On stardate 2233.04 in the alternate reality, the Federation starship USS Kelvin was attacked by the Romulan mining vessel Narada, while orbiting a star 75,000 kilometers from the Federation-Klingon border. This was one of the first incidents in the alternate reality, a parallel universe created by the Narada's arrival from the future having caused a split from the space-time continuum of the prime universe.
Upon investigating an anomaly resembling a lightning storm effect in space, the Kelvin's crew initially considered whether this phenomenon was of Klingon origin, although that theory was later dismissed. The time of the encounter also marked Winona Kirk entering premature labor with her and George Kirk's son.
When the Narada emerged from the anomaly and discovered the Kelvin, it quickly charged its weapons. In response, the Kelvin went to red alert and began fighting off torpedoes launched from the Romulan vessel. The first hit took out the warp drive and reduced main power to thirty-eight percent. The second torpedo disabled the Kelvin's atmospheric stabilization and collapsed its shields.
The Kelvin was easily overcome, with several crew members killed, but the attack was halted by Nero's first officer, Ayel, who requested that Captain Robau come aboard Nero's vessel to discuss terms of a cease fire. Robau obliged the request and transferred to the Narada via shuttlecraft, leaving George Kirk in command. Robau's final orders to Kirk were to evacuate the ship using all available shuttlecraft, and to use the autopilot to set the Kelvin on a collision course with the Narada.
During the meeting on the Narada, Robau was killed by Nero. Tracking Robau's life signs, the Kelvin crew became aware of Robau's execution instantly. George Kirk immediately ordered evasive action and the firing of all weapons, and the Kelvin continued taking fire from the Narada. Knowing that the Kelvin would be no match for the onslaught of missiles from the Romulan ship, Kirk ordered General Order 13: the evacuation of the ship.
Once all shuttlecraft had been launched, Kirk used the Kelvin to cover their escape. With no other options left, he plotted a collision course, intending to use the ship's autopilot to ram the Narada. Kirk was, however, forced to remain on the Kelvin, rather than join his wife aboard medical shuttle 37, when it was discovered that the Narada had destroyed the Kelvin's autopilot function, leaving him to pilot the ship manually.
As he did so, Kirk used what weapons still functioned to shoot down the Narada's missiles before they could strike the fleeing shuttles. Kirk then piloted the ship until it rammed into the Narada, severely damaging it and destroying the Kelvin.
George Kirk's sacrifice ensured the survival of the escaping shuttles. Furthermore, while Kirk only served as captain of the Kelvin for a mere twelve minutes, his sacrifice saved the lives of some eight hundred people, including those of his wife and newborn son.
After the Kelvin's destruction, Christopher Pike wrote a dissertation on the Kelvin and the actions of George Kirk, its commanding officer at the time of its destruction. Pike later made reference to this dissertation and his knowledge of George Kirk to Kirk's son, daring him to do better than his father and enlist in Starfleet. (Star Trek)
|The Flight of the Narada|
|Attack on the USS Kelvin (2233) • Destruction of Vulcan (2258) • Battle of Earth (2258)|
According to Roberto Orci, the telemetry data which the Kelvin recorded of the technologically advanced Narada during the battle was probably brought back to Starfleet via the surviving shuttles. Orci additionally implied that Starfleet's exposure to this data may explain why its ships and technology appear different in the alternate universe.  J.J. Abrams also said, in an interview with MTV, that readings from the Narada "inspired ideas and technology that wouldn't have advanced otherwise." 
As the movie's director, Abrams discovered that filming certain portions of the attack on the Kelvin required more thorough planning than the majority of the film. (audio commentary, Star Trek Special Edition/Three-disc Blu-ray) The exterior damage sustained by the Kelvin during the battle was intricately planned in a diagram of the starship. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 25) Lighting on the sets used for the Kelvin added to the battle sequence. "It deteriorates very quickly in front of your eyes!" noted Director of Photography Dan Mindel, concerning the Kelvin during the battle. "It does feel like it is in distress." (Star Trek Magazine issue 146, p. 44)
Location filming that was involved in depicting the destruction of the Kelvin's lower decks took "about a week," according to Stunt Coordinator Joey Box. He originally scouted the location with J.J. Abrams, Dan Mindel, 1st Assistant Director Tommy Gormley, and several other department heads. "We prepped for about five days in the environment, and then at the end of the movie, we came back there and picked up some bits and pieces they hadn't got," said Joey Box. "I had at least 15 guys there: that was all expediting the evacuation of the ship and showing the destruction of the Kelvin from the inside out." (Star Trek Magazine issue 146, pp. 61-62) Achieving this spectacle of disaster took lots of special effects, such as fire as well as (in the words of Winona Kirk actress Jennifer Morrison) "explosions, falling sparks, water pouring out [and] things shaking." These effects normally took two hours to set up. (Star Trek Magazine issue 145, p. 96)
When creating the effect of a wall rupturing moments before a female officer is pulled through it, the film's physical effects supervisor, Burt Dalton, and the special effects department were responsible for representing that ill-fated part of the ship. "We blew out the side of the set practically," said Dalton. Other elements of the same shot were done in CGI, however. (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 54)
According to J.J. Abrams, the entire Kelvin sequence, including the CG footage, was shot "months, if not over a year, apart." Cutting the sequence together involved much concentration on it; Roberto Orci has stated that "it felt like, every time I walked into the editing room," the sequence was being worked on. (audio commentary, Star Trek Special Edition/Three-disc Blu-ray)
In fact, the Kelvin sequence was revised considerably during post-production. Wherever J.J. Abrams and his editors did not yet have previsualization footage, they inserted black cards with shot descriptions. Paul Kavanagh and ILM visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett then discussed the battle with Abrams and his editors, giving consideration to the types of shots Abrams might want to include in the conflict. (Cinefex, No. 118, pp. 48 & 51)
The idea of the Kelvin ramming the Narada was not visualized until after ILM set to work on the previz. "In the revised scene, J.J. decided it would be more dramatic if Kirk defended the escaping shuttles by taking the Kelvin on a suicide run into the Narada," Paul Kavanagh remembered. "That was not part of the original cut." The ship's destruction eventually involved computer-generated fireball effects. A physical effects rig was also used on the set for the vessel's bridge, making George Kirk appear to be slammed toward the front of the ship from out of the command chair. (Cinefex, No. 118, pp. 48, 51 & 54)
Alex Kurtzman once observed that – with the attack on the USS Kelvin placed at the start of the film Star Trek – the scene retains a sense of initial confusion for the audience, which the writers much desired for the movie's beginning. (Star Trek Magazine issue 146, p. 39)
While dialogue in the film explicitly states that the Kelvin's warp drive was taken out early in the attack, according to the first issue of the Star Trek: Nero comic series, George Kirk was somehow able to restore it and activate the drive at the precise moment of impact, consequently disabling the Narada.