I tried to make the title as specific as possible without being a spoiler.

In the movie,

Khan demands that Spock return the torpedoes. Spock reassures Khan that "Vulcans cannot lie. They are your torpedoes," and clearly omits the key detail that the bodies had been removed from the torpedoes.

Why didn't the villain, with his super intelligence, see through this, when the entire audience could?

  • Any Star Trek fan knows the whole "Vulcans cannot lie" thing is a myth. Spock himself has lied many times in the original timeline (Star Trek II's "exaggerations" being the obvious example). In fact, Spock's deception in Into Darkness may be subtlest nod to Wrath of Khan in the entire movie. Jun 27, 2016 at 19:10

3 Answers 3


Everything in here is a spoiler so I added spoiler tags

The entire audience has access to the information that Spock has spoken to Prime Spock and as such would know what Khan did not.

To wit

Prime Spock reveals that Khan was the most dangerous, most ruthless and most brilliant opponent he and his Enterprise ever faced and that they won only at great cost. Without this interaction, it is unlikely Spock could have won, because as he so fond of saying "Vulcans never lie."

In addition

Khan, being arrogant, would never consider a Vulcan capable of breaking his word. He never considered that Spock, being half Vulcan and having such a capable teacher as James T. Kirk, would ever do anything that would amount to such an unpredictable lapse of behavior.


Every interaction Khan has made with the Federation since his attacks had gone according to plan. He never considered he might find a match in intellect and in Spock's rage, an opponent capable of being physically his equal. This is Khan's failing, an inevitable over-estimation of his ability with an undervaluing of anyone else's.

  • Okay, I get that... Kahn over- and under-estimated. But it doesn't take any special knowledge to realize that "They are your torpedoes" does NOT imply that the torpedoes contain the cargo that Kahn was really after.
    – Flimzy
    May 20, 2013 at 1:49
  • 3
    Were you listening to Kahn's rant where he threatens to destroy the Enterprise no matter what Spock does? He simply assumed Spock would give him the torpedoes because he HAS NO CHOICE. Kahn threatened to disable life support and come and get them himself AFTER EVERYONE WAS DEAD. Spock opted to do exactly what Kahn expected and since the torpedoes were shielded, there was no way for Kahn to scan them for lifesigns. So he was forced to assume his threat was good enough. May 20, 2013 at 1:54
  • 1
    I was listening. Very closely. That's why I noticed it was so obvious that Spock left out the vital detail, he practically emphasized "They are your TORPEDOES." The deception, without "lying" was so blatantly obvious.
    – Flimzy
    May 20, 2013 at 4:45
  • Haven't seen the movie yet, so I'm not sure where in "Kahn's timeline" this plays, but how/why would Kahn know Vulcans in the first place? IIRC he left earth before First Contact. So he believes Spock's "I can't lie" without further questioning?
    – Mario
    May 20, 2013 at 8:04
  • 1
    @MikeBrown The question is tagged [star-trek-into-darkness], so if you're all the way into the comments...
    – Izkata
    May 26, 2013 at 7:34

I think it is a question of perspectives. We calm and safe and with no vested interest in the fictional situation have the luxury of being able to carefully analyze the dialog for loaded phrases as well as knowing (because it is a film) that somehow the Enterprise will win and Spock is likely to defeat Khan in a battle of wits and somehow in a physical match too (due to the line "what use are you for breaking bones" earlier in the film). Khan was heavily vested in the situation, emotionally and physically drained with no idea that Spock might be clever enough to subtly trick him with a turn of phrase. He considered the Enterprise helpless and his victory certain - so far everything seemed to have pointed towards him being several steps ahead of everyone, including Spock. Do not forget how arrogant Khan is and how far beneath him he considers everyone.

In the original film they trick Khan in a similar way by using the prefix code to lower the Reliant's shields under the guise of sending information about Gensis. Khan knew about the prefix code (when his shields dropped he realised that the Enterprise had lowered his shields and shouted "The override, where's the override") but in the heat of the moment it simply did not occur to him that his opponent might be smart enough to still find a way to fight.


When Spock spoke to the Old Spock of the future he asked him if he knew who Khan was and when he found out he did he ask the old Spock how he was defeated. The old Spock started out by saying he made a vow not to reveal anything that would change his destiny, then he said "That being said" and started to tell Spock about Khan. Since the old Spock was familiar with Khan's characteristics which would include his weaknesses, he was able to explain to young Spock that Khan was easily decieved by using simple measures. I assume since Khan is such an arrogant and complex individual, simple ideas went undetected by him. He would have explained how they tricked Khan. In the Wrath of Khan they tricked him by using a simple code on the radio "Hours would seem like days" and so on. By using another simple form of deception they were able to defeat Khan again. Basically using the concept that it worked once it should work again.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.