Leonard Nimoy Rewrote Spock’s History With One Line In Star Trek VI

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

Is Spock related to Sherlock Holmes? Fans have debated the question for decades thanks to one of Spock’s lines in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. At one point in the film, the green-blooded buzzkill shares a quote from Holmes and attributes it to one of his ancestors.

The quote reads, “An ancestor of mine once said that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Spock says this referring to the murder mystery at the center of Star Trek VI‘s plot. Spock most likely meant it as a joke, but that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about the quote’s possible meaning in canon.

Sherlock Holmes Is Fictional

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. No, Spock is probably not related to the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Star Trek: The Next Generation ruined any chance of Spock’s Star Trek VI line being literal when it firmly established Sherlock Holmes as a fictional character within the Star Trek universe.

Holmes and his stories feature heavily in the episode “Elementary, Dear Data” from Season 2 of Next Gen.

Spock And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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That leaves us with the second most popular interpretation of Spock’s quote: he is related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Many fans have speculated that what Spock is actually saying in Star Trek VI is that Doyle is an ancestor on his mother’s side. Mr. Spock, for those who don’t know, is half-human with a Vulcan father and a human mother.

Spock’s Human Ancestory

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While implausible, this idea has merit. For one thing, Arthur Conan Doyle had a brilliant analytical mind, much like Spock’s. It’s not hard to imagine that high intelligence is being passed on from generation to generation up to and including the birth of Spock’s mom, Amanda.

One could even hypothesize that Amanda’s grasp of logical deduction is what attracted Spock’s father, Sarek, to her in the first place.

Spock Cracking Jokes

Spock himself has acted like Holmes several times throughout the original series and the movies. Spock’s Star Trek VI protege, Valeris, even functions as a sort of quasi-Watson during his investigation. Sadly, she later turns out to have more in common with Moriarty.

While these headcanons and fan theories are fun, the real answer to this mystery is pretty anticlimactic. As mentioned above, Spock was probably saying that Holmes (or Doyle) was a relative for the lolz. In fact, Spock makes a similar joke earlier in Star Trek VI.

20th-Century Politics In The 23rd Century

Early on in The Undiscovered Country, Spock tells Kirk of an old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” While it’s possible that the Vulcans do have a proverb related to a very specific event in Earth History, it’s not very likely. What’s more plausible is that Spock was making a joke comparing something from 20th-century American politics to the pickle 23rd-century American James T. Kirk was in at the beginning of Star Trek VI.

No Official Confirmation Yet

We know Spock wasn’t a particularly jovial fellow during his early years, but as he aged, he seemed to mellow a bit and take after his mother more. Dying and being resurrected via the power of friendship certainly helped. So the idea that Spock would tell not one but two jokes in Star Trek VI isn’t as out of character as it might seem on the surface.

Of course, Star Trek is still a made-up sci-fi fantasy world, so there’s always a chance that Spock’s Star Trek VI line could turn out to be true. Until Paramount has a character definitively state on screen that Spock is or isn’t related to Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle, there is still a chance that those fan theories could become canon.