During the final fight sequence between Spock and Khan. Spock applies the Vulcan nerve pinch to Khan, who lets out a scream of pain but doesn't collapse.

Why didn't the nerve pinch work?


3 Answers 3


In the original series "Assignment: Earth", the human derived from a hidden planet, Gary Seven, shrugs off a Vulcan nerve pinch without any discomfort at all.

Khan is not incapacitated by it, but does create much pain for him—so presumably it would be worse for anyone else. We don't know if his superior muscularity guards the nerves or if his genetically engineered nervous system is better able to cope with the paralysis effects normal to humans.

Presumably then, the maneuver is most effective on more weakly engineered humans. The most advanced are less affected by it.

  • I personally think it has to do with his superior nervous system. Earlier in the movie we see him take a phaser straight on and it didn't slow him down all that much. Only consecutive shots really had an affect.
    – DForck42
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 13:53
  • @DForck42 - see my comment below - It's worked on other Eugenics humans of the same "breed" as Khan in 'Space Seed'.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:38
  • Later in the movie, when on board the Dreadnought class ship, he takes a stun shot from a phaser on the bridge and goes down immediately, while the effects weren't lasting it knocked him out completely.
    – BB Stacker
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 12:43
  • @BBStacker - One wonders, then, why he wasn't felled by the multiple stun shots fired by Uhura on the floating barge later in the movie?
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 14:27

Spock's Vulcan Nerve Pinch was much less effective on Khan, due to his superior genetic engineering. Although, it had a temporary painful effect, Khan, as stated in the film, was the most dangerous adversary they have/had ever faced.

  • What does being a dangerous adversary have to do with it? Also, in 'Space Seed' (ST:TOS), the original appearance of Khan, one of the engineered humans is subdued instantly by Spock using the nerve pinch.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:37
  • 1
    Interesting...There is an inconsistency with the new and old then.
    – BB Stacker
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 12:35
  • Heh...that's hardly news. :)
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 14:25

It makes sense that in Khan's world, genetially enhanced humans are placed in a meritocracy, the most perfect (i.e. him) at the top, and less enhanced people in lower ranking positions. Therefore, it is perfectly possible that the engineered human who goes down instantly in Space Seed is one of these less-enhanced people, maybe only with enhanced mental capabilities (like Bashir in DS9)?

Khan has been engineered to a level of physical perfection well beyond normal humans, and presumably even beyond many of the alien species, so it's only logical that his neuromusculature is more resistant to an attack such as the Vulcan nerve pinch than other people's.

  • 1
    Also, when he is shot by a phaser on the bridge of the "Vengeance", certainly on the versions of the movie that I have seen there is a brief cut-away to his face, where it is clear he is still conscious and only playing possum, biding his time until Kirk, Marcus and Scotty are distracted. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:50

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