Sunday, May 4, 2014

RR Quantum Leap

Time to review another cult TV show.

It all started when a time travel experiment I was conducting went... a little ka-ka...

Name: Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season 
Created by Donald P. Bellisario
Original run 1989 
Genre Adventure/Science-fiction/Drama

Created by Donald P. Bellisario for NBC, Quantum Leap was a fantastic original science-fiction television series.

It was produced in the late 80s, originally picked up as a late addition/replacement for that season. The show went on running for 5 Seasons from 1989 to 1993.

And no wonder why, it was such a distinct and memorable premise.

The show starred the fantastic Scott Bakula & Dean Stockwell who were the only recurring actors and played great with each other, each episode featuring a new cast of characters/actors each time.

The first season was only picked for 8 first episodes.

It was like... nothing at the time!

Sci-fi/fantasy shows were quite rare at the time - except old classics such as Star Trek (The Next Generation aside, since it's also Trek).

Sci-fi can just as easily become a timeless window into the past or date awfully quick. But here the time periods were used as part of the plot, so fashion or music had a great role in Quantum Leap and helped establish the series' overall tone. Except the near future setting of 1999 (which could be allowed to what the future was like at the start, before our hero started meddling with the past anyhow).

The show made a great use of pop culture and made several allusions to classic literature or films in many occasions, such as having a Casablanca influenced episode or a Godfather episode.

It all started with a pretty short first season.

The story revolved around a scientist, Dr. Samuel Beckett, head of a science project. A government experiment, "on "Project Quantum Leap". The story started in a near future. Sam Beckett was working on this theory of time travel of his. The idea was that one could project his own consciousness back into his own past through a quantum accelerator and witness past events through other people at the time and then return back home from there.

But Sam just couldn't wait and launched the whole project prematurely. This dangerous first "leap" in time got him "unstuck in time". And from there Sam found himself leaping from one body to the next without any mean to come back...

Thankfully Sam wasn't alone. He found a friend and a partner in Admiral Al Calavicci. Al was linked to Sam's brainwaves and therefore able to follow him as an hologram from the "time chamber" back in his own present. If Al didn't exactly have a physical presence, he could at least help as a guide of sort with access to dates and bios from the future. Al also used this advanced handheld computer nicknamed Ziggy, equipped with an artificial intelligence.

The question was... Was there some kind of external force controlling Sam's leaps through time?

At first Sam and Al tried simply matching history wherever they found themselves in. But then these travels became about something more than that. Like attempting to fix lives at the expense of changing history (considering those were simple minor changes in our overall history). Over the years/seasons, the show started hinting at a possible higher force at play (leaving it still open to discussion and interpretation).

The show started with a fantastic 2-parter episode setting both the stage and acting as a sort of made-for-TV film. Sam woke up in the body of an Air Force test pilot. Only Al could see Sam's true form, while Sam was the only one to be able to both see or hear Al. But problem is... Sam had trouble with his own memory, partially overwritten by the people he was taking the place as...

The rest of this first season would see our scientist Sam Beckett take over the role of a professor while trying to find what he was supposed to do while trapped in time. Then as a boxer forced to give up because of gangsters, an African American chauffeur back in Souther Alabama right middle Civil Rights movement, an high school nerd in the 1960s and finally a private detective trying to solve a murder mystery.

This short first Season was used a test to see how the audience would react to such an ambitious concept.

Quantum Leap had some great characters. It was an intelligent show with a heart. Sometimes the subject of the episodes touched some more mature themes.

It had a great pacing, and the episodic nature of the show worked well with Sam's travel through the past.

He would be losing his own memory, leaping from one life to another. Almost hitting a reset button every new leap/episode.

The show had simple heartwarming messages, granted almost cheesy at times. But that was a great way to initiate discussion amongst viewers, such as the time Sam lept into a woman's life or the African American chauffeur. It had a certain naivety and honesty lacking from today's more cynical and sarcastic shows.

Leaping from one life to another, trying to make amends and make things right hoping these leaps would finally bring him closer to home.

Every episode ending in these crazy unresolved cliffhanger to be continued the following week. Sometimes a leap would result in an extremely awkward or dangerous new situation. For example Sam leaping into a piano player on stage in front of people, or a man about to get the electric chair, or aboard the aforementioned plane with no experience as a pilot.

Without counting on the additional trouble of his own memory at first.

The show would sometimes embrace it's more fantastic science-fiction background. Such as Sam would later go on to change his entire backstory. That's why the way Sam's silly near future/present world in the pilot never annoyed me much, since history could be changed.

The show featured several future famous faces such as a young Teri Hatcher.

Music was an integral part of the show. It featured great classic music composer by Mike Post & Velton Ray Bunch. The show featured most prominently music from whenever in time Sam leaped into, including lots of covers sung by Scott Bakula himself!

Quantum Leap had a great premise. Having these two single characters used as main narrative was a great concept. Even if only Sam could see Al since he was attuned to his own brainwave, young children, mentally ill, persons near death or animals could as well at times.

As the show went on the writers explored new ideas and tried to play a bit more with the show's content.

In Season 4 Sam's own history would change from the result of changes made back in time.

The later final season of the show saw some unusual new directions such as leaping directly into historical figures which they tried to avoid initially (Elvis and Lee-Harvey Oswald ) or as a protagonist linked with an historical figure (Marilyn Monroe), Sam went back during the civil war as one of his ancestors (even though originally he couldn't leap outside his own lifetime). He also went through several stages in the life of a single person. Some evil leapers out there in time were alluded to.

Quantum Leap ended on a pretty good final Season. Sam went through some interesting final leaps, the show allowed itself to explore some darker themes such as the Kennedy assassination and the show made use of several multi-episodes storylines.

The show went on winning several awards including a couple Golden Globes and several Emmy Awards.

A comic book series based on the formula of the show was published by Innovation Publishing in the early 90s (including the famous "Oh, boy" cliffhanger scenes teasing next issues). It went a bit off-rails including some really sci-fi departures...

SyFy had plans to either bring back Quantum Leap through a feature film or a TV movie with possibly a new TV show to spin off from that, following Sam's daughter for example with creator Donald P. Bellisario involved again.

All in all, Highly Recommended!

Overall, my favorite show. EVER. Period!

Sam Beckett was my favorite TV character, and still is to this day! Such a fun original relatable character. Trying to figure what's happening to him at first, then later on trying to make the best out of it. Even if helping others back in time might alter his own life.

The story of an experiment gone wrong, our Doc's trapped in the time stream of his own life, jumping from one body to another one, correcting wrongs in the past!

It's a great timeless story!

Science-fiction TV at its finest.

Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell were always fun to follow in their numerous adventures.

I'm only sad it kinda ended on a strange darker note (the show was supposed to go on for at least one more season actually!) but at least, the ending works thematically as a whole!

I give it:
3 / 3 UFOs!


  1. Oh, I love this! I agree, Quantum Leap is probably my favourite all time show, too! Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula work so well together. The show also wasn't afraid to explore high explosive and controversial subjects such as animal rights, feminism, and racial tension. Such a great show! I love it to pieces! I also love your review! :)

    1. Thanks!

      Hey, it's one of my all-time favorite shows for a reason ;)