Quantum Leap

1989 | United States

Another winning creation from the fertile mind of successful American writer/producer Donald P. Bellisario, co-creator of Magnum P.I. and Airwolf. Quantum Leap was an inspired twist on the standard time travel fantasy format, lightly leavened with a hint of divine intervention and a pleasing edge of knowing humour. 

The central premise of the series was a simple one - brilliant Nobel Prize winning scientist doctor Samuel Beckett (Tony award winning Broadway actor Scott Bakula), had formulated a method of limited time travel that allowed a person to travel freely within the span of their own lifetime, which he christened "Quantum Leaping". Naturally, things go seriously wrong during Sam's first experimental leap, with the result that the partially amnesiac scientist finds himself literally adrift in time, compelled by some unknown force to inhabit the bodies and lives of various individuals at pivotal moments in their histories, and "put right what once went wrong". 

Quantum Leap

Sam's only link to the 'Quantum Leap' project and home, comes in the holographically projected form of his cigar smoking, wise-cracking, womanising partner - and link to the vast library of knowledge housed in "Ziggy", Project Quantum Leap's semi-sentient super computer, Admiral Al Calavicci (Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Dean Stockwell), who was visible only to Sam, children and pets. With the freedom afforded by the show's format and a team of writers more than willing to explore the possibilities it opened to them, the series moved easily from the examination of serious social concerns to episodes of outright humour, with more or less assured ease. 

Quantum Leap

Although most of Sam's 'possessions' were of ordinary folk, the writers at times seized the opportunity to explore the lives of the well known or notorious, as with the stories featuring Elvis Presley and Lee Harvey Oswald. And sex was not a discriminating factor either, as Sam discovered the first time he inhabited the body of a female, in a story that boldly investigated the important issue of sexual harassment. With the final episode, entitled "Mirror Image", Bellisario somewhat courageously made the controversial decision to bring down the curtain on Sam's odyssey on an ambiguous note, which enraged and perplexed many viewers, by refusing to bring about the expected obligatory happy ending, opting instead to leave the series with the message that "Doctor Samuel Beckett never returned home." 

In many ways Quantum Leap could be viewed almost as an anthology series rather than a regular episodic one, given the eclectic diversity of the subjects it tackled. By turns thoughtful, funny, suspenseful or just plain silly, Quantum Leap stands as an imaginative example of televisual science fantasy at its most enjoyable.

Published on January 24th, 2019. Written by SRH (2000) for Television Heaven.