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8 Sad Truths You Realize When Re-Watching Quantum Leap

It is hard to hate Quantum Leap, the NBC sci-fi series which debuted in 1989 and was canceled in 1993 after completing its fifth season.  The show is so utterly well-meaning, following the lovably gee-whiz Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) as a scientist whose experiment “leaves him leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping that his next leap will be the leap home.”

That just warms the heart, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, Quantum Leap is very easy to mock, largely due to its remarkably earnest tone and many “very special episodes,” like a sci-fi Blossom.  Sam is fate’s grunt soldier, fixing broken relationships, saving one life at a time, and occasionally running into young versions of celebrities, e.g., Stephen King, Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson.  However, he’s constantly faced with the prejudices of our past which leads to plenty of sermonizing.  His best bud Al (Dean Stockwell) is always around for a reliable one-liner, but even he gets in on the sermonizing and turns out to have led an insanely eventful life, with an ever-growing list of prior careers and ex-wives.

In general, there’s an awful lot of plot convenience to what Sam and Al turn out to be capable of.  Plus, the mechanics of the time traveling component of the show are pretty wonky, and what they thought the future was going to look like was hilariously inaccurate.

Those are the types of things which really jump out at me every time I re-watch Quantum Leap.  My love for the show has not faded, but my willingness to mock it has sure increased.  There are plot holes and awkward moments galore as well as some simple reminders of how much TV culture has changed since Quantum Leap went off the air.

1)     God or Fate or Whatever Sure Has a Sick Sense of Humor

Almost every single Quantum Leap episode ends with Sam being thrown into the deep end in a new and terrifying situation, forcing him to either sink or swim.  That’s a pretty shitty existence, going from smiling earnestly one second to walking on a stage in front of a packed theater of people waiting to hear you play piano the next second.  But boy did it make for good television.  It’s one of the things that makes Quantum Leap so compulsively watchable, its every episode ending on a cliffhanger in which Sam has no idea what to do next and lets outs an exasperated, “Oh boy.”

However, if we ignore the part where this is a TV show with a story structure designed to keep viewers hooked, and think of the logic of the show’s own universe it becomes pretty apparent that God or fate or whatever the heck it was leaping Sam throughout time has a wickedly dark sense of humor.  Seriously, why couldn’t Sam have ever been allowed to simply leap into someone sitting around their living room watching TV, with maybe their wallet (and thus a quickly accessible method of identification) laid out on the table in front of them?  Nope, instead Sam got dropped into situations like this:

QL Sam Electric Chair
Yes, that’s Sam seconds after he has leaped into a man about to executed.

And this:

QL Sam Ghost Ship Pilot
Your pilot today will be a man who only just moments ago arrived in the cockpit and has no idea whatsoever how to fly a plane.

Is any of that really necessary for Sam being able to put right what once went wrong?  Absolutely not.  God or fate or whatever just really liked watching the poor bastard squirm.

2)     Sometimes Sam & Al Just Weren’t That Bright

Al is “a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.”  It’s right there in the show’s voice-over prologue.  However, sometimes both Al and Sam seemed to forget that, the most egregious example being the time Sam tried to throw a pie at Al’s face in the season 4 episode “Stand Up”:

QL Sam Pie Stand Up 2And Al behaved as if he 100% believed he was in real “pie on face” danger:

QL Sam Stand Up Pie1Sam usually gets the benefit of the doubt because, well, he’s damaged goods with his ultra convenient/inconvenient “Swiss cheese” memory.  But Al?  Was he just humoring his mentally compromised best friend, the way one might tolerate a “not quite right” uncle’s insistence that he did actually magically produce the 7 of hearts when doing a card trick?  Was he just so caught up in the situation he forgot he was just a hologram?  Or maybe is it just that sometimes Sam and Al appeared to have taken complete leave of their senses in the show’s effort for comic scenes between the two?  Fine, it’s obviously the latter.

3)     Some Innocent People Had Their Lives Ruined By Sam

tumblr_m5eyo9xizE1ruy7jfo1_500For a show whose own series finale was shockingly bittersweet, Quantum Leap was built on happy endings.  Most if not all episodes ended with Al assuring Sam (and by extension the audience) that everything worked out a-okay for all involved.  However, when you think about it in some cases that doesn’t seem true.  Case in point, in “Shock Theater” Sam develops multiple personality disorder as the result of being leaped into a mental hospital patient who immediately receives traumatic electroshock therapy (again, with God and his dark sense of humor).  Sam keeps shifting back and forth between adopting the various identities of those he’d once leaped into in the past. To save his own life and maintain his connection with Al, Sam needs to have electroshock re-administered to him at a dangerously high voltage.  He, while believing himself to be a mentally challenged man named Jimmy and thus slurring his speech, manages to pull it off by desperately pleading with the attending nurse, “If you don’t shock Jimmy Al go away.”

QL Shock Theater Reverse Shot
Sam: If you don’t shock and therefore potentially kill me my best good imaginary friend is going to go away!
QL Shock Theater nurse
Nurse: Well, you make a compelling argument.

Waaaaaaaiiiiiiiit a minute here.  I get that the historic period of the episode (specifically 1954) is meant to comment upon the early days of medicine in relation to mental health and conditions like multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia.  In that way, this is Quantum Leap‘s own version Sybil.  Al even references Sybil in the episode!  So, none of the doctors or nurses truly know what the heck is going on with Sam.  However, even though a perfectly timed dosage of electroshock at the same near-fatal dosage as the therapy that triggered the multiple personality disorder is what Sam needs it’s not necessarily what the person he leaped into needs nor is it medically advisable.  In the course of the episode, the generally sympathetic nurse argues that 200V is a potentially fatal voltage, administering electroshock therapy twice in 48 hours could kill the patient and that only doctors are allowed to administer the therapy, a fact confirmed by one of the doctors.  Yet she is the one to administer electroshock to Sam at 200V while the Doctor and orderly are arguing.  This is supposed to be a big, heroic moment, but, wait, didn’t the episode establish that what she does could actually kill the patient?  Yep, pretty effectively, too.

 How do you think it’s going to go over in a Morbidity & Mortality meeting if when asked why she gave the patient a fatal dosage of electroshock therapy she replies, “He said if I didn’t do it his imaginary friend was going to go away”?  She might end up a patient at that very mental hospital, oh irony of ironies, or at the very least mentally anguished, haunted by frequent “Why did I do it?” thought. However, even if the nurse had been wrong about both the voltage and frequency of treatment being fatal she still broke the rules by administering treatment and is likely looking at some serious repercussions in her career.  That is but one example of a happy ending being not so happy and an otherwise nice and decent person whose life was potentially screwed by Sam Beckett.

4) Al Totally Amy Pond’d a Poor Little Girl Except Even Worse

Quantum Leap Another MotherIn the Doctor Who episode “The 11th Hour,” the Doctor encounters an adorable little Scottish girl named Amelia Pond.  He promises to take her to the stars and on an adventure, but when he fails to return she had to go through years of therapy as no one believed her tale of a “raggedy doctor” who literally fell from the sky.  The thing here is that, crucially, the Doctor did eventually come back, and he never intentionally misled poor Amelia.  He just really sucks at getting time coordinates right.

So, what then, do we make of the final scene from Quantum Leap‘s season 2 episode of “Another Mother”?  By this point, the only thing preventing Sam from leaping is Al’s need to say goodbye to the adorable daughter of the woman Sam leaped into.  Falling into that kid/mentally challenged/animal spectrum of people who can actually see Al other than Sam, the girl had grown attached to Al and him to her.  What proceeds is a genuinely sweet scene between a young child actress who mostly flashes her big white eyes at Stockwell as he promises to come back to see her again real soon.

Liar!  Al can’t go back.  He’s not really a time traveler who can just go anywhere he wants; he is linked to Sam’s brain and can only go to a place and time where Sam is present.  Unless Sam leaps back into that family with the little girl, Al has no way of following through on his promise.  That poor little girl probably had years of therapy after that, refusing to back down from her claims of a strange imaginary man from the future who was going to come back to see her any minute now, just you wait and see.  “Oh, it was just an imaginary friend” they’ll all say, angering her even more.  Of course, that imaginary friend may be the least of their concerns since that little girl will probably also swear up and down that for around a week mommy went missing and a nice man named Sam pretended to be her and dressed in her clothes.

5)      Nope, You Didn’t Dream It – Al Really Did Rap in One Episode

Some things are so strange, so bizarre, so impossible sounding you can convince yourself over time that you simply made it up.  For example, was Creed ever really a super popular band?  That didn’t really happen, did it?  Well, in the case of Quantum Leap re-watching it reveals that one insane thing you might have convinced yourself was but a fever dream of your’s actually happened.  I present, with utter, utter regret, rappin’ Al from “Shock Theater”:

With Sam a bit busy being 12 different versions of himself, it is up to Al to right the wrong, and in this case, it means teaching a man how to read.  Why?  Ah, who cares.  Why does Al think simply teaching him a song about the alphabet will automatically guarantee his ability to read?  Ah, again, who cares.  The bigger issue here is simply what in the hell were they thinking by having Dean freakin’ Stockwell perform a rap song on a national television show in 1991?  In fact, years later they included that song, “ABC Rap,” on the show’s official soundtrack meaning you can go buy “ABC Rap” on iTunes right now.  Mercifully, M.C. Stockwell’s long-awaited rap album “Nozzles, Cigars & Bazoombas” never materialized

QL Shock Theater Rap3
Yeah, well, you’re not ready for it yet, but your kids are going to love it.

6)     Sam Was a Man-Whore Cheating on the Wife Waiting for Him Back Home

KissesEvery Quantum Leap episode other than the pilot features a moment during the opening credits where we see a montage of Sam’s best kisses with woman from the show’s history to that point.  Of course, there’d be plenty of kiss scenes to show – the dude got some serious action as the show sought to appeal to Bakula’s female fanbase.  It is also the natural by-product of an episodic show with a central male character who is both a lover and a fighter – he’s going to have a ton of love interests.  The same thing was true of Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series.  But at least there was no woman waiting at home for Sam, no woman so despondent with loneliness she looks up at stars at night and imagines one of them talking back to her with Sam’s voice, right?

QL Leap Back Sam Donna
Meet Donna, Sam’s wife. She works on the Quantum Leap project where they often have to help Sam romance the girl to save the day. Donna’s job is harder than yours.

Then the season 4 premiere (“The Leap Back”) happened, and we learn that bachelor Sam had changed his own history on a previous leap in the first season resulting in him having now actually been a married man this entire time.  Knowing that from the get-go when re-watching the show makes a fun game out of, “I wonder how close Donna was to complete breakdown this week based upon Sam’s romancing of yet another woman.”  To be fair, in “The Leap Back” Donna actually forgives Sam for his many, many infidelities because his memory loss meant he didn’t know he had anyone to whom he’d pledged to be faithful.

There was always a strange dynamic to sexuality on the show, in which Al and his consistent references to nice “bazoombas” and “gazongas” was a horndog for Sam to admonish.  Who the hell is he to talk, though?  He fell in love with women sometimes at the literal drop of a hat, bedded them, and then left them high and dry for his next leap.  Man, at least Al knew what he was.  Sam?  He was a total man-whore; he just didn’t know it.

7)   Our Definition of Physical Fitness Sure Has Changed

Back in the day, Scott Bakula was what might best be described as man candy.  His Sam Beckett was the consummate sensitive 90s male, not afraid to cry (and boy did it show) but tough enough to stand up for what’s right.  So, obviously, the show featured Bakula shirtless…a lot.  Like at least once every other episode.

3b84c-scottbakulashirtlesscowboy2
If you can think of a more appropriate attire for yard work I’d like to hear it.

Wait, that’s what qualified as a sex symbol back then?  Don’t get me wrong – Bakula looks fantastic.  He’s clearly in good shape.  It’s just that nutrition and body shaping sciences have advanced so much that we now have constantly shirtless male stars of TV shows who look like this:

Olliver as he appeared in the show's pilot episode.
Stephen Amell from the CW’s Arrow.

Advantage?  Stephen Amell of Arrow.  Well, I guess the true advantage goes to the viewer inclined to find such sights appealing as neither are in anything remotely resembling bad shape.  Re-watching an older show like Quantum Leap centered around a male sex symbol shows just how much our image of that type of person is ever-shifting in response to the advances in abdominal muscle-shaping glory.

8)     They Were Desperate For Ratings That Last Season

It’s always kind of sad when you see your favorite show trying too hard to get big ratings.  However, sometimes when you watch older shows in syndication or on Netflix you may not be aware of it because your viewing is happening so long after the fact.  But let’s look at what Quantum Leap did in its fifth and final season:

  • Sam Leaping Into Dr. Ruth, Elvis, and Lee-Harvey Oswald Even Though He Wasn’t Supposed to Leap Into Historical Figures
  • Sam Leaping Into Someone Working for Marilyn Monroe
  • Sam Leaping Into the Civil War Even Thought He Wasn’t Supposed to be Able to Leap Outside of His Own Lifetime
  • A Trilogy Focused Upon Sam Being the Father, the Lover, and then the Court Defender of One Woman At 3 Different Stages in Her Life
  • A Trilogy Focused on the Concept of There Being Evil Leapers Out There Just As Sam is a Good Leaper
  • Stunt-casting of Brooke Shields in an episode somewhat recreating the scenario of her film Blue Lagoon
  • Sam leaping into a vampire

Some, if not most, of these episodes are pretty good.  The trilogy focused on Abigail was admirably ambitious, and the concept of an evil yin to Sam’s not-evil yang was long overdue.  However, taken as a whole it becomes pretty apparent they were ditching all of their old rules and just throwing everything at the wall in the hopes of getting the ratings necessary for a sixth season (epic fail on their part).  Plus, they re-did their theme song – you know, their amazing, instantly hummable Mike Post-composed theme song.  They made it oddly insistent and energetic in a desperate “Please watch our show, we have pep now” fashion:

Alas, they got themselves canceled.

But I really like Quantum Leap.  Let’s end on a positive note.  What is a good truth learned from re-watching Quantum Leap?

Most of Your Favorite Episodes Are Still Amazing

“MIA,” “The Leap Home,” “The Leap Back,” “Catch a Falling Star,” and many, many other beloved Quantum Leap episodes are still as good as they ever were.

What about you?  Any things you’ve noticed upon re-watch?   Liked the show but never actually went back and re-watched it? Let us know in the comments.

This post is partially a result of years of joking with my best friend Julianne.  Click here to check out her picks for Quantum Leap‘s 10 best episodes.

509 comments

  1. I also LOVED this show when it was on. (It’s run pretty much coincided with my high school career) A few weeks ago a friend of mine gave me Season 2 on dvd, and I was amazed at how much I still enjoyed it So much so that I immediately signed back up for Netflix so I could watch the rest of the series. Alas Netflix seems to be lacking several key episodes, at least for streaming purposes, so I still haven’t seen the pilot episode, the Oswald episode, and several others.

    I loved your article and there a couple more things that bothered me while I was re-watching all these shows. (The first may have been addressed in one of the episodes I haven’t been able to watch, so forgive me if I missed this.) What happens to the people Sam leaps into, when they return from the Waiting Room. Do they remember being there?

    Which brings up another thing about the last season that they really amped up in a sad attempt to get ratings. We see the Waiting Room: ALOT! There’s even the episode where the criminal Sam has leapt into gets away from the Waiting Room, and much of the episode focuses on Al in 1999 trying to get him back. (I thought that episode was a little weak.)

    Anyway sorry to ramble on so much but I too am a huge fan of this show, and I agreed with all of your statements. I feel like without these bizarre oversights (especially from the last season) it could have been even better. (Though I hope they never try to “remake” it, as that would seriously compromise my own nostalgia for the show.)

    1. It’s strange to think of it since I grew up on Quantum Leap, but I’ve encountered a lot of fans who have been burned by Netflix, having missed several important episodes (like the series finale) because those ones are not on Netflix. Hulu actually has all of the episodes, including the ones that are missing on Netflix. However, Hulu has the DVD versions of the episodes meaning there is a lot of music replacement, most notably replacing Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” from the background of the final scene in “MIA” with muzak. The Netflix ones, on the other hand, appear to be the broadcast versions with all of the original music.

      The “how much do they remember thing” was never really addressed on the show other than the episode “Double Identity” where the person appears to have no memory of anything that happened after he was leapt into. Through interviews at conventions and what-not, the people from the show have apparently explained the idea was that the people Sam leapt into would have swiss-cheese memory when they were inside his body in the waiting room, maybe thinking they had been abducted by aliens. Once they were leapt back into their bodies they would slowly regain the memories of what actions Sam had taken from inside their bodies, though they would believe these to be actions they themselves did.

      That’s actually a really good point I hadn’t thought of – we do see the waiting room way more than usual that last season.

      There have been multiple efforts to resurrect the show over the year, most notably around a decade ago. The Sci-Fi Channel (pre-name-change t- SyFy) was going to produce a TV movie focused on Sam’s daughter Abigail replicating Sam’s experiment in order to find and rescue him, only to become stuck as a leaper as well. Al would be back as the hologram, and Sam would eventually show up, Abigail not aware at first that she’s actually his daughter. This was to function as a backdoor pilot for a new TV series, but it never happened because Sci-Fi decided to instead try and turn the old movie Tremors into a tv show. Since then there have been quotes from conventions about Donald Bellisario working on a Quantum Leap film script. However, for now it remains untarnished by any kind of revival.

      1. The messed up thing is that Abigail was both Sam’s daughter (at least at one point) and the mother of his child, but you’re right – Sammy Jo is his actual daughter

  2. I am curious about the photo collage of Sam’s kissing moments. I know what episodes most of them are from but there are a couple that I don’t recognize. Would you please list the episodes that they all came from?

    1. Oh, that’s a tough one. I didn’t actually create that picture myself. The direct link to the picture is here: https://weminoredinfilm.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/kisses.jpg

      It’s basically 3 different rows of pictures, 4 on top, 3 in the middle, 4 on the bottom. I’m able to identity all but one of the pictures.

      Top Row, Left to Right:
      “Her Charm” (FBI Agent, protecting witness from mob); “A Hunting We Will Go” (bounty hunter); “Good Morning, Peoria” (radio dj with the mom from Home Improvement); I’m not sure

      Middle Row, Left to Right:
      “Hurricane”; “The Leap Back” (Sam and Donna); “The Honeymoon Express”

      Bottom Row, Left to Right:
      “Sea Bride”; “Temptation Eyes” (Asian girl who can see Sam for him and not the person he leapt into); “The Great Spontini”; “Catch a Falling Star”

      1. When you mentioned the episode The Great Spontini I went back and watch it again to find the scene from the episode and it turns out that the one that you weren’t sure of is also from that same episode. It is the scene at the end in the courtroom. Those were the ones that I wasn’t sure of my self when I posted my comment. All the others I recognized but those two had me stumped. Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate it.

      2. Dang. I remembered there being an embrace of some kind in the courtroom at the end, but when I found the kiss in the middle of the episode I didn’t bother going past that because it never occurred to me that one episode could be pictured twice in the collage. Plus her hair color looked red in one and blonde in the other (to me at least). Thanks for responding back because I, too, was kind of curious where that last pic came from.

        Honestly, when I look back at it there are more episodes in which Sam had no love interest whatsoever (leaps into women, older men, kids) than I completely remembered. However, he still had a ton of love interests, and it usually didn’t take much for him to fall in love.

      3. You’re right her hair does look two different colors in the two photos and that threw me off too. Yes he had a lot of love interests, but being a woman it’s one of the things I like most about the show. If you think about it during the entire series he only ever slept with 5 women. All the others he just kissed. The ones he slept with were Nicole from Catch a Falling Star, Maggie from The Leap Home Part 2, Donna, his wife from The Leap Back, Tamlyn from Temptation Eyes, and Abigail from Trilogy Part 2. And yes he fell in love very easily.

      4. what show was it that Al said it is superbowl 30 and dallas and the Steelers are playing, then it actually happened down to the score and some

  3. Nice article. I just finished watching the entire series again. It’s unfortunate that the show was cancelled, but I would have to agree that there were a few shows that were rough to watch. Probably the most redeeming quality of the show was that the character of Sam Becket was a high moral character; there’s not a lot of that in today’s TV. I wonder what a remake of the series would be like today; not that I could see anyone other than Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell as Sam and Al.

    Oh, one item that always bothered me was that Sam, young children, and mentally ill people were the only one’s that could see Al although they consistently stuck to the theme that Al had to be specifically tuned to Sam’s brain frequency. That could have been handled better.

    1. Thanks for reading. It’s interesting you’d reference the highly moral nature of the character of Sam Beckett. To some degree, his morality is an aspect of the show which has dated the poorest. He is such a sensitive, 90s male who isn’t afraid to cry and speaks out against sexism and racism. Plus, the manner in which the show communicated his moral high ground so sledgehammer (such as him speaking to a small child about the nature of hate while surrounded by a field of KKK members) that it is jarring in our modern, far more cynical era. Characters like Sam Beckett just don’t exist on mainstream TV anymore because the impulse to puncture their pomposity with irony and cynicism is too overwhelming.

      Yet with all of that being said, you are absolutely right about Sam’s morality being one of the most redeeming qualities of the show. I obviously joked in my article about the hypocrisy of Sam standing in moral judgment of Al’s lustful nature when Sam frequently cheats on his wife. However, crucially, Sam doesn’t know that. For the most part, Sam and the way Scott Bakula played him is as a man of such admirable virtue and conviction. Watching it now seems almost quaint somehow but refreshing at the same time.

      As for your one nitpick, you’re not wrong. The explanation we get is that “Small children, the ‘mentally absent’, animals and people near death can see [Al] because children and animals see things as they really and exist in a natural alpha state. Also, if a person’s brainwaves were sufficiently in tune with Sam’s, that person would be able to see and hear Al too.” (from http://www.quantumleap-alsplace.com/general/faq.htm#mark7). Or, in other word, they realized they needed to switch things up and give Dean Stockwell other people (or animals) to play off beside Scott Bakula. It’s simply an explanation concocted to allowed the show’s formula to occasionally change. So, I’ve always kind of just gone with it and enjoyed Stockwell’s sometimes freaked out reactions when people could actually see Al. However, their in-show explanation could have certainly “been handled better,” as you argued.

  4. “Advantage? Stephen Amell of Arrow. Well, I guess the true advantage goes to the viewer inclined to find such sights appealing as neither are in anything remotely resembling bad shape. Re-watching an older show like Quantum Leap centered around a male sex symbol shows just how much our image of that type of person is ever-shifting in response to the advances in abdominal muscle-shaping glory.”

    Not at all. Amell looks disgustingly unnatural.

    I’m sure Bakula then could have gotten the same body, but his looks more natural.

    There is no need to see the muscles sinews.

    1. I actually completely agree. From a simple aesthetic standpoint, while Amell’s physique is an impressive physical accomplishment I find Bakula’s more classic, lean frame more pleasing and relatable. My observation was more about how far we seem to have leaned away from traditional male body types in our leading men over into comic book physique territory. Granted, back in Bakula’s day there were countless steroid-enhanced muscle men parading around in the then-still-named WWF, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were either still in their prime or just coming down from it. However, ever since 300 it seems that American popular culture has fully embraced indulging in a lustful gaze at ridiculously muscular, adonis-like men in the form of Chris Hemsowrth, Chris Evans, Henry Cavill, Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Amell, various guys from True Blood, Ryan Gosling, etc. It seems like films and TV shows are now more willing to objectify the male form, and quite often it comes in the form of a body which is far bulkier than that displayed by Scott Bakula back on Quantum Leap.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. One things I have to say about the man whore thing is that sam in the first season doesn’t know if Donna would marry him or her first potential husband because remember she was engaged once before Sam and since he is in the timeline and not outside of it as was he may not have any mememory of the marriage as it wouldn’t have happened in his original timeline and since he is the one leaping how do we know that changing his own past would affect him and not an alternate version of himself

    1. The problem is that’s totally not how the actual show played it. I am thinking, specifically, of the moment in Donna’s episode where Sam first remembers, looking all accusatory like at Al, condemning him for having never told him. We then cut to commercial with Sam running through the imaging chamber door, and return with him reuniting at QL headquarters with Donna. The implication is that Sam has had a rush of his old memories, instantly remembering his wife Donna. So, he clearly seems to remember her, and Al has simply never told him because Donna wouldn’t let him. Or at least that’s always how I read it. I guess you could argue Sam may have simply remembered that he had changed his own history with that earlier leap with the Teri Hatcher Donna, and that he then knew Donna was his wife. That doesn’t seem to be how anyone involved in that episode played the emotions, though. There was no uneasiness from Donna, concerned he may not remember their life together past the wedding, nor the same on Sam’s part.

      Independent of that, though, I actually really like your theory, having never considered it myself. At the very least, I agree that since he had yet to in his own linear timeline change his own history with the Teri Hatcher episode anything he did as a leaper before that were the actions of a free, single man, although if I remember correctly the Teri Hatcher thing is like the show’s 2nd ever episode.

      Something I always wondered was what exactly Sam remembered about his brother Tom after saving him. By virtue of doing so, that would seem to have unlocked all sorts of new memories with his brother returning home from service and whatever. Would Sam remember those? Or just the version of his life in which Tom had died in Viet Nam? Or would he, ala Rory on Doctor Who, simply remember both timelines?

  6. I belive it to be the episode “the leap home”. I had never watched the show in its hayday, since i was born in 86′. but i started watching a year ago or so. it was the first time that I had watched it, as an adult, remembering bits and pieces of it when I was very young. but back to what I was talking about… the part where he sings to his sister the song by John Lennon ‘imagine’ was particularly moving. such a well-written episode, it is sad that season 5 drifted so far away from what made the show successful in the beginning. but as you said, all the episodes were good. some definitely more so than others, but all were very good. to have such a moving, touching end to an episode seems few and far between in today’s television. CSI and its many subsidiaries seemed to have changed television. I don’t know, I didn’t live in the era of 80’s television, but I do like the fact that episodes were tied up at the end, and that there was a moral and something to take home from the episode. maybe I long for a time that has long since passed by. I do like today’s television, but it doesn’t have that hometown feel like some shows used to have. quantum leap can be considered cheesy today, but to me it is a gem. kudos to quantum leap, and to all of you who rewatch it just as I do on Netflix

    1. As it turns out, I’m not much older than you are (I was born in very late ’82). I have very vague memories of watching QL on NBC first-run. The most specific memory I have is that during the series finale there was a severe thunderstorm in our area so the local weather interrupted almost all of the episode. It was years before I ever saw how it ended. I actually saw most of my QL in re-runs on USA and Sci-Fi later on in the ’90s, and, yes, I was one of those geeky guys who taped every episde off of TV to VHS tapes.

      For all the jokes I made in the article, I still absolutely love the show. It is largely easy to pick on for its heart-on-its-sleeve nature, wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey time travel conundrums, and how much the culture of TV has changed since it left the air. What QL represents is a time in television when sentiment did not have to be undercut by sarcasm or cynicism, and the goal was to deliver 22 or so self-contained stories per season, nothing more ambitious than that. To a large degree, QL’s episodic nature exists today in the many rigidly formulaic CBS procedurals, and from what I’ve seen most of the USA shows also champion that type of storytelling just with a far lighter approach to the material than the CBS shows. However, you were right to use the world “moral” because the transition has been toward episodic TV which simply solves mysteries whereas QL often featured that to a small degree but was more moralistic, offering a lot of heart.

      That last season betrayed how the show had to that point admirably limited its focus to the normal, everyday people, and it is just one either stunt-casting or stunt-leap after another. However, I still actually like most of those episodes.

      1. Thanks for the article! I never watched QL when it was on, but have gradually watched it on Netflix DVD, about to start Season 5, and I absolutely love it. A couple years ago, I read in a few different places that NBC made them agree to do the historical figures and other stunts of Season 5, before they would renew them. That was not what the showrunners wanted to do. Disappointing that they made them change so many premises of the show, but I guess we at least got an extra season out of it!

      2. Well, shut my mouth. I’d never actually heard that all of the obvious ratings stunts in that final season were due to studio notes.

  7. In All-American Al told Sam that he hated calisthenics unless they were led by Jane Fonda. As an American POW in Vietnam he would never have said that. But I do still love this show!

    1. Hey, good catch. I actually never noticed that before. Maybe Al’s love of all things lady parts blinded him to any potential rage over Jane Fonda’s infamous antics during the War?

  8. I have a question. In that last episode sam prevents als wife from re marrying and he probably never even meets sam in the future. So how did sam go around and save ppl and leap from place to place. Wouldnt that have undone all the work he did all over time?? Is this the reason sam never returned home. Quiet a sucky ending. I think they should remake this show. Might be cool again.

    1. That’s an excellent question, one I’ve been wondering about pretty much ever since I saw the finale all those years ago. Al had clearly led such an improbably eventful life, the sum of which meant he was uniquely capable of advising Sam in his various leaps. However, if he never lost Beth and remarried so many times would his set of experiences be the same, would he have ever ended up on the QL Project considering that he only ever ended up there because he was a depressed drunk unable to find true happiness post-Beth, etc.

      Here’s what long-time Quantum Leap fansite Al’s Place had to say about it:

      15. Does Al’s marriage at the end of “Mirror Image” mean that he’s no longer on the Project?

      This certainly seems like not an unreasonable consequence, since we know that Sam and Al met on StarBright and grew so close to each other largely on account of Al’s state of mind at the time of their meeting (“You were the only person who believed in me when I gave up believing in myself” (“Shock Theater”)) and it would seem that with Beth around, Al wouldn’t have wound up like he did on StarBright. The experience of having one stable marriage and four daughters obviously produces radically different after-effects than going through five failed marriages and a drinking problem.

      Bellisario has in fact mentioned that Al would still be on PQL. However, since the after-effects of “MI” were never actually employed on the air, the relevance of his statements is debatable when it comes to speculating about the post-“Mirror Image” QL.

      We do know that PQL would exist without Al–this is shown in “A Leap for Lisa,” where, even though Al is executed as an ensign long before he ever meets Sam, we see that the Project is still there, albeit rather altered.

      Questions like how a married Al would still be able to help Sam on those particular leaps where the helpful knowledge came from one of his other four marriages, etc. still remain.

      Link: http://www.quantumleap-alsplace.com/general/faqspolier.htm

      1. The great thing about changing a person’s history (I know, that sounds like I have firsthand knowledge, haha) is that you don’t know what else it can change. If Al had stayed married to Beth, he may have had completely different experiences that led him to his incredibly wide range of knowledge, and meeting/friendship with Sam. It’s a storyline that could make great fan-fiction, even though I generally don’t care for fan-fiction to begin with.

        Great article by the way, I’m not even sure how I stumbled here, but I may have to read more of your stuff! I was pleasantly surprised when re-watching QL on Netflix that it didn’t lose it’s appeal to me as so many tv shows do. I tried re-watching Charmed and I ended up deciding I had to have been nuts to even have liked it in the first place! Similar situation with The Facts of Life, it seems incredibly cheesy to me now, although I was little when that show started out (yes I’m dating myself there!) and quite a bit younger than Tootie even, who was the youngest character.

      2. Watching the films and TV shows of our youth? That way madness lies.

        I have a lot of fun teasing Quantum Leap with my best friend, but we still love it, often telling each other, “So, I just re-watched ‘Catch a Falling Star’ last night for the first time in at least a year? OMG, it’s still so, so good!” There are some late 80s/early 90s sermonizing moments in QL episodes which are a bit hard to take now, although their quaintness is still charming. Overall, it holds up better than a lot of the shows of the era (or just old shows, in general). Heck, you don’t even have to go back very far to see how quickly certain things have aged. Watching the Christopher Eccleston-led 2005 season of modern Doctor Who now reveals just how hokey a lot of it looked. At least it does to me, even if I still love some of the episodes.

        On the movie side of things, I am reminded of this article about 5 movies we loved as kids that actually suck (although I still can’t bring myself to completely dislike Hook):

        http://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/nostalgia-sucks-5-movies-loved-kid-terrible/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews

        “Great article by the way”

        Thanks.

        “I’m not even sure how I stumbled here”

        Doesn’t that just sum up the internet in a nutshell.

    2. There’s always the parallel universe theory they use to explain the Grandfather Paradox. (How could you go back and kill your grandfather if you wouldn’t exist if you killed your grandfather?)

      When an alteration in the past timeline occurs, a new timeline is created but the prior time line also would be preserved running parallel up until that moment. So what would be impossible in only one time line, is possible if two parallel universes converge. And since the theory involved with parallel universes likes to state there are infinite universes for ever action taken and not taken, there’s no shortage to go around.

      Yeah, I researched theoretical physics and string theory for a fan fiction crossover story between Smallville and Lois & Clark. The premise might be a stretch but at least my science was sound. Lol.

  9. All and Sam only contact was holo I think they adopted a really there type deal so they didn’t know they weren’t really there. And in the last episode god or what ever told Sam he was controlling his leaps. So it was Sam sensing the wrongs and putting himself in the situation. God just helped him along the way. Angel episode as reference. And perhaps al looked the little girl up in his time and met her for real. Stuff happens off camera in shows we didn’t see all Sam leaps or all of all movements. And the logic of no famous people was based off it hadn’t happened yet. The show is great. Needs a reboot now. A show not a movie.

    1. “Stuff happens off camera in shows we didn’t see all Sam leaps or all of all movements.”

      That’s true.

      “The show is great. Needs a reboot now. A show not a movie.”

      Completely agree.

  10. My husband and I love this show. Hoping for a movie all of it but, our 2 notes are:

    Children and animals shouldn’t see Al . They only do because they can’t pretend not to.
    And the editing and shooting of the show would be a nightmare. Oh boy!

    Scott/Sam can’t run. He wobbles and looks as if he is going to fall over. The most un-heroic run of all time. Yet in every episode he does and he looks rediculous.

    Sam and Al forever.

    X

  11. Well, I discovered QL again these days I remembered some eps from my childhood and I wanted to know what happened in the end. I like the show a lot and I like your article here. And regarding point 2 I still choose Mr.Bakula’s body instead of that of the Arrow guy. I think the first one looks fit in the right way while the other is too much.
    I still wonder what a reboot could do to a show like this. Maybe the final episode of the show is really the end of all the PQL. I mean As many of you said Al has a rather happy life now so maybe Sam will never be back home because Al won’t be part of the project and the Leaping Sam will disappear into nothingness because the project will never be. However, a kind of reboot could show us the “Final Leap: Me Leaping into Reality” as I imagine it :
    1)Sam is lost in time travelling space and for an unknown reason leaps into his own self
    who didn’t know Al yet.
    2)He understands that he has to arrange things and make his own self and the Al from this tiimeline to meet and talk about Quantum Leap Project
    3) he has to make the project become real somehow and develop the Ziggy machine
    4)this time he has to make Gouchie believe that an unknown constant should be added to Ziggy’s programs.
    5) thanks to this new formulas the time-space continuum clashes when Sam’s attempting to leap, the two Sams became one and Ziggy crashes.
    6) the new Sam(who has all his memories frome back then and frome the present time altogether) tries and succeed into make the others believing the travels are still too dangerous to be attempted and after all the money’s gone and they are broke so no other project will be ever attempetd.
    Because of the tv shows magic and because of all Sam’s degreees, everyone seem to believe this.
    The camera pans to Sam’s face and he bliks his eye to the public.
    The end

    1. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but that basically sounds like X-Men: Days of Future Past meets Quantum Leap, which I’m totally cool with. However, like Days of Future Past I’d bet that the Quantum Leap people probably wouldn’t really want to address some of their franchise’s biggest continuity errors, such as whether or not the Quantum Leap project would have happened in the first place or how all the leaps would gone down if Al had come home to find Beth waiting for him and presumably led a happy life dotted with far fewer helpful life experiences to impart to Sam.

      If Quantum Leap ever does come back it’ll probably be a clean re-boot or something similar to the proposed Sci-Fi Channel show featuring people from the QL project seeking to find and rescue Sam.

      QL is such a brilliant concept for a TV show that it seems like a no-brainer candidate for a re-boot, but the stumbling block is that while we were intrigued by the premise we stuck around for Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell’s performances. We don’t necessarily want QL back; we want Sam and Al. So, if you are looking to re-launch it you’d think that Sam and Al would have to be involved, but not in a way which would potentially alienate new viewers.

      However, what you’re proposing could maybe work as a way to tie up the loose ends, and it would probably be a real treat for us long-time fans.

  12. oh, by the way sorry fro my English it is not my mothertongue so I could have made some mistake here and there.

  13. Yeah, he always does leap into the heat of the moment. Why can’t he leap in a calm situation where nothing’s happening to have time to learn what his situation is . . .

    There’s only one time I can think when Sam leaped into a calm situation, he leaped into a guy just about to have his picture taken . . .

    And then we see the picture and realize he leaped into Lee Harvey Oswald . . .

    1. Oh, good call. That is one leap that does start out nice enough before pulling back to reveal that Sam has leapt into one of the most notorious assassins of all time.

      Of course, as much as it’s fun to question why in the universe of Quantum Leap God would feel the compulsion to just constantly drop Sam in the deep end the real world explanation was that it almost always made us want to tune in next week to see what happened next (not that we were always pleased with the results, but, still, job done). Clearly, God (or whatever) just never wanted Sam to start coasting through his leaps, keep that poor guy constantly on his toes.

  14. If Al ends up with Beth again, does Tina end up with Gushie? I still haven’t rewatched season 4 and 5. Did Al name his daughters after this no-longer ex-wives?

    I briefly met Dean Stockwell at the Armageddon convention in Melbourne 2013. He wasn’t very talkative and his assistant did most of the talking. Dean said he loved the free cigars as part of work

    Now that I’m older, I can’t help but think how lucky Sam was not to be able to smell the smoker’s breath and wonder if Tina is a smoker too and that’s why she doesn’t mind bad breath.

    1. That’s funny about Dean Stockwell. At least he’s consistent because I remember reading a quote from him about out how much he loved all the free cigars in the official Quantum Leap book published in the early 90s.

      Al’s relationship with Tina is kind of complicated. That girl Al actually picks up on the side of the road in the opening scene of the pilot is named Tina, though she was played by a different actress than the Tina we’d later see. So, I always assumed Tina was just a random girl Al picked up, and then she somehow became a part of the QL project. She did, after all, seem like such an airhead that it would have made sense if she was just Al’s girlfriend who got to hang around the project and, I don’t know, help out somehow on any of the leaps in which Sam had to pretend to be a woman. In that interpretation, then, no, Tina would never have ended up with Gushie because she only became involved with the QL project because of a romantic relationship with Al. Without that, she never even would have met Gushie.

      It gets complicated after that, though, because there are leaps in which Al references Tina as if Sam would remember her from before he first started leaping. If she was just that girl Al picked up on the side of the road on the actual day Sam “stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished” (in the pilot) then Sam would never have met her before. What probably happened is the writer’s lost track of when exactly Al was supposed to have started his relationship with Tina. Either way, my knee-jerk reaction is that if Al ended up with Beth then Tina would not have ended up with Gushie, especially since their affair in the original timeline only took place because she wanted to make Al jealous.

      As for Al’s kids, he is shown to have four daughters but neither their names nor their ages are given (http://gcalvarez.tripod.com/walton/writer.html#kids). In the original timeline, after Beth he was married to 4 more women, only 3 of which were ever named (Ruthie, Sharon, Maxine). You assume he probably never even met any of them after Sam changed his life to have him end up with Beth…unless Al just had a lot of affairs but stayed married to Beth.

      Good call on the smoker’s breath thing. That’s honestly something I’ve never considered in relation to Al and Sam (and Tina).

  15. Great article. It gave me a lot to think about and I hope you don’t mind but I read number 5 on The Quantum Leap Podcast. A listener sent this link to me and it’s good he did, I totally didn’t even think of the Amy Pond connection. 🙂 thanks for that.

    1. No problem. I’m flattered you used my article for your cool podcast. I especially like you how guys manage to interview various Quantum Leap people on your show, like on a recent episode with the actress from Sea Bride. That really sets you apart.

  16. I just wanted to clear up that in the last season the evil leaper was a two parter not a trilogy. Also this was not the first time the evil leaper appeared. She was there when he leapt into Jimmy for the second time.

    1. I’m sorry if I was unclear about the evil leaper in my article. All 3 of the Evil Leaper episodes appear in the 5th season, “Deliver Us From Evil” in episode 6 and the official Evil Leaper two-parter from episodes 15-16. As such, they are not a true trilogy since they didn’t play consecutively, but I just always think of them as a bit of a trilogy, season 5’s 3 Evil Leaper episodes to go along with season 5’s actual official trilogy about Abigail. The larger point remains just how much they were throwing at the wall (to be fair, a lot of it actually did end up sticking) during the last season to avoid cancellation.

  17. Yeah, I re-watched the series and it wasn’t as good now as when I remember it as a kid. It’s terribly predictable and forulaic once you get through about a third of the way through the 2nd season. First 5-9 minutes, Sam leaps into a bind and somehow gets out of it. Around the 10 minute mark, Al shows up and explains to Sam what Sam’s already figured out. Sam gets tasked with “tough problem in the next few minutes and gets to about the 28 minute mark thinking he’s done it but hasn’t. Climax near the end and Al explains that everything turns out A-OK.

    Bakula’s character, Sam, is pretty boring most of the time. He misses his dad and brother, okay. He’s oh-so politically correct at all times. For someone who wanted to travel to the past, he seems really surprised at the social dynamics he finds. He’s always on the “right” side, never does the wrong thing, except occasionally with the intent to the do the right thing by doing something a little wrong. In the early seasons, he does seem to fall in love with every woman he encounters, although in later seasons he seems to have a somewhat more platonic attitude, although he still falls for them sometimes. We don’t know much about what drove him to create Quantum Leap, how he met Al, how they became friends. Mostly we see a kind of Superman analogue with the whole farm-boy from the heartland with amazing abilities theme.

    Stockwell’s Al is somewhat more interesting, especially when we get to M.I.A. and some depth is introduced to his character, also that episode where Sam leaps into Al as a cadet. Some interesting arcs were never developed enough – ie: they should have let Al be the leaper for 2 or 3 episodes.

    I can see how the show declined. It reached a crescendo at the beginning of season 4 with “The Leap Back” then declined in quality pretty fast. Most of the episodes were boring after that, same formulas used again and again.

    I think they should have explored the sci-fi aspects of it more. I liked the parts of season 5 where we see the waiting room and the effects of the leap on the the “leap-ees” I kept wondering, “what they hell do the do at the Project? Can they not figure out that none of this is getting Sam any closer to home? Where is the government oversight of their funding mentioned in season 2?”

    Evil leapers? Who are they, who’s funding them? Who else besides Sam could put such a project together?

    1. I think the storytelling formula so many old TV shows operated under, to the point that you can peg exactly what’s going to happen at each act (i.e., commercial) break, truly jumps out at you during binge viewing, giving you the impression these shows were never meant to be watched like this. The formula you laid out for exactly how each episode of Quantum Leap progresses is spot-on, and if I recall correctly it’s not a formula I was completely aware of when I used to watch the show’s early episodes first-run.

      As for the lack of moral complexity with Sam, I actually still like Sam as a lead character, but more in a quaint, charming kind of way while also joking about dangerously naive he could be. With so many calls for Quantum Leap to be revived somehow I wonder if people realize that there’s little chance a new version of the show would be the same. They would probably have to create a more conflicted central character than Sam simply because that’s more what you’d expect from a modern TV show. As for what drove Sam to create the Quantum Leap project, I always sort of assumed it was all about going back in time to save his brother Tom, but when I re-watched it I realized that wasn’t the case at all. That was kind of just a bonus. Good point, btw, about Sam being a kind of Superman analogue.

      As for all of the show’s lingering questions they would have been wise to have explored, I thought the general idea with the evil leapers was that they were quite literally from hell, souls forced to do the devil’s bidding.

  18. We loved Quantum Leap when we were growing up. I recall that BBC2 showed the pilot and then the first episode on consecutive nights. Though I thought that ‘ The Leap Home ‘ double part episodes were excellent, I did find it rather unsettling that Sam had no qualms about killing a woman in order to save his brother.

  19. Finally got the season 1 to 5 region 2 box set (irish fan) . Fan since 1997 when I was watching married with children and the pretender . Two great 90s shows ! Watched on UK TV (sky one at 5pm week days ) . Comment better when I binge watch from season 3 . Season 5 was not great but did have great moments . Star trek fan so seen enterprise (archer looked angry through out season 3 and some episodes of season 4 . Reminded me of the LHO episode and smiled remembering QL )

    1. Awww, I used to watch Pretender, too. Unlike Quantum Leap, I’ve never actually revisited that one. I wonder if it will show its age as well. Also, I’m with you on Enterprise – there were a couple of times where Bakular did something that made me smile in remembrance of Quantum Leap.

  20. I always wondered why Sam always leaped into a person from the USA. It’s a time-travel show, so I can understand if one of the rule’s is “within their own lifetime”, but there’s no narrative reason why the person has to be American.

    1. I remember once seeing a map which had little dots located everywhere in the world Sam had ever leapt, and other than the time he was in Egypt digging into mummy tombs, Vietnam saving his brother, and somewhere in Europe being an apparent vampire every single dot on that map was located somewhere in the United States. So, yeah, he almost always leapt into people who were from the USA and/or currently located in the USA. You could argue that you do that to avoid having to deal with language barriers, although Sam always seemed to know how to speak more languages than his swiss-cheese brain remembered, but beyond that a sold narrative reason for why most everyone had to be American doesn’t really spring to mind.

  21. I first saw seasons 4-5 when I was little and bought my dad the box set of all 5 seasons for his birthday I am up to season 4 currently. I find it amusing that fate leaps him in at stupid moments but enjoy it. I agree with most points in the article. One joke me and my dad always make during the opening credits is when it says “only sam can see” we always talk over it saying only sam, animals, small kids and people with mental ilnesses can see. One problem you didn’t mention that my dad frequently asks is if al is tuned to sams brain can al read sams thoughts? And if so why does sam have to speak why cant he just think what he wants to ask al? I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks on that. Also I used to watch star trek enterprise I enjoyed the episode where both actors worked together again where archer had to stop stockwells character who was a bad guy.

  22. We just started watching the Quantum Leap series which I received as a gift on dvd. We are up to Season 2. Someone mentioned in an earlier comment that the Netflix version is different than the dvd version (pertaining to music,etc.). This got me wondering because we were watching 2 episodes per night and one of them ended with Sam leaping into the old black man at a coffee counter, but then the next episode he’s a woman in a bathtub. We couldn’t figure out why they skipped the black man story. Is the dvd set out of order, or did they cut out some episodes?

    1. The end of each dvd in season 1 and 2 on dvd sho the wrong leap a lot end with him leaping into the black man in the colour of truth episode which already happened in season 1 however the other series are all fine as far as i can remember (I’m on season 5 now). And elwyn5150 just watched that episode and my dad immediately pointed her out (never seen office space so I don’t know if she was good in that but she did a great job in QL which other than marley and me and friends is the only thing I’ve seen her in)

      1. That’s because they made them as they were set to air. So, sometimes they’d have re-runs on the next week and as a result they’d lead them into that. Which is why a few of the second season’s endings led into the first season. I thought it was a bit strange at first too.

  23. I discovered the series a few weeks ago accidentally. This is easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I agree with the site though, season 5 stretched far and beyond for ratings and the remade music was unnecessary. But nevertheless, it’s an excellent, timeless show I will watch again.

    1. The episode “Shock Theatre” suggests he does since he begins to exhibit multiple personality disorder of past people after he receives electroshock therapy.

  24. I just watched the final part of trilogy and was really confused about why no one remembered that the mum was not hospital bound and that she was in the house during the fire in trilogy part 1. Lida ader obviously saw her because she was saying “no get away from me” while abbigale was hiding in the cupboard and sam saw her just before the beam fell on him and he leaped. So how come no one suspected the mum especially since she was badly burned. It really irked me.

    Also al always tells Sam to give in to temptation when there are pretty women around but when he does e.g. in trilogy part 2 or deliver us from evil or a handful of other times Al disapproves. Fair enough he was right to disapprove in deliver us from evil because alia was using him but it really annoyed me that he encouraged it until it happened then acted all high abd mighty by disapproving!

    Trilogy made almost no sense and really annoyed me as it had too many plot holes that confused me. I got told to shut up several times by my mum and dad for constantly asking questions and pointing out plot holes.

    1. “Trilogy made almost no sense and really annoyed me as it had too many plot holes that confused me. I got told to shut up several times by my mum and dad for constantly asking questions and pointing out plot holes.”

      Yeah, I’ve been there before.

      I honestly never really gave much thought to the plot holes in the trilogy, but it sounds like you were on top of it.

      I like your point about Al being such a skirtchaser taunting Sam’s Boy Scouts ethics but then getting all judgmental when Sam actually gave into his impulses.

  25. I really enjoyed the “Leap Back” episode. Al was there and Sam got to go back. I loved the way Sam stuck it to Al for all the times Al messed with Sam. Also, it was a change from the normal show ie Sam is in a situation and Al tells him how to get out of it. I never liked how the show ended with us not knowing what happened to Sam. But it is a noble ending, Sam sacrificing his going home to help his friend.

    1. The Leap Back is one of my all-time favorites as well, a welcome reversal of the norm and a great excuse for bakula and stockwell to stretch out their characters a little more.

    1. Katie: I’ve never heard that song before.
      Sam: Of course not. John Lennon’s not going to write it for another x years
      Katie: Nooo!
      Al: Saaaammm!
      Katie: I don’t want to believe you know the future
      Al: Why not?
      Katie: Because if you know the future then that means Tommy is going to die.

      And then Katie openly weeps, echoing the way many of us cried while watching “The Leap Home Part 1 and 2” for the first time.

      I know my quotes of that scene are probably not exact, but I love that scene and it instantly came to mind after reading your comment.

      1. That’s one of my favorite moments from the series, and I was right there crying with Dorothy Ja… I mean Katie whenever it showed up in Sci-Fi’s rotation.

  26. Man, I loved Quantum Leap. Still have all the DVDs (original music, somehow…) I just watched Mirror Image and at the point where Sam pulls out his driver’s license I notice that it expires in 1998. Wasn’t PQL based in 1999? Sam’s license has expired!

    Also, the drivers license says “Sam” not “Samuel”.

    I recently located a QL novel which was pretty bad. The descriptions of other novels in the series also seemed too sci-fi and getting away from the spirit of the show. Such a shame.

    QL could be remade, but Sam MUST still have a strong sense of morals, the show MUST focus on the drama rather than the sci-fi (or celeb leapees), and the two lead characters MUST have great on-screen chemistry. Mess with any of that and you’ve got a failure.

    1. I believe you are right on both counts (the year and Sam’s full name). So, you actually caught two things I’d never noticed before.

      I am aware of a plethora of QL novels and fan fiction, but I’ve always struggled to muster any curiosity unless an original creator was involved, like Joss Whedon with the comic book continuations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. So, your description of the novel and the descriptions of the other novels is about what I’d expect.

      “QL could be remade, but Sam MUST still have a strong sense of morals, the show MUST focus on the drama rather than the sci-fi (or celeb leapees), and the two lead characters MUST have great on-screen chemistry. Mess with any of that and you’ve got a failure.”

      It is funny how many remakes and reboots are coming our way, and how often I think, “I don’t want to see that.” I don’t want a new season of Coach or Full House or a new Gremlins movie. I generally don’t think that the magic can ever really be recaptured, as even when the new Arrested Development did something kind of interesting it was still very different from what came before and disappointed most people. Due to my cynicism, I even have my doubts about a new X-Files because the last time Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson, and David Duchovny got together it wasn’t that great, be it the movie or the final season of the show (which Duchovny was just in a little). As a result, I used to think that QL was so dependent on Bakula and Stockwell’s chemistry that making it without them would make no sense, but at this point I might be flipping to the other side. Stockwell might be too old, and it might be too confusing to try to explain Bakula’s presence given what became of Sam in the series finale, although I’d obviously watch to see if they somehow pulled it off. Maybe a straight remake would be the better option. If so, I think you have pretty well nailed the things that would be essential to such a remake’s success.

      1. I recall a while back there were rumor’s of remakes. Aren’t there always rumors? One of the better ones was under the premise that Sammy Jo was now doing the leaping where her father left off and Sam was in the control room trying to get a better handle on where to drop her.

      2. The most concrete rumor I’ve been aware of goes back almost 15 years ago. The story was that the Sci-Fi Channel was looking at two potential projects: a Quantum Leap revival and a TV adaptation of the film Tremors. The QL revival was to focus on Sammy Jo leaping to try to and find Sam, with Al serving as her hologram. Bakula was attached in a recurring fashion. If I recall correctly, it was actually going to be a TV movie/backdoor pilot for a new series. Ultimately, the Tremors show won out, surviving for one 13-episode season in 2003, and the QL revival never left development.

  27. I used to watch this series with my grandma and grandpa. I have a feeling that if I went back and watched it now I would have way more comprehension of what was going on than I did back then. That being said, I loved the show then and I’m sure I would still. Thanks for posting!

  28. I love this show. I will love this show until the day I die. I love being able to quiz myself during an episode and getting the right answer. I cry when Sam leaps home and my favorite episodes are Trilogy (and I cry at the end of it). So who are all those people at the end of “Catch a Falling Star” and why are they there?

    1. A month ago, I finally got to see “Man of La Mancha” for the first time. I felt like I knew half the songs from watching “Catch a Falling Star” years ago. I had also read “Don Quixote” a decade ago but forgotten much of it.

      The book and the musical are different in many ways but the biggest one is obviously presentation. the musical is a story within a story. The story-within-the-story is about the adventures of Don Quixote, Sancho, Dulcinea etc. The overaching story is author Cervantes and his sage performing his story of Don Quixote to other prisoners held by the Spanish Inquisition to inspire them; Cervantes portrays Don Quixote, his sage performs as Sancho and the other prisoners perform all the other various characters at an inn that Don QUixote things is a castle.

      So, to answer your question, the other people at the end are the other cast members of “Man of La Mancha”, who are portraying the prisoners/inhibitants of the inn.

  29. http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/quantum-leap/

    I thought I would drop this link off to you for posterity.

    I don’t know how true or what the source is, but it says if the show was picked up for a 6th season, the “danger” would have increased and it would have seen Al take off as a leaper himself to try And find Sam.

    I think sadly what happened the concept itself was too niche in that it straddeled both sci fi and morality plays.

    What’s weird though if you look at the time period, highway to heaven ended after a similar run and also claiming faltering ratings while shows that were more hip and edgey were on the upswing.. Married with children, Seinfeld, friends, degrassi junior high. Shows that were eager to cut against the grain in more ways than one.

    As an aside here, maybe that explains the success of touched by an angel, debuting in 1994, which was more clearly grounded in faith, as a sort of refuge from shows like I mentioned.

    Getting back to what I was saying, there’s a good theory in the comments on that site that Sam is actually an angel in training and I agree that the seeds of this have been laid in previous episodes.

    What I’m not clear on though is how that would be reconciled with the premise of the show as being sci fi in nature. Its possible to believe that Sam, through quantum leap, opened some sort of dimensional back door to an angel training program that God is guiding.

    I think that having Sam grapple with the philosophical implications of leaping was a good injection of character development and depth to the show, considering that Al was more or less the only person he could talk with and bounce ideas off if. But I think it should have been left simply at that and leaping should have been left simply as a plot device such as the transporter in star trek or the tardis in doctor who.

    Given that the stories were so strong and objective on their own, I don’t think that the original premise should have been messed with.

    What you had though, was the genius of Bellisario injecting story elements that were well ahead of their time.. Namely the long form story arc (although I don’t recall, the devil himself showed up in series 3, off to Netflix!!). Not to mention that the ultimate battle between good and evil lurking under the surface came to literally define many such shows through the 90s.. Buffy, angel, twin peaks, brimstone, super natural and to an extent xfiles.

    As I said though, I think the core premise was better left untampered with. To do so would be to create a nightmare of star trek sized plot holes, loop holes, back pedaling etc.

    The stories were so sincere, well written, objective, unassuming and most importantly human, it would have made the show unwatchable if they had tried to shoe horn in another premise at the last minute. So suffice it to say, I think got out early enough without ruining the entirety if the show.

    Sadly though, I think the paladin or fugitive-esque style shows were wearing out their welcome at the time and the plot elements that were being introduced were just a few years too early. But to do so, regardless, would have been at odds with and undercut show.

  30. One of my favorite shows. A movie would be so fun now.
    The finale was a real bummer as so many finales seem to be.

  31. I have been a long time fan of Quantum Leap since it’s original run. I also have all the novels and the books about the series and spent a lot of time on alt.tv.quantumleap (early internet days!) The novels aren’t as bad as some think – a lot more interaction on the project side of things, but the continuity holes exist there as well. To address point #4 – the novel “Angels Unaware” does a nice job bringing another interaction between Sam, Al and Teresa, as well as Angela from “It’s A Wonderful Leap”. The show is still full of nostalgia for me and I now get to introduce my 7 year old son to it also. He is slightly younger than I was when the show first began, but he loves it just the same. Thanks for the great article!

    1. Yeah, but haven’t multiple Doctors since then said that history can be re-written, even if that type of hubris proved to be the downfall of the David Tennant Doctor.

  32. I felt like it went from nostalgic to preachy the longer it went on. Has anyone ever noticed how often the people Sam leaped into had some connection to organized crime? Lots of references to mafia activity, especially in the first couple seasons. Also a lot of references to the old south. Still love the show though.

  33. Regarding number 3. The show was on point with historical accuracy, it was common practice to electroshock at that time in history. Simply people with depression had their brains zapped by doctors rhinking they were doing the right thing. So yea Don Bellisario was in line with the common practice of that time period. A family member had thus done and you can find it in research.

  34. I was wondering on the episode the leap home where sam receives electroshock then lightning strikes then he and al switch places im thinking why couldnt ziggy pinpoint another lightning strike for sam to return home again permanently and idk how i ever missed that the donna in that episode was donna from season 1!!!

    1. Ziggy was never too good with his/her predictions. They would have needed a news report of lightning hitting someone or a famous landmark such as Hill Valley’s Clock to know where a lightning strike occurred.

    1. I am still hoping that bakuka’s NCIS show will have a meta episode where Sam Beckett leaps into the character bakuka’s plays on the show. It could be a totally standard episode of the show except bakuka’s character will talk to a hologram and occasionally besmirch the good name of zilch.

  35. I can’t watch QL except in the background doing ther stuff. For one the reel light/color quality is dark & dull making it look from the 1800’s,like so many other shows from the mid 80’s (Dallas, Murders She Typed etc.) Dunno why QL used the same grainy film, wasn’t mid 80’s no more.

    Though Bakula is likeable enough, he’s too much a wimp. Only one time he showed a pair when he slid across the hood and punched that guy in the episode where he leaps into a pizza-faced teen to drag race his clunker. He also can’t kiss a woman unless she snogs him first. How wimpy and unsexy is that!? Did not happen IRL pre-1960!

    Most episodes are slow and boring and the 50’s & 60’s are portrayed as a couple very tedious snoozefest decades. IMO, it killed the show. Leaping into the future would have been more fun, at the very least, leaping into other decades and centuries would have given it the much needed variety. Never heard of most of the last episodes you mention, some sound interesting but they’re probably as dull as the rest if the show. Turned off the Monroe one as she was a megaslut but most women portray this skank as a victim they wanna be friends with when in reality she was worst sewer trash than a kakatrashian. She was ordered killed by Jackie O, btw. Any self-respecting woman would have slugged her right between the peepers, she had it coming. Shame she wasn’t offed a decade prior! Would have less garbage performances to change channels through but so it goes! As for the rest….

    Where have you been? The 80’s WAS the decade of working out with WEIGHTS at the GYM (caps for the ignorant’s benefit since there’s no red ink here) for BOTH men AND WOMEN and no one has looked as good since then. The 80’s had plenty of fit bodies. Apparently, you’re both blind, ignorant and have never seen any Arnold movies, nor any other TV of the era since you re acting like first time ever you saw a dude look like that clown. Post 80’s women got FAT with the idiot Miss this and that contests showcasing thunder thighs and other mammoths.

    Bakula’s body was fine, I’m surprised that you didn’t bitch about his hairiness, since all post 1997 Americans are hairophobes, obsessed with everyone being bald like a baby from the eyebrows down, thereby fatefully creating generations of not so latent paedophiles who can’t tell the difference between a newborn crotch when they go change a diaper and a woman’s any longer, and mistake it for a 36 year old’s!

  36. I see a lot of people asking why Sam never went home after “Mirror Image”. Easy, he was already home. Being a leaper and floating through time was his home. What would he go back to? He doesn’t remember he is married, and for all he know he destroyed PQL by saving Al’s marriage. He never had any intention or desire to stop being a leaper.

  37. Nice article on the show. I loved this series and now watching it on ScyFy 20 years later. Just watched the Leap Home episodes, brilliant, the writing of this series was excellent. Being a science fiction show, you could pick holes in it all day long, but I just enjoy sitting back and watching each episode for what it was, pure fiction at its best. As much as I would love to see this return, it would be sad to see 2 new characters in Sam and Al’s shoes. But, one final show with the 2 reunited would be amazing. If this could pilot a spin-off series with the same chemistry that this show created, I’d be happy with that, but I would dearly want to see Scott and Dean come back before they are literally out of time. I watched the final episode today too, and have to say its left me reminiscing and quite saddened that these guys have aged and are unlikely to make another episode. This show is timeless, simply because we accept the timelines they jump into, so it will stand the test of time for decades and generations.

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