In the 1992 book Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country by J M Dillard, Spock comments "An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth".

This is a phrase most associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes. Has it ever been explored whether Spock's mother was a descendant of Doyle's?

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    The line is taken directly from the film :"An ancestor of mine maintained that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. If we did not fire those torpedoes, another ship did."
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 5 at 13:59
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    An ancestor of Spock could have been quoting Sherlock Holmes without actually having any family ties to Conan Doyle. Spock's statement doesn't preclude the possibility that his ancestry merely included a devout Holmes fan
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jan 5 at 14:43
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    Q. Star Trek VI is also the film in which Spock calls Sherlock Holmes "an ancestor of mine." Nicholas Meyer: He implies it.; - grouchoreviews.com/interviews/7
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 5 at 18:45
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    @FreeMan I have slightly more hair than Wallace
    – jim
    Commented Jan 5 at 20:48
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    @Giacomo1968 and of course there's the whole thing about Shakespeare in the "original Klingon" Commented Jan 5 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


Spock is, according to the film's scriptwriter Nicholas Meyer, a descendant of Sherlock Holmes. Quite how such a thing is possible, given that Holmes is a fictional character, is left to the imagination of the viewer.

What Spock says is a nearly exact quotation from Sherlock Holmes: “Depend upon it, my dear Watson, once you have eliminated all the other possibilities, the remaining one, however improbable, is the correct solution.” Hence, Holmes is Spock’s ancestor.

Elementary! And fascinating.

Nicholas Meyer, who directed and co-wrote the new Star Trek movie, confirms that this is what he meant by the line. “Clearly, you have understood my intention,” he said Tuesday, speaking by phone from London, where he lives.


It would appear that Meyer added this line specifically to create mystery and generate discussion, despite it not making logical sense that he's related to Holmes.

“I have a good time watching the movie when I see it with a (preview) audience, because there are enough Holmes buffs in the audience that people go nuts when that line comes up,” Meyer added. “And they go, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Is this possible?’ And the answer is: I don’t know if it’s possible. It’s what Spock said.”


For the most fanatical Star Trek fans, however, the idea that Spock is descended from Holmes might seem utterly preposterous. After all, true Trekkies may insist, Holmes is only a fictional character while Spock, of course, is real.

A Sherlock Holmes buff to the core, Meyer has an answer to that:

“Who says Holmes is fictional?”

The issue of Spock's ancient human ancestry was, to the best of my knowledge not discussed in any subsequent works, and certainly not in the films or TV shows. The problems is, of course compounded by the fact that Holmes is latterly shown to have been a fictional character within the Star Trek universe.

DATA: There. I have instructed the computer to give us a Sherlock Holmes-type problem, but not one written specifically by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

TNG: Elementary, My dear Data

Of course, there's the unexplored possibility that Spock is, via the magic of time travel, in fact Holmes himself, as evidenced by the historical holo-image below.

enter image description here

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    Spock might be claiming to be a descendant of the non-fictional Arthur Conan Doyle, who, after all, authored the statement.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jan 6 at 0:35
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    If that really was Meyer's intent, he wasn't paying attention to Trek canon. According to Wikipedia, the script for ST6 was completed in 1990 (film released Dec 1991) while TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data" aired in 1988, already establishing Conan Doyle as a historical figure and author of the fictional Sherlock Holmes within the Trek universe, and TNG: "Unification" (1991) solidly included Spock in the TNG universe (at least indirectly mentioned all the way back in the TNG pilot). Meyer should have had ample time to avoid the obvious canon conflict.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jan 6 at 1:10
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    It might be useful to add some information about the last image. A reverse image search tells me it shows Leonard Nimoy in a play called 'Sherlock Holmes' by William Gillette in 1975/6.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jan 6 at 8:39
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    @lexible - Meyer states that Spock is the descendant of Holmes, not Doyle.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 6 at 11:04
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    @Astrogator - Both the interviewer and Meyer play that game. The interviewer points out that as far as trekkies are concerned, Spock is real and Holmes isn't. Meyer points out that Holmes is real and that Spock is fictional ;-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 6 at 19:02

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