From the first episode on, I never missed a showing of Quantum Leap when it aired on network television. The second season, which stretched from the Fall of 1989 to the Spring of 1990 was a terrific one.
Scott Bakula portrays Sam Beckett. Sam is a quantum physicist who was testing his theories on the ability of someone to be able to travel through time within his own lifetime. Something went wrong (or right?) when he stepped into the machine he created, the Quantum Leap Accelerator and each week he ends up leaping into the body of someone different.
When he’s leaped into that body, the person he’s leaped into is back in the laboratory. Sam’s only connection to that world is Dean Stockwell as Al. Al appears to Sam in the form of a hologram. At first, it seemed that no one besides Sam could see Al, but this season it’s revealed that animals and small children can see Al as well.
Although we see Sam, the people around him only see the person he is supposed to be. Usually, at the beginning of the episode, Sam manages to catch his reflection in the mirror so we get to see what he looks like as well. There’s always an “Oh Boy” moment when Sam first leaps. At the end, the “preview” for the next episode is seeing who Sam has leaped into next.
Sam’s memory is also a bit muddled. He can’t always remember what his life was like back before he stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator. This is how things are explained such as his ability to take out two kidnappers with his knowledge of martial arts in one episode when it wasn’t mentioned before. It will also become pivotal later on in the series when he deals not only with his and Al’s past history but history as we know it as well.
As much as it sounds like science fiction, it is also quite poignant. Sam leaps into the bodies of people who are at pivotal moments in time but on a very small scale. The moments he changes the world are moments that will be written up in history books. At the most, they are small breakthroughs that manage to challenge society’s status quo and maybe get a few people to think about things a little differently.
Sometimes there is a bit of humor in Sam’s influence on history. In one episode he meets Chubby Checker and shows him The Twist. In another, he saves a doctor from choking… whose last name happens to be Heimlich.
There are some moments that don’t play as well, despite the overall good quality of the series. Al is a womanizer and never stops letting viewers know that. Unless you’re so “politically correct” that any sort of talk along this line bothers you, it’s generally not a problem. However, in one episode where Sam leaps into the body of a woman being sexually harassed by her boss, it seems sort of hypocritical for Al to be calling him a slime and the like.
One of the things that made the show great is the music. Not only do I love the snappy theme by that bastion of television show themes, Mike Post, but each episode often had its own soundtrack of sorts. Various popular songs from that specific time period were mixed in the episode, really giving me the feel for the times. In the first season, all of these songs were left intact. This second season, they have been stripped away.
The reason for that is really unknown. There’s speculation that it would have cost Universal too much money to get the copyright clearance, or that it would have delayed production of the discs far too long. This doesn’t make sense because in some cases the song appears in one episode but has been deleted from another. Some of the artists had songs in season one, but have had their songs omitted here. The other thing is looking at the artists who have had the songs deleted, many of them were one-hit wonders. I don’t think Carl Douglas has enough income from the toy hamsters singing Kung Fu Fighting that he would have demanded an outrageous sum for it to be included here.
Whatever the reason, I think fans of the series miss out. Here they have been replaced by generic “elevator” music. Although these songs are still intact on rebroadcasts of the series on Sci-Fi Channel, those episodes are cut for commercial time. The choice seems to be uncut on discs, or with a complete soundtrack but cut on commercial television. I’ll be noting what’s been cut from the soundtrack with my summary of each episode. My thanks to the people on the Quantum Leap discussion list who provided me with this information.
I have another complaint with the set itself. On the DVD housing, it lists the episodes and the discs they are on. They are on three double-sided discs. The list includes “Bonus Material” on Disc 3, Side B but there’s no “Bonus Material” there. All there is are two episodes that end this season. I don’t know which was an error on the part of Universal – either listing the “Bonus Material” or omitting it, but I’m not happy that there is no bonus material on this DVD set.
My only other complaint has to do with the storyline itself, and that is that Sam never leaps out of the United States. The reason, of course, is due to keeping the script in English, but logically it just seemed as if he should have been leaping all over the world. At one point in the future he finally does, but I won’t give that away! The closest he comes during the second season is being on an ocean liner near the end of the season. At the very least they could have had him leap to Great Britain or Canada, eh?
You may or may not recognize the name of Deborah Pratt. I remembered her for her part in the television series Airwolf. She co-produced the series with her husband, Donald Bellesario, and wrote many of the episodes. This season, she’s given the opportunity to act in one of the episodes as well.
My kids watched a lot of the episodes with me. They were interested in the characters as well as the different time periods. It’s a nice way to teach them about what it was like to live during the ’50s, 60’s, 70’s, etc. I’ve seen nothing in any of the episodes I object to. There’s the insinuation of sex and in one a woman is a stripper. Although they say she strips, we never actually see anything, so it bothers me less than all of those adult billboards we see along I95 from New York to Florida.
Al has been brought before a Senate inquiry about the project and what went wrong with the project, as well as what the $43 billion has been spent on. The Senators are skeptical about his ability to change events since they don’t see any major changes happening in history.
Sam leaps into the body of a newly-married man on the way to his honeymoon in Niagara Falls on board a train leaving New York City on April 27, 1960. His new wife is apparently studying to become a lawyer. There’s also a problem with a first (now ex) husband.
AL: In two days the Russians are going to shoot down the U2
SAM: The rock group?
Sam leaps into the body of a Lorenzo-Lamas-lookalike stuntman, Chad, on April 1, 1976. Al believes Sam is there to somehow prevent the death of Chad’s younger brother, Chris.
It’s also in this episode that we first learn of Sam’s older brother Tom who was killed in Viet Nam.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: That’s The Way I Like It by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas, Do The Hustle by Van McCoy.
The Americanization of Machiko
Sam leaps into the body of a sailor returning from Japan with a foreign bride. His hometown in Ohio on August 4, 1953 isn’t as welcoming as he’d hoped of the foreign lady. The worst offender is his mother who is dead-set against having a Japanese daughter-in-law.
What Price Gloria
Sam leaps into the body of a gorgeous secretary being sexually harassed at an automotive company on October 16, 1961. Her roommate is having an affair with one of the executives and is truly buying the line that the man will leave his wife for her.
Sam leaps into the body of a blind concert pianist on February 6, 1964. There’s a bit of continuity screw-up here as the opening scene shows New York City with the Twin Towers, and that wasn’t built until well after that date. He’s here to save the pianist’s girlfriend from a serial killer.
Good Morning, Peoria
Same leaps into the body of a deejay in Peoria on September 9, 1959. The conservative townsfolk want to shut down the station he’s at to keep rock -n- roll out of the city. Patricia Richardson of Home Improvement fame and Chubby Checker guest-star in this episode.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: April Love by Pat Boone, All Shook Up by Elvis Presley, Maybe Baby by Buddy Holly, Yakkety Yak by The Coasters, Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley, Shout by The Isley Brothers.
Thou Shalt Not
Sam leaps into the body of a Rabbi on February 2, 1974. The Rabbi’s brother, Joe, and his wife, Irene, are at a crossroads. They lost their son, Danny, a year ago. Joe is somewhat distant from his entire family, and especially Irene. and Sam must prevent Irene from having an affair with a widowed, smooth-talking writer.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Locomotion by Little Eva, Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack.
One of the finest episodes of the series and perhaps the most memorable original character Sam leaps into. Jimmy is a learning disabled young adult forging his independence. The date is October 14, 1964 and at this time people who were mentally challenged were not accepted in mainstream society. Jimmy gets a job working at the docks with his brother and must contend with the prejudices and treatment at the hands of the other workers. Michael Madsen and John DiAquino highlight the guest stars in this episode.
So Help Me God
Sam has leaped into the body of the defense attorney for a black woman accused of murder on July 29, 1957. The problem is the person she’s accused of murdering is the son of the most powerful man in the small Louisiana town, and her guilt in the matter is far from certain.
Catch a Falling Star
Sam leaps into the body of Ray, an actor who is the understudy for the star, John O’Malley, in a performance of Man of La Mancha. O’Malley sobers up enough to get Sam out of having to perform that evening. It’s May 21, 1979 and John is about to take a drunken fall and severely injure himself during the performance. Sam is there to prevent that from happening. It’s all complicated by the piano teacher Sam had a crush on being part of a triangle between Ray and John.
Guest stars include Paul Sand, Ernie Sabella, Janine Turner, and John Cullum.
A Portrait for Troian
Sam has leaped into the body of a Dr. Tim Mintz, a well-known parapsychologist on February 7, 1971. He’s there to help a woman, Troian, who lost her husband in a tragic accident and to prevent her from ending up at the bottom of the same lake he’s believed to have drowned in.
Guest cast includes Carolyn Seymour, who’s known for her portrayal of a Romulan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and co-Producer of the series, Deborah Pratt.
As the title implies, this one has to do with a college fraternity. Sam leaps into the body of frat-jock Knut “Wild Thing” Wileton on October 19, 1967. He’s there to stop a student war protester from planting a bomb that kills someone.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Louie, Louie by The Kingsmen, Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys, and I Can‘t Help Myself by The Temptations.
Sam leaps into the body of a divorced single mother on September 30, 1981. Al tells Sam that her oldest (teenaged) son runs away and is never heard from again. However, his fate turns out to be more complicated than is first thought.
One complication arises in that during this episode, Sam and Al learn that young children can see Sam, not the person he’s leaped into as well as Al.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Call Me by Blondie, Shake It Up by The Cars, He’s So Shy by The Pointer Sisters.
Sam leaps into the body of a Hispanic high-school football player on November 6, 1962. Here he must convince the player’s best friend not to go for the fast money and throw a football game, or it’ll cost both of them their scholarships.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Big Girls Don’t Cry by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Let’s Do The Twist Again by Chubby Checker.
Sam leaps into the body of an FBI agent who’s assigned to protect a woman in the witness protection program from a mafia hitman on September 26, 1973. The only problem is that there seems to be an informant somewhere as to their movements.
Sam leaps into the body of a young native American who has gone to jail along with his grandfather for stealing a truck. Sam is there to help his grandfather escape jail so he can die in peace on his reservation on November 22, 1970.
Good Night, Dear Heart
Sam leaps into the body of a coroner who is determined to prove that a woman’s death was not suicide but murder on November 9, 1957. Guest stars in this episode include Marcia Cross, Robert Duncan McNeill, and W.K. Stratton.
Writer Paul Brown received an award for this episode from the Mystery Writers of America.
Pool Hall Blues
Sam has leaped into the body of Charlie Walton, a renowned black pool player on September 4, 1954. Charlie must save his granddaughter from giving herself to a slimy loan shark in order to avoid losing the pool hall/bar that she’s gone into debt for.
This episode won an Emmy Award for cinematography.
Leaping Without a Net
Sam leaps into the body of a trapeze artist, who’s working on a particularly difficult stunt with his sister, Eva on November 18, 1958. His father isn’t too happy about Eva’s determination to perfect the stunt since his wife died attempting the same thing a few years before. Sam is there to successfully catch her doing the stunt. To complicate matters even more, Sam remembers that he’s afraid of heights.
Song deleted from soundtrack: Tequila by The Champs.
Sam leaps into the body of a man who’s helped his stripper girlfriend, Bunny, kidnap a baby, Christy, from the biological father on March 11, 1963. It’s up to Sam and Al to figure out where the lies end and the truth begins when dealing with both Bunny and Christy’s father.
Guest-starring in the episode is MTV Veejay Julie Brown, who also co-wrote the episode.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Runaway by Del Shannon and Dancing In The Streets by Martha and The Vandellas.
Sam finds himself on board an ocean liner on June 3, 1954 trying to stop the marriage of his ex-wife to a mobster.
Guest-starring in this episode (for Star Trek fans) is John (J.G.) Hertzler as his ex-father-in-law. This episode received an Emmy nomination for costume design.
Sam leaps into the body of an undercover cop on April 1, 1969. Al insists Sam’s mission is to locate a Navy nurse and prevent her from marrying another man. Her husband is missing in action and presumed dead. However, as the leap drags on, Sam picks up on cues that what AL is insisting on might not be the purpose Sam is actually there for.
This is a particularly poignant and meaningful episode, especially for fans of the series. The missing songs are really noticed here.
Songs deleted from soundtrack: Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding, This Guy’s In Love With You by Herb Alpert, Someday We’ll Be Together by Diana Ross & The Supremes,Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, and Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles.