Starfleet declared the entire Mutara sector off limits to all ships after the events of The Wrath of Khan.

Why was the Grissom sent alone to study the Genesis planet in Star Trek 3 : The Search for Spock?

The Grissom was a lightly armed science research vessel of the Oberth class. The wiki page for the Oberth class says it was "more suited for science missions than combat missions, the had minimal defensive systems. They were tactically inferior to such enemy vessels as the Klingon Bird-of-Prey." These vessels also served as transports and supply ships. All in all, clearly not built for battle.

Surely given the security and political issues surrounding the events of the Genesis device detonation, Starfleet should have sent more ships to secure the Mutara sector and defend the science mission there. As moviegoers saw, the Grissom was sent there alone. If it was given escorts, a cloaked Klingon ship would have thought twice about attacking.

Is there anything from the novelization or other canon sources that explain why the Grissom was sent undefended?

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    The novelisation isn't much help. It notes that the Grissom is a small, agile ship with extensive scientific instrumentation. It also makes it clear the levels of secrecy and security around the nebula and the Genesis project in general. If I had to guess, the answer is "because the fewer ship go in, the fewer people find out how effective the Genesis device is at destroying entire stellar clusters"
    – Valorum
    Apr 4, 2017 at 10:32
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    Unfortunately there's no sane canonical explanation, except maybe, "Admiral Morrow is an idiot," which the movie really makes pretty clear. The only real reason is because the plot required Grissom to be an easy target for a relatively small warship. Certainly in any sane script, Grissom would have been accompanied by at least a Miranda Class or something else with teeth. Apr 4, 2017 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


I think the answer to your question is in the question. If the entire Mutara sector is off-limits, why would the Grissom need an escort to the individual world at the heart of the sector? According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia and based on multiple references, a sector of space in Star Trek is enormous, encompassing 8,000 cubic light years of volume (20 light years to a side).

I'd imagine there were plenty of patrol ships scanning its borders, but the fleet is only so big. The least likely place to catch interlopers in a restricted area is smack-dab in the middle of it. Hindsight is 20/20, but I'm sure the crew of the Grissom thought of themselves as being in one of the safest spaces in the quadrant.

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    Makes no sense to guard the perimeter of the sector if one ship can slip inside and destroy the Grissom with a single shot. The most likely place to catch somebody who wants to destroy the Grissom is where the Grissom is located.
    – RichS
    Apr 4, 2017 at 6:37
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    @RichS: Nobody expected that the Grissom would be targeted.
    – chirlu
    Apr 4, 2017 at 7:12
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    @chirlu: nobody expects the Klingon inquisition! Apr 4, 2017 at 8:21

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