The USS Enterprise is a huge ship. Some incredibly deadly gases, emissions, etc. are on board the ship at all times in respective areas safely stored and monitored of course.

After the second battle with Khan, Mr. Scott tells Admiral Kirk that he's had to take the mains offline due to radiation.

Khan starts the Genesis device and the Enterprise can barely limp away from Reliant due to warp drive being offline.

Mr. Spock overhears this and takes it upon himself to repair the damage dying as a result. Needs of the many and so on.

Did no engineer think to bring a HAZMAT suit or two?

I don't buy the answers "It was a training mission and they had no time to bring any." Or "The radiation was far too deadly even for the best HAZMATs." Or even, "All the engineers were killed during the two space battles." Or "Spock is only half human and thought he could tolerate more radiation."

  • 12
    So... Sorry to be demeaning, but you don't "buy" the perfectly reasonable answers to a question about a film made in an era when continuity errors abound? :) That seems like a unhelpful line.
    – user47739
    Mar 20, 2018 at 2:15
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    the enterprise only just made it to the "cool ships warp out of explosions" moment as it was, what do you think would have happened if Spock had stopped to put on a suit? Mar 20, 2018 at 9:51
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    For those VTC-ing: The OP is not looking for a scientific explanation, but asking about what appears to be a plot hole. At least one answer explaining the plot hole (within the OP's restrictions) has been posted.
    – RDFozz
    Mar 20, 2018 at 15:14
  • 1
    ...same reason they had no toilets??
    – ashleedawg
    Mar 21, 2018 at 3:03
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    I'm still wondering why they had major operations while still in makeup and uniforms.
    – cbmeeks
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:18

5 Answers 5


They did have radiation/hazmat outfits available in engineering, somewhat nebulously referred to as engineering suits. You see them on several occasions during the TOS films.

Mr. Scott, et. al. in Engineering, wearing Engineering Suits.

The engineering suit was a slightly modified version of the suit introduced earlier in the 2270s in order to protect engineering personnel while servicing the warp and impulse engines, as well as performing other tasks where they may be exposed to radiation. (Memory Alpha/Starfleet Uniform (late 2270s-2350s)

The reason Spock didn't wear one is that there wasn't time to put it on. Instead, he took the gloves from one such suit to provide some semblance of protection for his hands while making his adjustments.

Mr. Spock putting on Engineering Suit gloves.

Spock arrives in the engine room, only to be blocked by Dr. McCoy from entering the lethally irradiated dilithium reactor room. After first feigning compliance, an apologetic Spock nerve pinches McCoy and mind melds with the doctor, simply saying "Remember..." He then dons Scott's radiation suit gloves, enters the chamber, and endures the life threatening radiation while repairing the main reactor. McCoy and Scott yell at Spock to get out immediately, but he continues to work, ignoring their pleas. (Memory Alpha/Star Trek II)

  • 18
    Indeed, Scotty is literally wearing one in the scene where (spoilers) Spock dies. Hard to miss! Mar 19, 2018 at 15:19
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    A HAZMAT suit without an enclosing helmet seems pointless. Mar 19, 2018 at 17:01
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    @StephenG There are helmets. You can see the people standing in the background of the top photo are holding helmets in their left arms. Mar 19, 2018 at 17:05
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    @Malachi I think the engineering crew had already endured dangerous levels of radiation while the leak was being contained. Also, it's more cinematic this way - they didn't want the next instalment of the series to be called Star Trek III: The Search For Ensign Burt. Mar 19, 2018 at 21:06
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    Not really a "semblance of protection" as much as something to make sure his hands didn't outright melt in the process of fixing things.
    – jpmc26
    Mar 20, 2018 at 2:15

Let's not forget the hazmat suits worn by Spock and LTJG Tormolen on Psi 2000.

enter image description here

What the suit lacks in protection is more then offset by styling.

  • 9
    Not really an answer to the question, but totally deserving of an upvote :) Mar 19, 2018 at 19:05
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    I think this photo explains why later Trek series very rarely show anyone wearing a hazmat suit, even when investigating unknown weird stuff. In-universe, maybe they have confidence in their medical tech to clean any bad stuff out of your system. Mar 19, 2018 at 20:09
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    @PeterCordes The transporter is supposed to isolate and remove any harmful chemicals, etc. during transport. Not that that would help you while your down on the surface of Murderon IV. Mar 19, 2018 at 20:39
  • @PeterCordes - yup, it makes your characters look ridiculous, consider this famous shot.
    – davidbak
    Mar 21, 2018 at 2:10

Real world hazmat suits do almost nothing to protect you from radiation, They do protect you from radioactive chemicals from direct contact with your body and that allows you to decontaminate by simply taking the suit off. That is why power plants have scuba divers to work in the reactors as only that amount of water can protect you from radiation.

I don't know of anything in universe that would be able to do any different.

  • 3
    HAZMAT, or HAZardous MATerial, simply refers to just that - any material that is hazardous. Handling nuclear material would be hazardous, requiring protective clothing. "The United States Department of Homeland Security defines a hazmat suit as "an overall garment worn to protect people from hazardous materials or substances, including chemicals, biological agents, or radioactive materials." " - via Wikipedia @ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazmat_suit Mar 19, 2018 at 17:23
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    "Radioactive materials" not radiation.
    – PStag
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:05
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    +1 for radioactive materials, but –1 for ignoring Star Trek shield technologies which explicitly shield from radiation (rays, phasers, etc. aren't nerf bullets, yo! :). The Star Trek The Animated Series in the 70s showed that there were personal shield belts that also protected against radiation.
    – Lexible
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:18
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    The Animated Series has been disavowed from canon since before Wrath of Khan released.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:21
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    I up-voted this answer because it seems to be the best so far. But it's not specific enough. Real-world hazmat suits do plenty to protect against alpha and beta radiation. And they will protect against contamination of the skin with radiation emitting particles. But no modern material will have enough tenth-thickness to protect from high levels of gamma or neutron radiation. I'm sure material science of the 23rd century has improved protection against gamma and neutron radiation. But it has undoubtedly also created stronger and deadlier radiation types. Mar 20, 2018 at 1:21

We also know, from TOS itself (The Tholian Web), that the Enterprise had environmental(EVA) suits, which could easily double for HAZMAT (in fact, an EVA suit would be superior since HAZMATs are not always pressure sealed). Presumably these are not stored in Engineering or Spock would have surely grabbed one.

enter image description here

Another point not mentioned is that Khan's initial attack killed a lot of the Engineering crew (including Scott's nephew), who were all wearing radiation suits. So there may not have been any spares for Spock to grab either.


Considering how quickly Spock received a lethal dose of radiation, and that it had already been established that no human could have survived even that long, it seems unlikely that a hazmat suit would have helped.

Hazmat suits protect the wearer from physical contact with hazardous materials, and usually offer some additional features such as air filtration. However, many types of radiation can pass through such suits. If that kind of radiation was the threat, then wearing a hazmat suit would have only impeded Spock's efforts to save the ship.

The gloves seem to have been necessary due to temperature or some kind of gas that can be seen in the chamber, but it's likely that the full suit would not have offered any meaningful protection.

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