Sherlock Holmes: Visitor to a Small Planet

Copyright © by David M. Scott


Some have said that the cult of Sherlock Holmes is unique; that Dr. Conan Doyle is the only author whose protagonists generate such fierce loyalty and the ongoing contention that their world is real. Thirty years ago that statement would have been true, but since then another army of enthusiasts have flung themselves wholeheartedly into living in their heroes' world. These heroes are the brainchildren of the late Gene Roddenberry – the brave men and women of Starfleet, who go where no one has gone before. Just as Sherlockians know how many steps lead up to Holmes’ sitting room, or where he keeps unanswered correspondence, Trekkers can tell you how to get from the bridge to cargo bay three on a Constitution class starship, or how to say "beam me up" in Klingon. As a courtesy to our fellow enthusiasts, I ask that the Sherlockians reading this give credence to the "canon" of Star Trek, and that the Trekkers do the same for the journals of Dr. Watson. One notable difference exists between the Sherlockian world and that of the Trekker, and you should be aware of it. The Sherlockian Canon is fixed at 56 short cases and four book-length, but the Star Trek canon is still evolving. In this study I use as references several books that from a Sherlockian perspective might be considered pastiches. Be assured that the copyright holders, Paramount Pictures and the estate of Gene Roddenberry, exercise strict control over what is published under the Star Trek imprimatur.

Our Point D'Appui

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. In this instance, the first step was to lead me on a journey through space and time in search of the origins of the Great Detective. That first step was trivial; I purchased, as a Christmas present for my son, a videotape of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. This documentary recounts the events leading up to the Khitomer negotiations between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. While atempting to identify a saboteur aboard the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701A), Captain Spock makes the following statement:

"An ancestor of mine maintained that whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true."

We are all familiar with this maxim; it is Mr. Sherlock Holmes' most fundamental rule of logic and deduction. Indeed, the "process of elimination" is a longstanding and respected technique in such diverse fields as forensics, plant hybridization, and computer programming. Mr. Spock is very precise in his speech at all times. He is also known to be careful in the attribution of quotations. When challenged by Dr. Leonard McCoy (in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) he correctly identifies the phase "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us" as coming from Hamlet, Act I Scene IV. On another occasion (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) when Dr. McCoy replies "Herman Melville" to Captain James Kirk's "All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by", Spock points out that the line is from John Masefield. I feel certain that Mr. Spock would attribute the above statement, expressed in this particular fashion, only to Mr. Holmes. This implies that Mr. Holmes is an ancestor of Mr. Spock. My task was to validate or dismiss this.

Truth or Consequences

The first question, of course, was whether Mr. Spock's contention was in earnest. Aside from the popular but erroneous belief that Vulcans cannot lie, Mr. Spock has no possible motive for making a false claim except as a boast. I cannot credit ego as a motive. Mr. Spock was among a crew that esteemed him highly; he had no need to boost his own ego. Besides, he once said "I have no ego to bruise". Like falsehood, egotism is not impossible to Vulcans, but it is precluded by cultural factors. Self-centeredness comes as naturally to Vulcans as cannibalism does to Americans; not unknown, but so seldom encountered as to be anomalous.

Mr. Spock, therefore, holds the valid belief that he shares a bloodline with Mr. Holmes. The relationship at first seemed easy to explain; While Mr. Spock exhibits the physical characteristics and upbringing of his native planet Vulcan, he is in fact half human. His mother, Amanda (neé Grayson) was American, but the name Grayson is of English extraction. Our point of departure, then, is Spock's mother's family.

An Obstacle In Our Path

We soon encounter a roadblock on this journey; in Strangers From The Sky, which recounts the early contacts between the human and Vulcan peoples, we find that the Graysons can only trace their family back as far as Professor Jeremy Grayson of Boston in the year 2045. Spock cannot know, then, that his mother's family tree includes a Holmesian branch. At this point, we have eliminated one possibility: the only other one, that Spock gets his Sherlockian ancestry from his father's side, must by Spock's and Holmes' own rule be true. But this is an audacious possibility, because we know from Spock's World that the marriage between Spock’s father Sarek and Amanda Grayson was the first interracial marriage between human and Vulcan, and that genetic engineering was needed to produce Spock. If Holmes was Spock's ancestor, then, it follows that Holmes was a Vulcan. A pure logician could regard Mr. Holmes' Vulcan ancestry as proved by the elimination of alternate possibilities. Being human, and not Vulcan, we want corroboration before we do more than pencil in this relationship.

A Question of Heredity

Our search now turns to evidence of such corroboration. The first issue to examine is that of physiology; could the man described to us by Dr. Watson be a Vulcan? Let us make a point by point comparison:

Mr. Sherlock Holmes Typical Vulcan
Over six feet Over six feet
Slender, wiry Slender, wiry
Unusually strong for a human Stronger than humans
Goes days without food or sleep Fasting and vigils part of religion
Lived well past age 100; still alive today Average life span almost 200 years
Presumably normal ears Pointed ears
Presumably red (iron-based) blood Green (copper-based) blood

In outward appearance, Mr. Holmes would pass for a Vulcan with the simple addition of pointed ears. But Watson never at any point mentions Holmes having such ears, and we doubt that he could miss so salient a feature. Is there an explanation? Are we missing the points? The best possibility comes from Strangers in the Sky. We learn that there were two factions on Vulcan, observers who wished only to examine other planets, and interventionists, who wanted to infiltrate other planetary civilizations and learn about their cultures and threat potential. We know from The Romulan Way that it is possible to "bob" a Vulcan's ears to pass him or her as humans; the Romulans, descended from the same genetic stock as Vulcans, did so to spy on the Federation. We theorize, then, that Holmes was an observer for such an interventionist faction.

A Question of Blood

The Vulcans are a thorough and logical people; they would have prepared their emissary to blend in to human society. They would have been aware that minor cuts and scrapes were common and that one would be enough to give a Vulcan away. With their advanced sciences, they would undoubtedly have come up with a way to harmlessly color their green blood red. This substance was perhaps admisintered intravenously, and explained away as a cocaine habit. Holmes being an above-average chemist, he may in later years have developed an oral version of this drug, as the needle offended Watson. We note Holmes' bleeding knuckles are wrapped up and out of view in The Adventure of the Empty House, and that Holmes will not let Watson treat him in The Adventure of the Dying Detective. In fact, there is no example in the Canon of anyone getting a chance to observe Holmes' internal physiology.

If It Quacks Like A Duck

Physically, then, Holmes could have been a Vulcan with some minor adaptations to his undercover role in observing humanity. But what of the man himself? Does Mr. Holmes exhibit any behavior that we would expect of a Vulcan? In terms of sociological and personality characteristics, we can also make a comparison:

Mr. Sherlock Holmes Typical Vulcan
Prizes logic above all else Planet's culture based on logic
Abhors guesswork. Holmes: "A shocking habit, destructive to the logical faculty". Abhors guesswork. Spock: "Is is not in my nature to guess".
Appreciates nature (comments on flowers in The Naval Treaty, etc.) Appreciates nature (gardening a common avocation on Vulcan)
Appreciates music (violinist and opera goer) Appreciates music (Spock plays the harp; Mendelssohn is the only thing ever to move Sarek to tears)
Prizes loyalty & friendship (note distress when Watson is shot in The Three Garridebs) Prizes loyalty & friendship (Spock's last words to Kirk: "I am, and always shall be, your friend").
Represses emotion; it interferes with logic Represses emotion; it interferes with logic
Wry sense of humor (practical jokes on Tadpole Phelps, Lord Cantlemere) Wry sense of humor (twits Dr. McCoy)
No visible sex drive No visible sex drive (except during pon farr; below)
Invariably courteous Invariably courteous


Le Détectif Passionnèl

By temperament, Holmes fits well into the Vulcan mold. As always, however, the issue of sex rears its head. Vulcan men experience the extreme discomfort of pon farr every seven years, and it is relieved only by mating or suppressed through rigorous meditation. This ensures the continuance of a species that is apt to ignore sexual attraction in favor of a new algorithm for determining the dynamics of an asteroid. Do we have any evidence that Holmes experienced pon farr? Watson notes that Holmes was subject to periods of great stress and exhaustion; two such occasions are found in The Adventure of the Devil's Foot and in The Reigate Squires. By most chronologists, these cases are ten years apart, not seven. Therefore, we can only consider them as evidence to support our theory if we postulate that either (a) the Vulcan year is approximately 520 days long, which would make seven Vulcan years equal to ten Earth years, or (b) something in the terran environment altered Holmes' mating cycle. I have not been able to find a reference to the length of a Vulcan year in Earth days. The only other possibility is that the chronologists are wrong. No chronologist would confirm this hypothesis about his own theories, though many supported it in reference to other chronologists.

The Brotherhood

We have, now, circumstantial evidence to support the contention that Mr. Sherlock Holmes is a native of the planet Vulcan. Have we any evidence that refutes that contention? The item that leaps to mind is the existence of Mr. Mycroft Holmes. How came the alien to have a brother?

We could say that both Sherlock and Mycroft were Vulcans, but another, more intriguing possibility presents itself. If the Vulcans were going to deposit one of their own on the Earth to reconnoiter, how would they go about it? I believe their logic might run something like this:

a. We will send a young person. Our education is so far advanced over Earth's that a Vulcan youth will be at no disadvantage. The "scout" will have the opportunity to examine Earth's education system and experience their child rearing methods.

b. We will send a male. By social convention on 19th century Earth, females lack the liberty to go places and do things that are required of our research.

c. We must confide in a human family and place our scout as one of their own. The scout could not operate without guidance until he is sure of how to act in common situations. We will have to select an educated family, and one so dedicated to the pursuit of pure scientific truth that they can be trusted with the knowledge of an alien in their midst.

d. We should select a family that has a human male child of a similar age to act as a role model. This human male should have some sympathetic interests, especially in studies such as logic and mathematics.

e. We should give the scout a name that approximates his Vulcan name. Vulcan tradition is to give sons names beginning with S and ending in K, after Surak, the founder of Vulcan civilization. Spock, his half-brother Sybok and his father Sarek all have such names. Might not the visitor's Vulcan name have been Surlok? The last name of Holmes is common enough; it may actually be the name of some branch of the adoptive family.

If this was the logic, then Mycroft Holmes is Sherlock's adoptive brother. The young Sherlock (we picture him as an adolescent when he arrived) might have been represented by the family as the orphaned son of an American or Australian connection, which would cover some minor social gaffes and mispronunciations. But what family would take on this enormous secret? We have no way of knowing, but I would suggest that the Vulcans would only have approached the finest scientific mind of the age, and a man who is remarkably similar to Mycroft Holmes in some physical aspects; Professor George Edward Challenger. As to why Mycroft goes by Holmes and not by Challenger, it is likely (to anyone who knew Professor Challenger) that there may have been a breach between father and son, possibly over Mycroft's chosen vocation of chartered accountantcy rather than science. It would be very Victorian and melodramatic of Challenger to disown Mycroft, and of Mycroft to renounce his father's name and take that of his adopted brother.

Holmes himself says little of his pre-Watson life except to recount a few cases. This gives us no material to confirm or deny our assumptions. But a study of the Canon offers no direct rebuttal to the basic contention that Mr. Sherlock Holmes came to Earth as the advance scout of the Vulcan people.

Something Really A Little Récherché

Based on the foregoing evidence, we can (like any good Vulcan) construct two syllogisms:


Major Premise: Spock is descended from Holmes.

Minor Premise: The relationship of Spock to Holmes cannot be though his mother's side of the family.

Ergo: Spock's Holmesian ancestry comes from his father's Vulcan family.


Major Premise: Spock's Holmesian ancestry comes from his father's Vulcan family.

Minor Premise: Prior to Sarek's marriage to Amanda Grayson, there was no mixing of Vulcan and Human bloodlines.

Ergo: Sherlock Holmes is a full-blooded Vulcan.


The Singular Affair of the Family Historian

There is one last coincidence to be noted in our examination of the relationship between Holmes and Spock. If we examine the credits for certain installments of the documentary series on the Starship Enterprise, we find the following:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Directed by Nicholas Meyer

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer et al.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Directed by Nicholas Meyer

The name should ring a Sherlockian bell. Mr Meyer is the author of three non-canonical adventures: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (also made into a film), The West End Horror and most recently The Canary Trainer. The family historian is still working away. I have only seen one picture of Mr. Meyer, and in it his hair covers his ears. I wonder....


Space -- the final frontier. These are the voyages of Sherlock Holmes. His mission: to explore a strange new world, to seek out new crimes and new criminals, to boldy deduce what no one has deduced before.

References - Print

Bonnanno, Margaret W. - Strangers From The Sky, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books 1987.

Dillard, J.M. - The Lost Years, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books 1989.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan - The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Doubleday 1906 - 1930.

Duane, Diane - Spock's World, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books 1988.

Duane, Diane and Peter Morwood - The Romulan Way, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books 1987.

Johnson, Shane - The Worlds of the Federation, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books 1989.

References - AudioVisual Media

Roddenberry, Gene (creator) and various screenwriters and directors - Star Trek (original television series) 1966 - 68

Foster, Alan Dean (writer)/Robert Wise (director) - Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount Pictures 1980.

Bennett, Harve and Jack B. Sowards (writers)/Nicholas Meyer (director) - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Paramount Pictures 1982.

Bennett, Harve (writer)/Leonard Nimoy (director) - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Paramount Pictures 1984.

Bennett, Harve and Leonard Nimoy (writers)/Leonard Nimoy (director) - Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Paramount Pictures 1988.

David Loughery (writer)/William Shatner (director) - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Paramount Pictures 1989.

Meyer, Nicholas and Denny Martin Flynn (writers)/Nicholas Meyer (director) - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Paramount Pictures 1991.

NOTE: While the Star Trek sources are not the work of Mr. Roddenberry himself, none were published without his approval or, after his decease, the approval of Paramount Pictures and Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

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