Vulcan Mind Meld

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Mind Meld
Related tropes/genresTelepathy
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The Vulcan Mind Meld is a telepathic link used by Vulcans. It required a physical touch as a link and allowed two individuals to temporarily share the same thoughts. It was invented by Leonard Nimoy for the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Dagger of the Mind", after network censors warned against the use of hypnosis to help an insane man reveal his true story. More at Memory Alpha.

The Mind Meld in Canon

In canon, exactly how mind melds work varies depending on the needs of the plot. Supposedly, Vulcans normally only initiate contact with other Vulcans, usually those they are close to.[1] In practice this is similar to the idea that Vulcans are unemotional or that anyone in the Federation ever obeys the Prime Directive: mentioned only to highlight all of the many, many, many episodes where they do the opposite.

Depending on the era of Star Trek and/or lack of other interesting plot for the episode, mind melds can cause a variety of maladies and after effects in either party. They can also be used for mutual communication or to rifle through people's brains forcibly. Either case usually involves a lot of mugging for the camera on the part of the actors, which often leads to interesting screenshots.

Hand Position

The default canonical hand position for a mind meld is for the initiator to place their fingers on the sides of the subject's face. The Vulcan Nerve Pinch is delivered to the base of the neck. The original series also featured the so-called Vulcan Death Grip, which involves placing the hands over the victim's face. However, this is a fake. Spock pretended to do it in order to make it appear to the Romulans that he had killed Captain Kirk, and it is complete hogwash. Fans speculate that Kirk made it up.

Other Telepathic Techniques

Vulcans can obviously use telepathy outside of mind-melding. In "A Taste of Armageddon" and "By Any Other Name", Spock was able to communicate feelings of unease to prison guards in order to make them open the door and come in to have a look, whereupon Kirk and company could bash them and escape. In "The Omega Glory" he guided a native woman to go get a communicator and open it so the Enterprise could get a signal and send a rescue party. And in "Turnabout Intruder," Kirk (in Janice Lester's body) asks Spock to use telepathy to verify it's really him in there. Spock does this so briefly that it seems not a mind meld but merely a mind touch. In the second draft script of "Amok Time" Spock explains that his mind and T'Pring's were joined by a marn tam connection, different from a mind meld. He even briefly shows Kirk how it's done. Spock also contacts McCoy's mind very briefly to prepare for his katra life essence to enter McCoy upon his death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

When the Vulcan crew of the U.S.S. Intrepid are killed in "The Immunity Syndrome", Spock immediately senses their deaths, and was even able to pick up that "they did not know what was killing them, or would have understood it had they known," later telling Kirk they were "astonished" by their defeat. A deleted line in "Amok Time" refers to all Vulcans being able to sense their proximity to the home planet no matter where they are, and this connection appears to be what happens in "All Our Yesterdays" when Spock is thrown 5000 years into the past and gradually reverts to a more primitive state, like the Vulcans of that time period.

The Mind Meld in Fanon

In seperis' story You'll Get There in the End (It Just Takes a While), the prequel to her epic War Games, the mind meld from the Star Trek (2009) movie between Kirk and Spock (TOS) triggered pon farr in Kirk because the Kirk and Spock from the TOS universe were bonded and that transferred through the mind meld. In the story Kirk had to mate with Spock (2009) in a fuck or die scenario. Mind melds later become important in the sequel where Vulcan telepathy and the mechanics of mind melds and bonds are an important plot element.

Fans may mistake lighter, simpler telepathic contacts for mind melds. Numeous fan critics have identified writers such as Sondra Marshak (especially in The Price of the Phoenix and Della Van Hise (in Killing Time) seeming to use the mind meld as a metaphor for sex. Some have misread the mind meld as being identical with the marriage bond of pon farr and refer to Spock's occasional emergency one-sided melds (as in "Mirror, Mirror") as "literal mind rape". Since Spock also did a mind meld with the injured Horta in "Devil in the Dark", a machine in "The Changeling" and the whales in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it can be assumed that the wedding bond is a more specific action.

Slash fans also fondly imagine that the brief Vulcan salute Spock gives just before he dies in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Kirk's pressing his own hand to the glass symbolizes subtext viewers are meant to interpret that the two have a sexual bond. The real Vulcan display of affection is the two-fingered gesture Spock's father Sarek makes with Amanda in "Journey to Babel".

The real gestures leading up to sexual contact are seen between Spock and the Romulan Commander in "The Enterprise Incident". It's strongly implied that telepathy was involved in their joining, but Nimoy portrayed it much differently from the mind meld, and it's unclear whether they formed a bond in the usual fannish sense. Most fans writing about this episode seem to believe they simply connected for a "brief encounter", quite proper for the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.

The Mind Meld Portrayed in Fanworks

Essays/Additional Reading

"....Kirk & Spock really do share a mind-link, and it's canon!!! It's not just fanon anymore, it's real & true!

There is a very interesting scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier that gives us evidence of the strength of Kirk and Spock’s bond, demonstrating irrefutably that Kirk is able to literally see into Spock’s mind. It is done in such an intelligent way, that this fact does not appear remotely jarring. The character of McCoy is used very cleverly in this movie as a decoy in order to render the everyday moviegoer oblivious to what it is that have actually witnessed. At first glance, it looks as though Sybok is intentionally showing McCoy’s and Spock’s pain to everyone in the room, a situation in which it would make perfect sense for Kirk to see Spock’s pain. But this is not actually the case.

It is established at the beginning of the movie that Sybok is able to show people their pain through a mind-meld. The entirety of this act occurs within the person’s mind alone. When Sybok shows McCoy his pain, however, it is shot differently. The backdrop behind McCoy changes into the images that are occurring within the mind-meld. There is a cut to Kirk and Spock, who react, and it is easy to assume that they are witnessing this image as well, but this is not the case. They are witnessing the mind meld itself, nothing more. Kirk and Spock remain where they are and look on, while McCoy enters the scene alone. Sometime later, Sybok enters and communicates with McCoy. These are the two people involved in the mind-meld, and these are the only two people who witness this painful event from McCoy’s past. Don’t let the green light on Kirk and Spock, which seems to emanate from the scene that they seem to be watching, fool you. If you watch closely, you can see this light appear on McCoy before this scene comes into view. That green light isn’t coming from the scene.

Contrast this with what occurs next, when Sybok shows Spock his pain. Both Spock and Kirk enter the scene. Not only that, but Kirk and Spock interact. Kirk asks Spock what he’s seeing, and Spock tells him. We even cut to McCoy, outside the scene, who is not witnessing the same thing that Kirk is. When McCoy steps forward, we see that Kirk is no longer in the scene. McCoy is reacting to what is occurring outside the scene, and Kirk was never really in the scene. The scene occurred entirely in Spock’s mind, but Kirk somehow had access to it. How was he able to see something that was in Spock’s mind? How was he able to interact with Spock inside Spock’s mind? Kirk is not a Vulcan, nor any other telepathic alien of any kind. But then, he wouldn’t need to be if he shared a special mental connection to the telepathic Vulcan who he was specifically communicating with.

This scene has been very cleverly executed to give those who know how to look for it, canon evidence of Kirk and Spock’s mind-link, while using McCoy to make it appear perfectly innocent. Shatner employed the same technique of misdirection that Roddenberry used in the Motion Picture novel when he wrote of Kirk’s response to the ‘lovers rumour’. Yet another example of Star Trek subtext at its best!"[3][4]


  1. ^ In "Dagger of the Mind", Spock hesitates to meld with the insane Van Gelder, saying he'd never used the technique with a human; "It's a hidden, personal thing to the Vulcan people, part of our private lives."
  2. ^ from The K/S Press #57
  3. ^ Kirk & Spock's Mind-Link by spookyfbi posted June 13th, 2009.
  4. ^ Viewers not wearing Slash goggles might recognize this as a continuity error, possibly caused by an inexperienced director.