Quantum Leap

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Template:Otheruses4 Template:Infobox television Quantum Leap was a science fiction television program which ran from 1989 to 1993 on NBC. It followed the adventures of Dr. Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula), a brilliant theoretical scientist who finds himself abruptly and uncontrollably jumping in time, temporarily switching places with diverse people at various times within his own lifetime, the second half of the 20th century: "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 ninety-seven episodes aired on NBC between March 1989 and May 1993.




Dr. Samuel Beckett is a brilliant theoretical physicist with at least three doctorate degrees. He has theorized that a person may time travel, within the period of his own lifetime. In a highly-classified, US government-funded, research facility somewhere in the Nevada desert, he is proceding with a grand experiment to prove his theory. However, the funding for Project: Quantum Leap is about to be cut. In an effort to prove that his theories are correct, he turns on his device, steps in to the time travel chamber and vanishes.

Sam appears in the past with no memory of who he is or where he is. This side-effect of uneven 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 friend from his original time, Al Calivicci (played by Dean Stockwell), appears to him as a holographic projection from the "imaging chamber" — usually only visible and audible to Sam. Al is the project observer and a U.S. Navy admiral. Along with the (possibly) sentient supercomputer named Ziggy, Al is able to help Sam "set right what once went wrong" before he leaps out in to the next person. At the beginning of nearly every episode, as Sam leaps in to the next person, the catch phrase of "Oh boy..." was uttered.

As the episodes proceed, Al, Sam and Ziggy wonder why, in these seemingly random leaps, they are always put in a position to fix something that went wrong. They gradually develop a theory that the experiment has been mysteriously co-opted by an unidentified higher power, which uses him (for unknown reasons) to avert tragedies in ordinary people's lives. This is later confirmed indirectly when Sam meets an "evil leaper" who knows that his job is to set wrong what once went right.

The term holographic projection is taken from the program, although it is not the same as real holography. The show's "hologram" is a three dimensional projection; Al enters an "Imaging Chamber" in which the image of Al and anything he is touching, e.g., a person or cigar, 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, and the mentally ill can see Al. This has been 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.

In what may be a form of paradox, in one episode Sam ends up leaping into Al himself at an earlier period, when Al is on trial for murder. Part way through the episode, when it appears that the case is going badly against Al, Dean Stockwell disappears mid-sentence and is replaced by a character played by Roddy McDowall, implying that Al was convicted and executed.

The Quantum Leap generator is run by a supercomputer/program lovingly called Ziggy which can use its immense database to pinpoint where and who Sam is and help Al figure out why he is there and what he can do so everything can be put right. Ziggy (originally referred to as a "he" and then later a "she") almost always had a specific timeline to accomplish the objective like 2 days, 5 hours, 10 minutes, and 50 seconds. Almost every episode centered around what Ziggy is trying to tell Sam to do, and giving him a clear objective, like making sure someone doesn't end up in a car that will crash, saving a child's life or having someone stand up for themselves 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 so everything would be put right and Sam could leap knowing he did the right thing. This caused a lot of drama and usually made Sam leap right when the objective was accomplished and the timeline had ended.


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 made 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 suffused with a similar aura, and looks/sounds like Sam). Some examples of this include:

  • "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).
  • "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.
  • "8 1/2 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".
  • The conclusion of the 'evil leaper' episodes had a person leaping out, but nobody leaped back in to replace them - they appeared to vanish without a trace (bit difficult to do if it'd been only their mind that leaped). This also happened in the series finale with the character 'Stawpah'.
  • If Sam leaps in as somebody who is physically a different size than is Sam's own body, Sam is 'refracted' and temporarily made larger or smaller to fit (similar to the effect of light being refracted through a prism). However a simpler explanation of this would be mere dramatic license.

The series very rarely addressed real historical events, though it often used its "ordinary people" plots to address particular social, political, and spiritual issues. Many episodes depicted Sam dealing with issues characteristic of particular periods, such as civil rights, racism, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The series strongly favored messages of tolerance and understanding others, aided in large part by the story format, which had the protagonist literally walking in another man's (or, in later episodes, woman's) shoes. In one instance, Sam found himself back in his own childhood in Indiana, with a chance to improve his own family's life.

Only a few times did Sam "leap" into an actual historical figure, the first being Lee Harvey Oswald and the last being Elvis Presley. All these leaps were in the fifth (final) season and were widely believed to be efforts to boost the show's ratings and looked down upon by some fans. However, throughout the series it was common for Sam to leap into a character or situation based fairly obviously on a real person and/or event. Also common were so-called "brushes (or kisses) with history" where Sam would briefly encounter someone famous or a well-known event in a manner usually irrelevant to the story. [1]

The series (created by Donald Bellisario) was somewhat unusual in that it had a science fiction premise, but little science fiction- or fantasy-oriented storytelling, instead focusing on the personal journeys of Sam Beckett and those he encounters. Even in its final episode, the show refused to resolve many of its own technical and holistic questions, choosing instead to leave things open-ended and focus tightly on what is arguably the series' overarching message: that a single person can change the world one life at a time.

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 final episode. This may account for some of its ambiguous nature. The original ending had Sam leaping to tell Al's first wife, Beth, that Al was coming home. His 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 remained married, and that "Dr. Sam Beckett... never leaped 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 many ways, the show was similar to Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel, two shows that had as recurring plots someone trying to right wrongs without knowing the full purpose behind each mission.

The Sci-Fi Channel is projected to begin airing a sequel, supposedly called A Bold Leap Forward series sometime in 2006.

In an interesting nod to QL fans, when series star Scott Bakula arrived on the set of his most recent show Star Trek: Enterprise, he jokingly suggested that the middle name of his Trek character (Captain Jonathan Archer) might be Beckett. Later in the series, Dean Stockwell performed a guest role in an episode of Enterprise.

A crossover with Magnum, P.I. (also produced by Donald Bellisario) was planned, in which Sam would leap into Thomas Magnum himself. Plans for a Magnum, P.I. movie led to the crossover being cancelled, although some footage was filmed, including the initial leaping in sequence, usually put at the end of the preceding episode (the "Oh boy..." bit). This featured Scott Bakula, dressed in Magnum's classic red Aloha shirt, turning towards the camera and comically raising his eyebrows, just as Tom Selleck does at the end of the opening credits to Magnum, P.I. This would actually have created a continuity issue, since in an earlier episode a character is seen watching Magnum, P.I. on television.

Home video releases

File:Quantum Leap series 1 DVD front.jpg
The front cover of the DVD of the first season of Quantum Leap.

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", "The Color of Truth" and "Camikazi Kid", "Catch a Falling Star" and "Jimmy", "The Leap Home" and "The Leap Home Part II - Vietnam", "The Americanization of Machiko" and "What Price Gloria?", and "Dreams" and "Shock Theater".

1998 brought the DVD release of "The Pilot Episode", containing only the episode "Genesis" and chapter selection.

In 2004, the first two seasons of the series were released on DVD. The Region 1 version of "Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season" came out in North America on June 7, 2004, much to the delight of the fans. Containing all of the episodes as they originally aired (except for "Play It Again, Seymour"), along with some bonus features, those who purchased the set were very happy and greatly anticipated the release of season two.

For some unknown reason, Universal was unable to obtain music rights for all of the music in "Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season". Some were replaced with generic instrumental music. This outraged many fans and started a letter-writing campaign, demanding such a modification be dealt with. The most irritating aspect was the removal of Ray Charles's "Georgia on My Mind" from the season two finalé, "M.I.A.", while Al danced with his first wife, Beth.

See also

External links

fr:Code Quantum zh:時空怪客

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