Quantum Leap: Thirty Years of Putting Things Right

Myself with Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula

Or “Where the Hell Is My Reboot Already?”

So, thanks to a tweet by Mill Creek Entertainment, I was informed that yes, I was old going to die soon. I mean, “Quantum Leap” premiered exactly thirty years ago, March 26, 1989.

I remember it clearly. It was Easter Sunday, I was at my grandparents’ house, and dinner was over. My brother wanted to watch something else on their big TV, so I went to the bedroom to the little TV. I turned on NBC to watch this movie about time travel, something I had seen advertised earlier in the month.

This is the part of the story where I tell you I was hooked for life based on that viewing. But actually, it’s not. I had to leave with my parents to go home during the middle, so I ended up watching it later on our VCR. And even then, it didn’t grab me. I don’t remember watching the rest of the short initial season.

It wasn’t until the fall, when season 2 started, that I got into it again. And that’s when I got hooked on it hard. Thanks to TV networks showing reruns (something that seems odd in today’s world), I was able to get caught up eventually.

But man, QL was my jam. I watched it religiously. First off, it was time travel, which appealed to my young geeky brain. Second, Scott played the piano! I loved the “Blind Faith” and “Piano Man” episodes (and “Somewhere in the Night” is still a favorite song of nine). Third, hologram Al! How cool was that? And the tech of the near future was so awesome. I still want a “gummy bear” handlink prop replica….

But all these things were just the surface of the greatness underneath. We got to see social issues of today through looks at the past. Feminism, racism, homophobia, prejudice, ablism — all of these were explored as Sam leaped from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong. He was the champion of the oppressed, fought for the little people, sought to get rid of social classes. He didn’t see people as different — he saw them as people. And that’s one of the things that made the show work, not just the science fiction, or the sets, or the costumes.

Another thing that made QL work was the friendship between Sam and Al. It was, in a word, beautiful. We saw Al truly caring for his friend even when his friend didn’t know him. We saw Sam grow to trust Al again as his Swiss cheese memory got better.

Sure, some episodes we’re better than others, and some concepts left you scratching your head. But each week became Must See TV; even my mom would watch with me. We saw the Don Quixote episode. We saw the Evil Leaper. We saw Sam and Al switch places. We them help each other as they helped others. We saw their friendship grow. And we saw Scott and Dean give truly beautiful performances.

QL also became one of my first online fandoms. When I had a Prodigy account, the first topics I found were comics and Transformers. But then I found Quantum Leap posts. And I found a community. Two of the people I met there, Terri and Beth, became good friends. I still interact with them on Facebook. From there I moved to Usenet, and I posted semi-regularly on rec.arts.sf.quantum-leap. I even posted a few fanfics to alt.ql.creative, and I briefly maintained the Official Quantum Leap Comic Guide towards the end of the Innovation series. (An aside: I cant believe it’s still out there. I haven’t looked at it in years  and those email addresses are so old…. ) We would argue who was Leaping Sam, was he dead, was it his body or soul that travelled, and was Al’s fashion great or extremely great?

But then came the finale. Both giving us hope and taking it away, it left no clear answers when the final words “Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.” appeared, a misspelling adding a brief insult. A final still photo of Scott and Dean as their characters ended the series.

That was twenty six years ago. We’ve had some conventions, a series of novels, fanfics, fanfilms, and some promises from series creator Donald Bellisario. But nothing new on TV or the big screen from official channels.  That picture is what QL fans have had to sustain us for over two and a half decades.

But now? Now we are in an age where we see people fighting for equality more than ever. We see victories; we see losses. We see people being Sam and Al, and we see people needing Sam and Al. Who among us hasn’t wished that someone could leap in and fix something in our lives? Sam was an everyman on a quest to help everyone he could, with Al by his side. We could use that today.

So the time is right for a Quantum Leap reboot. Give us a limited series. A four hour mini series. A new show that shows Sam giving help to a new Leaper. Give us something.

The lack of resolution is a wrong that needs to be put right before it’s too late.

But if we don’t get it, we can still hang on to our DVDs, our Blu Rays, our VHS tapes with original broadcasts (containing uncut music cues), our comics, our books, our photos, and our friendships. We can hope for Good/Fate/Time/Whatever to give us more, but if we don’t get it, we will always remember “Quantum Leap” as a show truly before its time.