this makes sense, like their substandard eyesight but excellent hearing. But how exactly do you genetically engineer a species with no sense of aesthetics? Since when is the ability to appreciate art a genetic trait?
  • Since when is it not? How many other species on Earth besides humans do you know who can? Besides, considering that in Real Life we are nowhere near knowing how to genetically engineer any of these traits, why would we question that if the Founders can do one, they could do the others as well?
    • Neanderthals invented art before humans, and there are indications that other animals can understand and appreciate art in different forms including pigeons.
  • One wonders if the Changelings merely told the Vorta they had no capacity for aesthetics, and that was enough.
    • I love the idea that this is just one more example of the Founders' casual cruelty. Weyoun clearly wants to be able to appreciate art; he's studying that painting so intently that it's hard not to see longing. In designing the Vorta, they've given them no ability to enjoy beauty, but allowed them the ability to understand what they're missing.
  • If you can implant genetic memory (like a baby Jem'Hadar knowing how to speak and instinctively worshiping Changelings), you can implant a personality into your clones. That's why all the Weyouns are the same. It's a personality trait they've bred into the Vorta somehow.
    • Except that kind of "genetic memory" has the exact same problem. It's nothing but pseudoscience.
      • You mean like faster-than-light travel that doesn't suffer extreme relativistic effects, or aliens from across the galaxy being able to reproduce with one another, or transporters and replicators that don't require prohibitively large amounts of energy to work, or transporter accidents that combine two different species into one healthy individual, or Changelings that can turn into fire and seemingly change mass? It's science fiction, you just have to accept some implausibility for the sake of the storyline.
    • We might be over thinking it a little bit. Brains are complex and most everything we do is accompanied by a host of complex chemical reactions. For the Vorta, certain visual stimuli may simply not trigger the same processes in their brains that they would in a human brain. The Vorta lack of any sense of ascetics may not be a case of designing 'genetic memory,' but simply a hormone imbalance (from our perspective).
  • The Vorta built-in indifference to art and to food flavors (therefore, probably to scent as well) makes sense in terms of their roles as ambassadors: to them, all appearances are equally beautiful/ugly with the exception of the Founders, who will always surpass all others in the Vorta's eyes. With no aesthetic sense, no Vorta will ever mess up a crucial meeting by letting slip a distaste for an ally's clothes fashion or high art, no Vorta will ever offend another creature by wrinkling his nose at any body stench, no Vorta will ever insult a host by disliking whatever national dish has been served to him. Similarly, with no aesthetic sense, no Vorta will ever be swayed in the least by someone's beauty, by the eloquence in presentation that accompanies many arguments, or by the propaganda force in a piece of art or music that would stir the hearts of most other beings — for them, there is no other beauty in the universe except the Founders. Imagine an ambassador who will never judge anyone by the aesthetics of how they look, sound, smell, feel or by what they consider beautiful or tasty or pleasing to the ear, and you have a Vorta.
    • But they'll also be unable to create social connections with their allies either. They won't feel distaste for bad art, but they won't be able to appreciate good art either, which may be taken as an even bigger insult. They won't swoon at the sight of a beautiful female, but again, apparent indifference can be just as insulting as obvious disgust. Even if the Vorta's indifference to all forms of beauty doesn't cause offense, the purpose of an ambassador is to charm the members of a host government. Having no sense of aesthetics whatsoever would be a huge disadvantage in that regard. A Vorta ambassador would be incapable of flattering their hosts by complimenting their culture and/or drawing parallels between their culture and that of the Dominion. In fact they would be fundamentally incapable of even understanding other cultures. I'm not saying a slave race that sees no beauty in the universe, save for their Creators, wouldn't be useful. They would make ideal laborers or bureaucrats (and admittedly the Vorta seem to be those as well). But they would make poor ambassadors.
      • Possible Fridge Brilliance when you consider who created the Vorta: the Changelings. The same Changelings who consider all solid lifeforms as either inferior and needing to be conquered or inferior and needing to be exterminated. The Vorta are diplomats designed by a race who doesn't really "get" diplomacy.
      • Especially considering that the Vorta don't actually seem to be that good at diplomacy; they're not exactly master negotiators, most of their efforts involve simply representing the Dominion or trying to brute-force a solution. We've never seen the Vorta display a lot of subtlety.
      • Part of their job is to convince the counter-party of something. Sisko's personality is on file for the Vorta to study. They clearly want to learn what makes the other side tick, and the Vorta we've encountered have shown a propensity to be silver-tongued liars so there's some nuance to their ability to relate to others. They may not be able to genuinely appreciate a painting, but if they do their homework they might be able to fake it.
    • No, 'cause the Vorta can read social cues to see that x painting is clearly valued and lauded by the culture, steer the conversation onto what makes the art so wonderful (technique, history, etc), and then lie about finding it impressive because the Vorta are good at that. Weyoun just confesses his desire to genuinely appreciate them in a private moment.
    • Even if the Vorta have no physical biases towards the species they interact, they still have an obvious disdain towards anyone that doesn't automatically bow down to the Founder's will. And if they meet enough resistance from one particular species (like the Cardassians or the humans), what is to prevent them from developing harmful attitudes towards that species' art and culture?
  • This troper always believed that the Changelings purposely engineered a lack of art appreciation into the Vorta as a way of preventing their minds from wandering off towards anything that doesn't involve absolute loyalty to the Founders. Kind of like how a religious covenant may try to prevent any sexual relations so their followers maintain their closeness to god, except in the case of the Founders what they did was far more invasive.
  • Amusia (tone-deafness) can be genetic in humans. The Founders simply engineered the Vorta to be tone-deaf, style-blind, and taste-/scent-insensitive.
  • Art is just an elaborate form of pattern recognition, which is genetically ingrained in the human brain as is needed for survival (things like recognize a poisonous leave over a edible one). Technically you can take away that on a brain genetically although is probably a bad idea as pattern recognition is very much important for survival (though in such controlled environments that Vorta live may not be that important). Also several neurotransmitters are produced when enjoying art (for the same reason, these original neurotransmitters were intended to reward humans when they recognized patterns) like dopamine. You can take away the production of dopamine and other neurotransmitters when doing/enjoyng art. The subject may perceive it but would not enjoy it, it will be completely neutral towards it.

     Genetic Loyalty 
  • Doesn't anyone find the idea of the Vorta and Jem'hadar being genetically engineered to revere the Founders as gods kind of out there? While it's been partially proven that there are a set of genes known as VMAT2 (also known as the "God Gene") that allow for a high degree of spirituality to be passed on, being able to biologically control how that spirituality is expressed towards certain groups just doesn't seem possible. A person can be born with a high level of VMAT2 but not automatically become a Christian (though he may be more predisposed towards becoming one than a person with a lower level of spirituality). The same can be said about man's best friend as well. We've bred dogs for thousands of years to regard humans as undisputed pack leaders, but just because a dog is loyal to one human doesn't mean it's loyal to every other human (unless it was exceptionally friendly). And even a dog's loyalty can run short if it's master is being particularly abusive. Weyoun was acting pretty scared when the Female Changeling angrily suggested killing and replacing him with another clone if the cloning tanks ever got working again. There were plenty of hints that he was trying to prolong his own survival by lying that the amount of time it would take to fix them would last days, if not weeks.
    • Most of the Jem'hadar have never actually seen a founder, yet continue their duties anyway out of spiritual obligation, kind of similar to a bunch of militant Puritans. While the Vorta have more direct communication with the Founders, they still remain staunchly loyal to their masters because so far their masters have never done anything that they consider particularly abusive. While it is true they were engineered with no taste in art and lack a few human senses, if their story about them being ape-like forest dwellers that were uplifted by a grateful changeling is true then what reason do they have to complain about their servitude? And besides, what the Vorta get in exchange for that servitude isn't half bad - they're functionally immortal, can get nifty telekinetic powers, and are responsible for heading most aspects of a powerful interstellar empire while their masters lounge around and be peaceful on their home planet. That sounds like a pretty good deal.
    • But the Vorta and Jem'hadar are not bred like dogs. They are genetically engineered from the ground up — the Jem'hadar may not have had any existence before the Founders, and we only have Weyoun's word that the Vorta did. The fact that we don't have a gene that would make us fanatically loyal to a group of strangers from birth does necessarily not entirely mean such a gene could never exist in any creature, does it? After all, they've had literally millennia to get it right.
      • And if it's true that the Vorta were just timid (and possibly non-sentient) ape-like creatures beforehand, then it's probable that little of their former dispositions remain after the Founders' influence, taste for nuts and berries notwithstanding.
    • Even if that is true, how would both races be able to maintain their loyalty to their masters if some members of the Dominion decided to go renegade? The Dominion may be linked but as Odo has shown it's not foolproof. For example, If the Vorta and Jem'hadar were to receive two contradictory orders from two conflicting "gods", which one are they going to follow? Heck, how are they able to tell who and who is not a changeling? Like the Rubber-Forehead Aliens, there's a decent chance there could be an alien species out in space that may have forms and abilities similar to the Changelings. If the Jem'hadar and Vorta encountered them, would they treat them with the same reverence?
      • We have seen Jem'hadar go rogue ("To the Death," and sort of in "Hippocratic Oath"), and we have also seen Vorta opt for self-preservation over their orders (Keevan), so it obviously is possible for them to disobey the Founder under some circumstances. They're clearly not genetically incapable of doing so (again: if that were the case, White wouldn't be necessary), just that they're powerfully predisposed to follow the Founders' will
      • Also this happens in real life. People of the same religion may have wildly different interpretations of what they gods wanted. In polytheistic societies if common from sects to focus more in contradictory aspects of one god (for example in Greece followers of Ares have warrior cults whilst followers of Demeter were nature-oriented and in India you have from extrem pacifist to the violent Kali-worshipers Thugs). Even in monotheistic societies what exactly does God wants is open to interpretation, you have anti-Zionist Israel hating Orthodox Jews like the Neturei Kart in the same religion than devoted extremist anti-Arab religious fundamentalists, in Christianity you have from pure pacifist Quakers to the Ku Klux Klan. If the Founders ever split into different factions and fight each other you just end up having different Jem Hadar "churches" following different "wills".
    • It's not necessarily all genetic. We know that Jem'hadar are grown in artificial wombs. Perhaps part of the pod's function is to condition their developing minds with certain beliefs and attitudes. Similarly, the Vorta don't necessarily have genetic memory. Maybe they get periodic brain scans. Then when one dies, the clone gets imprinted with the most recent "backup" of his predecessor. That would explain why the loss of the Alpha Quadrant cloning facility could mean no more Weyouns, if the memory files were stored there. They could always take DNA samples from Weyoun 8's corpse, but they wouldn't have his memories to put in the new clone.

     Jem'Hadar quarters 
  • A plot point in "Behind the Lines" is that a squad of Jem'Hadar find Damar's PADD outside of their quarters. Why would the Jem'Hadar use any quarters if they don't sleep?
    • With the Cardassians and Bajorans on the station maintaining a schedule of shifts, it could easily be that the Jem'Hadar have rotations as well, where they spend their "off hours" (accepting that a Jem'Hadar would probably never consider themselves as 'off duty') and utilize personal quarters as military barracks. Same general concept as crew quarters, enough that language streamlining would easily see them as the same.
    • Presumably they still need a place to attend to personal hygiene, to rest after intense physical exertion, and to store any equipment they've been issued individually, but don't need to carry with them 24-7 (e.g. breather masks for outdoor forays on planets with a semi-toxic atmosphere).
    • Remove the furniture and the spacious quarters on the station could be an office environment for a dozen people. I don't see the Jem'hadar doing a lot of paperwork, but equipment storage and maintenance, training or education for young Jem'Hadar, or just a place to sit and ponder the glory of the Founders when not on duty.

     Drug supply 
  • So how does the ketracel white work? Each is given a vial about the size of a small sample bottle of perfume and the rate it's shown going through the tube indicates it should be absorbed in a few minutes. However it's implied they are given supplies only sporadically. Are they only able to get by on small doses at a time? A constant feed would require numerous bottles a day at the rate it's seen being drawn through the tube.

     Vorta facilitators on Bajor 
  • In "Rocks and Shoals", we're told that 300 Vorta facilitators are going to come to Bajor to help with the infrastructure problems they're having now that they're cut off from all outside trade. What do you suppose happened to the Vorta when Starfleet retook Deep Space Nine?
    • They might have been recalled once the Bajoran Sector became the site of a shooting war. A related question: does the Bajoran-Dominion nonagression pact ever actually expire?