Q is for Quantum Leap
Remembered by Kerry E.B. Black
Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) became involved with a top-secret government program involving time travel and string theory physics. The brilliant Beckett “leapt” through time using a Quantum Leap Accelerator to prove the worthiness of the project, but in so doing became “stuck” in the past with a case of limited amnesia. His friend, the cigar-smoking Admiral Al (Dean Stockwell) appeared as a hologram with helpful advice and communications from Ziggy, the computer used in the project.
To “leap” back to his own timeframe and resume his life, Sam Beckett must “put things right” with the time frame he inhabits. When he “leaps,” Sam physically replaces the leapee. To discover who he is, Sam must look in a mirror, often uttering “Oh boy” as a result. He inhabited the bodies of many people in the 95 episodes the series ran, including a pregnant woman, Lee Harvey Oswald, and a blind man.
Al remains a neurological hologram, but those close to death, small children, and animals can also see him. He remains in the body until he corrects what needs to be corrected for the leapee, and then he finds himself in a new location, a new time, and in a new body. The hope is by helping others, he will be magnafluxed back to his own time.
At first, Sam and Al believe the destinations are random, but through their experiences, they decide there is an undisclosed guiding force involved. By season five, Sam meets Alia and Zoey, known as evil leapers who do not share Sam’s benevolent approach to time travel and meddling in peoples’ lives.
There are cute encounters with historical personages. For example, he suggested the lyrics of “Peggy Sue” to a teenaged Buddy Holly, showed Michael Jackson a dance move the up-and-coming King of Pop would use as his signature Moonwalk, and save a choking Dr. Henry Heimlich with a maneuver the grateful Doctor would share with the world.
The family-oriented sci-fi drama created by Donald Bellisario is similar to “The Voyagers” in which Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones travel through time to “correct and set things right.” “Quantum Leap” won many awards and inspired a plethora of literature.