In the 23rd Century, the Starship Kelvin is investigating a lightning-storm effect in space. A Romulan ship called the Narada emerges from the phenomenon and attacks the Kelvin. The Romulan First Officer Ayel (Clifton Collins) demands that the Kelvin’s Captain Robau (Faran Tahir) come aboard for truce-talk. Robau is asked about the current stardate and someone called Ambassador Spock. The Romulan Captain Nero (Eric Bana) kills him and fires upon the Kelvin. The Starfleet First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) orders the crew including his pregnant wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison) to abandon ship as he pilots the Kelvin into collision with the Narada, killing himself as his wife gives birth to James Kirk.
On Vulcan, seventeen years later, young Spock (Jacob Kogan) is accepted by the Vulcan Science Academy. When the Academy refers to his human mother Amanda (Winona Ryder) as a disadvantage to his career, he joins Starfleet instead. On Earth, James Kirk (Chris Pine) is a reckless but intelligent young adult. After a bar fight over Nyota Ahura (Zoe Saldana), he meets Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who encourages him to enlist in Starfleet Academy, where he meets Doctor Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban).
Three years later, Spock accuses Kirk of cheating during the Kobayashi Maru simulation. The disciplinary hearing is interrupted by a distress signal from Vulcan. The cadets are mobilized, McCoy and Kirk aboard Pike’s ship Enterprise. Recognizing the lightning-storm effect from tales of his birth, Kirk warns Pike that the distress signal is a trap. Enterprise arrives to find the fleet decimated and Narada drilling into Vulcan’s core. Narada attacks Enterprise and Pike must surrender, delegating command to Spock and appointing Kirk first officer. Kirk and Sulu (John Cho), accompanied by a red-shirted crewman who dies, literally jump to disable the drill, but Captain Nero dumps red matter into Vulcan’s core, forming an artificial black hole that destroys the entire planet. Enterprise manages to rescue Spock’s father Sarek (Ben Cross) and the cultural elders, but Amanda is killed.
Narada speeds to Earth. Nero tortures Pike for Earth’s defense codes. Kirk attempts to mutiny and Spock maroons him on the ice-planet Delta Vega, where Kirk encounters the Elder Spock (Leonard Nimoy) who explains that he and Nero are from 129 years in the future, when Romulus is threatened by a supernova. Spock’s attempt to use red matter to consume the supernova went awry and Romulus, including Nero’s family, was consumed. Narada and Spock’s ship were caught up in the black hole and sent back in time. Nero stranded Spock on Delta Vega, where he was forced to watch Vulcan’s destruction as Nero’s revenge.
Kirk and the Elder Spock meet Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) at a Starfleet outpost on Delta Vega. Spock and Scott create a way for Kirk to beam onto Enterprise at warp speed. On the advice of Elder Spock, Kirk goads Young Spock into attacking him. The latter realizes he is emotionally compromised and relinquishes command. Enterprise hides in the gas clouds of Titan; Kirk and Spock board Narada. Kirk fights Nero and Ayel, killing the latter and rescuing Pike, while Spock destroys the drill. Spock sets the Elder Spock’s ship to collide with Narada and ignites the red matter. Kirk offers to rescue Nero as they beam to safety, but he refuses, and the ship is consumed in the black hole.
Kirk is promoted to Captain and given command of the Enterprise, while Pike is promoted to Rear Admiral. Spock meets his elder self, who persuades him to serve in Starfleet. He becomes First Officer under Kirk.
For those who were confused by this movie: In our timeline, in the future, the Spock we know from the earlier movies tries to help the Romulans who are threatened by a supernova, but it all goes sideways, and Romulus is destroyed. Spock is thrown 129 years into the past, along with the Narada and its vengeful Captain Nero. When the Narada interacts with the Kelvin, it changes our timeline to the one featured in the Kelvin Series, similar to ours, but different in many ways. Nero proceeds to hunt out Spock, maroons him on Delta Vega, where he can watch Vulcan being destroyed, and then goes after Starfleet, while the Elder Spock interacts with the characters of this movie to help them save the Earth.
The movie was directed by J.J. Abrams, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Whenever the Star Trek creators don’t know what to do, they start planning a nostalgic visit to the Starfleet Academy days. This was a way to do that, and yet create something fresh. They started out right, picking Abrams (Lost, Alias, Mission Impossible, Fringe, and Star Wars) to lead, and collecting a stable of capable actors to follow. Chris Pine got William Shatner’s blessing. He tried to bring Kirk’s humor, arrogance, and decisiveness, without doing a parody. He brought a bit of Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford to the table. Zachary Quinto studied Nimoy’s Spock and aced his interview, changing his hair, keeping still, and holding his arms behind his back, beating out Adrian Brody for the role. Karl Urban rocked Doctor McCoy’s cantankerous style and sharp humor.
Zoe Saldana met with Nichelle Nichols for pointers. Simon Pegg was straight out offered the role of Scotty by J.J. Abrams and brought the character’s humor to the fore. Anton Yelchin managed the strange accent of Chekov, which is part Russian and part Polish. Abrams and John Cho were concerned about a Korean playing a Japanese, but George Takei said that Sulu is there to represent all Asians. All of the casting, in fact, was pretty deep. Majel Barrett finished voicing the ship’s computer two weeks before her death. Shatner was offered a cameo, but the role wasn’t big enough and he refused. Abrams was offered the job of director as well as producer and took it because his wife liked the strong female roles and Steven Spielberg liked the script. The Kelvin, which ended up giving the name to the entire timeline by Michael and Denise Okuda, was not only named after the great scientist but after J.J. Abrams’ grandfather. Michael Giacchino scored the picture with a 107-person orchestra and a 40-person chorus.
Zachary Quinto had to have his fingers glued together to do the Vulcan salute. He met Leonard Nimoy at Comic-Con, who told him, “You have no idea what you’re in for.” When Quinto sits down to pilot Leonard Nimoy’s Spock’s ship, the back of the pilot seat and the view port form the Vulcan IDIC symbol--Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. Scotty says at one point that during warp speed, space is travelling around the ship rather than the ship travelling in space. The idea of different colored uniforms to indicate different crew-functions comes from aircraft carriers, where too much noise and high speed make identification otherwise difficult. The design of this Enterprise was influenced by Pierre Cardin and the movie 2001. The Narada purposefully looks like it was designed by Antoni Gaudi. From Narada, the original Enterprise appears for a moment on Narada’s screens. In the final shot of the new Enterprise, the windows are Morse Code, spelling KHAN.
Gene Roddenberry, in an interview just before he died, said he hoped some bright young thing would come along and do Star Trek bigger and better than he could. Nero is not only the Emperor of Rome, since all Romulan names come from that place, but is a play on Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The self-absorbed Captain of the Narada (Nautilus) with second-in-command Ayel (Aronnax) from a lost Romulan (Roman) Empire, seeking revenge against the Federation (England) for his imprisonment in Rura Penthe (Rura Pentha). As always, Star Trek’s roots are deep in literature. And as usual, I enjoyed every minute of it.