Comparing the Original “Quantum Leap” to the Current Series, Part 2


From Quantum Leap Ep3 “Somebody Up There Likes Ben”

If you like my work, buy me a virtual cup of coffee at Ko-Fi.

Continuing to try and figure out the course of the current Quantum Leap TV show on NBC by looking at the past show, I ran across a few things such as the current show’s ratings.

According to Comic Book News, the show is hemorrhaging viewers, but their opinion is in the minority. Besides, even though the show airs on NBC Monday nights, it is available for streaming starting the next day. As far as I can find out, Episode 3 “Somebody Up There Likes Ben,” had an uptick overnight. I suppose that includes me. People could continue to view it throughout the week, or for that matte, for weeks to come.

So far, the leaps Ben (Raymond Lee) takes aren’t particularly remarkable. Episode 2 Atlantis was the most interesting thus far because Ben leapt into an astronaut just as the space shuttle was launching. Other than that (there have only been three episodes aired to date), Ben leaps into someone and helps fix a life with the help of Addison (Caitlin Bassett), much as it happened with Sam (Scott Bakula) and Al (the late Dean Stockwell).

While the original show was almost exclusively focused on Sam and Al and their adventures in the past, the current show toggles back and forth between Ben and Addison in the past and the Quantum Leap team in the present. Add to that, Al’s oldest daughter Janice or Janis (Georgina Reilly), her mysterious relationship with Ben, and how and why she seems to be manipulating Ben’s leaps.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Somebody Up There Likes Ben”

I suppose it depends on why you watch the show, but as of right now, it’s pretty middle-of-the-road according to Rotten Tomatoes. Of course the original show never ranked higher than 53rd but after a slow start, it found a faithful following. There’s hope.

Fans of the original show won’t find the same charm and lightheartedness in the current offering. Of course, this isn’t the 1990s anymore. Audience expectations and especially the nature of the entertainment industry in general has changed quite a bit. Janice seems to be the most “sinister” element in the show so far, but although her methods are heavy-handed, we don’t clearly know her motivations…well, not exactly. Sam’s name has come up several times and especially in the most recent episode, there’s a strong indication that she and Ben were working together to retrieve Sam.

But from where?

To that end, at the end of episode 3, theories about what Janice is up to run from her building her own time machine to an alternate imaging chamber so she can interact with Ben in the past (and maybe Sam?).

So far, Ben’s leaps have taken him from the 1970s to the 1990s but Ian (Mason Alexander Park) believes that Ben’s on a specific path that could hurl him to a very far away time and place, although he doesn’t know where or when that is. I also found some clarification about Ben’s code. As it turns out, leaping within your own lifetime wasn’t just a limitation of Sam’s original theory. It’s believed that if you leap back before you were born, not only could you change the past, but you could undo your own birth, deleting yourself from history.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “The Leap Between the States”

So far, no one on the TV show has specifically mentioned this danger, but I did pick it up on one of the sites I visited earlier.

I haven’t watched it yet, but in the original show’s season 5, in the episode The Leap Between the States Sam leaps into his great-grandfather on September 20, 1862. As far as I know, this is the only time he has leapt before he was born, but I guess it worked because it was a direct ancestor. Here he needs to not be captured behind Confederate lines nor interfere with the first meeting between his great-grandparents.

Fortunately for Sam, this only happened once, but every time Ben leaps before he was born, he takes a chance at erasing his existence a la Back to the Future (1985). The chances of that seem remote, but Sam has leapt into situations where he interacted with family in the past, so it’s not totally out of the question. Also, given the butterfly effect, Ben might make some innocuous change before his birth that would lead to a series of other changes culminating in his not being born. Time travel is confusing.

But what about Sam? I’ve theorized that he’s at or at least can be found through “Al’s Place” in 1953 which we saw in the episode Mirror Image. Also, before the show was cancelled, that episode was supposed to have a different ending. I found a link to the script for the alternate ending at Al’s Place-Quantum Leap.

The entire script is available but clicking the link takes you right to the start of the alternate ending and a discussion between Beth and Al (listed as “observer”) at home in the year 2000.

mirror image

Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Mirror Image”

It confirms several things. Al makes a decision to enter the acceleration chamber and to leap in time to find Sam. Beth agrees with him and is encouraging. According to the script, Al actually does leap to “Al’s Place” but somehow Al (observer, not “God/bartender”), knows Sam is really in the future beyond his lifespan.

The bartender tells the observer that all he needs to do to find Sam is to want to. Al wants to and leaps. Then, in the far future, he’s in a bar on a space station and the formerly womanizing Al finds he’s leapt into a “well-endowed” woman and some guy is hitting on her.

That’s where “Mirror Image” and season 5 would have ended if the show hadn’t been cancelled. We would have picked up the new adventures of Sam and Al who in season 6 would have both been time travelers.

Oh, the website has a list of actual scripts from the original show. It’s not comprehensive, but if you’re interested, click here.

I’ve made predictions before about the current show based on the past one. That means (possibly) that Ben could end up either at “Al’s Place” (Bruce McGill who played the bartender is still alive but he’s 72 years old so the role would probably be recast) and then leap into the future or Ben could take Quantum Leap into its most “science fictiony” environment yet…deep space.

Ian said it might take ten to twenty (or more) leaps for Ben to finally reach the mysterious destination. That’s good for at least one season and possibly more, although you can sustain the suspense represented by Janice and Ben’s relationship only so long. This is just a guess, but I think the show will have to resolve the Ben, Janice, and Sam story arc either at the end of the current season or even sooner. According to this Express news article, it’s likely that the show was “greenlit” for 20 to 24 episodes, so we’ll see.

A couple of fun facts. After his appearance on Quantum Leap, McGill played the role of time traveling Captain Braxton in the 1999 Star Trek: Voyager episode Relativity.

In this week’s Quantum Leap, Ben leapt into a boxer in October 2, 1977. This is the third episode in the series. In the original, if you count “Genesis” as one episode, then the third episode would be The Right Hand of God. Sam leaps into a boxer on October 24, 1974, three years and just a few weeks before Ben.

The final thing (for now) that occurred to me is that Ben could leap into someone on the same date and in the same place that Sam leapt into a different someone. Ben wouldn’t recognize Sam and in theory the Al and Addison holograms wouldn’t be able to see one another. It would be funny if Ben kept trying to change what Sam was trying to change but differently.

That probably won’t happen because trying to reproduce a young Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell would be hard or even impossible. It would be fun, though.

Addendum: I forgot that one of the things I expected to see and haven’t is the Waiting Room. When Sam leapt into a life, that person leapt to the Project in their future. Sometimes talking to the person, whose memory was also “swiss-cheesed,” was one way Al located Sam in time. Since we’re seeing so much of the Project, why no Waiting Room? Has the leaping process changed? It’s possible given all the other alterations.

ben and sam

Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song in Quantum Leap; Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap Photo: Brendan Meadows/NBC; Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images


2 thoughts on “Comparing the Original “Quantum Leap” to the Current Series, Part 2

  1. I recall at least one episode of the original — it might have been two contiguous ones — in which there was an additional leaper whose observer or handler had nefarious purposes inimical to those of Sam Beckett. As I recall, the observers could not see or hear each other, but both leapers could see and hear both observers. Or perhaps they each were describing to the other what their observer was saying, and only the TV viewers could see and hear both.

    On another note, if the new QL project team possesses records of the original project leaps, then they should be aware of any cases when Ben’s leap comes anywhere near coinciding with one of Sam’s known leaps. Of course, such records wouldn’t identify any leaps Sam continued to make after he was no longer in touch with Al or the project. And if Ben’s goal is to find Sam, then the range of leaps ought to be constrained within the second half of the 20th century, because Sam’s leaps were reputedly constrained to be within his own lifetime — though, as you noted, the writers managed to experiment with a few carefully-constrained exceptions.


    • There were actually three episodes featuring the “evil leapers,” a single show and then a two-parter. I’ve only seen the first one and they left it somewhat up in the air as to where and when they were from.

      As I wrote, the final set of scenes that “Mirror Image” was originally supposed to use had Sam leaping as himself into the future beyond his lifetime. I think after five years, the writers were trying to switch things up but they never got the chance. Now with the new show and with the original show’s creator Donald Bellisario still on board, they might try to (30 years late) wrap up what happened to Sam by using elements from the original script.

      There’s one theory that Ben’s leaps may at least sometimes have to do with Sam’s. In the episode “Atlantis,” Ben leaps into an astronaut on the space shuttle. One of the crew members is a woman that Sam saved during his very first leap. He leapt into a test pilot to managed to keep his wife from miscarrying their daughter. The daughter grew up to be an astronaut and met Ben. I think the show will sprinkle similar “Easter eggs” in episodes and continue to forge a connection. With the code for running the project now allowing Ben to leap to before he was born, it’s possible he can follow to where ever and whenever Sam has leapt. I guess we’ll have to see.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.