I’ve never understood how Kirk, Spock, and Bones got back to the present at the end of “City on the Edge of Forever”. Going back to 1930 is simple enough, they stepped through the portal at the right moment, but there was no portal on their end! How did they get back?

Finding an answer is proving to be difficult because even after trying numerous search-term permutations, I only managed to find a single mention of the discrepancy.

I can understand if maybe they wanted to focus on the emotion and stuff of the episode, but it’s a science-fiction show, and this was one of the first incidents of time-travel in the whole franchise, so getting back is a fairly big issue that can’t just be glossed over.

1 Answer 1


There is a part in the episode at approx 12:30 where Kirk asks the Guardian if they are successful what will happen. The Guardian tells them all will be set back to normal and they will be returned as though nothing happened. The Guardian sends them back. Also notice they come back with uniforms back on, where at the point in the episode, Kirk and Spock do not have theirs on.

Edit addition:

To clarify something to bring this all together for you. How did Kirk, Spock, and McCoy go through the portal in the first place? They jumped. They jumped in, McCoy first, followed by Kirk and Spock. They came back in the same manner, only Spock and Kirk come back first because they entered the timeline first. The jumping motion was one contiguous motion as seen from the crew left on the planet. Scotty also says to them, "You just left." The Guardian puts them back just as he found them, jumping through the portal.

  • I did notice that, and it could work, if they had suddenly appeared back on the planet. However, they jumped through the portal which means that there had to be a hole in space-time for them to step through.
    – Synetech
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 21:10
  • @Synetech ... See edit addition in post. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 22:19
  • Okay, so from the perspective of the crew that stayed behind, they jumped through the hole, were automagically turned around and finished their jump out of the hole and ended up right back where they started. But from their own perspective, they jumped through a hole, landed in 1930’s Earth, then something and they landed back where they started. They kept their memories of their foray into the past, so to them, they did not seamlessly transition like they did from this end. They must have jumped through some other hole in 1930’s Earth to get back, but where/when/how did that hole manifest?
    – Synetech
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 22:46
  • @Synetech ... Go back to my first, The Guardian would return them as though nothing happened. Everything in the episode spells this out. We are not given anything inside of the episode to explain how, just that it is. Anything beyond this is speculation. Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 4:18
  • The Guardian returning them doesn’t make sense because even if it did so and they were standing on the street one moment then suddenly falling back through the portal, how did it know when to return them? Why didn’t it return them the moment they saw Bones, or for that matter the moment Bones stepped through and thus avoid making Kirk and Spock have to go back at all? Also, did it return them prematurely, before they had a chance to go back to the shelter and deal with all the future-tech they left lying around? Unfortunately it sounds like they really did gloss over that aspect. :-/
    – Synetech
    Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 4:39

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