We cut to the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a sleek, futuristic cluster of buildings in the distance.
(For context, Starfleet HQ is located in San Francisco.)
Now we go inside the building. Admiral James T. Kirk and Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Enterprise's medical officer, walk on screen. Their loyal engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott follows close behind.
None of them seem to know why they're here. Well that's inconvenient.
Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty are joined by a group of other high-ranking Starfleet officers, including comrades Nyota Uhura and Pavel Chekov. No Spock?
Everyone sits down at a big conference table but stands at attention when the commander of Starfleet arrives. He begins his presentation.
The commander claims that the Klingon Empire will only last for another "fifty years." For real? The Klingons seem like tough dudes, so this is quite unexpected.
Instead of presenting further detail, the commander turns over the table to "the Federation's special envoy."
To everyone's shock, this "special envoy" turns out to be Spock, Kirk's best bro and former first mate of Enterprise.
Spock describes the explosion on Praxis that was depicted in the beginning of the movie. That incident occurred two months ago.
The cause: general environmental exploitation. Pollution is so bad on Kronos that the planet will run out of oxygen in just fifty years, and the Klingons can't stop it, because they've spent all their money on weapons.
That doesn't sound familiar at all. Nope.
Last month, Spock began negotiations with Gorkon, the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. Spock has agreed to dismantle all Federation space stations along the neutral zone between the two empires, which has stood on high alert for "seventy years."
Kirk looks shocked. One officer describes this as the "mothballing of Starfleet." Another describes the Klingons as "alien trash" and advocates a more aggressive approach.
Kirk agrees with the second man—Admiral Cartwright. He too distrusts the Klingons by their very nature.
In disagreement, Spock says that failing to support this moderate "Gorkon Initiative" would encourage the conservative, militant wing of the Klingon Empire, making peaceful resolution impossible.
Spock tells Kirk that he's been made the Federation's "olive branch" to the Klingons. Kirk will be charged with rendezvousing with and escorting Gorkon to Earth for a meeting.
Kirk is confused and displeased. Why wouldn't they use a real ambassador for this job?
Either way, there's no time for questions—the meeting is adjourned. Everyone leaves, except for Kirk and Spock.
Kirk is ticked at Spock for volunteering him for the job. He's especially annoyed because this will be his final mission as captain of Enterprise—the ship will soon be turned over to a new crew.
Spock responds by quoting an old "Vulcan" proverb: "only Nixon could go to China."
(In other words, only someone who's perceived as tough on the Klingon Empire would be publicly accepted to make peace with them, as was the situation when President Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China for the first time in 1972.)
Spock claims that his father helped lead the negotiations. This is a historic occasion.
Kirk is furious and unrelenting, however. He calls the Klingons "animals" and says that Starfleet should "let them die." It's a long, awkward, and sort of racist moment.