There is a scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan that takes place in the transporter room of Regula One where Kirk (in the away team) speaks to the Enterprise bridge. Khan is eavesdropping on this conversation, a fact which Spock either knows or suspects, because the conversation happens in code:

SPOCK: Admiral, if we go by the book, like Lieutenant Saavik, hours could seem like days.

KIRK: I read you, Captain. Let's have it.

SPOCK: The situation is grave, Admiral. We won't have main power for six days at least. Auxiliary power has temporarily failed, but maybe we can restore that in two days. By the book, Admiral.

So Spock would appear to be saying that main power will be out for six hours and auxiliary power for two hours.

Kirk then gives this order:

KIRK: Captain Spock, if you do not hear from us within one hour your orders are to restore what power you can, take the Enterprise to the nearest Star Base and alert Starfleet command when you are out of jamming range.

But, later on, there is this exchange:

KIRK: Kirk to Spock. It's been two hours, are you ready?

SPOCK: Right on schedule, Admiral. Give us your coordinates and we'll beam you aboard.

My question is, what did Enterprise do during those two hours? Kirk orders Enterprise to leave after one hour, but two hours later she is still in orbit. Did she leave and return? If she did leave, how did Spock know to return, given that Kirk did not say anything about two hours? Two hours does not sound like enough time to go to a Starbase, and back again. Is Kirk's message in code, and if so, is it in the same code that Spock used?

  • 11
    I always thought it was pretty clear Kirk was using the same code as Spock. 'Hours seem like days'... you say Day and mean Hours, or say Hours and mean Day.
    – Seeds
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:39
  • 3
    They went off to get drive-thru McTribble meals.
    – Valorum
    Jan 23, 2017 at 23:00
  • They went off to MAACO to get the Enterprise a new paint job.
    – BBlake
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:08

4 Answers 4


They were ignoring unencoded orders.

We know the conversation was encoded "Hours may seem like days", but then why did Kirk send the unencoded order to leave in an hour?

We later learn that Kirk and Spock both knew not to send unencoded messages when being eavesdropped upon, and Spock is smart enough to recognize an unencoded order, and Kirk knows that Spock would spot it.

SAAVIK: But the damage report? ...We were immobilised. Captain Spock said it would be two days.

KIRK: By the book! Regulation forty-six A, 'If transmissions are being monitored during battle...'

SAAVIK: '...no uncoded messages on an open channel.'

Kirk and Spock both know their regulations, and both know Khan was listening, and both know each other well enough to know the meaning behind each others' words, so when Kirk switched to talking about hours, both knew that order was unencoded and not a legitimate order, but meant to trick Khan in to thinking the Enterprise would leave.

We also later learn that kids like Saavik have a lot to learn from their elders about the experience that comes with age. I also took this as a demonstration of how clever these old guys are with decades of working together. In case you haven't noticed, Wrath of Khan is pretty heavy on the theme of aging.

  • 4
    This isn't right. The reason is that Spock told Kirk that auxiliary power will take 2 hours to restore. So 2 hours later the call goes out and that's that. Jan 24, 2017 at 3:36
  • 8
    It's possible that the encoded order was to leave if they didn't hear from Kirk in one day. The result would have been the same, as they did hear from the Captain after two hours.
    – Ben Miller
    Jan 24, 2017 at 4:57

They restored auxiliary power - that's what the exchange meant. Kirk's instruction was that if you don't hear from us inside of one day, head on out. My impression is that they nearly had main power restored when the battle ensued - the final repair to restore main power is the one that

killed Spock.

  • 1
    This answer would be better if you explicitly stated that Kirk was also using the code "hours could seem like days": specifically, that hours➞days (Kirk) in addition to days➞hours (Spock).
    – Makyen
    Jan 24, 2017 at 6:21

Enterprise was unable to warp away. As mentioned later in the film, main power is needed to warp, and Spock reports main power will be offline for at least six hours.

So, the Enterprise continued to keep away from Reliant while both ships worked on repairing themselves from the first exchange of attacks.

Spock didn't leave in one hour because knowing Kirk and taking the hint and applying logic, he knew Kirk was trying to mislead Khan, and that he really meant to leave after one day, but that that probably wouldn't apply since he also really meant to be picked up before that, in two hours.


Wrong. There was a code, and it's the simplest in the world. "Hours would seem like days" means "hours mean days, and days mean hours." When Spock said restoration of auxiliary power may be possible in two days, he meant two hours. When Kirk told the Enterprise to leave in an hour unless they were contacted, he meant Enterprise should leave in a DAY. Remember, Kirk gave that order AFTER Spock told Kirk the situation. Kirk understood they needed two hours, and that's exactly why he gave Spock a day. But he couldn't actually say that with Khan eavesdropping on every word, so...he says an hour (sticking to Spock's code) knowing Khan would expect Spock to leave in 60m instead of giving Kirk the time they agreed he really meant!

  • 1
    This seems plausible(ish) but can you back it up with any evidence or is this just your own fan-theory?
    – Valorum
    Jul 13, 2018 at 23:33
  • 1
    So your evidence is, if I can summarise it, that you watched the film and read an IMDB summary?
    – Valorum
    Jul 14, 2018 at 0:16
  • Yes. What more do you require? Tell me. Jul 14, 2018 at 1:22
  • The problem with fan-theories is that the opposite could just as easily be true.
    – Valorum
    Jul 14, 2018 at 7:46

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