Vulcan nerve pinch

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Spock using the Vulcan nerve pinch, from the third-season episode "And the Children Shall Lead" (1968)

In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Vulcan nerve pinch is a technique used mainly by Vulcans to render unconsciousness by pinching a pressure point at the base of the victim's neck.


Nimoy demonstrating the Vulcan nerve pinch.

The script for "The Enemy Within" stated that Spock "kayoes" (Knocks Out) Captain Kirk (William Shatner)'s duplicate,[1] but Leonard Nimoy, who opposed the Vietnam War and supported Eugene McCarthy,[2] felt that such a brutal action would be unnecessarily violent for a Vulcan. He therefore invented an alternative by suggesting that Vulcans may know enough about human anatomy, or they may have the ability to project telepathic energy from their fingertips, that they could render a human unconscious.[3] Allegedly, the director of the episode did not understand the idea when Nimoy explained it to him, but William Shatner understood immediately and reacted in exactly the way Nimoy had hoped when they executed the move during filming, explaining that it would be similar to "feeling an electrical charge."[citation needed] From then on, the pinch was referred to as the "FSNP", for "Famous Spock Nerve Pinch", in Star Trek's scripts.[citation needed]


Although entirely fictional, fans and critics of the show have tried to explain how the pinch may work. It has been compared to the fictional "karate chop", which was used in other 1960s television series to render opponents unconscious.[4]

Nimoy's theory that the pinch may be linked to telepathy is shown not to be true when two non-telepathic entities, the android Data,[5] and Voyager's holographic Doctor,[6] use the pinch in later Star Trek television shows.

The book The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry offers a simple explanation: the pinch blocks blood and nerve responses from reaching the brain, leading to unconsciousness. How this might lead to instantaneous unconsciousness is not explained. In this earliest of Star Trek reference books, the pinch is referred to as the "Spock Pinch."[7]

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Cathexis", the Doctor inspects a crewmember who was found unconscious and observes an extreme trauma to the trapezius neck bundle, "as though her nerve fibers have been ruptured"; and it is later revealed that the person was the victim of a nerve pinch.

Use within the franchise[edit]

Along with Spock, various other characters in the Star Trek franchise have used the technique. Notably, the above-mentioned instances with Data and the holographic Doctor, "DS9"'s Changeling, Odo,[8] "TNG"'s Jean-Luc Picard,[9] "VOY"'s Seven of Nine.[10] "ENT"'s T'Pol.[11]

However, it is not an easy technique to master. After Spock uses the pinch in the episode "The Omega Glory", Kirk says to Spock, "Pity you can't teach me that", and Spock replies, "I have tried, Captain." In the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Dr. McCoy was unable to use the nerve pinch despite being in possession of Spock's katra (his "spirit" or "soul").

The nerve pinch has been shown being used on animals. In the Animated Series episode "Yesteryear", Spock uses the nerve pinch on a Le-matya (a mountain lion-like creature) to save the life of his younger self. In the 1989 film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Spock uses the pinch to subdue a horse during a battle.

Popular culture[edit]

The Vulcan nerve pinch has been referred to, and parodied, in a wide variety of television, film, and other media.

In television[edit]

  • In the Stephen King mini-series The Langoliers (1995) a character says, "You ever watch Mr. Spock on Star Trek?", "'Cause if you don't shut your cakehole, you bloody idiot, I'll be happy to demonstrate his Vulcan sleeper-hold for you."
  • On The Simpsons Episode Mayored to the Mob Homer Simpson uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on Bart and Lisa So they don’t get snacks And then Uses the technique on Marge So he doesn’t take out the trash and then use the technique on himself when he falls over he hits his head on the Breakfast table

In film[edit]

  • In Mel Brooks' film Spaceballs, Lone Starr tries to use it on a henchman, initially unsuccessfully, but the henchman points out Lone Starr's mistakes—he gripped where the head meets the neck, when he should have gripped where the neck meets the shoulders—and is used again, successfully this time.[12]

Death grip[edit]

The Star Trek episode "The Enterprise Incident" includes a scene in which Spock administers the "Vulcan death grip" to Kirk to convince Romulan onlookers, apparently unfamiliar with Vulcan techniques, that Kirk had been killed. In fact, Spock had merely used a powerful nerve pinch to put Kirk into a deep unconsciousness that closely resembled death. Kirk awoke later with head and neck pain, but no lasting injury. The "death grip" differs from the "nerve pinch" in that the death grip was administered to Kirk's face. Nurse Chapel remarks in the same episode, "There's no such thing as a Vulcan death grip."


  1. ^ "The Enemy Within". Orion Press. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  2. ^ Diehl, Digby (1968-08-25). "Girls All Want To Touch The Ears". The New York Times. p. 173. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^ John Walsh, Star Trek: Prick up your ears, Irish Independent, April 23, 2009
  5. ^ "Unification, Part II". Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  6. ^ "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy". Star Trek Voyager.
  7. ^ Whitfield, Steven E.; Roddenberry, Gene (1970) [1968]. The Making of Star Trek. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-21621-0.
  8. ^ "Paradise Lost". Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  9. ^ "Starship Mine". Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  10. ^ "The Raven". Star Trek: Voyager.
  11. ^ in the 4th episode of the first season ("Strange New World") on Travis Mayweather, to calm him down. Other examples of its use in that series include incapacitating Dr. Phlox before he can lobotomize Travis Mayweather in the 2nd season episode "Singularity", and again in the 3rd season episode "Carpenter Street", on the kidnapper Loomis to stop him escaping from his apartment.
  12. ^ This is used as the example in The Action Hero's Handbook section on how to perform the nerve pinch, which relates two methods—one using a combination of the radial nerve and the brachial plexus tie in, and one using the jugular notch.Borgenicht, David; Borgenicht, Joe (2002). The Action Hero's Handbook. Michael Jones (Part of Penguin). ISBN 0-7181-4550-X.

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