Movie Structure Breakdown: Star Trek

PosterFormat: Movie

Released: 2009

Written By: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

Directed By: JJ Abrams

Run Time: 118 minutes

Character: James T. Kirk, Spock T. Spock


A character in an Imperfect Situation faces Oppressive Opposition as he pursues an Initial Goal. But when there is a Disturbance to his routine, he faces a Dilemma regarding his situation, and must assume a New Role.

Kirk: Fatherless Kirk lives with his mom and wicked stepfather in Iowa (the imperfect situation) and faces interference from the law and his stepdad (oppressive opposition) as he tries to live by his own rules (the initial goal). But when his reckless, flirtatious ways get him into a fight with a group of Starfleet security cadets (the disturbance), he’s encouraged by a high-ranking officer to join Starfleet (the dilemma) and becomes a Starfleet cadet (the new role).

Spock: Spock, a half-human boy being raised on Vulcan (the imperfect situation) is harassed by the Vulcan boys for being different (oppressive opposition) as he attempts to go to school and get good grades (the initial goal). But when his human mother is insulted by the high council at his acceptance into the Vulcan Academy (the disturbance), Spock must choose between the Vulcan life he knows (the dilemma) and enlisting in Starfleet (the new role).

The Imperfect Situation: Kirk is an orphan. His life has no purpose, and although he’s alright with it, others are not. He does not want to change his situation

Spock is an outcast who is struggling to find his purpose. He wants to change his situation.

Initial Goal: Kirk: Live life by his own rules. Screw the universe.

Spock: Find a place in universe. Prepare for an appearance on Jeopardy

"What is Zarton's theory of isotropic dilithium, Alex."
“What is Zarton’s theory of isotropic dilithium, Alex.”

Oppressive Opposition: Kirk is being oppressed by his stepfather’s rules, the law, and Starfleet cadets who don’t know how to take a joke.

Spock is oppressed by Vulcan boys who don’t know how to appreciate the differences of others, and later by senior ranking Vulcans who also have a profound lack of respect for human beings.

Turning Point Catalyst – The Disturbance: Kirk: In Iowa, Kirk meets Cadet Uhura at a bar. His flirtatious ways get him into a fight with Starfleet security cadets who are also in attendance.

"Did I win?"
“Did I win?”

Turning Point One – The Dilemma: Start Time: 19 of 118 minutes (16%) – Kirk: When Captain Pike recognizes Kirk’s resemblance to his father after his fight with the cadets, he makes him an offer to enlist in Starfleet. Kirk must choose between staying in Iowa and joining Starfleet.

Spock: In Spock’s meeting with the Vulcan high council it is revealed he has been accepted into both Starfleet and the Vulcan Academy. Spock must choose between attending the Vulcan Academy and enlisting in Starfleet.

The New Role: If Kirk agrees to join Starfleet, he will become a Starfleet cadet. Ditto for Spock.

"Can't believe I never noticed that before."
“Can’t believe I never noticed that before.”

Act Run Time: 28 of 118 minutes (23.7%)


The character Learns the Rules of an Unfamiliar Situation and faces Incidental Opposition in pursuit of a Transitional Goal. But when he receives a Reality Check, he makes a Commitment to his New Role.

Act Start Time: 28 of 118 minutes (23.7%)

Kirk: Kirk goes to Starfleet Academy (the unfamiliar situation) where they have an abundance of things called rules (incidental opposition) in hopes of graduating from simply being super awesome to being super awesome in space (the transitional goal). But when the fleet is mustered while he is on academic suspension, and he’s forced to stow aboard the Enterprise (reality check), he is recruited by Captain Pike (again) to lead an away team tasked with stopping Romulans from destroying Vulcan (the commitment).

Spock: After dealing with a cheating cadet who somehow outsmarted his unbeatable test (the unfamiliar situation), and facing off with the smart mouth kid who questions his authority (incidental opposition), Commander Spock and the Enterprise receive an emergency response signal from Vulcan and mount a rescue mission (the transitional goal). But when it is revealed that Romulans are attacking Vulcan because of Spock (the reality check), Captain Pike agrees to negotiate with the Romulans and promotes Spock to captain in his stead (the commitment).

The Unfamiliar Situation: Kirk goes off to the Starfleet Academy. They have a lot of rules there, and he quickly gets himself into serious trouble.

Commander Spock excels at the Starfleet Academy, but we’re not reintroduced to him until his superior intellect is brought into question by a brash young cadet named Kirk who manages to beat the unwinnable test Spock personally programmed.

"I was like, Pew Pew!"
“Pew Pew! Die rules!”

Transitional Goal: Kirk wants to graduate the Academy and be awesome.

Spock wants to live long and prosper.

Incidental Opposition: Kirk runs into several problems just trying to be his usual, womanizing, authority circumventing self. He clashes with Uhura and Bones over his relentless retaking of the Kobayashi Maru exam and later with Spock, Tyler Perry, and the Starfleet Academy because he cheated on said exam.

"I often dress as a woman, but I need you to take me serious right now."
“I often dress as a woman, but I need you to take me serious right now.”

Spock’s unpassable test is defeated by a cheating Kirk. He and Kirk have it out in front of the entire Starfleet Academy at Kirk’s academic hearing.

Turning Point Catalyst – The Reality Check: Kirk: Due to his academic suspension, Kirk is grounded when the fleet is mustered. He subsequently gets a Mudflee vaccination from Bones and has a humorous, near-fatal reaction.

“I’m gonna wreck it!”

Spock: Kirk unexpectedly barges on the bridge and announces Vulcan is under attack by ‘Womulans. Spock tries to call him a liar but is ultimately proven wrong.

Turning Point Two – The Commitment: Start Time: 45 of 118 minutes (38.1%)

–  The Enterprise comes out of warp to find the fleet destroyed. They are confronted by a garbled transmission of Nero’s head, and must come up with a plan to stop the drill. Captain Pike request officers with advanced hand-to-hand combat training and also takes Kirk since he’s not supposed to be there in the first place. Spock is logically promoted to captain. Kirk is illogically promoted to first officer. Kirk commits himself to his New Role as a Starfleet officer by leading an away team to stop the drill. Spock commits to his New Role as captain by being all serious. Meanwhile, the Romulans commit to destroying Vulcan by preparing the red matter, setting the stage for the Central Conflict.

Act Run Time: 23 of 118 minutes (19.4%)


The character stumbles into the Central Conflict and faces Intentional Opposition in pursuit of a False Goal. But when there is a grave Turn of events, he has a Moment of Truth.

Act Start Time: 51 of 118 minutes (43.2%)

Kirk: Hoping to stop Nero and whatever it is he’s trying to accomplish (the central conflict), Kirk and the away team face off with gun-toting Romulans (intentional opposition) when they HALO jump to the planet to destroy the drill (the false goal). But when Nero destroys the planet by creating a black hole at its center (the turn) and Spock wants to rendezvous with the fleet instead of going after him, Kirk opts to mutiny to lead the ship after Nero (the moment of truth).

Spock: When it is discovered Nero is trying to create a singularity at the center of all Federation planets (the central conflict), Spock beams to the surface of the collapsing Vulcan against Kirk’s protests (intentional opposition) to save the council and his family (the false goal). But when his mother is killed and Vulcan is destroyed (the turn), Kirk tries to mutiny, and Spock has him ejected from the ship (the moment of truth).

The Central Conflict: The crew of the Enterprise faces off with Nero and his plan to destroy Starfleet.

False Goal: Kirk and Spock attempt to stop Nero and whatever it is he’s doing to Vulcan.

Intentional Opposition: Nero and his crew now want the crew of the Enterprise to watch helplessly as Vulcan is destroyed. The Romulan redshirts try to stop Kirk, Sulu and a Starfleet redshirt from disabling the drill to no avail. Kirk and Sulu destroy the drill to no avail. Spock tries to rescue his mother to no avail. Can we please get some damn avail?!

Turning Point Catalyst – The Turn: Nero launches the red matter into the hole he’s drilled. The ground underneath Spock’s mom gives way, and Chekov can’t beam her aboard the ship because he’s not Scotty. She is dead. Vulcan is destroyed in a black hole as the Enterprise flies away.

Turning Point Three – The Moment of Truth: Start Time: 64 of 118 minutes (54.2%) – Spock determines from the artificially created black hole that Nero must be from the future. Spock and Kirk argue about their next move. Kirk wants to go after Nero. Spock wants to rendezvous with Starfleet. Spock is the captain, so he makes the call. Kirk flips out and attacks Spock who has him ejected from for mutiny.

And I was like, "Get his ass off my ship."
And I was like, “Phasers on eject.”

Both Spock and Kirk make decisions based on their true natures and fight against each other in defense of them.

Act Run Time: 21 of 118 minutes (17.7%)


The character implements a Doomed Plan and faces Self-Inflicted Opposition in pursuit of a Penultimate Goal. But when an unthinkable Lowpoint occurs, he pulls himself together and discovers a Newfound Resolve.

Act Start Time: 72 of 118 minutes (61%)

Kirk deals with the Hoth like atmosphere of Delta Vega (self-inflicted opposition), while trying to reach the Starfleet outpost (the penultimate goal). But when he is nearly eaten by one of the many space beasts of the planet (the lowpoint), he is rescued by Leonard Nimoy who clues him into Nero’s backstory and introduces him to Scotty (the newfound resolve)

Spock attempts to rendezvous with Starfleet (the doomed plan) but has his decision questioned by his senior officers (self-inflicted opposition) while trying to come up with a way to stop Nero (the penultimate goal). But when that damned Kirk manages to beam back aboard the ship, emotionally compromise him and convince him to resign command (the lowpoint), Spock has a father to son moment with his dad, who tells him humans are better than Vulcans in many ways and makes him apologize to Kirk (the newfound resolve).

The Doomed Plan: The Enterprise’s attempts to rendezvous with the fleet will be unsuccessful.

Penultimate Goal:  Kirk attempts to reach the Starfleet outpost on Delta Vega.

Spock attempts to rendezvous with the rest of Starfleet.

Self-Inflicted Opposition: Due to his choice to overthrow Spock, Kirk must now try to avoid becoming lunch for the space beasts of Hoth. After conveniently meeting future Spock, Scotty, and Deep Roy, Kirk teleports back onto the Enterprise and is apprehended by Starfleet security officers.

Meanwhile, Spock’s decision to ignore Kirk’s advice is what causes the latter to hatch a complex mutiny scheme. Ultimately, Spock’s dad leads him to realize all this mess is his fault because he doesn’t appreciate his human side.

Turning Point Catalyst – The Lowpoint: Kirk is marooned on Delta Vega.

Spock is emotionally compromised by Kirk and nearly kills him to death.

"No wire hangers!"
“Judo chop!”

This prompts Spock to relinquish his command of the Enterprise. Cue sad music.

It’s interesting to note that in this act, Spock and Kirk’s Turning Points diverge. Their clash at their joint Moment of Truth in the previous act immediately leads to Kirk’s individual Lowpoint of being marooned on Delta Vega in Act Four. But Kirk’s discovery of his Newfound Resolve and his beaming back aboard the ship causes the failure of Spock’s Doomed Plan, his Lowpoint of being emotionally compromised, and his subsequent Newfound Resolve of joining forces with Kirk. Their plot points had been aligned, if at odds up until this point, but it’s only after this divergence that their actions are harmoniously united under a shared goal at the conclusion of this act.

Turning Point Four – The Newfound Resolve: Start Time: 92 of 118 minutes (77.9%) – Kirk finds out about Nero from Spock Prime and decides he must be stopped.

"Don't fight it."
“Let me touch your face.”

He also learns he is the rightful captain of the Enterprise. Kirk joins up with Scotty, and together they beam aboard the ship.

After Spock loses command of the Enterprise to Kirk, his dad gives him life lessons on love and other such nonsense. Afterward, Spock returns to the bridge and volunteers to beam aboard Nero’s ship. He too has decided Nero must be stopped. Kirk will come with him, because of course.

Act Run Time: 24 of 118 minutes (20.3%)


The character tries a Longshot and faces Ultimate Opposition while trying to accomplish the Ultimate Goal. But just when it seems All is Lost, he makes a Final Push against the forces of antagonism and either succeeds or fails.

Act Start Time: 96 of 118 minutes (81.3%)

Spock and Kirk beam aboard Nero’s ship (the longshot) and shoot it out with an army of Romulans (ultimate opposition) to rescue Captain Pike, stop the black hole device and save the human planet Human (the ultimate goal). But when Nero activates the drill and Kirk attempts to apprehend him only to beaten senseless (all is lost), Spock destroys the drill, leads Nero toward the awaiting Enterprise, and crashes a ton of red matter into the Romulan ship (the final push).

The Longshot: Kirk and the gang devise a plan to beam aboard Nero’s ship, rescue Pike, stop the drill and save the world. Simple enough.

Ultimate Goal: Kirk and the crew want to stop Nero, rescue Pike and save Earth.

Ultimate Opposition: Kirk and Spock face off against Nero as he attempts to turn Earth into a black hole. The pair beams aboard a highly advanced enemy ship to rescue Pike but inadvertently land in the Romulan target practice room. Kirk and Spock shoot their way through the ship, meet the perpetually angry Nero and his equally angry goons.

Turning Point Catalyst – All is Lost: Nero activates the drill conveniently close to the Starfleet Academy. Kirk attempts to apprehend Nero, gets knocked silly by one of Nero’s goons, and then by Nero himself. It would seem as though he’s about to be choked to death. Again.

Loves to fight. Not very good at it.
Loves to fight. Not very good at it.

Turning Point Five – The Final Push: Start Time: 105 of 118 minutes (88.9%) – Spock destroys the drill with Spock Prime’s ship. Nero’s ship chases Spock and fires everything. The Enterprise, taking a page from the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope, shows up and destroys the missiles at the last second. Spock crashes the red matter into Nero’s ship as Scotty beams him, Kirk and Pike back aboard the Enterprise. Nero’s ship is caught in the black hole and destroyed, while the Enterprise has to eject the warp core to escape the pull of the black hole.

Act Run Time: 17 of 118 minutes (14.4%)


Having accomplished (or failed to have accomplished) the Ultimate Goal, the character is shown living in a New Situation.

Act Start Time: 113 of 118 minutes (95.7%)

Earth is saved, and Kirk and Spock are heroes. Spock meets Spock Prime who tells him he has much to learn from Kirk. Kirk is officially promoted to captain of the Enterprise.

Spock volunteers to be Kirk’s first mate as the Enterprise sets off on its second maiden voyage.

The New Situation: Earth is safe. The Starfleet Academy is a happy place to be. Spock meets Spock Prime who convinces him to stay in Starfleet. Kirk is given command of the Enterprise from Pike, who tells him his father would be proud. Spock boards the Enterprise and volunteers to be First Officer. Kirk obliges. The Enterprise sets sail.

Act Run Time: :5 of 118 minutes (4.2%)

To learn more about six act structure, purchase your copy of “Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret” today!

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