Review of Quantum Leap Ep 18 “Judgment Day,” the Season Finale


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day.”

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As I write this (Tuesday evening, April 4th), I just finished watching Quantum Leap S1 E18 Judgment Day and yes there were “Terminator” references.

I was impressed. The writers pulled out all the stops, and while the episode wasn’t perfect, it was very good, very dramatic, and totally action packed. It was also not what I expected.

As always, Spoiler Alert!

As we saw from last week, Ben first leaps into the future, 2051 to be exact, to the Quantum Leap project which has been destroyed. An aging Ian is alone, waiting for Ben and the snowfall is caused by nuclear winter, suggesting a worldwide nuclear war (so why isn’t the Los Angeles area completely destroyed as in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day since it would be a primary target?).

L.A. nuked

Scene from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Ian said there are very few people left. They are the only survivor of the project, and they were barely able to find someone for Ben to leap into. Question, unless Ian knew exactly when Ben would arrive, how would they know when to have someone stand by? It didn’t sound like they could have known, but they instantly recognized Ben in whoever he leapt into.

In the present, Ian keeps picking up a kind of ghost signature of Ben and keeps losing it. Janice suddenly appears again (as if by magic since the plot once again requires her…otherwise she’s presumably kept in a maintenance closet powered down until needed). Ian says it’s like the accelerator is “confused” and Janice (or Janis) says it’s because it wasn’t designed to send anyone into the future. Also, there’s no visual because “the future.”

In 2051. Ian says that Project Quantum Leap was destroyed because it was the government’s scapegoat for everything that went wrong. Quantum Leap changes history so the feds had it destroyed. They also tell Ben that Martinez was sent from the future before the accelerator was destroyed, to go back in time and kill Addison. In the original timeline, Addison was the leaper. Ian went back to warn Ben, and then Ben changed things by leaping instead of her.

Another question: In the original timeline, Addison wouldn’t have leapt in 2022 and probably wouldn’t have until the government gave it the green light years in the future. Would that have affected Martinez’s timing?

Martinez will be sent back to 2018 to kill Addison before the Project is ready. Ben’s entire series of leaps was designed so that the last one will be in 2018 and Ben can save her.

Ian shows Ben a complex code and tells him to memorize it. They say he’s going to need it to stop Martinez. Ben keeps trying to leap because the accelerator is designed to pull him into the past. Apparently, Ben can resist the leap and he does several times. I guess he never tried to stop a leap before.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day”

The code is amazingly complex (in real life, the showrunners hired mathematicians to write it). Ian can’t tell Ben what the code does because of interference caused by his trying to leap, but he manages to memorize it in a few minutes. I know he’s a genius but especially with his swiss cheesed memory, really?

Another question: After Ben leaps out of 2051, in those moments when we can still see future Ian, why don’t we see the second person? Did they just leave? How did Ian find someone and get them to stay for an indeterminate time waiting for Ben to leap in? This is one of the weaknesses in the writing overall. When a character is no longer needed in the plot, they vanish, even if it makes no sense logically.

Oh, before Ben leaps Ian tells him that “we need each other” which factors into the climax of the episode.

Ben leaps into himself in the project in 2018. He and his surroundings become visible to the QL team in the present and they are amazed to see their former selves. This is the night of Ben’s first date with Addison. It’s also the night Martinez is supposed to kill Addison.

Magic has some sort of meeting across town, and like Ben and Addison, can’t make it to trivia night. Addison gives Magic two cigars which he takes with him in his briefcase (this is important later). Ian is especially upset about this and Jenn of the past has to practically drag them out of the room. Present Ian explains that their life was a mess back then. They had just broken up with Rachel and outside of trivia night, all they did was play this one video game every evening after work (that’s also important).

Right before Ben (literally) runs into 2018 Addison, he grabs a notebook and writes down the code future Ian made him memorize. Then Addison gives it to present Ian (did the notebook survive for the intervening five years or did Addison take a photo of it with her handheld?). Present Ian has absolutely no idea what it means or how to use it. They say it will probably take years for them to decipher. Later in the episode, Janice says what little she recognizes is brilliant but even genius-level she can’t figure it out. So much for future Ian’s faith in their past self.

The date is especially awkward, not just because first dates are, but because 2018 Addison, future holographic Addison, and Ben are all at the table. Present Addison keeps giving Ben advice as to what to say and do, which just unnerves him more.

Ben has been admonished not to change ANYTHING in 2018 because if he does, it could have serious repercussions on all the QL personnel. It would also rip a hole in the fabric of timespace, destroying everything.

I thought that last part was kind of B.S. Yes, it might change a great deal and maybe even somehow halt the project, but because everyone has already been born, it wouldn’t cause a person to cease to exist. Present Addison is terrified that Ben will screw this up and they won’t fall in love.

But if he changes things and saves her life, maybe it would be worth it. What, she hasn’t seen Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)? It might have even been a tragic twist if that’s how things ended up, but no such luck. Imagine though in future episodes where Addison doesn’t remember being in love with Ben and Ben has to convince her there’s another timeline where they are engaged.

Holographic Addison gets an alert that Martinez has leapt into that day in 2018 but he’s across town so don’t panic. Dinner is finished but of course, Ben panics and drags Addison out of the restaurant. Against Ian’s and Addison’s protests, Ben tells past Addison that he’s a time traveler from the future and he’s there to prevent another future time traveler from killing her.

Addison thinks this is a joke because he just described the plot of The Terminator (1984). Ben puts her in her car, tells her to go home, lock the door, and arm herself. Ben’s only a few blocks from the project. Addison says that Martinez is going to the project, probably assuming Addison is still there. They can’t tell who he leapt into but they can triangulate his position.

Instead of going right home, Addison places a call, probably to Jenn. She wonders if Ben might be right. We also see her arming herself, but will she stay at home? Probably not.

quantumAnother Question: Who puts a highly top secret time travel project in the middle of one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas on Earth? In the original show, it was in an isolated desert area in New Mexico, which makes more sense. In real life, if the project existed, it would be located in the middle of a high security military controlled area, probably in the desert and the personnel would likely live there during the week and drive or fly home on weekends.

Even the old Irwin Allen 1966 Time Tunnel series placed their project deep under the Arizona desert so if something went seriously wrong, no population center would be endangered (this factors into the latter part of this episode).

Promotional photo for the 1966 television series “The Time Tunnel”

My Dad used to work at Area 51 (yes, that one) and he would live there four days a week and then either drive or fly home to Las Vegas for the next four days..

At the project riding in the elevator with Ben, Addison is pissed at what Ben did. He probably just screwed up their relationship and now they’ll never fall in love. In the present, Magic asks if Ben has changed anything, why haven’t they felt the changes. Janice says because its their own timeline, they won’t feel it until after the leap. Yes, it’s a plot device because otherwise, writing this episode would have been a nightmare (it probably was anyway).

Elevator opens and 2018 Addison confronts Ben with a gun. He tries to talk her down with his “quantum entanglement” speech (another important point) which present Addison finds really lame. Addison says she believes that someone from the future might be there to kill her but maybe it’s Ben. Really? If Ben were the assassin, the last thing he’d do is warn her and give her time to get a firearm. I guess Addison didn’t think that one through.

addison gun

Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day”

Ben thinks he has her talked down (he relies too much on his famous “Ben talks” but that’s about to change) but he only manages to move the gun enough to where she shoots a fire extinguisher instead of Ben. Ben uses the cover of the expanding CO2 cloud to escape. Later Addison says she was just going to fire a warning shot, but I’m not so sure. Jenn enters the imaging chamber and shows Ben where to hide from Addison.

Martinez gets into the building just as past Jenn initiates a lockdown. That means no one leaves and everyone in the project is trapped with a cold blooded killer time traveler.

It may also explain why no MPs or other military security are present to deal with this crisis. In fact, you never see any military police or guards anywhere in a military run, top secret government time travel project. Isn’t that odd?

Yes, it’s Magic. Ben can see him as he really is but everyone else just sees Magic. He confronts Martinez, but the 2018 team ask Ben questions about them that only the real Ben could answer. We haven’t encountered Ben’s swiss cheese memory in awhile, at least not seriously, but now it’s the reason he can’t answer any of those questions. I guess Martinez’s future accelerator doesn’t cause that memory problem because he, as Magic, answers them all. Ben gets locked up in a transparent cell and now he can’t keep Martinez from killing Addison. Ben again panics but his time it’s really justified.

But how will he kill her? They search Magic and open his brief case. No weapon.

Martinez as Magic is giving orders and suggests that Addison take it easy in his office for a bit. He tries to convince her to leave her firearm behind, but she refuses (I guess that’s how Martinez was planning on getting a gun to kill Addison).

Magic enters the imaging chamber and we already know Ben remembers him. Besides a pep talk, he says he needs to write the words “Turtle Time” on the glass walls of his cell. He says that Magic always keeps a pen in his inner jacket pocket.

Martinez visits Ben stupidly opening the cell door. Here’s where Martinez, criminal mastermind style, clues Ben in on the true scope of his evil plot. Actor James Spader as Ultron even made fun of this trope in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron but I guess Martinez never saw that movie.

He knows killing Addison won’t change anything. The others always keep the QL project alive according to future Ziggy. So he has to kill them all and destroy the accelerator in 2018. Ben points out that Martinez is on a one-way mission since his accelerator is destroyed in the future. But being a good Marine and a fanatic bent on his own version of “setting right what once went wrong,” he doesn’t care.

Addendum: Wait! If the accelerator in Martinez’s present is destroyed and there is no Ziggy, how is Martinez leaping? Later in this episode, Ian says if their accelerator is turned off, Ben will be trapped in the past forever, presumably unable to leap. Who and what is controlling Martinez’s leap? Big plot hole here.

Oh, imploding the accelerator will destroy everything in a three mile radius. A really, really good reason NOT to locate the QL project in an area surrounded by millions of people. Remember what I said above about locating such a dangerous project in an isolated area?

Ben jumps Martinez in a supposed fit of rage. He beats Ben back but he manages to grab Magic’s pen in the struggle before Martinez leaves.

Problem. Ben grabs what looks like an ordinary ink pen, but when he’s writing “Turtle Time” on the glass wall, he seems to be using a thick, black marker. A pen wouldn’t have been able to write on glass or clear plastic or whatever his cell walls are made of.

2018 Ian is reviewing security footage and sees Ben (just after he leapt in) talking to himself and writing in a notebook. Ian starts looking at the notebook.

Jenn, watching Ben in his cell on her monitor, sees the message he wrote and drags Ian down there. Working for a time travel project, Jenn says “Turtle Time” is a password she created if she ever met her future self. It would have been impossible for Ben to know it unless Jenn’s future self gave him the information. Now past Ian and Jenn trust him.

As an aside, make up gave both past Ian and Jenn some pretty ridiculous hair.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day” (screen capture)

Revelation: past Ian looking at the code says it looks like a highly complex cheat code. It’s used to jump to an earlier part of a video game if you hit a difficult section and need to start over. When present Ian finds this out, they can’t believe they missed it. But they’re no longer the lonely, isolated person they were five years ago and I guess they forgot. Yes, five years is a long time.

In Magic’s office, the briefcase is still open and Addison sees that the cigars she gave him are still there untouched.

Martinez is at the accelerator’s controls setting it to implode when Addison confronts him with her gun. She says “whoever you are,” acknowledging that she believes Magic is the future time traveler. Before she can stop him, Martinez starts the accelerator and produces his own gun. The project has its own armory and Magic must have the keys or the code which he could have gotten from Ziggy.

Oh, in the present, the project personnel are coming up with an impressive amount of information. No one specifically said they turned Ziggy back on again, but that’s the most likely answer. I suppose after this is all over, Ziggy will make a come back in season 2, but I’ll talk about that later.

out of nowhere

Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day” (screen capture)

Addison and Martinez are in a stand off when Ben comes flying in from the side. He smashes into Martinez, but in the struggle Martinez’s gun goes off wounding Addison in the shoulder. They fight as the accelerator powers up. I guess the thing doesn’t have a door (which causes all sorts of plot holes) and they both are fighting in the chamber when they leap.

Another problem: 2018 Ben and Magic vanish in the chamber rather than Ben and Martinez leaping and leaving the host bodies behind (which happens during every other leap). So did Ben possessed Ben and Martinez possessed Magic actually leap into the past? That means that they have three personality overlays going on which is a mess. The episode never answers that and we never see 2018 Ben and Magic “waking up.” They try to explain that later, but it’s a logical dog’s dish of a mess.

The accelerator is freaking out according to past Ian, sending Ben and Martinez to different points in the past and they can’t stop it. Supposedly, because no one mentions it, they are able to stop the accelerator from imploding, saving the greater Los Angeles area from being vaporized. This isn’t something that the reset (I’ll tell you about that in a minute) would fix, because if the 2018 accelerator implodes right then and there, it’s all over.

We see Ben and Martinez leaping from one time to another, each of the times they had encountered each other before. They start with the mental hospital in 1954. Martinez is a trained Marine and is bigger and stronger than Ben. He’s beating him bloody when they leap back to the USS Montana. Ben, as an officer orders Martinez detained, but the Marine, beats three men unconscious and then goes for Ben.

Ben suddenly recalls his boxing lessons from a past leap and he gets the upper hand for a few seconds until Martinez tosses him around the room like a tennis ball. Ben tries again and actually knocks Martinez down before they leap again.

Yet another problem: Martinez is able to beat down three Navy personnel in just a few seconds. These are people who went through military training and should have at least a basic understanding of martial arts. But they go down right away, while Ben is able to keep fighting for a lot longer. That’s not credible.

Ian of 2018 and 2023 both figure out that the “cheat code,” when activated, will cause Ben to leap back to the start of his 2018 leap. He’ll be able to correct all the mistakes he made; a do-over that eliminates everything that happened in the previous loop. Both Ians initiate a code and both Ians receive an error message.

Addison in the present remembers Ben said that future Ian told him about how “we need each other.” Janice figures out that it is a set of instructions. The Ians have to work together. But separated by five years with no way to communicate, how?

Jenn asks present Ian if the video game cheat code worked. They say “no” because you need two players to get it to work. That’s the clue.

In 2018, that Addison remembers Ben’s quantum entanglement speech. Put all together, they figure out the Ians are “entangled” and acting as one.

It’s a nice sentiment, but if that were true, then everyone would have those moments when they were “entangled” with their past and future selves. It is one of the single least credible moments of the episode and yet another in a long list of examples of QL writers performing wish fulfillment. On the other hand, this is fiction with plenty of “handwavium” applied, so we are asked to please suspend disbelief.

We see a shot of 2018, 2051 (sitting in a meditative state with snow falling around him), and 2023 Ian all focused and determined. The 2018 and 2023 Ians press the button “at the same time.”

Meanwhile, in the 19th century town of Salvation, where Ben and Martinez first met, they’re on a second floor balcony of a saloon. Martinez goes for his gun but Ben throws his hat at him and they have yet another fist fight. Fortunately, after each leap, because they’re in different bodies, the injuries they incurred in the past leap are gone. Must have caused a huge mystery in the mental hospital and on the Montana why two people suddenly tried to kill each other. It’s amazing, especially in the hospital, that no other staff tried to stop them.

Fist fight over, even though Ben reaches for the gun, Martinez grabs it, and as they say in the westerns, gets the drop on Ben.

Would Ben have shot Martinez? When he was in Salvation before, he said he hated guns and would never use one. He didn’t even know how to shoot. But with Addison and all of the future in the balance and after all he’d been though, maybe he would have.

Martinez could have just pulled the trigger but what does he do instead? He starts monologuing, telling Ben how feeble his skills are and how Martinez is willing to make the sacrifices needed to set history right. I guess Martinez didn’t take to heart the lessons learned from the movie The Incredibles (2004), that is besides “no capes.”

If either Ben or Martinez dies in the past, they die forever. If Ben leaps without the code, he leaps at random, possibly becoming forever lost just like Sam. This is important to the final resolution of the episode but causes major causality problems.

Then just as Martinez is about to shoot, we hear another gunshot and Martinez falls through the balcony railing and into the street. Frankie (Yaani King Mondschein), the bar owner Ben met during his last leap to Salvation shot and killed Martinez.

Question: So who did Martinez leap into? Maybe it was someone totally innocent, but now that person is dead, too. Frankie sees Ben as Delacruz which is who Ben leapt into before, but technically, Ben is still inside of Ben inside of Delacruz.

At that point, the Ians having activated their codes in an entangled manner, Ben leaps.

Ben leaps back to where it all began in 2018. Since Martinez is dead in the past, (supposedly) he won’t show up this time in 2018.

So let me get this straight. Before Martinez ever leaps into 2018, because he died in the 1880s after the first time he leapt into 2018, time is reset so he no longer exists to leap into 2018 again, that is, before all of that happened. Like I said, it’s a logical mess that requires a great deal of “handwavium” and suspension of disbelief to swallow. And so it goes.

So if Martinez is gone and Addison is safe, why is Ben here? He doesn’t have to write down the code this time. The only reason he came back to 2018 was because of the cheat code. With the danger gone, he could have just leapt home or anywhere else.

Actually, he has to “undo” Ben leaping into Ben leaping into other people and Martinez leaping into Magic leaping into other people, otherwise, as I said, it gets messy.

Oh, when holo-Addison first sees Ben in this leap, she pretends to not know him. It’s a joke, but given everything Ben has been through, it’s amazing he took it so well. I probably wouldn’t have.

They both decide that maybe they didn’t get the start of their first date right the first time. So when Ben sees 2018 Addison again for the first time, he gives her a passionate kiss in front of everyone. She seems to like it but it could have spectacularly backfired if she had been embarrassed. The head of the project just kissed her in front of all their co-workers long before they fell in love.

I’m calling B.S. on this. The kiss may have been very satisfying for Ben since he hasn’t been able to touch Addison since he first leapt, but the scientific head of the project, who she doesn’t really know and who she is about to go on a first date with, just passionately kissed her in front of her co-workers, people she has to see every day, and in front of the military leader of the project. Most women I know would have been at least embarrassed if not enraged. That could have ended their relationship right then and there. However, because the story required it and it was warm and fuzzy, she liked it and didn’t react like 99.9999% of other people would.

first leap

Scene from the pilot episode of the current Quantum Leap show “July 13th, 1985” (screen capture)

But apparently that’s what he was there for because Ben leaps.

In the present, the accelerator kicks on. This should have been the last leap before Ben comes home. Addison gazes hopefully into the chamber as something seems to start materializing inside.


Of course the show was renewed for a second season, and having seen a brief trailer for S2, E1, we see Ben leaping, wondering why he hasn’t leapt home.

Overall, this was a great episode (in spite of all the plot holes). Naturally for the season finale, I figured it would be spectacular or it would try to be. The show really attempted to focus on the time travel aspects rather than the human interest topics with time travel only being the transport mechanism to facilitate them.

I was pleasantly surprised that the issues of the mystery of Janice, and future leapers Martinez and Ian were so handily managed and so quickly. After all, there was a terrifically long build up. However, even Janice didn’t know why Ben made a “pit stop” into the future. Early on Ian figured out that all of Ben’s leaps were a deliberate trajectory to get Ben to leap into the future dictated by Ziggy’s code, which was why I thought Ben had to save Addison in the future. But if Ben and Janice didn’t do that, then who did? Yeah, another plot hole, a big one.

That said, it was very (mostly) satisfying. If the show hadn’t been renewed for season two, then we could have seen Ben reappear in the acceleration chamber and happy ending. But as my Mom used to say when I asked my pesky questions about TV shows I used to watch, “If they did that then there wouldn’t be a story.”

cold ian

Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day.”

Oh, toward the end of the program, we see one last shot of Ian in the future, supposedly satisfied at the outcome (how would he know?). However, it occurs to me that nothing about this set of leaps prevents the future we see in 2051 from taking place. Uh oh.

Will I continue to watch Quantum Leap into season two? I’ll write my season round up review in a day or two and answer that question. It’s complicated.


4 thoughts on “Review of Quantum Leap Ep 18 “Judgment Day,” the Season Finale

  1. I watched the episode last night. By the way, Future Ian knew Ben was leaping to the future because he revealed he was the one who leapt into the past to tell Ben Addison was in danger. How? Another plot hole, I guess.
    That ending is going to bug me all summer as I patiently wait for the next season. I hate it when it’s a cliffhanger but I have a suspicion Ben didn’t make it. The quantum accelerator will whirl for a few minutes and then nothing.


    • One of the problems with television writing is that any given episode is constantly being re-written, sometimes even while the episode is being filmed. That can result in all kinds of errors being introduced where one part of the episode seems in logical conflict with another. Also, scenes that might have explained certain inconsistencies, sometimes end up on the editing room floor, so the audience, only seeing the final product, doesn’t get all the information originally intended to be included. That said, it’s still up to the writers and editors to make each show as internally logical within itself and within the parameters of the series as they can.

      As I’ve been reading and re-reading this blog post, I’ve found lots of little editing errors. I’ve been correcting them as I encounter them, but it means that my “final product” won’t be quite like what I originally posted early this morning.

      Liked by 1 person

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