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It is reasonable for the death of George Kirk in Star Trek (2009) to affect James Kirk's childhood, leading to James being a troubled teen and not joining Starfleet until he was a 20-something.

But what is the reasoning behind all of the starships looking drastically different in this divergent timeline?

Whose death on the Kelvin lead to Spock starting a romantic relationship with Uhura?

What event lead to Admiral Marcus finding Kahn and his crewmates instead of Kirk and the Enterprise?

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    We have no idea what missions the Kelvin undertook in the original timeline, so we have no idea if its destruction led to another ship being used in its place, one which in the original timeline Spock may have been assigned to rather than being assigned to the academy for so long and having the chance to kindle a romance with a cadet. We have no idea if the destruction of the Kelvin started designs thinking about things differently. Etc etc etc. Its all time travel handy wavey stuff. – Moo Jan 13 '15 at 14:59
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    I got the impression it was a similar situation to how First Contact started the mirror universe. This ginormous advanced ship comes out of nowhere and obliterates a ship. As a result, Starfleet became slightly more militarized, which changes everything. Butterfly effect, and all that. The question about Spock is going to be completely speculative. – Dave Johnson Jan 13 '15 at 15:06
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    @DaveJohnson according to enterprise, the borg invasion is part of the original history of earth, it was just minimized and forgotten. as 2 of the borg left over from first contact wake up and capture a ship in enterprise and attempt to reach borg space. Unless enterprise itself is set in a mirror universe, though im pretty sure it is set into the main star trek universe. – Himarm Jan 13 '15 at 15:09
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    @Himarm You are correct. The Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly" shows us the origin of the Mirror Universe, and it's not what happens during First Contact, or in the rest of the Enterprise show – Jason Baker Jan 13 '15 at 16:15
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    Spock and Uhura had a certain empathy towards each other in the original timeline. It's not a stretch that they would become romantically involved under different conditions. – Omegacron Jan 13 '15 at 16:57
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In the original time line, star ships were mainly about discovery with minor fighting capabilities.

Nero's ship and it's encounter with the Kelvin changed that dynamic.

So it's not George Kirk's death that had the profound impact on the time line so much as it was the encounter with a ship with massive destructive capabilities.

My reasoning for this answer:

It's mentioned in the movie that Captain Pike did his dissertation on that event (something else that would have been different from the original time line), which would have been read and considered by the higher ups in Star Fleet.

Addressing other questions in the OP

Whose death on the Kelvin lead to Spock starting a romantic relationship with Uhura? Star Fleet Academy would have been different considering their assumed switch in the new time line to having a larger focus on offense/defense. Though those differences are never flat-out stated, it's a safe assumption that they lead to Spock and Uhura having a closer relationship during the Academy (Her ordering him to put her on the enterprise and him complying implied an interesting dynamic).

What event lead to Admiral Marcus finding Kahn and his crewmates instead of Kirk and the Enterprise? I think this is the most interesting spin-off in the new time line. Again going with my assumption that the Kelvin's encounter changed the entire mindset of Star Fleet, Marcus was probably working on top-secret wartime applications before the escalating issues with the Klingons. The dock where he was building his secret ship behind Jupiter would have taken years to build, so it's extremely possible that he was already in search of new ways for star fleet to become a stronger militaristic presence and most likely already had a secret team of ships exploring the galaxy looking for the next great leap in weapons technology. My educated guess is one of them stumbled on Kahn's ship.

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    It didn't actually occur to me that Starfleet moved more to a militaristic ideal after the destruction of the Kelvin. I understand that Marcus was heading in that direction, but I guess I didn't realize all of Starfleet was. – scott.korin Jan 13 '15 at 18:24
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    it's an assumption of mine. But I figure Marcus would have needed approval and resources, so others in star fleet would have had to be of that mind set. As that wasn't the case in the original series, I made the leap that it was due to that point of fracture in the time line – WizardKnight Jan 13 '15 at 18:30
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    my above comment had another assumption that star fleet was naturally less militaristic in the original series. We didn't hear about them making ships specifically for war, so I'm taking that as 'they didn't' – WizardKnight Jan 13 '15 at 18:33
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    Seeing how the installation that Khan bombed in the beginning of the movie was secretly a Section 31 facility, would corroborate @WizardKnight's assumption that Murph... I mean Marcus wasn't alone in militarizing Starfleet. – Chahk Jan 13 '15 at 18:52
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    @chahk And he engaged the warp drive by interfacing with the computer using a spike that extended from fist :P – WizardKnight Jan 13 '15 at 18:54
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I have done a bit of research, and discovered that George Kirk, whilst being in Starfleet, never actually served aboard the Kelvin. He was posted to various starbases, where he met and married his wife. When pregnant with Jim she returned to Earth (Iowa) where she gave birth. In 2245, George was found by Capt. Robert April and accepted the position of First Officer aboard the newly launched USS Enterprise NCC-1701. The ships first mission led to the first Human Romulan face to face meeting, which was covered up by Starfleet.

Before Nero's arrival the ships would've looked like the ships from the TOS, and would've had the same technology (proper viewscreen etc...). Also, before 2271 each ship and starbase had its own badge. The Arrowhead emblem was the Enterprise's badge, and only taken up by Starfleet in honour of James T. Kirk's historic five year mission (and because the Enterprise was the only Constitution-class ship to survive intact). This has l me to realise that Nero and "Spock-Prime" arrived in an already existing alternate timeline, which can also explain why the Enterprise looks different.

Characters and their year of birth in chronological order): Montgomery Scott (2222) Leonard H. McCoy (2227) Spock (2230) James T. Kirk (2233) Hikaru Sulu (2237) Nyota Uhura (2239) Pavel A. Chekov (2245)

Now work out how old they are in JJ'S first Star Trek film, and I'm sure you'll be surprised (hint, Chekov is not 17). How can Nero's arrival affect their years of birth?

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    If you have follow up questions, those should be posed as new questions. For the record, the answer is "there were other changes than just those caused by the Narada's arrival". – Valorum Apr 5 '16 at 23:24
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    There's no "follow up question" here. There is only a rhetorical question, posed in the last of sixteen sentences, to conclude the point made in the rest of the answer. An answer which, as far as I can see, is logical and full of merit. For the record. +1 – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 5 '16 at 23:43
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    What's your source for the claim about George Kirk, the Romulan/human meeting, etc.? Something canon from a show or something else like a novel? – Hypnosifl Apr 5 '16 at 23:53
  • @Hypnosifl: I had the same question. I'm assuming much of that information comes from novels, which means it's all not canon. – Ellesedil Apr 6 '16 at 0:06

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