Quantum Leap is an American science fiction television series that ran for 96 episodes from March 1989 to May 1993 on the NBC network. The series was created by Donald P. Bellisario based on a concept originally created for Galactica 1980. This concept was reworked outside of the Battlestar Galactica framework.
The plot involves quantum physicist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaping into a variety of different people in various points in history within the time span of his own lifetime. His only link with his own time is the cigar smoking, womanizing Al (Dean Stockwell), who appears to Sam as a hologram that most people other than Sam cannot see or hear.
The show overlaps a number of genres, including science fiction, family drama, comedy, social commentary and nostalgia, thereby acquiring a broad range of fans.
At the end of each episode, Sam leaps into another person, giving viewers a teaser of the following episode's leap. As part of a running gag, after Sam's leap, in awe or dismay about his new situation, he often utters the catch phrase "Oh boy!".
It all started when a time travel experiment I was conducting went... "a little caca". In the blink of a cosmic clock, I went from quantum physicist, to Air force test-pilot. Which could have been fun... if I knew how to fly. Fortunately, I had help - an observer from the Project named Al. Unfortunately Al's a hologram, so all he can lend is moral support. Anyway here I am, bouncing around in time, putting things right that once went wrong, a sort of time traveling Lone Ranger, with Al as my Tonto. And I don't even need a mask... ("Oh boy!").
Beginning with the thirteenth episode of the second season ("Another Mother"), each episode begins with a spoken introduction which explains the series' broader premise. On its first appearance, this introduction was spoken by actor Lance LeGault (who appears in the show's first season episode "How the Tess Was Won"). For the remaining episodes of the season, it was read by Deborah Pratt (Bellisario's wife at the time and co-producer and writer on the show).
Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert, to develop a top-secret project known as Quantum Leap. Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the Quantum Accelerator, and vanished.
He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brain-wave transmissions with Al, the project observer, who appears in the form of a hologram, that only Dr. Beckett can see and hear. Trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.
Some versions of these second season episodes, such as some first run broadcasts, and those originally shown by BBC Two in the United Kingdom, did not have the opening narration, instead going straight into the episode as Sam leaps.
A shorter version of the second season introduction with slightly different wording, read by Deborah Pratt but without the echo effect, was used in the third to fifth seasons, and in syndication:
Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.
The show's first season was a mid-season replacement, and consisted of the pilot and seven separate episodes. These first season episodes were presented in a pseudo-serialized format, wherein the last few minutes of the previous episode was shown before Sam would leap into the current episode's storyline. This helped viewers understand that Sam was leaping directly from one life to another. The practice was dropped in the second season so that episodes could be run (and rerun) in a random order; all episodes now began at the point of leap-in. The first season episodes were re-edited into this format.
Sam appears in the past with no memory of who he is or where he is. This side-effect amnesia is called Swiss-cheesing or (as a technical term in the show's universe) magnafluxing, which prevents him from remembering most of the details of his own life. His best friend from his original time, Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), appears to him as a holographic projection from the "imaging chamber," usually only visible and audible to Sam, but also to small children, animals, the mentally insane, the dying and, in one case, a man whose brainwaves are a near match to Sam's (Al often jokes, "Why not blondes?"). Al is the Quantum Leap Project's observer and a retired astronaut and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, two stars. It is revealed that Gushie made a frantic call to Al when Sam vanished in the project accelerator and called him in to work on the situation. Gushie continues to work alongside Al in Sam's original time. Along with the (possibly sentient) supercomputer named Ziggy, Al is able to help Sam "set right what once went wrong" before he leaps out into the next person. At the beginning and end of nearly every episode, as Sam leaps into a new person he speaks his catch phrase, "Oh, boy!" and sees his 'new' reflection in a mirror. A notable exception is in the episode "Dr. Ruth," in which the leap is shown from the leapees' point of view rather than Sam's. When the leap takes place, we are with Dr. Ruth in the waiting room, who gives Al counseling about his own relationships. This was most likely because the next person Sam leapt into was suspected(especially by Al) to be a vampire, and had to be shown directly(he removes Dr. Ruth's glasses and bares his fangs at the viewer) because of the superstition that vampires cast no reflection(But then, as a hologram, neither does Al, and Sam called him a vampire in the pilot when he couldn't see Al in the mirror).
In the pilot episode, Sam has leapt to the year 1956 as an X-2 test pilot, Captain Tom Stratton, based on real life Captain Milburn G. Apt. In one of his holographic visits, Al tells Sam about Ziggy's theory that "God or Time, was just waiting for your quantum leap to...correct a mistake." Al thinks that this is "a load of crap," but "if Ziggy's right, all you have to do is break Mach 3 and live." (Al also suggests that he wait forty years and Sam will be in "the present"). But as more of these seemingly random leaps put Sam in a position to fix something that once went wrong, Al gradually comes to believe that the experiment has been mysteriously co-opted by an unidentified higher power, to use Sam to avert tragedies in ordinary people's lives. The revelation that God was controlling these leaps is confirmed in "The Honeymoon Express." The Quantum Leap project is in danger of losing its funding unless Al can convince the committee of Sam's existence and of Sam's influence on past events. Mid-episode, Al presses upon Sam to forget about the actual purpose of the leap and focus on preventing the American U-2 scandal. Forgetting that this would mean that Sam would no longer be able to interact with Al, Sam brushes off its importance by reminding Al that it is not the project leaping him from person to person, but God. It is reconfirmed when Sam meets the devil, temporarily assuming Al's appearance to torment Sam before trying to kill him, who asks of Sam, "Who gave you the right to go bungling around in time, putting right what I made wrong?" It is re-confirmed indirectly when Sam meets an "evil leaper" who knows that her job is to set wrong what once went right. It is never explained exactly how the evil counterpart of Project Quantum Leap came to be, or who runs it. All we know of the evil Quantum Leap Project is that its counterpart of Ziggy is called Lothos, and that evil leapers manifest themselves with a red energy field, in contrast to the 'good' Sam, who leaps with a blue energy.
Another episode supporting the idea that a higher power is in charge is one in which Sam happens to encounter Al's first wife, Beth. At Al's insistence, Sam tries to prevent her from falling in love with the man she would marry while Al was a POW in Vietnam. But every time Sam thinks he has gotten rid of the man, he winds up running into Beth again, as if it were meant to be. Finally, Sam finds out Al's true motive and makes Al tell him his true mission. In the series finale, Sam reassures Beth that Al is alive and will come home; this episode also explicitly states that Sam himself is the only one in control of the leaps, though it is implied that the character who explains this is, in fact, God.
The term holographic projection is used in the program, although it is not the same as real holography. The show's "hologram" is a three dimensional, neurological projection "created by an agitation of subatomic carbon quarks tuned to the mesons of my optic and otic neurons." To project the hologram, Al enters an "Imaging Chamber" in which the image of Al and anything he is touching, e.g., a person or cigar (but not the ground or chamber), are visible to Sam and Sam can hear Al speak, and correspondingly events in the past are visible and audible to Al. However, throughout the series, it has been found that animals, young children, the mentally ill and the fatally wounded can see Al. This is used to Sam's advantage on a few occasions, such as Al soothing a crying child, leading a dog away from Sam, or speaking directly with an asylum inmate. This last proves very useful when Sam is unable to perform his usual leap duties due to electro-shock therapy disrupting his ego and causing him to revert to the personalities of some of his past hosts. Fortunately, in this case, Al is able to talk to the person Sam is there to help and deals with the situation for him.
In what may be a form of paradox, in one episode Sam leaps into a younger Al, when Al is on trial for the rape and murder of a commander's wife. Although in the original history, Al was acquitted, Sam's actions cause the case to begin turning against Al. Part of the way through the episode, when Ziggy projects that the odds are 100% that Al will be convicted, Al disappears in mid-sentence and is replaced by Edward St John, a character played by Roddy McDowall, with only Sam remembering that Al was the observer, implying that Al was convicted and executed. In this new continuity, the staff at Quantum Leap appeared less emotionally involved with Sam's various hosts, and Sam and St. John have no apparent connection beyond a professional relationship. St. John calls Sam 'Samuel,' a name that Sam hasn't been called since he last saw his great-aunt. Fortunately, as soon as the odds jump back in favor of Al surviving, he is restored, with only Sam remembering that Edward St. John was ever there. This confirms that Project Quantum Leap would still exist without Al, though it would be a radically different project.
The Quantum Leap generator is run by a supercomputer named Ziggy which can use its immense database to pinpoint where, when, and who Sam is. Ziggy can also help Al figure out why he is there and what he must do so everything can be put right. Almost every episode centers on what Ziggy is trying to tell Sam to do, and giving him a clear objective, such as making sure someone doesn't end up in a car that will crash, saving a child's life, or having someone stand up for him- or herself after an attack like a rape or hate crime. Almost always, what Ziggy said was confusing and left Sam and Al to figure out in the last minute what had to be done. Ziggy is apparently self-aware, and in early seasons is generally referred to as "he." In one episode in season four though, in which Sam "returns home" to his own time, Ziggy is revealed to speak with a female voice, though Sam still refers to it as "he" (and, after experiencing "his" sarcasm, regrets programming "him" with "Barbra Streisand's ego"). Interestingly, in the aforementioned confrontation between Sam and the devil, Ziggy was reported as malfunctioning and unable to locate Sam, but the team could not determine what was the cause of such a serious malfunction. When Al eventually arrived on the scene (to see what appeared to be himself) he stated in a horrified tone that "Ziggy says there's definitely something there Sam!" in reference to the spot the devil was standing. Ziggy's power seems far more potent than simple artificial intelligence.
In early episodes of the series, it is unclear whether it is only Sam's mind that leaps (into other people's bodies) or if Sam's mind and body leap together. Subsequent episodes make it clear that both Sam's mind and body leap, and that an 'aura' surrounds him, making him look and sound like whoever he's leaped into (back home, the 'leap-ee' is infused with a similar aura, and looks/sounds like Sam). It is established elsewhere in the series that Sam's mind often merges with that of the leapee as part of the Swisscheesing. Some examples of this include:"Blind Faith": Sam assumes the life of a blind concert pianist. Sam, however, can still see, and must pretend to be blind in order to complete his mission. Later in the episode, Sam is blinded by a flash bulb, and Al makes it clear that he is risking his own sight if he does not seek medical attention immediately."8½ Months": Sam poses as a pregnant teenage girl. Sam incredulously asks Al how he could possibly be giving birth, to which Al replies that this is impossible—"it's your body, not hers." However, Sam theorizes that even though the mother Billie Jean has leapt to the future and is in the waiting room, the baby did not leap. This is confirmed by Al that although Billie Jean is in labor, there is no baby present."The Wrong Stuff": Sam leaps into a chimpanzee in the space program. The episode makes it clear that chimpanzees are unable to swim, yet Sam is able to dive into the water to rescue a drowning man."Nowhere to Run": Sam leaps in as a Vietnam vet who has no legs. However, Sam can still walk, and actually does so in the episode (to outside observers he appeared to be floating in midair)."Killin' Time": Sam explains to his hostages that he leaps into people's lives and his body is there with him."Trilogy (Part 3)": Al informs Sam that he is the father of Samantha Josephine "Sammy Jo" Fuller, a child he fathered ten years earlier in "Trilogy (Part 2)." He also tells Sam that Sammy Jo inherited his intelligence (with an IQ of 194), proving that Sam is the biological father rather than the leapee."Revenge of the Evil Leaper": Toward the end of the episode, Sam shoots the former observer, Zoey, and kills her, but when the person she had leapt into returns, he is clearly alive and well; also, when Zoey attempts to shoot Alia, the first evil leaper, neither Alia nor her host are harmed, presumably because Alia leapt out just before the bullets hit and her host leapt back after the bullets passed through them.
There are numerous other episodes in which Sam performs feats of strength that are suggested to be beyond the abilities of the people leapt into. For instance, in "Runaway," despite being a young boy, Sam is able to easily suspend his older and stronger sister over a well. Several other episodes feature Sam as a woman beating up male attackers while witnesses look on in amazement.
If Sam leaps into someone whose body is physically a different size from Sam's own, Sam is 'refracted' and temporarily made larger or smaller to fit (similar to the effect of light being refracted through a prism), most notably in "The Wrong Stuff" when he became a chimpanzee. However, a simpler explanation of this would be mere dramatic license.
Sam's neurons are linked through Ziggy to Al. These are physical elements of the human body which would prove that Sam's physical body is leaping with Sam. This is also proven in the episode "A Leap for Lisa" when "Project: Quantum Leap" leaps young Al into himself.
It is established early in the show's run that Al sees Sam as the leapee rather than as Sam. However, later episodes indicate that he clearly sees Sam as Sam. In the episode "What Price, Gloria," Al becomes smitten with Sam's appearance as a woman. However, later in "Miss Deep South," Al mocks Sam's attempts to imitate a gorgeous beauty pageant contestant. He refers to Sam/Darlene as "Scarlett O'Hara on steroids" at one point. And in the episode "Nowhere to Run" in the fifth season Al tells Sam, "Nobody sees you except me."
It is often implied that the "holes" in Sam's memory are temporarily filled by aspects from the mind of the person he is currently replacing, allowing him to assume the mannerisms of his host or intuitively know where to find items or locations relevant to them (ie, knowing where "home" is and where their car keys are). This is expressed most strongly when Sam takes Al's place, and is inundated with his lecherous friend's lascivious instincts, and when he leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald and finds his own personality dominated by that of the infamous assassin.
As the show unfolds in the second season, Sam slowly but steadily begins to remember more personal information, such as having a brother who was killed in Vietnam in a story arc that spans much of the season. Generally from the third season onwards, Sam is able to remember much more. This can be explained by him slowly becoming accustomed to leaping and his memory gradually returning, though in real-life, it was as much to do with writers expanding new plots which allowed Sam to be able to do more without having to have everything explained to him. Yet, Sam's memory of his loving wife is kept hidden from him, presumably by the unknown force that directs his leaps and by an agreement between Mrs. Beckett and Al, so that he can continue his missions unhindered by the burden of this knowledge.
The final episode was in fact intended to be an end-of-season cliffhanger, but after the series was not renewed by the network, it was re-edited to function as the series finale. This may account for some of its ambiguous nature. The original ending has Sam leaping into 1969, a mere minute or two after he and Al leapt out in the episode "M.I.A.," to tell Al's first wife, Beth, that Al is coming home. Al's Vietnam-era picture begins to "leap" (this is where the final episode cuts off), and then we see a modern picture of Al sitting with Beth and their four daughters. This ending somehow made it out of the studio and has been circulated on the Internet. In the ending that was actually broadcast, we are told that Al was reunited with Beth, that they remain married, and that "Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home." Fans have speculated that this would have erased Project Quantum Leap, Sam and Al's relationship, or even Sam himself from the altered timeline. However, the original script and subsequent statements by Bellisario leave all of these intact.
In its second season in the USA, it was forced to compete with the Top 20 hits Full House and Family Matters, both on ABC in the same time slot, and came close to being canceled in its third season due to low ratings. However, a letter writing campaign helped save the series, and it continued for another two seasons, ending after the fifth season. In the summer of 1991 and 1992 NBC aired "Quantum Leap Week"s, showing one episode of QL each night for a week Monday through Friday in order to help promote the show.
Throughout the series, Sam is called on to perform music. This includes singing and playing the piano.
There was some controversy regarding the replacement of some music for the home video releases.
After Sam and Al switch places again in The Leap Back, Sam's wife asks Al where Sam is at now and he replies that "Sam is a stand up comic playing the Catskills in 1956." The next episode, Play Ball, is about a minor leage baseball player in 1961.
Novels in order of publication:
Innovation Publishing produced a series of comic books which ran for thirteen issues from September 1991 through August 1993. As with the television series, each issue ended with a teaser preview of the following issue and Sam's exclamation of "Oh, boy." Among the people Sam found himself leaping into in this series were:
|1||High school teacher in Memphis, Tennessee||March 25, 1968|
|2||Death row inmate who must prevent a murder on the outside||June 11, 1962|
|3A||Part-time Santa Claus||December 20, 1963|
|3B||Student researching sub-atomic physics||April 2, 1968|
|4||Contestant amid the quiz show scandals||August 15, 1958|
|5||Reporter whose daughter claims to have seen a UFO||November 14, 1957|
|6||Teenage girl with an identical twin sister||February 12, 1959|
|7A||Professional golfer with the mob after him||1974|
|7B||Bus driver who discovers child abuse||May 19, 1953|
|8||Bank robber, while the leapee tours the Project with Al||1958|
|9||Lesbian on parole after twelve years in prison for murder||June 22, 1969|
|10||Stand-up comedian who befriends a fading silent movie star||June 13, 1966|
|11||Doctor studying the effects of LSD on human subjects||July 1958|
|12||Gas station attendant with a lot of time on his hands||April 24, 1958|
|13||Alien aboard an orbiting craft||June 5, 1963|
Few of the comic stories referenced episodes of the television series, with the notable exception of #9, "Up Against A Stonewall": Sam leaps into Stephanie Haywood, a central character in the episode "Good Night, Dear Heart". The story in the comic book begins with her parole, about a week before the Stonewall riots.
1998 brought the DVD release of "The Pilot Episode", containing only the episode "Genesis" and chapter selection.
For many years, despite many requests from fans, the official word from Universal was that more releases (such as season box sets) would be very unlikely due to the high level of music recordings used in episodes, creating numerous copyright problems. This was resolved with the DVD releases in 2004, which replaced much of the library music with generic music (causing a protest by fans in the process).
The Region 1 version of "Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season" came out in North America on June 7 2004, containing all of the episodes as they originally aired (except for "Play It Again, Seymour"), along with some bonus features.
Universal was unable to obtain music rights for all of the music in Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season, in the case of the Region 1 version. Some were replaced with generic instrumental music. This, as mentioned above, outraged many fans and inspired a letter-writing campaign, demanding such a modification be corrected. The most criticized instance was the removal of Ray Charles's "Georgia on My Mind" from the season two finalé, "M.I.A.", during a scene in which Al dances with his first wife Beth. Subsequent Region 1 DVD releases continued to feature music replacement, but Universal did begin including a disclaimer on the package indicating such (this disclaimer also began to appear on other releases of various other Universal series, such as Magnum, p.i. and The A-Team).
All seasons have been released on DVD in the UK; Season 1 was released on November 8 2004 (music intact), Season 2 on October 31 2005 (music intact), Season 3 on December 12 2005 (music intact),Season 4 on June 26 2006 (music partially intact) and Season 5 on December 26 2006 (music unknown).
Quantum Leap: The Complete Fifth season was released on DVD November 14 2006 in North America, with 'Blueprints from the original Time/Imaging chamber set' as the only extra. This release was not affected by music replacement.
|Season||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||June 8 2004||November 8 2004||May 2 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||December 14 2004||October 31 2004||February 7 2006|
|The Complete Third Season||May 10 2005||December 12 2005||June 7 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||March 28 2006||June 26 2006||November 2006|
|The Complete Fifth Season||November 14 2006||December 26 2006||February 21 2007|
| Seasons One - Five|
(The Ultimate Collection)
|N/A*|| October 8 2007|
(only available in R2)
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