March 25, 2019
These two little words, uttered on March 25, 1989, launched a TV-show and inspired a cult-like following as viewers were treated to a mind bending time travel fantasy with a new twist.
The fresh premise of Quantum Leap proffered that time travel is possible… but one can only time travel during years the particular person is alive. Each person’s life is like a string with a beginning and an end. But if the ends of the string are tied together and the string then bunched up, the theory went, a person could leap from one point on the string to another bouncing from time to time.
The opening segment of each show, From the Infallible Wikipedia, is this:
“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top secret project, known as ‘Quantum Leap.’ Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the Project Accelerator–and vanished.
He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brainwave transmissions with Al, the Project Observer, who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Dr. Beckett could see and hear. Trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”
In the five seasons the show was on the air, Dr. Beckett – played by the yummy Scott Bakula – ‘leapt’ into the body of a different person each episode. He was an air force jet pilot, a minor league baseball player, and a prize fighter in the first season. He was young, old, male, female, black, white…
One of the things I loved about the show was its humor and, especially, all the ridiculous ways Scott Bakula had to dress for the series and the personas he assumed. He even wore dresses and high heels, lipstick and eye makeup. It was fun to watch him peer into a mirror and see whose body he now occupied.
Personally, I like the early seasons better than the later ones as his leaps placed him into the bodies of average people with regular struggles. In some later episodes he has brushes with historical figures and the writers/producers take tremendous creative license with past events and blow up their own premises, stretching the bounds of the viewers’ imaginations.
Regardless, it was a fun show made all the more enjoyable by the interplay between Bakula and Dean Stockwell who portrays the cigar-wielding Al.
I bought the first season on DVD one year as a birthday gift for my then teenage son. I thought my kids would love the show! Instead, after 15 minutes, they were bored. I determined that maybe it was a show which an adult audience could appreciate but was over the heads of kids. Or, perhaps, it only resonated with my generation as we could relate to the times and travels of Sam Beckett (born August 8, 1953). Who knows? Now that my kids are adults, they might enjoy it. I’m not sure how well the show has aged or if it’s stuck in the 1990’s. Guess it’s time to dig it out and re-watch some of the episodes.
All the episodes are available via NBC or on DVD. A fun watch, in my opinion, if you have the time!
A few links:
Al explains string theory time travel:
p.s. March 25, 2021 – About a year ago we discovered that Quantum Leap episodes were being run on Xfinity. So the hubby set it to record whenever an episode was aired. It took a while, but we now have all 5 seasons recorded and are currently in season 4, about halfway. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable journey although there have been a few episodes that have tackled some pretty intense topics. I think one of the best episodes is his leap into his teenage self. Who among us wouldn’t love to go back and fix some of the blunders of our youth!?