The time-travel show used its man-in-another-mans-body implement to show that compassion trumps prejudice. Then Dr Sam turned up as Lee Harvey Oswald
Keep your salacious, grimacing, morally accommodation antiheroes. Doctor Sam Beckett– Quantum Leap’s time-hopping samaritan- was dependably the opposite, a kind of uncle hero. As played by the square-jawed Scott Bakula, Sam may have gazed rocky but he was also relatable, a goofy but indefatigable do-gooder with six different doctorates, some sick kickboxing moves and a core propriety so unshakeable it could apparently endure the existential damage of frequent temporal displacement.
For five memorable seasons between 1989 and 1993, Sam didn’t merely parrot the old-time adage about moving a mile in another man’s shoes( or combat boot or high heels ); he lived it. After a haywire physic venture in 1999 mails him ping-ponging within the encompas of his own lifetime, Sam receives himself vaporized hurriedly into strangers like a one-sided Freaky Friday. With the help of horndog hologram Al( Dean Stockwell ), Sam must intuit how to alter each current sliver of biography for the better, clearing the cosmic runway for his next blessing mission.
Sporadic sci-fi signifiers such as Al’s eye-searing future-zoot suits disguised Quantum Leap’s old-fashioned heart. With the only recurring ingredients being the two major reputations and Bakula’s bewildered catchphrase (” Oh son !”), Quantum Leap was basically an collection line build on color, ever-revolving period trappings. These were standalone decency plays- literal hour capsules- that interrogated what it meant to live, make and adoration in the US during the disturbance of the late 20 th century. Sam did a lot of preventing coincidences and foiling assassinations but Quantum Leap cooked in social issues to reinforce its thesis: that compassion can and should trump prejudice.
Even below-par episodes were inspired by the daisy-chaining preview of the next escapade, a moreish cliffhanger that they are able to divulge Sam was unexpectedly a trapeze artist in mid-air, or a felon in the electric chair, or a cheesy magician is set to shish-kebabbed by a sword. By broom the board clear each week, Quantum Leap could claim to be essentially shark-proof.
Yet when it strayed toward originality, such as Sam leaping into a chimp, Quantum Leap certainly began to inch over the fin. There was the ghostly third-season escapade where it was implied the good physician had entangled with the actual demon, a shocker in all sorts of ways. Increasingly, instead of normal parties with vaguely relatable difficulties, Sam noticed himself hijacking famous fames such as sexuality therapist Dr Ruth and a pre-fame Elvis. These stunt leapings cumulatively chipped away at the show’s original foundations.
But Quantum Leap definitively jump-start the shark during the premiere of its fifth and final season, when Sam moved his notorious leap into Lee Harvey Oswald. This contentious two-parter rejected the pull of conspiracies to present JFK’s assassin as a lone gunman. That was an unpopular artistic selection but a defendable one. The real unforgivable sin was season five, taking Mike Post’s skillful original theme- a warm, accepting bubblebath of solacing cocktail jazz- and remixing it into objectionable, artificially energised sillines. If exclusively there was some channel to go back and repair that …
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