The Story Behind the Vulcan Neck Pinch

Spock performing the Vulcan Neck Pinch

YouTube Spock performing the Vulcan Neck Pinch

The Vulcan Neck Pinch, also known as the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, is one of the most iconic maneuvers in the “Star Trek” universe. Fans know that it’s a martial arts technique developed by the Vulcans, which was used by members of multiple alien species.

The Vulcan Neck Pinch was first used in the “Star Trek: The Original Series” episode “The Enemy Within.” Spock, the Trekverse’s most iconic Vulcan, used the technique on an evil version of Captain Kirk, who was created as the result of a transporter malfunction.

However, the original script for the episode didn’t include the maneuver. One TOS cast member invented the Vulcan Neck Pinch after reading the script.

Leonard Nimoy Came Up With the Vulcan Neck Pinch

Leonard Nimoy explains the Spock PinchShortly after the cancellation of Star Trek in 1969, Leonard Nimoy chats with CBC-TV host Barbara Frum.2018-04-10T23:54:36Z

Shortly after TOS was canceled, Leonard Nimoy did an interview with CBC-TV in which he revealed that he’d come up with the Vulcan Neck Pinch. He said that the original script for “The Enemy Within” called for Spock to sneak up behind Evil Kirk and hit him on the head with the butt of his phaser.

Nimoy said that he felt the attack wasn’t a good fit for Spock’s character. He explained to the director that hitting someone on the head with a gun was “really Western,” and he didn’t think an alien species would employ a technique like that in a confrontation.

So, the director asked him what he wanted to have Spock do in the scene. Nimoy recalled his excitement at the fact that he could come up with anything he wanted because no one knew anything about Vulcans.

Nimoy reasoned that Vulcans might have studied human anatomy and know about a pressure point that could render a person unconscious. He also thought that maybe Vulcans had a special ability that was inherent in their species. He combined these two ideas to come up with the Vulcan Neck Pinch.

Nimoy told the interviewer that the Vulcan Neck Pinch was his way of giving Spock an edge in combat without resorting to outright violence. He thought of Vulcans as a peaceful species that only resorted to outright violence if there was no other choice. So, the Vulcan Neck Pinch was his way of disabling enemies without brutality.

William Shatner Sold the Idea to Producers


In his book “I Am Not Spock” Nimoy revealed that when he first described the Vulcan Neck Pinch to the director, he didn’t really understand what Nimoy was getting at. He told the director that Vulcans were experts in human anatomy and that they could transmit a special form of energy through their fingers that allowed them to perform specific techniques. The director asked for a demonstration of the proposed maneuver.

Nimoy revealed that when he described the Vulcan Neck Pinch to William Shatner, his costar immediately understood what he meant. Nimoy then performed the first-ever Vulcan Neck Pinch on Shatner. He crumpled to the ground, perfectly representing the impact of the technique.

In the documentary The 25-Year Mission, a clip of which can be viewed above, Nimoy and Shatner recalled the first Vulcan Neck Pinch. Nimoy emphasized that Shatner was the one who “sold it” to the producers. Without Shatner’s clear understanding of what Nimoy imagined and his convincing portrayal, the Vulcan Neck Pinch might not have made it into the episode.

So, the iconic Vulcan martial arts technique was the brainchild of Nimoy, but it became reality through the close collaboration of Nimoy and Shatner.

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