Oh boy, where to begin… Perhaps from the beginning is best. Quantum Leap premiered on March 25, 1989 and ran through May 5, 1993 for a total of 97 episodes and 5 seasons.
Scott Bakula starred as Dr. Sam Beckett who, with only a few exceptions, would “leap” throughout his lifetime into various people to “put right what once went wrong”. I loved this series when I was a kid, and I still love this series today. As you can imagine, I was pretty hyped for the new series. But after having watched the first episode, I have opinions.
Before I get into my review, I just want to add a little more background. Before the reboot was announced, back in 2019 at Los Angeles Comic Con, I put together a panel of nerds to discuss various genre IPs we thought were due to either a reboot or a sequel. David Blue and I were chatting about what we were going to choose and both of us had Quantum Leap on our short list; I ended up going with They Live and he went with Quantum Leap.
His pitch was something along the lines of Sam’s kid having to get in the accelerator in order to track down his (or her) dad because the evil leaper had reappeared.
Scott Bakula Addresses His Involvement With Quantum Leap Reboot
While I wasn’t expecting that, I was at least hoping that Scott Bakula would be involved in some way and up until a few days ago, I was still holding out that hope, especially since back in September of 2021, he had implied that he was. Unfortunately, he decided to pass on returning, while he didn’t get into specifics, he did make a statement via his Twitter:
(1/5) To Quantum Leap fans around the world, in an effort to quiet the rumors and move on… First of all, thanks for hanging around through the decades! Here’s the simple version of what’s going on with the Quantum Leap reboot and me:Scott Bakula via Twitter
(2/5) I have no connection with the new show, either in front of the camera or behind it. In January, the pilot was sold and a script was sent to me because the character of Sam Beckett was in it, which makes sense, right? As so many of you have been asking me the last…
(3/5) several months, “How could you do QL without Sam?”(or Al, for that matter) Well, I guess we’re about to find out. That’s the story. As the show has always been near and dear to my heart, it was a very difficult decision to pass on the project, a decision…
(4/5) that has upset and confused so many fans of the original series. However, the idea of anyone ‘leaping’ around in time and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, remains a very appealing concept and so worthy of exploration, especially given the current state of mankind…
(5/5) In that spirit, I am crossing my fingers that this new cast and crew are lucky enough to tap into the magic that propelled the original Quantum Leap into the hearts and minds of generations past and present. I wish them good luck and happy leaping! SB
While this news is disappointing, it doesn’t mean that the show is going to be bad. And it’s not (sorry if I misled you with the headline), but it does have some room for improvement. Before I really get into it, though, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: There will be spoilers for the series premiere of Quantum Leap (2022), if you haven’t watched it yet — and are interested in doing so — please keep this tab open, go watch the show, then come back and continue reading.
I should also point out that the screener I watched was not broadcast ready, there was no opening, some dialogue was temp VO, and I noticed at least one image that had a Getty Images logo on it that I’m 99% sure will be replaced in the final version. With that out of the way, let’s get into “July 13, 1985.”
2022’s First Jump
This new series stars Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song, a physicist who’s been working at Project Quantum Leap since it was restarted about 5 years before the show starts. Currently, our only returning character (though played by a new actor) is Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams, Ernie Hudson has taken over the role from Christopher Kirby. Magic first appeared in “The Leap Home (Part 2) – Vietnam”, the second episode of Season 3. Magic was a member of Sam’s brother’s Navy Seal unit in Vietnam and the person Sam lept into. So far, there hasn’t been any mention of this connection and I’m really interested in seeing how they weave that into the plot.
The episode starts out in the present day, introducing us to the show’s overall mystery and our main cast. A mysterious woman is furiously typing at a computer in a lab, the computer shows her some information of concern and she sends a message to Ben. . . cut to Ben who was “hiding” in the bathroom at his engagement party. The party bit gives us a chance to be introduced to our main cast. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), a physicist who isn’t a fan of parties or public speaking, his fiancée Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who works with him. . . in some capacity, Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) a computer programmer, Jenn (Nanrisa Lee), the head of security, and Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams (Ernie Hudson) who runs the top-secret program.
In a change from the original series, this new show feels like it’s going to be a bit more serialized, while we’ll have the “leap of the week” storyline, we’ll also be seeing a lot more of the rest of Ben’s team back in the present day. I’m honestly not too sure how I feel about that just yet.
While I do enjoy long-form storytelling, watching the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reminded me how much I also really enjoy good episodic series. I thought this first episode had a good balance between its focus on the story of the week and what will likely be the over-arching story of the season. I’m thinking maybe it will follow a similar formula to Timeless or early episodes of Supernatural, we’ll get bits and pieces of this overall mystery either sprinkled throughout the episode as like a C-plot, while the A and B storylines focus more on the “leap of the week”.
While I didn’t realize why it was important, the close-up on the ring our mystery woman is wearing was a pretty big indication that it’s something we should be paying attention to, but we don’t get any follow-up on it until the end of the episode, and I’ll follow up on it at the end of the review. I’m going to be honest here, this intro scene felt like I was watching a CW show. it was a bit hammy and a little stiff, but it got the job done.
We now know who we’re going to be seeing from week to week and got a little taste of their personalities. One of the things that really sold the original series was how charismatic Scott Bakula was and how earnest his character felt – and my apologies to Raymond Lee, but I just don’t get that same quality from him. Thinking about it, he actually kinda reminds me of Jeffrey Donovan in the first few seasons of Burn Notice. He’s not unlikeable by any stretch, he has some great moments in the episode for sure, but he just didn’t really pull me in as much as some of the other characters did and that could be a problem for the lead of the show.
The “leap of the week” story, however, felt just like a classic episode of the show. Ben has jumped into Nick Rounder, a wheelman who’s a new recruit for a gang of criminals who plan to steal the Hope Diamond and sell it on the black market for $200 million. The episode takes a few cues from the first episode of the OG series and uses Addison to get everyone (including Ben) up to speed on how leaping works.
Just like when Sam Beckett went through, Ben’s memory has been put through a shredder (or “swiss cheesed”). Ben doesn’t remember Addison at all, he doesn’t know why he got into the Quantum Leap Accelerator™, and he doesn’t even remember who he is. He just knows that he’s out of place and the reflection he sees in the mirror is not his own.
Like any good episode of Quantum Leap, there’s more going on than just the surface-level story. He’s there to help Ryan, the guy who recruited him to this crew, the job goes bad and Ryan is killed. But that’s not all, the only reason he joined up with Cole’s crew is that his wife is sick and his restaurant isn’t pulling in enough money to cover their regular bills, let alone her health care. Ryan had run with Cole’s crew earlier in his life, but quit sometime after getting married. He felt powerless and like this was his only shot to make enough money to save his wife’s life and now it’s up to Ben to save his.
While a bit formulaic, that’s not unexpected with this type of procedural show. All of the supporting cast was great and Ben had a few moments to really shine, like his takedown of the Romanian who was trying to alter the deal for the fake diamond or his True Lies-inspired tango with one of the baddies. It’s obvious Raymond is enjoying himself in this role and I hope that as the season goes on and Ben starts to remember more about himself, we get to see his personality really come through and kick up a few notches.
In true Quantum Leap fashion, Ben goes above and beyond the minimum to help Ryan. Rather than settle for just saving his life, Ben wants to prevent Ryan from going to jail too, risking leaving his daughter without either of her parents. . . and that’s one of the things that made the original show so good. Doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing. In reality, Quantum Leap shares a lot in common with The Twilight Zone, often using the Science Fiction setting to present these issues in a way that would draw people in who wouldn’t normally be into such a thing. If this new iteration of the series keeps going in that direction, I think we’ll have a lot to look forward to.
One of the things I felt bogged down the episode a bit was the exposition. New viewers aren’t really going to care about references to the original series and for fans of the original show, just referencing them when applicable is enough. I felt like some of the dialogue feeding us exposition forced those references in unnecessarily. I’m hoping this won’t be a continuing trend; bring up the original show when it helps move the plot forward, not just to remind people that it exists.
Somewhere I felt this was done well was when our mystery woman’s identity was revealed. Remember the ring we saw her wearing at the beginning of the episode? Well, it turns out Magic has one too, he got it for having served in Vietnam (we still don’t know, in-universe, that Sam leaped into him); You know who else had one of those? Al Calavicci. Dean Stockwell passed away in 2021, which they’ve written into the show for Al as well.
Our Mystery woman? Al’s daughter, Janice. Apparently, she wanted to work for the project just like her father, but the DOD felt she had too many emotional ties. In one of the previews, we find out that Ben was trying to travel to a specific place/time, so it’s safe to assume that she was helping him with this task.
Knowing now that Scott Bakula is not going to be in the series at all, I don’t have any guesses about what he may have been trying to get to. . . but this does lead to one of my issues with the original series. We never got any solid ground rules on how leaping works. It often felt like the writers would fudge the rules from time to time to tell a good story, while I’m sure that helped the individual episodes, with today’s audience, that wouldn’t really fly. This episode, through some clunky dialogue, fed us some of this info. Leaping causes some amnesia, to leap out, you have to help someone in need, and they don’t know why.
We always heard about the waiting room and we saw it a couple of times in the original show, but it was oddly absent from being discussed here. In the original show, the waiting room is where Sam’s body hung out and received the consciousness of the people he was leaping into. Is that not a thing anymore? Will Ben be limited by the body he’s in? Sam was sometimes, but not others. We know at some point he leaps into an 80’s rocker, played by Power Rangers Megaforce’s Ciara Hanna, so we’ll find out at some point how he deals with having different parts.
Overall I enjoyed this episode, despite it feeling a bit stiff in the beginning, by the end I was sold and I can see Raymond Lee really growing into this character and making Ben something special. I think the few gripes I had with this episode are mostly because it’s the first episode and some growing pains are to be expected. The “leap of the week” is where this episode really shined, I’m going to guess we might get another episode or two with some of that weird CW-ish exposition-heavy dialogue, but after that’s all out of the way, the “present day” scenes should flow a lot better. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this show and rooting for its success.
What did you think about the series premiere of the new Quantum Leap? Did you like it? Did you hate this episode? Do you want to call me names because you don’t share my opinion? Hit us up on social media and let us know your thoughts.