When Kirk was speaking to Khan from inside the Genesis Cave in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan beamed out the Genesis Device. He then said he would leave Kirk marooned inside the barren planet, Regula I. Buried alive.

It would have been smarter to beam up Kirk and everyone else to the Reliant rather than leave a chance for Kirk to escape. Khan has no idea whether there is any communication equipment inside the cave. If there is, any Starfleet officer would just contact call for help. Starfleet would dispatch dozens of ships to pursue and destroy Khan. Surely a genetically endowed superior intellect would have deduced the outcome.

Why did Khan leave Kirk with a chance to escape?

  • 8
    Khan's fatal flaw is that he's a schmuck.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 23:51
  • 10
    Because the whole point was to do to Kirk exactly what had been done to him.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 23:54
  • 1
    @RichS - Yeah, all of those. But mostly he ends up getting beaten because he keeps doing dumb things, having studied at the Dr. Evil school of Super Villainry.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:01
  • 1
    @RichS Don't forget two-dimensional thinking. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:06
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    @starpilotsix I categorized "two-dimensional thinking" under inexperienced. It's clear Khan was out of his league. No matter how brilliant he was, he was no match for a Starfleet officer with years of combat experience.
    – RichS
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:13

2 Answers 2


Basically, Khan let his desire for revenge overcome his better judgment. He felt there was a certain poetic justice in leaving Kirk to die on an abandoned planet, just as Kirk had done to McGivers and Khan:

KIRK: You were going to kill me, Khan. You’re going to have to come down here! You’re going to have to come down here!

KHAN: I’ve done far worse than kill you, …I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on …hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me. As you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet, …buried alive. Buried alive!

The Wrath of Khan

Khan’s pleasure in this is suggested in the novelization:

On board Reliant, Khan Singh shut off communications to Regulus I and stretched back in his chair. Not quite what he had foreseen, but a most satisfying climax, nonetheless.

The Wrath of Khan (novelization)

Besides, it’s entirely possible that whatever communications equipment was on the space station, and capable of long-distance communication (which would probably have to be some sort of subspace radio), simply could not have been moved to the cave, or at least moved quickly enough, by virtue of being fixed, too delicate, or too bulky, and that Khan knew this.

  • Is there anything in the novelization that mentions subspace communication equipment inside the cave? Or the lack thereof?
    – RichS
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:15
  • @RichS - No, though there was one on the station.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:16
  • 1
    Reading the dialogue again, I have the feeling that Kirk actively guides Khan into that direction, provoking him to the decision not to fight (as Kirk seems to want this) and leave Kirk alone.
    – Holger
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 12:52
  • @Holger goading the enemy commander into rash or other foolish actions has a long history.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 5:43

I have always trusted Kirk's explanation:

KIRK: You were going to kill me, Khan. You’re going to have to come down here! You’re going to have to come down here!

That is, Khan did not have the ability to beam Kirk up. Why exactly this is isn't entirely clear, but Kirk is very emphatic that that is the case, and Kirk would know. (One of the film's themes is how great Kirk's understanding of technical tactical issues is. Also many times in past Star Trek episodes, Kirk would do tricks with transporters such as have Scotty beam up people unexpectedly, but it generally involved knowing where they were and having the targets not expect it - presumably Kirk is well aware of what circumstances allow it or not.)

Of course, Khan isn't displeased at not being able to beam Kirk up, because he's quite happy with marooning Kirk there just like Kirk did to him. However I think you're partly right that Starfleet would come investigate and even if all Kirk has is a communicator, that seems to be sufficient to talk to a ship in orbit from the cave. Khan could probably destroy Enterprise and get away before any ships from Starfleet arrived, but Kirk would likely be found and rescued.

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