Quantum Leap intertitle
|Created by||Donald Bellisario|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||96 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||approx. 45 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Belisarius Productions
In Association With Universal Media Studios
|Original run||March 26, 1989 – May 5, 1993|
Quantum Leap is an American television series that was broadcast on NBC from March 1989 to May 1993. The series was created by Donald Bellisario, and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who becomes lost in time following a botched experiment. Dean Stockwell co-starred as Al, Sam's womanizing, cigar-smoking sidekick and best friend. He appeared to Sam as a hologram that only Sam and a select group could see or hear. The series features a mix of comedy, drama and melodrama, social commentary, nostalgia and science fiction, which won it a broad range of fans. It is particularly notable for the end of each episode, where Beckett leaps into his next persona (the story of the next episode), usually uttering "Oh, boy!"
In the series' first episode, Sam appears in the past with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Referred to frequently throughout the series as a "swiss-cheesed brain", Sam's partial amnesia prevents him from remembering most of the details of his own life (for example, his own marriage); all he knows is that he's not who everyone in the past seems to think he is. Fortunately Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), a former astronaut and Sam's best friend, appears to him as a hologram and explains that Sam is the victim of a time travel experiment that went "a little caca". Now Sam is lost in time, and his colleagues are having difficulty retrieving him and bringing him back to his own time. Series creator, Donald Bellisario, once said in an interview that he got the idea for the series from movies like Heaven Can Wait (1978), a remake of the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Bellisario felt the premise, if handled right and put in a science fiction setting, could work.
Sam soon learns that the man he replaced in the past (or "leaped into", in the show's parlance) is an Air Force test pilot who was about to be killed during a botched flight. Al explains that their best theory to what's going on is that "God, time, fate, or whatever" wants Sam to save the man (as well as his wife and unborn child) before he can "leap out". Sam does so and disappears, but instead of returning to his own time he leaps into yet another person's life and once again tries to "put right what once went wrong". In each episode, Sam leaps into a new host, often finding himself in dangerous, embarrassing, or otherwise compromising positions, and with Al's help (and that of his colleagues, who have access to information from the future), he tries to right some wrong or misfortune in the life of that person or someone close to them.
Several characters are referred to throughout the series, but rarely (if ever) actually appear. Ziggy, the artificial intelligence that runs the project and supplies Al with information to help figure out the purpose of Sam's leaps, only appears in "The Leap Back", the same episode in which Al's girlfriend Tina appears. Gooshie, the project's head programmer who has chronic halitosis and is reputedly having an affair with Tina, appears in six episodes including both the pilot and the finale. Dr. Beeks, the project psychiatrist, is also frequently mentioned, but only appears in two episodes.
Throughout the series, Sam believes that God, or some other higher power, is controlling his leaps, sending him to times and places where he is needed. We eventually learn that there is an evil analogue of the Quantum Leap program with its own leaper who tries to supercomputer (Lothos), an imprisoned leaper (Alia) and a holographic supervisor.
In the series' final episode, he encounters a mysterious bartender with detailed knowledge of Sam's "mission" and his true identity. The bartender helps Sam remember that he built Project Quantum Leap exactly because he wanted to put right what once went wrong and makes him realize that he himself has control over his leaps. The bartender then asks Sam where he wishes to leap to next. Sam replies by saying he wishes to return home but he cannot as he still has a wrong to put right for Al, by letting his first wife Beth (Susan Diol in her second appearance in that role during the series) know that Al is still alive in a POW camp in Vietnam. Sam then promptly leaps out and does so. The show's epilogue states that Sam never returned home. (Note: This seems to contradict the season 4 Episode, "The Leap Back" where Sam does actually make it back to his time with his wife but volunteers to leap again in order to save Al. Another episode is called "The Leap Home" where Sam leaps into his own life as a high-schooler and has the opportunity to spend time in his hometown with his family.)
This final episode was in fact intended to be an end-of-season cliffhanger but after the series was not renewed for a sixth season it was revised to function as a series finale. The original ending had Al's Vietnam-era picture "leaping" into a portrait of Al sitting with Beth and their four adult daughters. In both the alternate ending and the episode as broadcast, the leap effect eventually recedes into darkness and text on the screen informs the viewer that "Dr. Sam Becket never returned home." Note that "Beckett" is spelled with only a single T.
Al explains the concept of the experiment to Sam in the first episode during his initial period of amnesia using a simple analogy. Using a piece of string, Al explains that one end represents Sam's date of birth while the other represents Sam's date of death. Connecting the two ends together will, in effect, form a loop. The looped string is then scrunched up in one's hand and various parts of the piece of string will inevitably intersect and touch each other. By leaping at the intersections to a different section of the string, Sam can travel to a different date within his own lifetime. The leap seems instantaneous to Sam but Al explains in the pilot episode that he spent a week traveling in time between the moment he leaped out of the Air Force test pilot and the moment he leaped into his next host.
In early episodes, it was unclear whether Sam's mind was leaping into other people's bodies or whether his mind and body leaped together. Later episodes make it clear, however, that Sam's entire body has traveled through time and that "the illusion of [his host's] physical aura" surrounds him, making him look and sound like that person with whom he interacts in the past, as well as to Al. Sam is also able to transcend the physical limitations of his host, being able to see after leaping into a blind pianist, walk while sharing the existence of a legless Vietnam veteran- although it appeared to outside observors when Sam was walking that his host was floating a foot off the ground-, swim after leaping into a monkey, and retain the strength of an adult man after leaping into a child, an elderly woman, and so on.
During the time in which Sam occupies a host, the host is simultaneously transported to the time travel facility where Sam made his initial leap – effectively switching places with them. It is never explicitly stated what happens to the people Sam has leaped into after he leaves, but it is assumed that the person return to their timelines with amnesia of the events. Conversely, in the episode "Roberto!", Sam suggests that the people he leaps into remember being in the waiting room at Project Quantum Leap.
At the beginning of the series, Sam has almost total amnesia, not even knowing his own name, or recognizing Al. Complex technical skills (such as medical and scientific training and his knowledge of foreign languages), as well as historical knowledge, seem to survive intact, yet he is unable to recall most of the details of his own life (And even in the case of his knowledge he sometimes requires clarification about whether he is able to do something, such as when he asked if he could read music before being reminded that he had a degree in it). The appearance of these holes in his memory while other regions are left unaffected is what the character refer to as a "Swiss-cheese" effect.
Sam slowly starts to remember more personal information during the early episodes of the series, such as the fact that he had an older brother who was killed in Vietnam and a younger sister who eloped and married an abusive alcoholic. While reviewing his memory, Sam mentions that his sister now lives in Hawaii and is married to a Navy man, Jim Bonnick, a character from the Magnum P.I. series. He also seems to recognize Al's references to his various colleagues.
In the first episode of the fourth season, Sam briefly returns to his own time, at which point his memories from before he first leaped begin to return but his experiences during the last four years quickly begin to fade. Sam calls this a "reverse-Swiss-cheese effect". Sam's memory gets Swiss-cheesed anew when he leaps again.
The show occasionally featured "kisses with history" scenes where Sam briefly encounters a famous historical figure or is tangentially involved in a historically significant event, but which is unrelated to the episode's story. For example:
The series' original opening narration was read by Scott Bakula:
|“||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, Bakula's monologue was replaced with a broader introduction explaining the show's premise. This introduction was originally read by actor Lance LeGault (who appears in the first season episode "How the Tess Was Won"), and later by Deborah Pratt (Bellisario's wife, as well as a co-producer and writer on the show). A shorter version of this second introduction, also read by Deborah Pratt, was used for the remaining three seasons
|“||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 project 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.
In the show's third season, the monologue was changed again, this time the computer Ziggy whose voice was revealed in season four's episode "The Leap Back", spoke the introduction, moderating it a bit for length:
|“||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 theme for the series was written by Mike Post. The theme was re-arranged for the fifth season. Scores for the episodes were composed by Post (36 episodes), Velton Ray Bunch (24 episodes), and Jerry Grant (10 episodes).
Throughout the series, Sam is called on to perform music. This includes singing and playing the piano and guitar. Due to copyright clearance issues, some of the music was replaced for the home video and DVD releases: However the Region 2 releases were not affected.
A soundtrack album was released in 1993 titled Music From The Television Series Quantum Leap was released on Crescendo on CD (GNPD8036) and cassette tape (GNPC8036) in 1993
A number of celebrities guest-starred on the series over the course of its run, including Debbie Allen, Bob Saget, Charles Rocket, Neil Patrick Harris, Lydia Cornell, Brooke Shields, Roddy McDowall and others; Chubby Checker, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer appeared in episodes as themselves. Several future stars made guest appearances, including Jennifer Aniston, Michael Beach, Terry Farrell, Diedrich Bader, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jason Priestley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Carla Gugino, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eriq La Salle, Patricia Richardson, Patrick Warburton, Claudia Christian, James Morrison, Gregory Itzin, Lauren Tom, Jane Sibbett, Amy Yasbeck, Michael Stoyanov, Tia Carrere, Beverley Mitchell and former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk.
Ace Books published a series of novels due to the show's popularity, beginning in 1992 and continuing until the year 2000. While not considered canon, the novels were met with approval from Bellisarius Productions and Universal Studios. Being non-canon, the novels tended to deviate from series norms and also attempted to provide explanations for conventions that went unexplained in series episodes. For example, in Quantum Leap: The Novel (a.k.a. Carny Knowledge), Sam is depicted as exchanging bodies with subjects he leaps into, rather than being surrounded by the person's aura as explained on the show. The novel also states that Sam used brain cells from himself and Al in the creation of Ziggy, and that this "link" was the reason why Ziggy could transmit an image of Al to Sam's mind. This is also used to explain why Al can recognize changes in the present due to Sam's actions while others remain unaware.
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||Newspaper reporter/columnist who responds to a girl who has 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.
In the 1990s, a few of the episodes were released on VHS. In the United States, these included "The Pilot Episode" ("Genesis"), "Camikazi Kid", "The Color of Truth", "What Price Gloria?", "Catch a Falling Star", "Jimmy", "The Leap Home", "Dreams", and "Shock Theater". In the United Kingdom, they were mostly released in pairs, selling as "The Pilot Episode" (on its own), "The Color of Truth" and "Camikazi Kid"; "The Americanization of Machiko" and "What Price Gloria?"; "Catch a Falling Star" and "Jimmy"; "The Leap Home" and "The Leap Home Part II – Vietnam"; and "Dreams" and "Shock Theater".
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 were originally broadcast (except for "Play It Again, Seymour"), along with some bonus features.
Universal Studios chose not to obtain the necessary music rights for all of the music for use in the Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season Region 1 DVD. 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 the holographic Al dances invisibly 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). Quantum Leap: The Complete Third Season and Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season also have extensive music alterations in order to keep licensing costs low.
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).
All five seasons are available on DVD in Australia; Season 1 was released on May 2, 2005 (music intact), Season 2 on February 7, 2006 (music intact) and Season 3 on June 7, 2006.
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.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1, 2, and 4.
|DVD name||Ep#||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||9||June 8, 2004||November 8, 2004||May 2, 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||22||December 14, 2004||October 31, 2004||February 7, 2006|
|The Complete Third Season||22||May 10, 2005||December 12, 2005||June 7, 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||22||March 28, 2006||June 26, 2006||November 2006|
|The Complete Fifth Season||22||November 14, 2006||December 26, 2006||February 21, 2007|
|Seasons One – Five
(The Ultimate Collection)
|97||N/A||October 8, 2007
(only available in R2)
Time-travel shows using a similar premise: