Before we get to the epic battle between those two nefarious foes, we’re showcasing a few honorable mentions who kept our Federation crews on their toes. There’s the fanatical Kai Winn Adami who wreaked havoc on Deep Space 9 along with Gul Dukat. We also got Spock’s wayward half-brother Sybok. Now we’re diving into the Kelvin timeline to meet the Romulan miner turned vengeful captain, Nero, and his sole mission to destroy Spock’s home world and family.
Who Was Nero?
Nero, portrayed menacingly by the brilliant Eric Bana, opens Star Trek (2009) at the helm of the Romulan mining vessel turned warship the Narada as it emerges from a black hole and immediately launches a vicious assault on the Federation ship the U.S.S. Kelvin.
Upon learning the stardate—2233—and discovering Captain Robau’s lack of knowledge of Ambassador Spock, Nero lashes out and kills Robau in anger. As the Narada continues its full-scale attack on the Kelvin, the now acting captain George Kirk sacrifices his life by plotting a collision course with the Narada in order to give the 800 survivors of the crew, including his wife Winona and newborn son James T. Kirk, a fighting chance at escape and survival.
Why Was Nero Searching for Spock?
Nero arrives in 2233 through the black hole from over 150 years in the future. Following his assault on the Kelvin, Nero and his vessel waited another 25 years before the arrival of Ambassador Spock, providing him ample time to sit with grief over the loss of his wife, unborn son, and home planet Romulus.
In the year 2387, Nero, off-world on a mining expedition, faced the destruction of his family and Romulus due to an adjacent supernova. Ambassador Spock, in his Vulcan Science Academy Jellyfish vessel, attempted to neutralize the supernova’s effects with a black hole created with red matter. However, Spock was unsuccessful in reaching Romulus before its annihilation.
Nero directs his all-consuming rage towards Spock, who had sought to mitigate disaster, and the Federation, who did not aid in the dying planet’s evacuations. Unbeknownst to Nero, former admiral Jean Luc Picard left the Federation to command a rescue armada to aid in the evacuation of 18 billion Romulans off their planet, as explained on Star Trek: Picard’s “Remembrance.”
Nero’s Incursion Creates an Alternate Timeline — The Kelvin Timeline
The crew aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin were not familiar with the Romulans as first visual contact with the race would not occur until 2266, as seen in The Original Series’ “Balance of Terror” episode.
The singularity event pulls Nero and his crew on the Narada, as well as Spock and his Jellyfish, into its red matter-created black hole, sending them into the past. While Nero arrives in 2233, Ambassador Spock finds himself in 2258, setting up a time paradox with the younger Commander Spock, first officer to Captain Christopher Pike, aboard the not yet christened U.S.S. Enterprise.
It’s Nero’s actions in 2233 that trigger the creation of an alternate reality, dubbed the "Kelvin" timeline, changing course and the history for the Federation and the last of the Romulan Empire’s present future in the Prime Universe.
The Assault on Earth and Vulcan
In order to inflict the same amount of pain onto his adversary Spock, Nero seeks to punish the half-Vulcan, half-human ambassador by having him witness the destruction of his two home worlds — Vulcan and Earth. Nero believes destroying Vulcan and the Federation will ensure a future for Romulus, one where they are the ultimate power in the universe.
When Ambassador Spock arrives in 2258, Nero and his crew are ready to intercept. Marooning the elder Spock to Delta Vega, Nero forces him to witness the destruction of Vulcan with Spock’s supply of red matter.
As the Federation dispatched several starships to aid the Vulcan planet, Nero spots the Enterprise and wants the younger Spock, of the Kelvin timeline, to witness Vulcan’s destruction and know it was brought by his hands as well.
The Enterprise is unsuccessful in thwarting Vulcan’s destruction, as the red matter created a black hole at the center of the planet. This caused the planet to implode on itself. Both the young and elder Spock face the mass genocide of their people, including the loss of their mother, Amanda Grayson.
It is Nero’s deep desire to attack Spock’s people and planet that ultimately cements his short-lived present. Now on the radar of both the Federation and the U.S.S. Enterprise, Pike, Spock, George Kirk’s son Jim, and the rest of the crew will stop at nothing to stop Nero from doing what he did to Vulcan to Earth and other Federation planets. It’s this narrow-minded pursuit to kill Spock that has Nero and the Narada engulfed by the red matter he sought to exploit when he attempts to destroy Earth. Refusing aid from Captain Kirk and the Enterprise after his ship is fatally damaged, Nero declares he’d rather witness Romulus suffer a thousand times and goes down with his ship.
Holding a Mirror to Spock
In Star Trek (2009), Nero and his actions present a treacherous mirror of the Romulans to Spock and Vulcans. In fact, Romulans and Vulcans descended from the same ancestry; Romulans are distant cousins from Vulcans who rejected Surak and his teachings that led Vulcans to master their emotions via logic. Those who rebuked those teachings would become what we now know as Romulans. The Romulans were a very moral people with an absolutist view of what’s right or wrong. As such, they were incredibly xenophobic and isolationists, which was why and how they went unnoticed by the Federation for as long as they did.
In the film, both Nero and Spock grapple with the loss of their loved ones and witness the destruction of their entire home worlds. However, how they react to the all-consuming grief and despair sets them both on mirrored paths. While Nero pursues the road of narrow-minded revenge, both the young and elder Spock head down the path of hope and survival, ensuring their Vulcan history and the remaining surviving Vulcans can rebuild an enduring future.
Where does Nero rank for you on the never-ending list of nefarious Star Trek foes? Let us know @StarTrek on social! And come back to StarTrek.com next week as we had to the Star Trek Villain Showdown finals as Khan goes head-to-head with Gul Dukat!
Christine Dinh (she/her) is the managing editor for StarTrek.com. She’s traded the Multiverse for helming this Federation Starship.
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