10 Greatest Redemption Stories In Star Trek

Life's a journey, a Star Trek, and a destination.

sito jaxa zero Star Trek TNG Lower Decks Next Generation
CBS Media Ventures

Within its utopian vision of the future, Star Trek has had a history of making its central characters, the Starfleet and Federation ones at least, arguably far too perfect to require redemption, save from the most minuscule of vices. The 'Mary Sue' doesn't suffer from temptation after all! Whilst Kirk and crew were mostly the (brazen) heroic type, an all-round squeaky-cleanness seemed to be particularly common by the time we got our first glimpses at the 24th century.

Gene Roddenberry's original 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch clearly stated that the "characters [should be] fully identifiable as people like us." Later, the 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation Writer's/Director's Guide went on to point out that those on the Enterprise-D "have human faults and weaknesses too […] [but that] they have been selected for this mission because of their ability to transcend their human failings." No one was ever meant to be flawless – merely, aspirational.

Things have also changed over the years, and we've now had a fair few questionables who've made good through their service in Starfleet. It is true that the majority of seriously irredeemable baddies have tended to come from the outside in, but plenty of non-Starfleet, non-Federation members have found their own road to betterment, too.

Here, we will be using 'redemption' primarily in the sense of 'the act of redeeming' i.e. 'compensate for the faults or bad aspects of'; 'do something that compensates for poor past performance or behaviour'; 'atone or make amends for' (see the OED). We'll let the Prophets and Pah-wraith sort out the sin and salvation part. And, of course, 'buying oneself back,' in the etymological sense, comes for free for most where money is concerned in Star Trek.

Finally, there will be no Redemption, Parts I or II on this list, as that is a little too blatant, even for the blunter-than-a-used-bat'leth Klingons.

Let he who isn't Kai Winn cast the first photon torpedo!

10. Rotten To Revolutionary: Damar

sito jaxa zero Star Trek TNG Lower Decks Next Generation
CBS Media Ventures

The tide of history turned on a wave of ships. Had the Prophets not intervened on that day to send the Dominion armada to only-the-Gods-know-where, it's unlikely we'd be talking about redemption for Damar at all. He would have undoubtedly gone on to preside over the wreckage of the Alpha Quadrant, albeit still as Dukat's underling.

Damar hardly deserves a round of applause, then, for finally realising he had always been on the losing side, especially since that realisation came only after he had personally lost out. 'Seeing the light' is a poor substitute for having done the right thing in the first place, and let's not forget he also killed Ziyal in the interim! Nevertheless, for a Cardassian – typically more hard-line than an ODN cable – his tardy epiphany was nothing short of a 180 on full thrusters. Plus, he was never as boot-lickingly bad as Legate Broca!

Back on Cardassia after the descent of Dukat, things went from crap to catastrophic for Damar. He became full-time patsy for the Dominion – the voiceless frontman for his people whose subjugation had already been signed on the dotted line. Damar's moment of redemption, and the redemption of all Cardassia came (although at a terrible cost) when he chose to rebel against his Dominion puppeteers.

Even in the face of brutal retaliation, Damar resisted on. He eventually gave his life for the cause, but his cries of "For Cardassia" had already been heard far and wide, and the Cardassians began to turn against their Dominion masters. In life, Damar might have begun as the wannabe despot, but in death, he had helped liberate his people and ensure the freedom of the entire Alpha Quadrant.

In this post: 
Star Trek
Posted On: 

Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.