The Vorta were a humanoid species genetically engineered by the Founders of the Dominion to act as field commanders, administrators, scientists, and diplomats. The Vorta saw themselves as those who "served the Founders."
History and sociology
- Also see: Dominion history
The Vorta believed, perhaps apocryphally, that they previously existed as small, timid, ape-like forest dwellers living in hollowed-out trees to avoid predators, of which there were many, on their homeworld. Legend has it that one day, a family of Vorta hid a Changeling from an angry mob of "solids" that were pursuing it. In return, the Changeling promised that, one day, they would be transformed into powerful beings and placed at the head of a vast interstellar empire that would stretch across the galaxy. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Apparently in fulfillment of the Founders' earlier promise, the Vorta were genetically changed by them into humanoids and were employed at the highest level of the Dominion, as the Founders' tools of conquest. Perhaps the most important of the genetic alterations made to the Vorta was an intrinsic belief that the Founders were gods. This ensured the Vorta's absolute obedience to the Founders. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River") Weyoun, while speaking to a Founder would typically assume a submissive posture, holding his hands down by his sides with palms faced out and slightly bowing his head. (DS9: "Call to Arms", et al.)
Because of their high status within the Dominion, many species mistakenly assume that the Dominion is led by the Vorta, in reality, the Vorta merely act as its administrators, commanders, scientists, and diplomats, operating under the authority of the Changeling founders. Owing to their position in the Dominion hierarchy, the Vorta also serve as the commanders of the Jem'Hadar. A single Vorta commanded each Jem'Hadar ship and the Jem'Hadar First was directly responsible to that individual, though the other Jem'Hadar were instead responsible to the First. The Vorta were tasked with the distribution of ketracel-white, a drug that ensured the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar (although it had been indicated that this was not entirely necessary). (DS9: "To the Death")
Other Vorta were doctors. By 2375, Weyoun had a team of Vorta doctors working night and day attempting to find a vaccine for a morphogenic virus inflicting the Founders. At one point, the Female Changeling decreed that they were to document their research and should then be eliminated and replaced by their clones. She felt that perhaps a fresh perspective might speed matters along. (DS9: "Penumbra")
Vorta had pale skin, violet eyes, and elongated ears that were completely joined to the rest of the head. The Founders altered the Vorta genome to include a sense of hearing greater than that of most other humanoid races, but they had comparatively weak eyesight. Vorta were immune to most forms of poison; Weyoun once observed that this trait "came in handy as a diplomat." (DS9: "Favor the Bold", "Sacrifice of Angels", "Ties of Blood and Water")
At least one Vorta agent, Eris, was capable of generating powerful blasts of telekinesis, strong enough to knock an adult Human off his feet. However, this did not appear to be an attribute of most Vorta. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar")
Vorta only had a limited sense of taste and aesthetics. They enjoyed kava nuts and rippleberries, as they purportedly did before they were genetically engineered, but little else. Vorta generally had no appreciation for art. (DS9: "Favor the Bold", "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Unlike the Jem'Hadar, there were both male and female Vorta in service. If a Vorta was killed, they could be replaced with a clone, the clone retaining all the memories of their predecessor through an unspecified process. Vorta clones could occasionally become defective, taking on different personality traits than those of their predecessors (see Weyoun 6). (DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water", "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Vorta regarded their previous incarnations as distinct individuals from themselves, referring to previous clones by number or as "my predecessor". Even non-defective clones would exhibit slightly different personalities to other incarnations of the same Vorta. For instance, while Weyoun 4 found the ritual distribution of ketracel-white tedious, later Weyouns quietly reveled in the power it gave them; and Weyoun 5 was more introspective and philosophical than other Weyouns, openly musing on the will of the Founders and their choices in engineering the Vorta. (DS9: "To the Death", "A Time to Stand", "Favor the Bold")
In the event of capture, Vorta were expected to commit suicide via their termination implant. Vorta were told that this death was quick and painless, but this proved not to be the case. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
- List of unnamed Vorta
Food and beverages
- "The Jem'Hadar" (Season Two)
- "The Search, Part II" (Season Three)
- "To the Death" (Season Four)
- "The Ship" (Season Five)
- "In Purgatory's Shadow"
- "By Inferno's Light"
- "Ties of Blood and Water"
- "In the Cards"
- "Call to Arms"
- "A Time to Stand" (Season Six)
- "Rocks and Shoals"
- "Behind the Lines"
- "Favor the Bold"
- "Sacrifice of Angels"
- "Statistical Probabilities"
- "The Magnificent Ferengi"
- "Far Beyond the Stars"
- "One Little Ship"
- "Honor Among Thieves"
- "In the Pale Moonlight"
- "Tears of the Prophets"
- "Image in the Sand" (Season Seven)
- "Shadows and Symbols"
- "Treachery, Faith and the Great River"
- "'Til Death Do Us Part"
- "Strange Bedfellows"
- "The Changing Face of Evil"
- "Tacking Into the Wind"
- "The Dogs of War"
- "What You Leave Behind"
The Vorta were initially conceived as rugged space traders, what Ira Steven Behr has referred to as "Brian Dennehy-types." (The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond, DS9 Season 3 DVD special features) He elaborated, "At the beginning, we thought the Vorta were going to be big burly kinds of humanoids that looked like Brian Dennehy or Bob Hoskins. But it didn't work out like that." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 154))
Robert Hewitt Wolfe speculated that the Vorta supplied the Hunters with genetically engineered Tosks. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 154)) Wolfe also described the Vorta as "the nice guy [merchant]s who would have sold anti-gravity tanks and phaser rifles to the Mongols in the 1500s." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 113, p. 67) Additionally, he explained, "They were supposed to be kind of sexy, and ingratiating, and a little oily." Wolfe wrote about the Vorta in an early Dominion-defining memo, at which point he knew that the Vorta (and the Jem'Hadar) had been genetically engineered by the Founders. "I think, to a certain extent, the Vorta's ability to pull the wool over people's eyes is due to a bit of genetic engineering," Wolfe speculated. "On the other hand it's training, but I think if they do have any kind of psychic ability it's looking at someone and knowing what they want, and what their motivations are. They can then turn around and exploit those things." When he wrote the memo, Wolfe was entirely unsure what the Vorta were like before their DNA was altered by the Founders. "We didn't know what the Vorta started out as," he noted. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 13, p. 57)
The Vorta makeup took approximately two and a half hours to be applied. "And yet when you see the Vorta it doesn't really look all that complicated, but it is," remarked Weyoun actor Jeffrey Combs. He further explained that the look of the Vorta was a collaboration between the makeup and hair departments, and that traveling back-and-forth between the two was what made the process longer. Combs opined that the Vorta makeup was easier to wear than the Ferengi makeup. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 61) He also stated about the Vorta makeup, "[It] was quite comfortable. It was a longer makeup, because hair was involved." Unlike the Ferengi makeup, the Vorta equivalent allowed the wearer to hear quite well, as the Vorta "ears" actually were small holes. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 19)
Costume Designer Robert Blackman dressed the Vorta in sophisticated costumes which had details that were very alike. A typical Vorta suit included an asymmetrical tunic with unusual fabrics, and a wide, shawl-like collar. (Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, p. 202)
Following "The Search, Part II", the Vorta seemed to disappear for a while. This was because the DS9 writing staff was extremely busy with other things. Since the Vorta were considered vital to future stories, though, they were eventually brought back late in DS9 Season 4, as a way of keeping the Founders mysterious and withdrawn. "It was necessary to see the Vorta again, as the conduit between them and the Jem'Hadar," explained Ira Behr. That idea led to the possibility of the Vorta having enmity with the Jem'Hadar, and vice versa, which inspired the return of the Vorta in "To the Death". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 168))
Before portraying Weyoun in "To the Death", Jeffrey Combs had never seen a Vorta. "I had no idea what a Vorta looked like until the makeup was done at 6:30 in the morning, when I looked in the mirror," he recalled. 
Jeffrey Combs was, however, instrumental in developing the Vorta. "I kind of had a lot [...] [of] input into kind of discovering and fleshing out who this species were," he remembered, "and how they carried themselves, and how they operated and deceived and reassured you and had you... killed."  Combs enjoyed influencing "what this whole race of people is, what the Vorta's values are and what makes them tick." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 48) Writer Terry J. Erdmann noted about Combs, "He's one of the reasons the Vorta became so important." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 92) A specific example of how Combs influenced the Vorta was by deciding that, via their body language, they "put people at ease." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 83)
While working on "To the Death", DS9's in-house writers formed the opinion that the Vorta were a significantly more fascinating species to explore than the Jem'Hadar, as Jeffrey Combs later explained; "That's when they realized that, with Weyoun, it was much more interesting to examine the keepers than it was the Jem'Hadar themselves." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 123, p. 65) In fact, once "To the Death" introduced the character of Weyoun as played by Combs, the DS9 producers found difficulty with thinking of the Vorta in any other way. This impacted the species when it came time to cast other Vorta roles. "It's really tough to find actors who can play the many colors that he [Combs] gives it," Ira Behr lamented. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 372))
Although Weyoun dies in "To the Death", establishing that the Vorta were genetically engineered, in DS9 Season 5 installment "Ties of Blood and Water", allowed the writing staff to bring the character back as a clone. "As the writers would have it, they merely decided that the Vorta are aliens very adept at cloning," noted Jeffrey Combs. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 60) Concerning how the advent of Vorta cloning techniques facilitated the return of Weyoun, Ira Behr commented, "It seemed like a viable way of doing it." The idea of introducing cloning into Vorta society also fit well with the Founders having been established as skilled at genetic engineering. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 442)) Yet another reason why the Vorta cloning idea was conceived was that the writing team felt it was a way they could distinguish the Vorta from other Star Trek species. The change was therefore one of multiple ways that the writers tried to distinguish the species of the Dominion as being unique. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 113, p. 67)
Although the fact that a Vorta clone retained the memories of their predecessor wasn't initially established, Jeffrey Combs suspected at the end of the fifth season that this was the case. "The Vorta have probably succeeded in being able to clone with everything intact, including memory," he reckoned. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 60) Bradley Thompson later hypothesized, "We assume [...] they download their memories every so often into some kind of 'brain jar.' It's just like backing up a computer program. You still have what you had the previous time you backed it up. But if you had a bad disk or something like that, it's going to be a corrupted copy." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 618))
In an ultimately unused line of dialogue from the first draft script of "Ties of Blood and Water", Weyoun commented, "The Vorta will soon be a common sight in the Alpha Quadrant."
Jeffrey Combs was of the opinion that a less serious aspect of the Vorta was introduced in "Ties of Blood and Water". "[We learned] that the Vorta [...] have a sense of fun. They do love games," Combs observed. "That's the one thing that I'm exploring – their genuine joy and a childish enthusiasm for everything. So at least we got that conveyed in that episode." Similarly, Combs thought the absolutism of the Vorta mindset was explored in subsequent season five episode "In the Cards". "I think that you see the lethal side of these [Vorta]," he said. "They'll hold no quarter. They won't take any nonsense." Suspecting that the Vorta and the rest of the Dominion were manipulating Dukat when they form an alliance in the fifth season, Combs stated, "I don't think the Vorta trust anybody [....] The Vortas [sic] are very gentle and pleasant cobras." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 60)
Just before DS9 Season 6 began airing, Ira Behr declared that the Vorta would be significantly more fleshed out during the course of the season. "This season we're going to be working on the Vorta," he predicted. "We haven't even touched on the Vorta all that much." By this time, Behr also felt that all the other Vorta were far less satisfying characters than Weyoun. (Star Trek Monthly issue 30, p. 11) On the other hand, fellow writing staffer Ronald D. Moore commentated, "I think we have started to realize that the Vorta are more fun to play with because the guy holding the leash on the dogs at his command is very interesting." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 113, p. 67)
Some new details regarding the Vorta were added, through the characterization of Weyoun, in a six-part Dominion War arc at the start of the sixth season. These facets of the species were introduced by the show's writing staff and Jeffrey Combs. "They explored the Vorta a little bit more," said Combs, "and through me, let some of their weaknesses be known." Speaking from the perspective of the Vorta, Combs referred to these vulnerabilities as "chinks in our armor." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 68) The inadequacies specifically included "poor eyesight and no sense of aesthetics," stated Combs, who went on to comment, "I thought that was just great." (Star Trek Monthly issue 43, p. 22)
At the end of the sixth season, Jeffrey Combs was extremely pleased with how the DS9 writers were continuing to develop the Vorta. "Through their writing they are really exploring who these guys are. That's great," he commented. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 68)
Much of the workload which Makeup Supervisor Michael Westmore had to contend with during the seventh and final season of DS9 consisted of manufacturing Vorta ears for the character of Weyoun (along with Klingon foreheads for Worf). (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 594))
In an initial form of the story for DS9 Season 7 entry "Treachery, Faith and the Great River", it was eventually revealed that the Vorta were intended to be replaced by a new Dominion race of warriors named the Modain, resulting in "the phasing-out" of all the Vorta. As the story evolved, the concept of a Modain hatchery developed into some references to the Vorta cloning process, although the idea of the Vorta being replaced by the Modain was essentially discarded, instead changed into the replacement of Weyoun 6 by Weyoun 7. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 617))
The notion of revealing some backstory about the Vorta, in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" (in whose title the word "faith" was intended to refer to the Vorta religion), was thought up by Ira Behr, as a way to deepen Weyoun 6's backstory. "Ira finally hit upon the idea of telling the story behind how the Vorta formed their alliance with the Founders," David Weddle recollected. With a shrug, Behr himself explained, "The episode called for it. I like to get the audience thinking one way about a character or a race, making them think that these are definitely the bad guys. Then you slip something like this in so they have to reevaluate the opinion you've already given them." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 618-619))
Jeffrey Combs was appreciative of how much insight into the Vorta was provided for viewers in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River".  He elaborated by saying that one thing he highly valued about how the species was developed in that episode was how he was "able to bring to life all that backstory, of where the Vorta came from, and why they are so beholden to the Founders, and why they are so ingrained in their loyalty to them." Combs added, "I was learning all along with everybody else." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 83)
The Vorta backstory in "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" was also popular with several of the DS9 writers. David Weddle reminisced, "It was brilliant. It was the one thing that we needed." Ira Behr commented about the Vorta, "These are still the bad guys, but now, at least, you understand something about why. So I just loved that the Vorta, this calculating, Machiavellian race, started out as Hobbit-like cute little creatures who were genetically altered and directed to do these horrible things." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 618 & 619)) However, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who had left the series by the time "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" was in development, got the mistaken impression that, prior to their contact with the Founders, the Vorta were non-sentient "squirrels!" He remarked, "I thought [that] was pretty funny." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 13, p. 57)
Jeffrey Combs suspected the Vorta were too clever to be affected by the destruction of their cloning facilities. "If you don't think that the Vorta are clever enough to not put all their cloning eggs in one basket, you're sadly mistaken. They're out there somewhere!" he exclaimed. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 18) Combs made much the same statement to Ira Behr, later recalling, "I said to Ira, 'If you think that the Vorta have all their clones in one basket, you've got another think coming.'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 708))
At one stage, Jeffrey Combs pointed out that the Vorta were generally extremely graceful, contemplating, "Grace is very important to the Vorta." (Star Trek Monthly issue 35, p. 35) On another occasion, Combs drew a parallel between the Vorta and "corporate middle men." Concerning how the Vorta were able to charm people into forgetting their own aims, Combs mused that the Vorta were akin to "the guy from the corporate office who comes into the branch, and looks over the books, and reassures everybody that there is no problem, and leaves. Then the edicts come down, and the hammer falls, and they don't understand what could have happened because everything went so well with the audit." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 68) Combs believed that the Vorta being "very comfortable in a system of hierarchy" was significant to "the very essence of the Vorta" and went on to remark, "That's why they are where they are, and that's why the Founders put the Vorta in the position that they are in, because of that strange ability." (Star Trek Monthly issue 43, pp. 22–24)
Molly Hagan was pleased that she was the first Vorta: "I immediately began working on a physical gesture that would indicate when I was using my telekinesis. I thought it could become the defining gesture of my people, like the Vulcan 'Live Long and proper' hand gesture. So, I came up with a motion where both my hands looked like they were taking energy in from my body before I pulsed it back out through my hands. It reminded me of something I saw Bruce Lee do. It never got used because a) they had great special effects and didn’t need me to do any gestures to sell 'my powers' and b) they were concerned that any future Vorta may not be able to replicate it. I was beyond disappointed. It was a thrill to get to meet Mike Westmore, let alone have something designed by him on my face. I was so excited to have my face cast done in the workshop where they imagined and created all the appliances. I loved my wig, loved the prosthetics and loved the beauty makeup they put on over it all. I thought I was so pretty. And the contacts! I loved the contacts. It made me instantly feel 'other.' That is the beauty behind getting an opportunity to wear a Mike Westmore design. The outside helps the actor create an internal experience that they would not otherwise have. It makes the acting better." 
Ira Behr characterized the Vorta as "the most untrustworthy guys" in the galaxy. Behr also described the Vorta as "one of the most immobile of characters" but having a "demented quality." Behr referred to Weyoun and Yelgrun as possessing the latter characteristic and, when interviewed, he suggested, "Think Caligula!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 703 & 517))
In an interview StarTrek.com apparently conducted with the adult Horta from TOS: "The Devil in the Dark", the Horta claimed it was occasionally mistaken as a Vorta, though they look nothing alike. 
Jeffrey Combs and Christopher Shea played Vorta and subsequently portrayed Andorians. Both actors also had multiple roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 55, p. 18) Likewise, Vorta-playing actors Dennis Christopher and Christopher Shea additionally portrayed Suliban in ENT: "Detained".