The Future of Quantum Leap and Other Stories

QL

Promotional image for the television show “Quantum Leap.”

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know I’ve been watching and reviewing the 2022 continuation series Quantum Leap starring Raymond Lee, Caitlin Bassett, and Ernie Hudson. As far as I can tell, the series was originally green lit for eight episodes but was recently given an extension for a full 18. We know the description for the already shown episodes of course, but episodes 9-18 remain undefined at IMDb.

This is probably good since the show has introduced a collection of mysteries such as why Ben (Raymond Lee) leapt in the first place, what his relationship is to the mysterious Janice (or Janis) Calavicci (Georgina Reilly), and the secret around the leaper from the future Richard Martinez (Walter Perez). All that and, in the episode O Ye of Little Faith, Janice shows up as a hologram to warn Ben about something, but he leaps before she can tell him what…or who to be worried about. Eight episodes is just barely enough to get all that started.

janice hologram

Screenshot of the Quantum Leap episode “O Ye of Little Faith”

In the most recent episode Stand by Ben, he remembered why he leapt and tells Addison. It was to save her (presumably) life. Nice cliffhanger.

In Screenrant‘s article Everything We Know About Quantum Leap Season 1, Part 2, we find out more or less what’s currently known about the second half of the season, which isn’t much. However that includes this promo video.

Sort of Spoilers ahead.

The biggest problem is, if Addison dies in the future, how does Ben know about it?

As an aside, we all die in the future, it just depends when, where, and how. The suggestion is that Addison dies prematurely and that it’s preventable.

But back to the “how does Ben know” issue.

Somehow Ben finds out Addison, the love of his life, is going to die in the future and it’s preventable. He locates and approaches Janice and asks for her help in getting him into the future so he can save Addison’s life. Janice agrees and the two embark on a secret project to change Ziggy’s code and make it possible for A) Ben to leap outside of his lifetime and B) for Ben to leap into the future, things that were impossible for the first leaper Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula).

But if he knows about Addison’s future, why time travel at all? He could just tell her what’s going to happen and arrange events in the present going forward to avoid whatever endangers her in the future. It makes no sense to risk time traveling with a swiss cheesed memory where he won’t know why he leapt and what to do about Addison.

ben

Screenshot of the Quantum Leap episode “Stand by Ben.”

However, there is another change. Unlike Sam, Ben seems to be regaining his memory at a pretty fast clip. He’s remembered significant events surrounding his relationship with his mother, he remembered his relationship with Addison, he remembered conversations he had with Janice, and now he remembers why he leapt.

janice

Screenshot of the Quantum Leap episode “Stand by Ben”

At some point, all of the secrets are going to come out. Ben made Janice promise to see this (whatever this is) through no matter what the cost. She agreed. But so much more is known now, maybe it makes sense for Janice to come into the Project and share what she knows. The Project team working together might make things happen faster, plus if they know what the danger is to Ben, what Janice’s warning means, they can work to stop that danger from affecting Ben.

There’s something else. It doesn’t have anything to do with saving Addison or any of the mysteries, but it does have to do with at least one future episode of the show, one that started filming on November 10th. Here’s a screenshot I took from twitter:

representation

Screenshot from twitter

Apparently, a future episode of the show takes place at a girls’ high school basketball game. Background (presumably non-speaking) characters are being recruited from a population of trans, gender fluid, and gender non-conforming teens of any ethnicity. The idea is that the audience will be cheering for a trans-girl basketball player.

This being twitter, one of the hashtags employed is #RepresentationMatters.

I’m probably going to become even more unpopular just for bringing this up, but part of my review process includes the social/political aspects of an entertainment form.

Fans of Star Trek: Discovery have no doubt noticed that there is a significant representation element in that show. This is thanks to showrunner Michelle Paradise who is “helming the franchise toward greater LGBTQ+ representation.”

You can read the details in Out Magazine‘s (yes, I read a wide variety of publications) February 2022 article Meet the Lesbian Co-Showrunner Queering Star Trek: Discovery.

Look, I get why there’s a push toward more representation in entertainment. The idea is to impress upon especially younger audiences the normalization of marginalied groups and cultures within our society, including the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve already seen this in the Quantum Leap gender fluid character Ian Wright played by gender fluid actor Mason Alexander Park.

That’s actually working as far as I am concerned. In the first episode, my mind had a hard time integrating Park’s appearance into the show’s general background, but as time has passed, for the most part, I’ve absorbed the character as part of the overall presentation. Wright is depicted as socially “quirky,” intelligent, and the nurturer of the group. I missed the “e-MEOW-gencies” line in the previously mentioned “O Ye of Little Faith” but did catch Mason in cat ears.

Related: Found this on twitter. Cute.

e-meow-gencies

Screenshot from twitter

In going through Park’s twitter feed, I found something that amplifies what I’ve been saying about representation and the show.

trans-director x2

Screenshot from twitter

Regardless of what I or anyone else thinks of representation for its own sake, it’s a reality of 21st century entertainment and we can either consume that content or avoid it. The real problem comes in when having “diverse characters” and “representation” for their own sake in a creative work replaces good storytelling. From all reports, that’s happening with an uncomfortable increase in frequency.

diverse

Screenshot from twitter

Discovery is popular with a lot of people, but it’s unpopular with many others who see representation as either purposefully or inadvertently replacing good writing and interesting characterization. I suppose how you see it is a matter of interpretation, but the “quiet part” has now been said out loud in Quantum Leap. They’re taking on what some might see as the “biological boy in the girls’ locker room” issue head on and that might cost them some viewers. It could also be viewed as the “jumping the shark” event for the show relative to “social issues.”

That hasn’t seemed to have hurt Discovery which is about to begin its fifth season, but the current incarnation of Quantum Leap, like its original, was never the most popular TV show. The Bakula/Stockwell show hung on thanks to a slowly increasing fan base, but after five seasons, finally expired because the concept had aged.

The current show risks the same thing in its “leap” segments and is (with me, anyway) popular largely because of the aforementioned mysteries that surround Ben’s leaping.

I guess we’ll have to see how this most recent event pans out.

There is one more mystery. Actors who were hired for a single episode seem to be in more than one. For instance, Raquel Justice who played Stacy in Stand by Ben is listed in IMBb for not only that episode but for the yet to be filmed episode 18. For the latter, she’s also listed as playing Stacy. What?

There are other actors listed for two separate episodes, but that only means they appeared at the end of one show after Ben leaps and then their role continues the following week when we see the full events of that leap. It’s a little confusing sometimes.

Quantum Leap is a television show very much written for the 21st century, specifically for the popular social imperatives we see in news and social media. I can’t say that the shows I enjoyed from yesteryear were always well written. They weren’t. Some of them were pretty awful. I can say that they included commentaries on many political and social issues, from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek through the original Quantum Leap.

battlefield

Image from the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”

Did those series and so many others sacrifice good writing just to make a point? I don’t know. Sometimes I think they did. The original Star Trek episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield first aired in January 1969 spoke of racism and race wars on a planetary scale that finally destroyed an entire civilization. Even as a teenager, I thought it was pretty much in-your-face overly done drama where the end was apparent from the beginning. Its only saving grace was that superb actor Frank Gorshin had a guest role.

The difference was that in 1969, there was no such thing as social media let alone the internet, so great masses of people couldn’t instantaneously register their pleasure or displeasure at a TV series episode by episode. In a way, that’s unfair, since a lot of popular shows, including the much praised Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t find it’s “legs” until the third season of its seven season run (I still consider season one to be all but unwatchable and to this day I detest Wesley Crusher played by Wil Wheaton).

However, it’s not the 1960s through the 1990s, it’s now and all conditions associated with 2022 apply. The audience can reach out on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on and tell the world (whoever chooses to read our missives) what we think and feel about this episode and that show in great detail. We sometimes engage in terrific virtual arguments over what we think is right and wrong about them and about each other.

The chips will fall where they may about Quantum Leap and everything else. The two uppermost questions as far as this blog post goes are A) Will the show continue past the first season given all of the above and B) if it does, will I continue to watch, especially if it skews and spirals wholeheartedly into a particular direction?

Addendum – November 16, 2022: I was curious about who issued the original casting announcement for the “girls basketball” episode and found that the person who made it is a staff writer and two-time director for the current Quantum Leap. Reading back into Shakina’s twitter timeline even before the new show debuted, it seems like the events I described above have been planned from the very start. The representation imperative is not just periodic but an ongoing theme for the entire series, much like how we now understand Star Trek: Discovery. Conclude from that what you will.

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