Spock sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by entering a radiation chamber to re-align the dilithium crystals.

Doctor McCoy warned Spock not to enter the chamber. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott warned him not to enter or he would die. Spock did it anyway.

Why did Scott not use the point-to-point abilities of the transporters to beam Spock directly from the radiation chamber to sickbay?

Please answer by providing quotes from canon sources.

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    Can we also include that even if Spock would have survived, we know for certain in many TNG, DS9, and VOY episodes that beaming through an intense radiation field is impossible because it disrupts targeting scanners from getting a positive lock and the ability for the transporters to dematerialize things safely? I know this doesnt pull from TOS era canon, but if that is a problem with more modern transporters, just imagine the problem that this causes with older transporter systems in the TOS era Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 5:10
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    It would not be needed since a logical Spock would have (a) used the transported to beam himself (Spock I) to just outside the radiation chamber to perform the needed fix as per the film, and (b) would have the transporter chief keep a copy of himself in the himself transport buffer so that when he (Spock I) died, Spock II would materialize on the platform and be informed as to his predecessors' success. Spock I's body would be committed to the HAZMAT matter recycler, they save the day. Fin. A no-brainer for a society comfy with everyday self-murder & reconstitution of near perfect simulacra.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 21:54
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    Or what about simply using the transporters to fix the main reactor? Beam out the damaged dilithium crystal and beam in the backup crystal from spare parts. :-)
    – RobertF
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


I believe

Sir, he's dead already.

covers it. Once Captain Spock had finished with the repairs, nothing could be done to save him. Had Spock wanted to, he could have come back out of the chamber through the same swivelling radiation lock by which he entered. However, doing so would only endanger anyone who tried to come to Spock's aid, because by that time his body itself would be a dangerous source of radiation. Since he is assuredly going to die, the safest (most logical, as Spock would want it) thing to do was to leave him in the containment chamber until the crisis was over and his corpse could be removed safely.

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    Also site to site transport didn't seem to really be a thing in the TOS era (and quite rare in TNG) and transporters are shown to not be usable around sources of radiation... Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:30
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    Thorn Radiation on the Star Trek universe has effects on transporters.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Thoron_radiation There are other radiations that do as well, but I cannot remember which ones right now.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 1:22
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    @RichS The most notable "can't beam due to radiation" episode was the TNG episode The Quality of Life
    – Machavity
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 3:58
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    It's radiation, not anthrax. Being exposed to radiation does not necessarily make you radioactive, For that to happen, you would have to ingest gamma emitting material or get any emitting material on your clothing, Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 20:18
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    @Harper Depends on the type of radiation. If the warp core was emitting neutrons (magic handwavium transparent shielding around the room?) Spock would become a fairly nasty emitter of all kinds of radiation in a very short time.... Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 7:27

Scott had already stated that anyone entering the chamber would be dead in under a minute.

"It isna possible, sir!" Mr. Scott cried. "The radiation level is far too high; i' ha' already burned out the electronics o' the repair robot, and if ye went in in a suit 'twould freeze for the same reason! A person unprotected wouldna last a minute!"

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan - Official novelisation

Spock enters the chamber and Bones and Scotty both yell at him to come back out again but only for a few seconds (while it's still possible that he might make it out alive). After that they simply watch in "helpless horror" as he completes the modifications and fixes the engine.

HIS FACE: His face, using all the self discipline he is capable of to control the pain, continuing to work --

WITHOUT: Bones and Scotty react in helpless horror.

Wrath of Khan - Original Screenplay

Since Spock has already taken a lethal dose, beaming his body from the chamber would simply expose the sickbay personnel to radiation for no good purpose (since they can't possibly heal him) and there's a job that needs to be done. Once he's finished, It's clearly safer all round to just wait a few more minutes for the decontamination cycle to be completed and then drag Spock out in a lead-lined bodybag.

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    Did they use lead-lined things for radiation protection? In any ST shows? I remember a lot of "radiation inoculation" injections or drinks, but they weren't big on physical barriers to radiation, like lead-lined suits, was there? In one Enterprise episode they hid inside the warp nacelles from a neutronic storm saturated with radiolytic isotopes (and a Voyager episode where they went through a nebula filled with skin burning deadly radiation, but they just went to sleep...?)
    – Xen2050
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 7:21
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    @Xen2050 - In the Abramverse the Admiral uses torpedo cases to hide (spoilers) bodies specifically because they're generally radiation-proof which makes them impossible to scan through. That being said, the Federation generally use torpedoes as coffins so it's hard to say that that was the impetus
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 11:15
  • @Xen2050 At the time of Enterprise, shielding was often a concern - indeed, the episode you're talking about had them hide in the warp nacelles to avoid radiation (and there's talk about how they had to disable the warp core long before hiding there, to give the nacelles a time to dissipate the induced radiation); IIRC the villains even threaten them with starting up the warp core if they don't surrender, which would kill them pretty much instantly. Radiation inoculation didn't appear until Crusher; I'm still surprised they didn't develop bullet or phaser inoculation by the time of Voyager.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 13:33
  • @Luaan The problem with firing up the core was pretty much just heat. Granted, in this context, that's a form of radiation. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 21:30
  • +1 for including an excerpt from the novel that mentions using a repair robot. Which answers the question not addressed in the film - why not simply fix the engines with a remotely controlled robot?
    – RobertF
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:27

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