“Oh, boy!” Was there ever a show that nailed its format better than Quantum Leap?
Originally broadcast between 1989 and 1993, Dr Sam Beckett’s technobabble ‘lost in time’ journey which saw him ‘right what once went wrong’ was, and is, a much beloved hit.
Although no wrong needed righting for this modern remake, we are still leapt into once again.
What Is Quantum Leap About?
The air-tight format remains. In the ‘present’ Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), steps into the Quantum Accelerator and ‘leaps’ through time.
Each time he leaps he ‘possesses’ someone from the past and is tasked with righting some historical wrong.
Everyone around him only sees the ‘host’ person, of whose characteristics Ben takes on: a boxer’s body equals a boxer’s strength.
Once the issue of the episode is dealt with, Ben leaps on to the next.
This set up is simple enough that an opening credits montage and some catch-up dialogue can get you up to speed, but leaves open space for endless creativity.
The original series dealt with real historical scenarios, social issues, gender politics, and even had Sam (Scott Bakula) leap into a research monkey at one point (seriously, it’s a great episode, go find it).
There is no point in a direct remake though, and this revived Quantum Leap sacrifices a little of the fun roll of the dice each episode to thread in a modern day serialised story.
Sam just leapt and leapt and leapt, whereas shady dealings are a foot with Ben. He uploaded some secret computer code before leaping, but subsequently lost his memory and doesn’t know why.
The mystery as to his motivations and ultimate mission fuel the 18 episode run.
With the pressure of a beloved show on his shoulders, Raymond Park does an excellent job. He is equal parts vulnerable, determined, confused, and prepared to go off mission.
Even though this time around there is a support team grabbing up the screen time, Park brings the same magic factor that Bakula did.
He lives out each story to its fullest, so that we are committed to his leap and the pressures of it.
Quantum Leap Official Trailer
Is Quantum Leap Worth Watching?
Replacing the role of Al Calavicci (as delivered with gusto by Dean Stockwell, who sadly passed away in 2021) is very difficult because he was charismatic support but also sleazy in a way that just won’t fly these days.
Addison (Caitlin Bassett) steps into his holographic support role. Some emotional turmoil is there – she was supposed to be the leaper, and she’s also Ben’s fiancé – which adds as little or as much as you are willing to put into it.
Such a connection means she sometimes falls foul of encouraging Ben to simply fulfil his mission for reasons of personal safety, but also hits hard when a seemingly fatally stabbed Ben lies before her, untouchable.
The rest of the crew form an effective camaraderie that bubbles up the ‘modern day’ scenes: the obligatory tech nerd role (albeit with fantastic makeup) is filled by Mason Alexander Park, coming hot off of their star turn as Desire in The Sandman.
Security is Jenn (Nanrisa Lee, with strong Ming-Na Wen in Agents of Shield vibes). And project leader is a cool “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson) keeping them together.
The downside of serialising chunks of time with a recurring cast is that they all need backstory and arcs which Quantum Leap struggles to fit in.
None of these really dig deep and serve merely to fill the gaps between some conspiracy shenanigans as to Ben’s unknown motivations. They are a fun bunch of characters to spend time with (Park stands out, yet again) but ultimately add little to the format.
“But what about the leaps?” I hear you cry. Quantum Leap’s one foot in the present may detract from the singular fun that the original show could have, but there are a great collection of episodes to choose from.
The updated social commentary may be delivered with a heavy handed clang, but for the most part Quantum Leap retains the delight in seeing what each new leap will bring.
A slip into full blown horror with a terrifying exorcism is a standout (“O Ye Of Little Faith”), as is an episode with this reviewer’s personal favourite plot mechanic: the time loop (“Leap. Die. Repeat”) in which an explosion keeps triggering Ben to leap into another person until he can figure out the bomber.
Through them all, Raymond Park lives and breathes his scenario so that you can too.
Worried breath holders exhale. Quantum Leap is a great show for both fans of the original and newcomers alike.
Sam Beckett’s ending always divided fans; despite being lost in time, a title card simply read that he “never returned home”.
At the time of writing a second series is being broadcast in the US and even though Scott Bakula has passed on making any appearances, Quantum Leap, of all shows, knows the good that can come of a do-over.
Words by Mike Record
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