Andy's Anachronisms
Time Travel Television Reviews

Quantum Leap
Principal Cast
  Dr. Sam Beckett
Al Calavicci
Scott Bakula
Dean Stockwell


"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished .... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home"

Created by producer Donald P. Bellisario (Magnum P.I., JAG, Airwolf, Tales of the Golden Monkey) Quantum Leap was in direct response to what Bellisario felt was wrong with other time travel series such as the Time Tunnel. Quantum Leap ran from 1989 until 1993.

The series features Scott Bakula as physicist Dr. Sam Beckett (no relation to the playwright) who together with Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) are responsible for Project Quantum Leap. The premiere episode of the series, GENISIS, introduces us to Sam and Al and established the premise and the mechanisms

Borrowing from what worked for series like Time Tunnel (1966) and Highway to Heaven (1984-1989) Bellisario managed to create an excellent blend of spiritualism, action and mystery. In addition to the premise and execution of the stories, Bellisario managed to find the perfect actors for the roles of Sam Beckett and Al. Scott Bakula's affable, good guy is instantly likeable and the audience can easily relate to Sam's desire to leap home. Dean Stockwell (Dune, Married to the Mob) cast as the flamboyant, womanizing maverick Al provides the exposition and comic relief, helping keep the Sam (and the audience) on track through out each leap.

Getting Around In Time
After his initial trip in the accelerator chamber, Sam found himself trapped in the past, leaping from body to body unable to return to his own body. Sam is driven by an unseen force which places him into the life of someone else in an attempt to set things right. Only once he has set the proper events in motion is he free to leap out. Appearing as a hologram that only Sam can see, Al arrives on scene to help coordinate Sam's efforts to put things right. With the assistance of Ziggy, a hybrid super-computer, they are able to access numerous databases and calculate probabilities of what it is Sam is there to do. Not that such information is always useful.

Part of the fun of the series was each episode opening and ending when Sam would find himself instantaneously transported into the body of another person, with out any knowledge of the person or the situation. Without fail Sam generally found himself in a delicate situation with nothing to go on. Such was the case with the pilot episode where Sam found himself in the body of an air force test pilot during a test flight. Sam's trademark response upon leaping into a new situation is an exasperated "Oh, boy".

A truly fun time travel series, Quantum Leap managed to succeed where other time travel shows had failed. Instead of making the show about the big events in history, Quantum Leap chose instead to focus first on the turning points of individual peoples lives. That's not to say Sam didn't have a hand in shaping history at large. On more than occasion Sam found himself having a direct influence on history, from introducing the Twist to Chubby Checker to influencing Stephen King story ideas.

A cautionary tale in many respects, Sam learned first hand the adage about walking a mile in another person's shoes. The series played on the notion that there may be a larger power at work in the universe. It was often suggested that the guy upstairs might be guiding Sam's leap, trying to put right things in people's lives.

In my opinion one of the elements that worked for the series was the limitation on the timeline Sam could travel to. No ancient Egypt or Rome for this audience. As outlined in the narration, Sam is limited to leaping within his own lifetime. The advantage of this limitation enabled the writers to keep the show contemporary, allowing the audience to connect with historical events and time periods they were familiar with, while also limiting production costs. No need for too extravagant costumes, or sets when the time period you are required to cover consists of approx. 1953 to the 1990s. There were however exceptions to the rule, such as the episode "The Leap Between the States" when Sam is transported to 1862 and the body of his own great-grandfather during the U.S. Civil War. Producer Don Bellisario insists the limitation of "in his own lifetime", was to make the jumps more "believable". Bellisario argued that he found the situations presented in Time Tunnel unbelievable since the travelers would be pictured in ancient Rome one week and on the Titanic the next week.

Quantum Leap never shied away from breaking time travel conventions either. On several occasions Sam was placed in a position where he could alter the outcome of his own personal history or of those he knew and took the opportunity.

I think the series owes a lot to the inventiveness of the writers and to Bellisario himself for shaping the series. Since different writers can be involved during the course of a television series it is not uncommon for continuity between story lines to suffer as the writer ignores some conventions established earlier by other writers (I hear Star Trek fans complain of this all the time). While not necessary obvious to the writers at the time this becomes very apparent to the fans of series that see the larger picture. In the case of Quantum Leap, an inventive cheat employed by Bellisario and the writers to explain away any such inconsistencies and to allow for openings for new story lines, was made possible through Sam's memory loss that occurred during his initial leap. The leap left Sam with his memory looking like swiss cheese or as Al called it "magnafluxed", effectively leaving Sam uncertain about some details of his own life. Whether the memory loss was intentionally written into the script for this purpose or not, it proved useful writers in later seasons to smooth over certain inconsistencies in Sam's own life.

For the record one of my all time favourite episodes has to be Future Boy when Sam finds himself in the body of Kenny Sharp aka Future Boy in 1957. Sidekick to Captain Galaxy on the kids show Time Patrol, Sam has to convince Moe Stien's (Captain Galaxy) daughter that he is not crazy or risk Stein getting killed in an accident as he tries to avoid being committed. The fun part of the series was the paradox that arises at the end of the episode as Sam/Future Boy responds to a little boy's letter on air. The boy asks about how time travel is possible and Sam gives a few basics about his string theory, only realizing later that the boy writing in is himself! In other words Sam unwittingly planted the seeds of his theory in his own head. Talk about chicken and the egg.

The popularity of Quantum Leap is strongly evident nearly a decade after the show left the airways. Both Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell have numerous fan sites dedicated to them, not to mention the countless web sites devoted to the series itself. A series of 18 novels has been published since the Series went off the air with the final installment being published in February 2000. As well there have been a number of episode guides and reference books published related to the series.

One such reference guide is "Quantum Leap A to Z" written by Julie Barrett and was published in 1995 in paperback. In addition to a detailed episode guide, the book also gets into backgrounds for every major character from each episode.

Another good read is "The Making of Quantum Leap" by Hal Schuster published in 1996 and currently out of print. This reference guide contains a Primer, a FAQ, several transcripts of panel discussions and interviews with Bellisario, Bakula, Stockwell and the writers over the course of the series as well as an episode guide.

The series is currently in syndication around the world and can be seen in North America on either the American Sci-fi Channel, currently airing at 3pm Monday to Friday [EST], or the Canadian SPACE channel at 8am and repeating at 5pm [EST] Monday to Friday.

Related Links
Quantum Leap Web Ring

Considering how many sites there are out there, this is probably as good as any place to start looking for related sites to Quantum Leap. Mind you it takes a bit more effort separating the good from the bad when looking through web rings.

Quantum Leap Crusaders Homepage

Its not uncommon that when a TV series is cancelled fans of the show rise up and start a campaign to convince the powers that be to save the show. After all, it worked for Star Trek in the 1960s. It's rare though that such campaigns last more than a couple of months after the show leaves the airwaves.

Not so in the case of Quantum Leap, a series that has been off the air for more than seven years. These fans, for whom the term "die hard fan" must have been quoted, refuse to give up. Besides organizing letter writing campaigns to the studios the crusaders have also contacted Scott Bakula as well to gain his support. No word on whether Dean or Scott have responded to the crusaders.

Best of luck!

A well organized site with great potential, unfortunately its only half-baked, with several dead end links and unfinished areas. Still worth a look if only for the section called "Kisses with History" which nicely sums up Sam's brushes with fame or his influence on history throughout the course of his leaps.

Also a word of warning, the looping of the Quantum Leap theme song on the front page of this site tends to get annoying after 30 seconds.

Attesting to the world wide popularity of the show I thought I would mention a couple of international links I found during my research.

Quantum Leap in Portuguese
This Brazilian site is fairly well rounded despite the "Under Construction" warning on the front page.

Quantum Leap in Russian
Not much here except an episode guide and some air times in Russia. It also has an English translation of the pages.
The official Quantum Leap anonymous FTP site maintained by Mark Baushke. This FTP site contains WAV and sound files for a number of platforms, images, links to archives for the various Quantum Leap related newsgroups as well.

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