Season One Wrap Up Review of Quantum Leap


Promotional image for the television show “Quantum Leap.”

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

I won’t lie. What kept me coming back to Quantum Leap each week for the first season was “the mystery.” Who is Janice (or Janis) Calavicci? Why did Ben leap? Eventually that mystery included Who is Leaper X? Why did Ian of the future leap back? What danger is Ben supposed to save Addison from?

But let’s go back to the beginning. I’ll take a selective tour of my previous reviews. It wouldn’t be a very good season review if I didn’t start with my review of the pilot.

Oh, I should say it’s impossible to watch and review this series without delving deeply into the social meaning of the stories involved. Science fiction and time travel are only transport mechanisms for discussing social justice, representation, and inclusivity issues from the perspective of the 2020s.

As the show opens, we are introduced to co-workers and friends including Ben, Addison, the engaged couple, as well as Magic, Jenn, and Ian. Addison is revealed to be the potential first leaper, but the project is years away from human trials.

We see a mysterious woman at the project going over information at a computer terminal and saying, “That can’t be right.” To this day, I’m not sure I know what Janice was talking about, especially if Ben’s leap were already planned and programmed into Ziggy.

She sends a text message which Ben picks up at the party. He has to leap now and we still don’t know why. Did it have to do with Martinez as Leaper X, because if Ben and Janice knew he was going to kill Addison in 2018, then that shouldn’t be a mystery. If Ian leapt back from the future to warn Ben, then they should already know. Only Janice refusing to give out details until the very end and Ben’s swiss cheesed memory once he leapt (which he also should have known would happen) prevented that information from being shared with the rest of the QL team.

This is a pretty important part of the show and not one particularly revisited at the end of the season, but I went back and “sampled” the beginning of the pilot to harvest these screen captures.

Scene from the pilot episode of Quantum Leap


Scene from the pilot episode of Quantum Leap

jan texting bed

Scene from the pilot episode of Quantum Leap, Ben receiving a text from Janice

Ben’s first leap is pretty much a “standard” leap based on the original show. Addison is Ben’s observer now, but he clearly doesn’t remember what they are to each other, which eats her up inside.

I should say that I’ve been complaining that hologram Addison doesn’t regularly walk through objects, but in the pilot, people and cars pass through her, momentarily disrupting the projection. I wish the show had maintained that. In later episodes, we see holograms casting shadows and at one point, the lights of Addison’s handheld being reflected off the metal wall of an elevator.


New elements were added to the leap. First, Ben doesn’t actually change places with his “host” having the host cool their heels in our present in a “waiting room.” Ben inhabits or possesses the body of the host, knocking their consciousness and memory offline for as long as Ben’s there. When Ben leaves, the host has no idea what’s happened, except somehow retaining a memory of the leaper’s appearance.

In the original show, when Sam leapt, he leapt bodily. He was physically in whatever time he was sent to. Ben, on the other hand, is only a spiritual entity of sorts, so the big, big question is what happened to his body when he vanished in the accelerator? Did he disintegrate? Is his “pattern in the buffer” like a Star Trek transporter, waiting for his spirit to come back from time traveling? Can it be sustained forever or will it expire?

I doubt we’ll ever get the answers to those questions. Actually, it would be interesting if his body DID disintegrate and that the reason he is leaping is that he CAN’T come back. He can only exist as a disembodied spirit inhabiting host bodies up and down the endless corridors of time.


Another difference is that Ziggy was programmed to allow Ben to leap outside of his timeline. This has dangers because if Ben goes back before he was born, he could erase his existence or even the lives of his co-workers on the project. That was explored somewhat in the finale episode, and I dismissed it because Ben was only in 2018 and everyone had already been born.

The project is located somewhere in Los Angeles, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is ridiculous. As the finale episode showed, it’s also heinously dangerous to millions of human beings if the accelerator implodes. Bad choice, although I guess it made it easier for the writers.

After all, half of each episode is set in the present watching the adventures of the project team, so I guess not having them isolated hundreds of miles from a population center helps.


Scene from Quantum Leap episode “Salvation or Bust”

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to do with Ian or more precisely Mason Alexander Park. This was the first time I saw a trans/gender fluid actor as a main character in a prime-time network television show. On the other hand, I didn’t really know what to do with everyone else either, since their characters hadn’t been well defined yet.

After watching the pilot, I was lukewarm about the show. It could have gone either way, but I decided to keep watching.

Atlantis was a bit of a pick-me-up just because I grew up with NASA’s manned space program.

We, or rather Magic and Jenn, find out more about Janice, who is always one step ahead of the team. I picked up on homes in L.A. generally not having basements because “earthquakes.” The plot seemed a little thin, and I still say once Ben jumped into space between the Shuttle and Mir, he should have overshot and been lost in space. But the plot needed him to succeed, even though he looked like he was traveling way too fast.

Episode 3 was the obligatory “boxing” episode and highlighted PTSD and the trials that Vietnam vets had upon returning home.

Episode 4 was the first time Ben leapt into a woman. Fortunately, in the 1980s and based on the identity of the woman, she was wearing a shirt and jeans, so Ben didn’t have to appear in awkward “women’s” clothing. He also didn’t have to kiss a man even though Ben’s host was in a romantic relationship. This was the first of many times when Ben leapt into a woman but didn’t seem to have a problem with it.


From the Quantum Leap episode “A Decent Proposal.”


From the Quantum Leap episode “What Price Gloria.”

In the original show, Sam more realistically complained about the clothes, the treatment by men, and generally just the bodily dissonance of a man inhabiting a woman’s physical form. It’s worse because, for Sam, he still experienced having his own body, but for Ben, he’s really “possessing” a woman’s body, the whole enchilada. Imagine her having her period, being pregnant (and Sam did take the place of a pregnant woman in one episode), having sensitive nipples, going through menopause. And yet the current show explored none of that beyond Ian making a joke about Ben’s “gender adventure.”

For a while, I thought the reason Ben leapt was to rescue Sam. I thought this especially true after Ian discovered that Ben was using time travel coordinates like a space craft uses stellar objects to get a gravity assist and travel further out into the solar system. Ben supposedly was using his leaps to build up enough “momentum” to leap to some unknown destination in the future.

Actually, as the finale showed us, Janice didn’t know why Ben went into the future. She didn’t expect it at all. Did Ben change the code in Ziggy to do this without Janice noticing? Was that what she meant by “this can’t be right?” Then why did Janice text Ben saying he had to leap immediately? There are still too many loose ends here.

I decided to explore the relationship between the original and current show in this blog post. I thought Bellisario and company were performing a “corrective action” on how badly the original show ended. I wrote a Part Two of my analysis, but it turns out I was barking up the wrong proverbial tree.

Salvation or Bust was the first time Ben runs into Martinez or Leaper X and everyone is surprised. Eventually, Magic and Jenn track down Martinez in the present, but it’s clear he hasn’t become a leaper yet. As time passes, it also becomes clear that he is not only a leaper from the future, but from Quantum Leap’s own future.

That’s probably why Janice tried to use her own imaging chamber to warn Ben about him (and maybe about Ziggy), but she never got the chance because he leapt.


QUANTUM LEAP — “Salvation or Bust” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Yaani King Mondschein as Frankie, Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song, Nicole Alvarez as Valentina — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The “Salvation” episode is the first one where there QL writers’ bias toward blatant wish fulfillment became obvious to me. There’s no way such a town could have existed in the old west. Heck, I’m not sure such a community could exist today. People from all walks of life, black, natives, other POC, and the occasional white person all getting along in peace and acting as equals. It’s a fantasy, but one the QL writers entertained because “wish fulfillment.”

We also see Magic making the Project “government interference proof” by promising a nosy politician that they would use the project to erase a personal tragedy in her past. From that moment on, the Pentagon and every other group with an interest in the Project ignored its power consumption and every other indication that there was an active time traveler in the past.

I wonder if Magic will have to make good on his promise in season two, even though Ian said they didn’t know how to target a leap to a specific time and place?

Now let’s look at this. We have every indication that both future Ian and future Martinez could target a specific date and place in their leaps, so not only is it possible, but it will be developed in QL’s future.

Also, in “Judgment Day,” future Ian gives Ben a “cheat code” that lets him restart a leap from the beginning. Putting that all together, is it possible to start “targeting” Ben’s leaps? What if they could make the target “home?” That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I hope the writers don’t dismiss the possibility or ignore the future potential of the cheat code.

In O Ye of Little Faith, the Halloween episode, the show had the opportunity not only to tell a ghost story, but a story of actual, religious faith. In the original show, both the supernatural and “God,” were present at various moments. The Devil even disguised himself as Al to fool Sam once.

Oh, it’s probably another anachronism that in this episode, a wealthy white family in Boston would engage a black doctor. Not impossible, but again, improbable and added more for representation purposes.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “O Ye of Little Faith”

Back to the supernatural. This show being produced in the 21st century, we always “follow the science” and anything faith or ghost related turned out to have a practical origin. In a much later episode, Magic does entertain a certain spiritual aspect to Ben’s leaps, but that’s the only time, and I think only Magic could have delivered those lines convincingly being the “father figure” of the show.

blood moon

Scene from Quantum Leap “Blood Moon”

By now, we have been well introduced to the one weapon in Ben’s arsenal used to resolve leaps: the pep talk. Even when his host shouldn’t be talking like that, and even when it is totally out of character, Ben gives the pep talk and not only does everyone listen, they don’t question anything, and usually it works.

Tropes. Lots of tropes. In this episode, we have a “Perry Mason-like” confession under duress scene performed by the villain of the piece. I’ve mentioned the various, common tropes the writers employ in my weekly reviews, so you can revisit them there.

In Stand by Ben, the pep talk encourages a group of delinquent, runaway teens to go back to their “prison” and rescue one of their own. It’s one of the times Ben not only recovers some memories (he had been doing this since almost the beginning), but specifically about Addison and Janice. Ben has to save Addison…but from what?


Screenshot of the Quantum Leap episode “Stand by Ben”

I still wish Janice had been Ben’s “side girl” because that would have made things more interesting and added a lot of dimension to Ben’s personality, but no such luck.

It was about at this point and in this blog post that I discovered the actual basis for the entire Quantum Leap series, that is, the true reason for it existing at all.

It’s more or less (really more) what the showrunner for Star Trek: Discovery was focused on : aggressive representation of the LGBTQ community, possibly to the exclusion of all else.

You can click the link and read my original commentary or go to writer/actress Shakina’s twitter timeline and, just as I did, scroll back reading everything to before the show debuted. You’ll discover, like me, that the “representation imperative is not just periodic but an ongoing theme for the entire series.” In fact, we know that upon being nominated to be a member of the Director’s Guild, she specifically asked for donations (it’s expensive to join) so she could continue to work toward more LBGTQ representation.


Screen capture from twitter

Is representation bad and do I have a problem with it?

No, not as such. My issue is a show created for the sole purpose of representation to the exclusion of all other factors including good writing. It also tends to sacrifice on the altar of representation and inclusion the fact that the audience is made up of a more diverse group than LGBTQ people and their allies (and accomplices as Ian suggested).

In fact there’s more than a little evidence to suggest that general audiences tend to be put off by experiencing representation as it replaces escapism. Turns out, a lot of us turn to fiction to get away from some of the grim realties of life and social media.

I might as well jump to Let Them Play. Just as Ben is using his leaps to build up momentum toward an ultimate destination, the QL writers and showrunners were using the previous episodes to arrive here.

Yes, it’s the most controversial episode in the entire season. Yes, it was uncomfortable for a lot of people. Yes, the writers, cast, and showrunners absolutely expected the audience and reviewers to adore this episode and to accept everything it presented. It also was the height of the “wish fulfillment” aspect of the QL writers because it had a happy ending with the character Gia being totally accepted by the other girls on her high school basketball team, completely without reservations.

Real life isn’t that convenient. According to the following tweet by Mason Alexander Park, the video of that particular episode wasn’t included in Google Play. It was the only QL episode up to that point that wasn’t.

You can go to Park’s twitter timeline to find their responses to critics (most notably “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling who seems to be a favorite target) as well as their praise to their advocates and admirers.

The remaining episodes only “dabbled” in representation including, again, Ben leaping into a woman, although an airline stewardess in the 1970s so there were plenty of short skirts and sexism available, and Ben leaping into a lesbian attorney.

Look, given the laws of probability, assuming that Ben’s leaps are truly random (and we know they aren’t because in season one, his trajectory was purposeful), then he has a statistical chance of leaping into women almost half the time. Depending on whose stats you read, he will leap into an LGBTQ person anywhere from about 3 to 7 (and according to a few sources 10) percent of his leaps.

Of course, he’s got all of time to play with although the furthest back he’s ever leapt was the 1880s. He only once leapt into the future which is incredibly rare and probably a once in a lifetime event.

And remember that nothing in his leaps up to this point changes the global holocaust we saw in 2051 as per the finale episode.

What did I think of the season overall?

It’s definitely watchable, remembering that many 21st century forms of entertainment are going to share certain “elements.” As I said, I watched mainly to see the mystery unfold and most (but not all) of it has been resolved. Of those factors not resolved, I suspect they never will be, such as what Janice saw on the terminal in the pilot. It would also have been nice to see Janice lay out the whole scenario so the audience could make sure all of the loose threads have been tied off.

But now that the mysteries have been solved, there is only one left. Why is Ben still leaping? One reason is that time, fate, or God needs a new leaper to replace Sam (wherever and whenever Sam went). Of course if we dismiss all that because “21st century,” there may be a new mystery in the works. Maybe. Maybe, as I suggested above, there is no physical Ben to rematerialize in the present. I don’t think that ‘s the answer, but it’s a fun thought.

Speaking of Scott Bakula, I don’t think he’s coming back to reprise his role, and in retrospect, his tweet from September 15, 2022 gives us a strong clue as to why. I don’t think (I don’t know this for a fact, I’m just speculating) he was okay with the direction the show was taking.


Screen capture from twitter

For the weeks leading up to “Judgment Day,” I was strongly leaning toward not continuing to watch the show into season two. In fact, in having a rather uncomfortable discussion about the dubious merits of children attending drag shows displaying scantily clad men, the person behind Fate’s Wide Wheel: A Quantum Leap Podcast asked me, “then what are you doing here?”

I think it was directed as to why I don’t actually watch their podcast. I didn’t have the chance to say that I don’t have that kind of time. I only watch one, currently broadcast show, and that’s Quantum Leap. That’s an hour including commercials. On top of that is the time it takes to write, edit, format, and post my review, that’s probably one to two hours  or more depending. I prefer content I can read, because most humans can read faster than a person can speak. I also have a lot of other things going on in my life, so I can’t devote more than a certain amount of time to the various adjunct activities related to QL.

But the other interpretation of the question is “why are you here watching Quantum Leap when you don’t wholeheartedly accept everything being fed to you?”

I guess I’ll never get an answer because as I was writing this, I just discovered they blocked me on twitter. Imagine that.


Screen capture from twitter

I don’t doubt that I’m persona non grata with the Quantum Leap Writers’ Room, Shakina (who did interact with me a time or two), if they ever became aware of me, Mason Alexander Park, and whoever else may have a vested interest in being watched, listened to, and reviewed only through the most positive of all possible lens, without questioning or dispute.

Maybe that’s a little cynical, but that’s fandom for you.

One of my sons suggested that I seem to like mostly shows that were created up until the 1990s and maybe early 2000s. I don’t disagree. It’s like my taste in popular and rock music extends up through the 1980s with an occasional step into the 1990s. That’s my comfort zone and perhaps my relational and understandability zone. For me, after that, things just get too “different.” It’s okay for me to have personal preferences.

As I’m writing this, I’m actually rethinking my decision to watch the show into season two. If I’m that unwelcome as a viewer, let alone a fan, what’s the point? Why spend an hour every week watching something knowing that in the background, the people involved would just as soon I not exist?

Again, that’s probably an exaggeration but it’s like the saying, “why give money to people who hate you?”

After all, I have watched and given up on Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and particularly Star Trek: Picard.

The magic isn’t there anymore.

Oh, being blocked by “Fate’s Wide Wheel” assumes I don’t have other avenues into twitter.

i see you

Screen capture from twitter

They can relax. I won’t troll them. I guess echo chambers are very comforting.

So as I finish my wrap up/commentary, I don’t really know what I’m going to do this fall when season 2 launches. I guess I’ll wait and see.

If I bail, then bye-bye Quantum Leap. Some of it was fun.

I do wish the directors, writers, cast, and crew well including Raymond lee, Caitlin Bassett, Mason Alexander Park, Ernie Hudson, Nanrisa Lee, and Georgina Reilly. I recognize that they all have put a great deal of effort and talent into producing Quantum Leap. That it may not be my proverbial cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s not appreciated in other corners. Good luck and good leaping.

sam and al

Promotional image for “Quantum Leap”


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