Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap Jumps the Shark in the Complete Fifth Season on DVD

Quantum Leap was a television show which aired from 1989 through 1993. The premise was that Sam Beckett, a scientist portrayed by Scott Bakula, created a machine to travel within a person’s lifetime. It was known as the Quantum Leap Accelerator. To test the invention, Sam himself stepped into the machine and vanished.

It didn’t work quite as planned. Sam leaped into the bodies of people and those people leaped back to the project. He would look in the mirror and see what the person looked like, and that person wouldn’t appear different to those around them, but the audience just saw Sam. He was there to fix something, to put something back on track, or “putting right what once went wrong.” He is linked back to the project by Al Calavicci, a retired Rear Admiral portrayed by Dean Stockwell, who appears to Sam as a hologram and feeds him information about the events he has leaped into the middle of.

For the fifth season, there were many changes. The main stars were just two people, and if one of them had left it would have been a disaster. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. What did happen was a new, souped-up theme appeared, trying to sound more hip.

The second thing was that there were many more episodes that were of the kind Donald Bellisario said he would never do. Early on in the series, he said he would never have Sam leap into Lee Harvey Oswald on November 23, 1963, for instance. But that’s exactly what he did in the first episode of the season. Lee Harvey Oswald was Bellesario’s answer to the Oliver Stone film J.F.K. Bellisario didn’t believe any of the conspiracy theories and supported the lone assassin line of thinking. No matter what you think, the episode was a great way to start off the season and (surprisingly) quite suspenseful.

In addition, Sam has very close encounters with Marilyn Monroe and Bigfoot, as well as leaping into Dr. Ruth and Elvis (the one and only) near the end of this final season. This goes against everything that was established early on, with Sam only having loose contact with historical figures and no effect on any events in our history.

The trilogy of this season, with Sam having a love affair with a woman by the name of Abigail Fuller, makes for a nice romantic storyline for Sam. It seems to point out that they have some deep connection and the storyline results in the birth of a daughter, Sammy Jo, who is remarkably smart like her father. This story takes something of a leap of faith to believe (pun intended).

There are more scenes this season in the “waiting room” back at the project with those Sam has leaped into. This is refreshing in some ways and also a different perspective than has been seen in the first four seasons.

There is also a storyline about an “evil leaper” named Alia which stretches across three episodes of this season.

The scripts seemed to say that Bellisario was reaching for fresh material. The series had already faced a threat of cancellation and gotten a reprieve, so he tried to go outside of the somewhat predictable formula of the earlier seasons. While there were good points about every episode – there were none I would call horrible – it just didn’t live up to the quality and expectations of earlier seasons. The whole “Evil Leaper” arc did nothing for me and just left me with more questions than anything else.

There were also three leaps into celebrities this season while there had been none in earlier seasons. That underwhelmed me as well with the exception of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The series was very family-friendly, with an overall tone of people needing to get along and help each other out. Sam attempts to show people the error of their ways at times and of course, he always succeeds by the end of the episode. This season there was also a lot more talk about God and why Sam was leaping. It all culminated in the series finale Mirror Image. Fans debate exactly what the episode was about, but to me, it seemed that Sam met God face to face and got some answers to his questions, as well as a chance to do a favor for Al.

The acting is great. I have to commend Scott Bakula especially for being able to convey different characteristics of different characters each week. In many ways, it’s not like he’s five years into the same character, but changing each week. Dean Stockwell is also great as Al, even though for most of the series he’s a one-note character. He brings interest to the figure and usually some comic relief in very serious situations.

It really felt like it was the right time for the series to end after this season. There has always been talk of a movie, and I for one would love to see it, but the series seemed to be waning and the scripts seemed to be reaching and less convincing. It’s still very much worth watching, but it’s just not up to the stellar quality of earlier seasons.


EPISODE GUIDE:

Lee Harvey Oswald October 5, 1957 – November 22, 1963


Sam leaps into alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and almost immediately begins leaping around within Oswald’s lifetime. As this happens, his and Oswald’s brains become increasingly intertwined. Can Sam and Al stop the killer? Can Sam extract himself from the influence of Oswald’s thoughts?


Leaping of the Shrew September 27, 1956


Brooke Shields guest stars in this episode where Sam leaps into Nikos, a Greek sailor on a ship owned by the fiancee of the very rich Vanessa Foster. When the two are shipwrecked in the middle of the Aegean Sea and end up on a deserted island, Sam must figure out exactly why he’s there since his arrival seemed to change the fact that snobby Vanessa actually did get rescued.


Nowhere to Run August 10, 1968


A pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston guest stars in this episode where Sam leaps into a Ronald Miller, a Marine who has lost his legs to a landmine in Viet Nam. Sam is there to prevent the suicide of a fellow patient in the Veteran’s Hospital and also has to deal with Ronald’s wife who is reluctant to accept her husband as he is now.

Michael Boatman also guest stars in the episode.


Killin’ Time June 18, 1958



Sam leaps into an escaped murderer holding a woman and her daughter hostage. To complicate matters further, the man he has leaped into manages to leave the waiting room back at Project Quantum leap, possibly leaving Sam stranded in this time and body.




Star Light, Star Bright May 21, 1966



Sam leaps into 79 year old Max Stoddard who is convinced he has been seeing UFOs. Sam leaps in just when Max is having a sighting and is convinced he saw a UFO as well. Meanwhile, on the home front, Sam must prevent Max’s son from having him committed as well as the overdose of his grandson.


Deliver Us From Evil March 19, 1955



Same leaps back into Jimmy LaMotta, a man with Down’s Syndrome he has leaped into before back in the second season. This time, Sam is mystified as it seems like no matter what he does, things keep going wrong. The answer is another leaper, Alia, who is trying to undo all of the good things Sam has been doing.


One Little Heart Trilogy – Part 1 August 8, 1955



Sam leaps into Clayton Fuller, a sheriff in southern Louisiana whose 10-year-old daughter, Abigail may or may not have been involved in the death of Bart Aider. There were suspicions surrounding Bart’s daughter going missing which involved Abigail as well. With sketchy history to go by, Sam must somehow prevent a fire from consuming both of them.



One Little Heart Trilogy – Part 2 June 14, 1966



Sam finds himself back in the small Louisiana town. Abigail is now twenty-one and about to marry Will Kinman, whom Sam has leaped into. Abigail is accused of having something to do with the disappearance of a young boy she was babysitting the evening before their wedding. Sam must prevent a crazed mob in the town from lynching Abigail.

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One Little Heart Trilogy – Part 3 July 28, 1978



Sam leaps into Larry Stanton III, a lawyer in Louisiana who must now defend Abigail from the prosecution of the murder of Lita Aider, whose daughter she was accused of killing in One Little Heart Trilogy – Part 1. Sam also gets to meet his “daughter”, Sammy Jo Fuller.




Promised Land December 22, 1971



During the Christmas season, Sam leaps back to Elk Ridge, Indiana (where he was born and raised). There, he is one of the Walters brothers, who are trying to save the family farm with the brilliant idea of robbing the very bank they owe.


A Tale of Two Sweeties February 25, 1958



Sam leaps into a traveling salesman who has two wives and families; one in Florida and the other in New York. When the wife from New York turns up in Florida, he must make a crucial decision about who to stay with. To complicate matters even further, he has some high-stakes gambling losses, and those he owes money to are hot on his trail.


Liberation October 19, 1968



Sam leaps into a mother and wife who is caught between her liberated daughter and traditional husband. He must somehow prevent the daughter’s death at a rally and preserve the marriage at the same time.


Dr. Ruth April 25, 1985



Sam leaps into noted sex expert, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Sam must try to get two of the show’s producers to work out their relationship woes together as well as help a young woman who is dealing with unwanted sexual advances from her boss. Meanwhile, in the waiting room, Al receives counseling from Dr. Ruth about his own relationships.



Blood Moon March 10, 1975


Sam leaps into Vlad, who may or may not be a vampire outside of London. Despite his superstitions, Al manages to convey to Sam that he is there to prevent the death of Vlad’s young wife, whose body is found in the forest several days later, drained of blood.



Return of the Evil Leaper October 8, 1956



Sam leaps into a college student by the name of Arnold Watkins who calls himself “The Midnight Marauder”. He prevents a friend’s death during a chicken race as a fraternity initiation. However, when Sam doesn’t leap right away, both Al and Sam are mystified as to why he’s still there. Enter Alia, whom he met back in the episode Deliver Us From Evil earlier this season. She is leaping like he is, only for a more nefarious purpose.

Neil Patrick Harris and Carolyn Seymour guest star.



Revenge of the Evil Leaper September 16, 1987



Sam and Alia leap into two women incarcerated in a women’s prison. They have been accused of killing a fellow inmate and must work together to figure out who the real killer is while at the same time trying to keep Alia away from those who see her aligning herself with Sam as an act of betrayal.

Carolyn Seymour and Hinton Battle guest star.



Goodbye Norma Jean April 4, 1960



Sam leaps into Dennis Boardman, who happens to be the chauffeur to Marilyn Monroe (portrayed by Susan Griffiths). Sam has arrived just four days before her alleged suicide. Marilyn hires a fan by the name of Barbara as an assistant and lets her move in. Barbara is not what she seems, and Sam saves Marilyn’s life… for the time being.



The Beast Within November 6, 1972



Sam leaps into Viet Nam veteran Henry Adams who served with two close friends all of whom have had issues since returning home. Henry and his buddy Roy live in the mountains away from people. However, Roy is in desperate need of medication, and the town sheriff seems intent on keeping them from it. In addition, Sam must save the life of his host’s deceased friend’s son, Daniel, who goes into the woods seeking proof of Bigfoot.



The Leap Between the States September 20, 1862


For the first time, Same leaps outside of his own lifetime and into his great-grandfather, a Union soldier during the Civil War. He must manage to convince his great-grandmother, Olivia, to marry him when she is a Southerner who lost her first husband and hates Yankees. Sam learns the lone slave who has stayed with her is helping conduct other runaways through the underground railroad and must prevent a Lieutenant in the Confederate Home Guard from destroying them all.


Memphis Melody July 3, 1954



As Elvis Presley just days before he was discovered, Sam must make sure that Elvis gets his big break and help out another young female singer also pursuing a singing career.



Mirror Image



The series finale where Sam learns a lot of truths about himself and what’s been happening over the past five years.

Bruce McGill guest stars.


BONUS MATERIALS:

Blueprints from the original sets of the Acceleration Chamber and the Quantum Complex


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