Review of Episode 1 of the New “Quantum Leap”

quantum leap

Promotional poster for “Quantum Leap”

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I’ve been a long-time fan of the original Quantum Leap (1989-1993) starring Scott Bakula and the late Dean Stockwell so naturally when the series relaunch starring Raymond Lee and Caitlin Bassett was announced, I was curious. At first, I had no intention of watching the show. So many reboots and remakes of classic TV shows and films lately have been total disasters so why would I waste my time on another one?

Like I said, I’m a fan of the original show, but I can’t say I’ve seen every episode. I don’t recall seeing the series closer at all, and maybe I should since it’s rather infamous. NBC cancelled the show with no warning at all, and after Sam (Bakula) changed history saving Al’s (Stockwell) marriage, there was only a text notice at the end saying that Sam (misspelled last name because they did it in a hurry) never made it home.

Bakula and Stockwell lobbied NBC for years to do a made-for-TV movie to resolve the show but they always said no. That might be one of the reasons why Bakula refused any connection with the new show.

In anticipation, I re-watched the first couple of episodes of the original show and there was a lot I didn’t remember from years gone by, but I’ll get to that.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the pilot episode and don’t want everything revealed beforehand, stop reading here.

So the new show opens stating that Project Quantum Leap had been abandoned for 30 years…until now. A mysterious woman is in an otherwise empty lab complex going through computer code and then says, “That can’t be right.”

At a party, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) with his girlfriend/fiancée/lover Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett) and with their co-workers from the renewed project, receives a text message, presumably from the mysterious woman. The next thing we see is Ben in the acceleration chamber leaping.

Everyone including the project head Herbert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson), security chief Jenn Chou (Nanrisa Lee) and computer nerd Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) knows the project is years away from a human leap. So why did Ben do it?

Addison is Ben’s “Al” (she tells him she was supposed to make the first leap when the project was ready) and manages to find him having leapt inside the getaway driver for a bank heist. She locates him right before all hell breaks loose and he’s forgotten (predictably) everything including who Addison is and what she means to him. It’s July 13, 1985 which presumably is near the beginning of Song’s life (Lee was born February 5, 1987) and he doesn’t drive stick. Addison does and coaches him through it during a high speed police chase.

I’m calling BS on this one. I drive stick and I know you don’t just learn on the fly like that.

quantumAs fans of the old show know, leaping only sends you from the present into the past within your own lifetime. It also exchanges you for someone in the past, although you look and sound like the person you’re “inhabiting.” You can only leap again if you fix something in the past that went wrong.

The original show was a little vague about why this worked. The idea was that a personified “time” or God needed Sam to fix things that went wrong according to some sort of plan. What would time or God have done if no one ever leapt? And really, the past must be a mess if for five seasons Sam Beckett had plenty to fix and now Ben Song is doing the same thing.

As it turns out, Ben is supposed to save the life of one of the thieves. They only held up the bank for operating cash. Their real objective was to steal the Hope Diamond which is on display in a museum in Philadelphia with ridiculously low security, and then replace it with a replica.

The thief in question has a wife with kidney failure, a little girl, and a foreclosed business. He’s desperate but basically a good guy. I guess that means he deserves to have his life fixed.

It gets worse. Instead of being a getaway driver, Ben leapt into an undercover cop who gets caught by the thieves. Through a lot of miracles, he escapes and foils the heist. He could have just dialed 911 to stop everything, but he didn’t want the guy he was supposed to save to go to prison.

In one fairly realistic sequence, when Ben tries to punch out one of the thieves he almost breaks his hand. He’s a physicist, not a fighter. In one really unrealistic sequence, at the museum’s gala, he does the Tango with one of the female thieves. A few moments before, Addison basically tells Ben he doesn’t dance well, and the Tango is very difficult. Lee and actress Enajite Esegine don’t do a very good job of it and I can’t imagine why the writers and producers couldn’t have just substituted something more generic.

Ben saves the day and the Quantum Leap team see the opportunity to bring Ben home. Then supercomputer Ziggy loses him and when we next see Ben, he’s an astronaut being launched in the space shuttle.

The show, in and of itself, was okay. It was however, very rushed and you really needed to have a working knowledge of the original show to understand what was happening.

I know everyone tried, but Addison seemed to get around the fact that her lover completely forgot about her pretty quickly. They mentioned that amnesia was one of the possible side effects of leaping, but didn’t mention the “swiss cheese effect” which is why Ben didn’t know his name or know Allison but still remembered “Beam me up.” The original show had a two-hour pilot to set everything up, but trying to cram all of this in an hour made things whiz by.

quantum

Image of the original “Quantum Leap” TV show

Unlike the original show, we see a lot more of the Quantum Leap project including the holochamber where Addison sees Ben’s environment displayed around her. We see Chou turn in her resignation (which was rejected) to Magic for allowing an intruder into the complex. She did recover some deleted security footage of a female wearing an unusual ring. That ring was issued to Vietnam veteran Al Calavicci, but since he’s dead, it belongs to his daughter Janis. Previously, Janis tried to join the project but the government felt her emotional connection would interfere with her work. All that is according to Magic.

In the original show’s pilot, it’s revealed that the project is located in the same place where, in real life, the atomic bomb was first tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. If this is a highly secret government installation, how did someone sneak in and access secure computers? There should have been a lot of armed soldiers and other measures to prevent intrusion and you don’t just hack into a computer that’s being used in a top-secret project.

Whatever Janis discovered and texted to Ben made him leap. Right before he went, he uploaded an entirely new operating system into Ziggy which subsequently caused the AI to crash. We have no idea what’s going on but apparently it will be revealed as the show goes on.

One of the things about the original show that bugged me was why Sam leapt in the first place. In the pilot, Al says that they weren’t ready for live tests. It’s possible the reason is revealed sometime during the series but if so, I haven’t seen that episode. At least here we have a “secret” reason for Ben leaping.

The government must be monitoring the project’s electrical bill because Magic had to explain to someone that the power surge was just a test. So far, they want to keep Ben’s leap a secret from the people in charge for fear that they’ll shut it down and condemn Ben to being stuck in the past forever.

At the end, after Ben leaps, Addison goes back to her and Ben’s place and finds his phone. He recorded a short video saying he couldn’t tell anyone why he was leaping yet but later would. That’s going to be tough without a memory. Interestingly enough, she doesn’t check his texts. His phone could lead security right to Janis if examined but she doesn’t call anyone. She’s probably the only one who knows why Ben leapt.

In the original show, when Sam leapt into someone, that someone was kept at the project in a waiting room. They also experienced swiss cheese memory. Why didn’t we see the person Ben leapt into waiting or being hopelessly confused?

Another thing that bothered me about the original series is after Sam leapt, how did the person he’d formerly been occupying know everything that happened while they were in the waiting room? I don’t recall any of that being explained.

Mason Alexander Park

Mason Alexander Park

In the original series, Sam never made it home. If the project were abandoned at some point, then there’s no Al and no Ziggy to help Sam figure out what he has to do to leap again. If the project is shut down, can Sam even leap? If not, he’s stuck in someone else’s life until he dies. Oh, that also means that whoever he’s leapt into is stuck in our present at an abandoned secret project until they die. What happened to the last person?

Ben can leap from his present to the past any time during his lifetime. In this episode, he leapt into July 1985. Raymond Lee was born in 1987, so we’re fudging his or rather Song’s age a little bit. To me, this is going to seem more like recent history or even current events than time travel.

The original show first aired in 1989 but I seem to recall that “the present” was 1995. Scott Bakula was born October 9, 1954 which makes him more or less my age and the earliest he leapt back was in the 1950s. That at least felt like the past. I guess I’m showing my age.

Which brings me to Mason Alexander Park. According to their IMBb bio:

Mason Alexander Park is a non binary film/TV and stage actor best known for playing Hedwig on the first Broadway national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mason can be seen playing Gren in the Netflix live action adaptation of the hit anime Cowboy Bebop, as well as Desire in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

According to Park’s description on twitter, they use the pronouns they/them.

Every time Park was on screen, it was incredibly distracting. I know that won’t endear me to at least some people, but the producers hired a gender fluid actor to play a gender fluid scientist. Since Park is 27 years old, they also play a young genius scientist.

sam and al

Promotional image for “Quantum Leap”

There was nothing about their behavior as such, but simply their appearance pulled me out of the narrative. Unless their being gender fluid has some bearing on the overall plot, the only reason to hire Park for the role and to have the character Ian Wright be gender fluid is for representation. I’m not a big fan of representation for its own sake. I don’t have anything more to say on the topic, but if I continue to watch and review the show, that’s going to be a sticking point for me.

The show was dedicated to Dean Stockwell which was a nice touch, but as I said above, given how NBC treated the original show’s ending and how they refused to make it right, I’m not sure he’d care. Also, Addison briefly showed Ben a holographic image of Sam Beckett when trying to jog his memory, so we very briefly see Bakula on screen.

What about the show overall? Like I said, it was okay. It didn’t blow me away or anything. Except for the mystery, it was a fairly average episode of the old show. According to IMDb, there are only 4 episodes listed, so I’m not sure if this is going to be a limited run or not. I can pretty much take it or leave it.

Oh boy.

Addendum: My three-minute or less TikTok review of Quantum Leap.

@james.pyles

Review of the new version of the #sciencefiction #television show quantumleap. For the full review go to poweredbyrobots.com

♬ Science fiction, hero, action, rock(823916) – shaiyan

2 thoughts on “Review of Episode 1 of the New “Quantum Leap”

  1. cheers for the heads up- i think i’ll pass. last i remember was Sam in the bar with ‘God’ but i don’t remember ever getting a conclusion. lucky for me i found the entire box set in a salvo yard last week for $10
    had enough of old shows being reimagined for the current space cadets society with their pronouns and their rants.
    live long prosper 🚀

    Like

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