J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies are set in the Kelvin timeline. Here’s when the events of this alternate reality happen compared to the Prime timeline.
J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies take place in an alternate reality known as the Kelvin timeline and the events of the films happen within the timeframe of Discovery seasons 1 and 2 and Strange New Worlds in the Prime timeline. However, Star Trek Beyond, the last film of Abrams’ trilogy, happens 3 years before Captain Kirk (takes command of the Starship Enterprise in the Prime timeline. The Kelvin timeline was created by a time travel incursion caused by the Romulan mining ship Narada, captained by villain Nero (Eric Bana).
The Romulan sun going supernova in the late 24th century of the Prime timeline led to Nero and Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) accidentally leaving 2387 and going back in time. When Nero’s ship materialized in 2333, the Romulans destroyed the USS Kelvin, which was captained by George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), father of James. The destruction of the Kelvin and death of George created an alternate reality that changed numerous aspects of the new timeline going forward. This included Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) growing up without his dad whereas William Shatner’s Kirk’s father lived in the Prime reality. Another result of the Romulan incursion is that Starfleet accelerated technologically and militarily and certain key events happened much sooner.
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The main story of Star Trek 2009 occurred in 2255, wherein Kirk rocketed from Ensign to Captain of the Starship Enterprise as he and Spock (Zachary Quinto) led the defeat of Nero and saved Earth, although Vulcan was destroyed in the Kelvin timeline. The events of Star Trek 2009 happened one year before Discovery season 1, which saw Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) of the U.S.S. Shenzhou instigate the Klingon War of 2256-2257 at the Battle of the Binary Stars in the Prime timeline – a war that didn’t occur in the Kelvin timeline. However, thanks to Nero, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) decided to use Section 31 to militarize Starfleet in the Kelvin timeline and sought to provoke a war with the Klingons to destroy the United Federation of Planets’ other main enemy.
Star Trek Into Darkness was set in 2259 in the Kelvin timeline where Kirk and the Enterprise stopped Marcus’ scheme for a militarized Starfleet under his control to go to war with the Klingons. Marcus also discovered and awakened Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch), a genetically engineered, 20th-century supervillain, whereas Khan (Ricardo Montalban) wouldn’t be found by Kirk in the Prime timeline until 2267. Also, a year before Into Darkness‘s events in the Kelvin reality, Burnham and the USS Discovery permanently time-traveled to the 32nd century after saving the galaxy in the Prime timeline from a rogue A.I. called Control.
In Star Trek Beyond, circa 2263, Captain Kirk and Spock were in year 3 of their five-year mission aboard the Enterprise in the Kelvin timeline. Meanwhile, Prime’s Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck) was serving aboard the Enterprise under Captain Pike, which will be detailed in Strange New Worlds. However, Pike and Spock’s pivotal visit to Talos IV, as seen in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, happened in 2254, one year before Kirk led the Enterprise to stop Nero in the Kelvin timeline. At the end of Beyond, the Kelvin timeline’s Enterprise was destroyed by Krall (Idris Elba) and Kirk was given command of the new USS Enterprise-A. By contrast, the Prime timeline’s Kirk wouldn’t take command of the Enterprise-A until 2286 at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
The Prime timeline is confirmed to have continued after the events of Beyond and the alternate reality also became embroiled in the Temporal Wars. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 revealed a 24th-century time soldier named Yor crossed universes from the Kelvin reality and arrived in the 31st century of the Prime reality. Yor was the only known person to cross between timelines since Ambassador Spock followed Nero, who helped create the alternate reality. Discovery effectively merged J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies into the canon so that the Prime and Kelvin timelines are now aware of each other by the 32nd century.
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