Quantum Leap was a television show that begin airing in March of 1989. The premise was that Sam Beckett was a scientist who in order to keep his funding, tests his experiment. The experiment was a time traveling machine known as the Quantum Leap Accelerator. Sam had the theory that someone could travel through time within his own lifetime. When he stepped into the accelerator, he vanished.
What happened from then on was that he was leaping into other people’s bodies and trying to fix things that had gone wrong in history, always hoping that eventually he would leap back into his own body back in the accelerator. The people he replaced were back in the laboratory near the machine while Sam lived their lives in their body. People still saw the same person and didn’t realize that Sam was there. Little kids and animals could see Sam, though, instead of the person he had leaped into.
Sam has a connection to the Quantum Leap project in Al. He appears to Sam as a hologram and is something little kids can see as well. Al has a hand-held connection to a temperamental computer who feeds the duo information so Sam can fix what he has to and then leap out of that situation.
The third season things started changing a bit for the characters. Sam leaps into himself at a younger age right off the bat. It creates a situation where Sam wants to change events in his own life, but is that what he is there to do? He also leaps into the life of a Navy Seal who is under the command of Sam’s older brother. He goes in at a time just before they embark on a mission which will kill Sam’s brother. The quandary is what does Sam do if the situation comes down to saving his brother or successfully completing the mission?
There are some powerful episodes during season three with some real moral dilemmas. There is also plenty of comic relief, such as with Sam as a Kiss-like rock star, complete with make-up and singing. This season also introduces the idea of the devil opposing all that Sam is doing while he is leaping. It’s only briefly touched on but there’s a payoff coming in later seasons.
Sam is portrayed by Scott Bakula. He does a terrific job in the role. Each week is something different and he has to shift gears. He does it very well. In the rock star episode, he even does his own singing. It’s a real challenge and to help him get the feel for the role and the audience to buy him in each different character, there are often subtle changes in his appearance.
Al is portrayed by Dean Stockwell. Often he is the source of comic relief with lecherous comments and funny observations. He is terrific in the role and Al is one of my favorite television characters.
Guest stars this season include Andrea Thompson (NYPD Blue), Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld), Diedrich Bader (Drew Carey Show), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), Josie Bissett (Melrose Place), Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World), and Debbie Allen (Fame). Each week the entire cast is different except for Sam and Al.
The script-writers throw in quick, meaningful encounters throughout the season, such as with a young “S. Stallone” whom Sam discusses boxing with and “Stevie” who has a great affinity for horror novels and whom Sam inadvertently gives story ideas to. These moments produce a nice smile for fans of the series and keep you paying attention. In one episode, Captain Galaxy reads a letter from a youngster by the name of Sam Beckett who asks him to explain the theory of time travel, which sounds remarkably like the idea which fueled Sam’s work on the Quantum Leap project….
One of my personal favorite episodes happens about midway through this season. 8 1/2 Months deals with the issue of teen pregnancy and shows that adoption is not the answer for every teen in the fifties who was pregnant. It’s a deeply meaningful episode for me and was perhaps the first time I can remember ever seeing adoption not looked at as the ultimate problem-solver where everyone’s lives worked out happily ever after. Of course, it also provides a ton of comic relief as Sam must act pregnant throughout, including feeling the baby and the contractions when he experiences labor.
Effects are limited mostly to Al’s appearances. In one case, a lion jumps through “Al” while he’s in the form of a hologram. It’s very well-done, especially at a time when CGI was in it’s infancy.
The one huge complaint I have is that Universal had to delete all the original music from the episodes. The theory among fans is that this was done in order to make the purchase price reasonable, but it really is something that takes away from the overall tone of the series. The songs were usually part of the time period, and for those of us who associate music with certain times in our lives, it really resonated and helped to set the tone for each episode. In place of the great songs of each time period is forgettable instrumental music that doesn’t even sound good enough to be played in an elevator.
There are no extras on the DVD which is a shame. I would have loved to have had some commentary from Bakula and Stockwell and perhaps some of the guest stars. Donald Bellesario created the show and could have been brought in, or his wife Deborah Pratt who was the co-Executive Producer. It would have given a lot of life to a series that is absolutely wonderful.
Quantum Leap really hit it’s stride with this near-perfect season. There was a good mix of meaningful and dramatic episodes with some light-hearted comedy. Bakula and Stockwell seemed completely comfortable in their roles and had some good background given to both of them.
Disc One, Side A:
The Leap Home – Part 1 November 25, 1969
Sam leaps into himself at age sixteen. He wants to save his family from the things he knows will happen to them, including his father’s and brother’s deaths and his sister’s marriage to an abusive alcoholic. That’s not what he’s there to change, however. Will his desire to help his family override what he needs to do?
The Leap Home – Part 2 April 7, 1970
Sam leaps into a fellow Navy SEAL in his brother Tom’s squadron in Viet Nam. The question is if he’s there to save his brother? Is he there to make sure the mission is successful? A female photographer’s last photo will haunt Sam for a very long time, showing him he could have helped out someone else close to him as well.
Leap of Faith August 19, 1963
Sam leaps into a priest who is performing a wedding. He learns he is there to counsel another priest who has witnessed the murder of a 12 year old boy and must perform the funeral mass.
One Strobe Over the Line June 15, 1965
Sam leaps into the body of a fashion photographer who is trying to help a model stay away from amphetamines and a predatory manager. If he doesn’t, there’s a good chance that she will end up dead of a drug overdose.
Disc One, Side B:
The Boogieman October 31, 1964
Sam leaps into the body of a famous horror novelist on Halloween. When people around him begin to die without warning, Sam finds him fighting a battle against forces he had no idea were dogging him.
Miss Deep South June 7, 1958
Sam leaps into the body of Darlene, a beauty contestant. In addition to helping out a fellow contestant who’s he also must do what it takes for Darlene to place third in the pageant, ensuring that she receives the scholarship which will allow her to become a doctor.
Black on White on Fire August 11, 1965
Sam leaps into the body of a black medical student with a white fiancee during the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Somehow he must find a way to keep her alive while they work at a clinic in the heart of the riots.
The Great Spontini May 9, 1974
Sam leaps into the body of a magician who’s trying to keep custody of his daughter as his soon-to-be ex-wife files for divorce. The problem seems to be the sleazy lawyer his wife has hired
Disc Two, Side A:
Rebel Without a Clue September 1, 1958
Sam leaps into the body of “Bones”, the newest member of a motorcycle gang. He’s there to help out a girl riding with the gang who has a romantic vision of what the lifestyle is like, rather than the reality of her situation.
A Little Miracle December 24, 1962
Sam leaps into the life of a valet working for a rich, Scrooge-like boss on Christmas Eve. The boss plans to develop a Salvation Army building to put up a skyscraper with his name on it and will eventually be a lost soul to his greed if Sam cannot turn him around.
Runaway July 4, 1964
Sam has leaped into Butchie, a 13 year old with an older sister who loves to torment him and a mother about to run out on her marriage and her family.
8 1/2 Months November 15, 1955
Sam leaps into the body of Billie Jean Crockett, a teenager who is pregnant and is being coerced into giving her baby up for adoption when she doesn’t really want to.
Billie Jean, where your baby goes is not important… What’s important is that your baby will be with a good family and it will have a wonderful life…
How many girls heard the same thing only to find out years later that the screening process wasn’t as great as they’d been led to believe? How many girls were told to forget they had a baby or pretend it died and not receive any counseling, having this event end up destroying their lives?
Disc Two, Side B:
Future Boy October 6, 1957
Sam leaps into an actor in a 1950’s sci-fi television show portraying “Future Boy” to the lead actor’s “Captain Galaxy”. Sam tries to reach the daughter of “Captain Galaxy” before she has her father committed to a mental institution.
Private Dancer October 6, 1979
Sam leaps into the life of a Chippendale’s dancer, Rod, who must try to convince one of the waitresses at the club who’s also a stripper – and deaf – that her future is in a legitimate dance troupe.
Piano Man November 10, 1985
Sam leaps into the body of a nightclub piano player going by the name of Chuck Danner who’s on the run from the mob. When a former girlfriend tracks him down, Sam has to keep them both from getting killed by the hired guns.
Southern Comforts August 4, 1961
Sam finds himself in the body of a man who is the owner of a bordello in New Orleans. One of the girls is about to die very violently and Sam has just 24 hours to stop it from happening.
Disc Three, Side A:
Glitter Rock April 12, 1974
Sam leaps into the life of Tonic, a make-up wearing glamour-rock star who is in danger of being stabbed to death in front of his fans at a concert. There’s a whole series of suspects here, from jealous bandmates to an apparant crazed fan and it’s fun to watch Scott rock-out in the role.
A Hunting We Will Go June 18, 1976
Sam is a bounty hunter cuffed to a pretty looking embezzler who wants to make her escape. The result is a series of escapades where they get banged up, bruised, launched into horse manure, and more. All the while, Sam is trying to prevent them from being killed.
Last Dance Before an Execution May 12, 1971
Sam leaps into the body of Jesus Ortega, a death-row inmate who has just 48 before his execution for of the murder of a priest. The question is can Sam prove Jesus is innocent from behind bars, and is that what he is there to do?
Heart of a Champion July 23, 1955
Sam leaps into the body of wrestler Terry Sammis. Terry’s brother Ronnie is also a professional wrestler. The two are on the cusp of their big break when Sam learns he must convince Ronnie to quit wrestling before his heart gives out during a title match.
Disc Three, Side B:
Nuclear Family October 26, 1962
Sam leaps into the body of Eddie Elroy, a college student trying to earn money as a bomb-shelter salesman during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He’s there to try and prevent a neighbor from shooting another neighbor during the high tensions of the crisis. What’s hard is that Sam knows there will be no nuclear war but as he tries to tell people that and reassure them, he meets with more resistance.
Shock Theater October 3, 1954
When Sam leaps into the body of a manic-depressive man named Sam Bederman in a mental institution, the electro-shock treatments he receives at the hands of an orderly bring to the surface the various personalities Sam has leaped into over the years.
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